Archive for  August 2012

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Since the 1920s, Americans have been traveling along Route 66. Some went west towards the promise of a better life and others simply enjoyed the wind whipping through their hair on the open road.Image

Today, most travelers along the historic ‘Mother Road’ are searching for a true American experience. Although the entirety of Route 66 spans across eight states, it begins in Chicago and heads southwest through the entire state.

The glorious 436 miles in Illinois represents nearly a fifth of the entire Route 66. The link to America’s past boasts the highest density of fun and interesting things to do.

With so many choices of where to stop, landmarks to see and places to eat, planning for a trip along the historic route may seem overwhelming. Luckily, at you can find sample itineraries for car lovers, food lovers, families and more, as well as lists of core Route 66 attractions, a calendar of events and a map of the route through Illinois.

Some of the spots that are not to be missed include:

Polk-a-Dot Drive In

A popular restaurant stop along Route 66, open since 1956, with plenty of quirky charm and fun. (Braidwood)

Launching Pad Drive-In and Gemini Giant statue

Founded in 1960, this friendly establishment has a full service menu and is home to a giant “muffler man” statue. (Wilmington)

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant

Built in 1923, Lou Mitchell’s has served Route 66 travelers since its beginning. Located at the beginning of Route 66, Lou Mitchell’s has been host to many over the years. Everyone has been seen at Lou Mitchell’s, from U.S. Presidents, Mayors, athletes, authors, judges, clergy, and stars of the stage and screen. (Chicago)

Cozy Dog Drive-In

A shrine to Route 66, the “corn dog on a stick” was invented here. (Springfield)

Shea’s Gas Station Museum

An internationally renowned, must-see Route 66 landmark filled with gas station and oil company collectibles. (Springfield)

Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum

The story of the people and places, and significant artifacts from Illinois Route 66. (Pontiac)

Pig Hip Restaurant

An icon of Route 66, owned by Ernie Edwards, creator of the Pig Hip sandwich. (Broadwell)

Bunyon’s Statue Giant

A Route 66 landmark, this muffler man statue stands in downtown Atlanta, IL to welcome visitors. (Atlanta)

Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower

The world’s largest catsup bottle and a landmark roadside attraction. Restored to its original appearance and named to the National Register of Historic Places. (Collinsville)

Henry’s Ra66it Ranch

This amusing and quirky attraction celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway and offers all things about rabbits: Volkswagons or the furry kind. (Staunton)

Of course this a very small sampling of all there is to do along Route 66, so be sure peruse for a full directory of trip ideas and quirky sights, and make use of the “My 66 Itinerary” function on the site to save your trip destinations in one place. Once you’ve finished your search, simply print out the saved itinerary and you’ll be on your way!

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

Pink Cookies at Davis Pastry

The Southern Illinois Town of Anna offers some unique shops, and a family run bakery that has been around since 1953!  Enjoy browsing on Main Street in such shops as This –n- That Flea Market, Down Home Do-dads, and Jim & Dots Western Wear, and be sure and try a sweet treat at Davis Pastry.  The pink cookie is famous, at least in Southern Illinois, and, if you give one a try, you will know why!     I have to admit that the pink iced sugar cookies are my favorite. But there are other items just as delicious. The brownies! The cream horns! The sweet rolls! And the doughnuts!    Try some and tell us your favorite!

Davis Pastry Shop, 206 S. Main St., Anna, IL; (618) 833-2161; hours: Monday-Saturday, 5:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Enjoy Southern Illinois!


Escape to Chicago for Labor Day and experience a weekend getaway complete with adventure, culture, history and fun! The bustling city is the perfect destination for the three day weekend. Highlights include the world renowned Chicago Jazz Festival, Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival, and Annual African Festival of the Arts. The following list provides ideas to make the most of a Labor Day trip to Chicago.

Special events:

Chicago Jazz Festival  (Thursday, Aug. 30 to Sunday, Sept. 2)

Started in 1974, the Chicago Jazz Festival takes place every Labor Day weekend on the magnificent lakefront. Visitors travel from all over the world to listen to the smooth sounds of Chicago’s jazz talent alongside national and international stars.

This year, the Chicago Jazz Festival will run Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 at the Chicago Cultural Center (Aug. 30 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.), Millennium Park (Aug. 30 and 31 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) and Grant Park (Sept. 1 and Sept. 2 from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.).  Admission is free to the public and provides a perfect opportunity to visit the city for a weekend.

African Festival of the Arts (Friday, Aug. 31 to Monday, Sept. 3)

Known as the largest neighborhood festival in Chicago, the annual African Festival of the Arts is celebrating its 23rd year. Festival goers can experience interactive demonstrations and vibrant entertainment, indulge in exotic African cuisine, and view African photography, art and jewelry.

The event will take place in Washington Park, 5100 S. Cottage Grove Ave., throughout Labor Day weekend.

Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival (Friday, Aug. 24 to Thursday, Sept. 6)

One of the world’s greatest shopping meccas, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival is the perfect event for shopaholics. Celebrities, chefs and renowned fashion designers will demonstrate the latest trends in fashion, culinary, lifestyle, technology and culture.  The more you spend, the more points you accumulate for raffle tickets and fantastic prizes.

The Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival will take place on North Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s most famous shopping corridor.

Must-see attractions:

Skydeck Chicago The Ledge– View the city from 1,353 feet in the air. The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago provides the best views of the city from glass boxes on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower.

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise – Learn how Chicago grew from a small back-country outpost into one of the country’s largest cities aboard Chicago’s First Lady.

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park– The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is a must-see in Chicago. Made of polished stainless steel plates, Cloud Gate reflects Chicago’s famous skyline and the sky above. Visitors can see their image reflected on its mirror-like surface.

Lincoln Park ZooLocated in Chicago’s beautiful Lincoln Park neighborhood, the free zoo is a favorite Chicago attraction. Listen to the roar of lions, watch gorillas climb lush trees and explore tropical rainforests, dry-thorn forests and spacious savannas.

There is plenty more to see and do in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. To check out additional sites and attractions, please visit

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

The final holiday weekend of summer is fast approaching. How will you make the most of the extra-long Labor Day weekend before the sun sets on summer?

Consider a porky pastime, the 59th Annual Kewanee Hog Days. As the world’s largest outdoor pork barbeque, the weekend long celebration serves over 30,000 butterfly chops and pork burgers, prepared on custom made 24 foot long grills. While taking in the mouth-watering scent of burning charcoal and sizzling cuts of fresh meat is a vacation all of its own, there is plenty more to do at the festivities.

Kicking off Aug. 31, Hog Days features a wide variety of activities and entertainment for the whole family.

The Hog Days Stampede: The Hog Days Stampede celebrates health and fitness, regardless of skill or ability level. So whether you’re a competitive racer seeking the first place prize or a casual jogger looking for a high-five across the finish line, the stampede is the perfect way to start a Hog Days experience. Bring friends, family, strollers, wheelchairs or crutches and take the one or four mile journey at your speed.

Model T & Model A Rally: Most recently, the road rally included over 40 classic car entries. Spectators can peek at history and American car culture. The entry fee is only $10 for antique vehicles and the event is completely free for spectators.

Fly-In Breakfast: Back in 1973, the Kewanee Day Care Center searched for a fundraiser for the organization. The Kewanee Municipal Airport just completed construction and a brilliant idea developed: serve a pancake breakfast at the airport and people could “fly-in” for fresh pancakes. Although the day care doesn’t operate the breakfast anymore, people still keep coming back for pancakes and the chance to get up close to various aircraft and even adventure on a helicopter ride.

Hog Wallow Classic: Now in its 28th year, the Hog Wallow Classic volleyball tournament separates itself from other tournaments with a unique addition to the competition, MUD! Teams square off in 12 to 15 inches of mud and compete for the championship.

The Kewanee Hog Days also features the Pork Cook-Off Showdown, live entertainment and carnival staples, including a Ferris wheel, cotton candy and funnel cakes.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, please visit

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

Even though the end of summer is fast approaching, there’s still time to get away before it’s too late. Experience an action-packed family weekend centered on America’s favorite pastime—baseball!

Illinois boasts seven Frontier League professional baseball teams. The teams’ ballparks are located throughout the state, making an Illinois baseball trip only a short drive away. Families can experience a night at the ballpark and visit a variety of Illinois attractions all in one memorable summer trip. Check out the list below for family-friendly baseball trip ideas across the Land of Lincoln!

Trails to Adventure

Southern Illinois Miners

Location: Marion

Ballpark: Rent One Park

Miners Baseball

Root for the Miners in Southern Illinois!


17th Street Bar & Grill (2700 17th St., Marion) – World renowned family style barbeque featured in Bon Appetite and on the Food Network.

Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza (218 W. Freeman St., Carbondale) – Established in 1975, the pizza joint is a Carbondale staple for locals and visitors.


Garden of the Gods Recreational Area (Shawnee National Forest) – The 3,000-acre wilderness is No. 10 in the U.S. for photographing sandstone rock formations and high vistas. Take in breathtaking views of Southern Illinois atop sandstone bluffs.

Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge (8588 Highway 148, Marion) – Walking trails, wildlife viewing areas and fishing, perfect for an outdoor family adventure.

Extreme Kids (1109 North Railroad St., Marion) – Bounce off the walls at Extreme Kids on huge bouncers, in-ground trampolines and a jungle gym.

Great Rivers Country

Gateway Grizzlies

Location: Sauget

Ballpark: GCS Ballpark  

Watch the Gateway Grizzlies while relaxing in the ballpark’s hot tub!

Watch the Gateway Grizzlies while relaxing in the ballpark’s hot tub!


Sawmill BBQ Restaurant (4060 Mississippi Ave., Cahokia) – Delicious barbeque that is smoked fresh daily. Patrons can choose their own tasty homemade sauce from a list that includes Sweet BBQ Sauce, Hot BBQ Sauce and Mustard Sauce.

Stingers Restaurant & Pizzeria (440 Falling Springs Rd., Cahokia) – The family style sit-down restaurant is a favorite spot in Cahokia for delicious pizza.


Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (30 Ramey Dr., Cahokia) – Explore, visit and learn at the state historic site. Cahokia is the largest prehistoric Indian city north of Mexico. Visitors can climb Monk’s Mound and experience a life-sized village.

National Great Rivers Museum (2 Lock & Dam Way, Alton) – The museum is dedicated to telling the grand history, cultural significance and ecological importance of the Mississippi River. It features more than 20 interactive and computer animated exhibits. Visitors can steer a towboat using a simulator, measure water consumption and see river fish in the aquarium.

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle (800 S. Morrison, Collinsville) –Take a pit stop and see the 170 feet tall structure towering above Collinsville. The tower was built in 1949 for the G.S. Suppiger catsup bottling plant. It is a great photo opportunity to commemorate a Gateway Grizzlies trip!

Land of Lincoln

Normal CornBelters

Location: Normal

Ballpark: Corn Crib

Try a hot dog while cheering on the Normal CornBelters!

Try a hot dog while cheering on the Normal CornBelters!


Destihl (318 S. Towanda Ave., Normal) – Enjoy comforting food with big flavor at the central Illinois gastrobrewpub. Destihl creatively fuses craft beer and full-flavored dishes using many local ingredients.

Maggie Miley’s (126 E. Beaufort St., Normal) – The Irish pub transports guests to Ireland. The owners commissioned a Dublin company to design the establishment and all millwork was crafted by Irish carpenters. Maggie Miley’s offers traditional Irish pub fare as well as American options.


Children’s Discovery Museum (101 E. Beaufort St., Normal) – The museum, dedicated to children’s learning, boasts three floors of unique, hands-on exhibits that are perfect for children of all ages.

Grady’s Family Fun Center (1501 Morrissey Dr., Bloomington) – Let loose at Grady’s Family Fun Center, featuring 18 holes of miniature golf, batting cages, bumper boats, go-karts and kiddie rides.

Historic Normal Theater (209 W. North St., Normal) – Catch a flick in a unique setting that transports moviegoers back to a time when going to the movies was a truly special event.

Chicago & Beyond

Joliet Slammers

Location: Joliet

Ballpark: Silver Cross Field

Watch the Slammers hit a home run in Joliet!

Watch the Slammers hit a home run in Joliet!


Old Fashioned Pancake House Restaurant (2002 W. Jefferson St., Joliet) – The Joliet restaurant serves hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try the pancake sandwich, a perfect combination of eggs and ham sandwiched between two creamy buttermilk pancakes.

Chicken-N-Spice (251 N. Chicago St., Joliet) – Founded in 1979, the downtown Joliet establishment serves friend chicken, Jo-Jo’s, spicy rice and buttermilk biscuits. The delicious comfort food joint is a must-visit in Joliet.


Joliet Historical Museum (204 N. Ottawa St., Joliet) – The renowned history museum boasts interactive exhibits featuring early settlers, Route 66 and a children’s discovery room.

Haunted Trails Restaurant and Entertainment Park (1423 N. Broadway St., Joliet) – Get in the game at the Entertainment Park, featuring batting cages, go-kart racing, laser tag and mini golf.

Rockford Aviators

Location: Loves Park

Ballpark: Road Ranger Stadium

Good old-fashioned baseball with the Rockford Aviators is the perfect way to spend a summer evening.

Good old-fashioned baseball with the Rockford Aviators is the perfect way to spend a summer evening.


Beef-A-Roo (3401 S. Alpine Rd., Rockford) – For over 40 years, Beef-A-Roo has been a favorite dining location for families in the Rockford area. The menu consists of mouthwatering sandwiches, burgers, fries and shakes.

Granite City Food & Brewery (7140 Harrison, Ave., Rockford) – Sip delicious craft beer and taste made-from-scratch cuisine at Granite City Food & Brewery. Excite your palate with fire roasted flatbread pizzas, signature steaks, fresh seafood or mouthwatering sandwiches.


Anderson Japanese Gardens (318 Spring Creek Rd., Rockford) – One of the most authentic gardens, outside of Japan, in the world is the Anderson Japanese Gardens, a serene escape ready for visitors to explore.

Forest City Queen Riverboat (324 N. Madison St., Rockford) – Discover the early history of Rockford aboard the Forest City Queen Riverboat.

Discovery Center Museum (711 N. Main, Rockford) – The children’s museum has more than 250 hands-on art and science exhibits, planetarium, TV studio, robotics lab, and other special events and traveling exhibits.

-Illinois Office of Tourism