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Route 66 feature image

This is a big year for Route 66, and people around the world are celebrating the historic highway’s 90th anniversary. First designated as a road in 1926, Route 66 – often referred to as The Mother Road of America – is known for its nostalgia, charm and classic American appeal. While driving the route in Illinois, plan to see kitschy murals and monuments, quaint and historic towns, and people who can tell you all there is to know about Route 66.

Route 66 is a global attraction, and to celebrate this historic year, the Illinois Office of Tourism is spreading our love for the Mother Road with events in Germany, the UK and right here in the states.

London, England

To kick off this year’s 90th anniversary celebration, Illinois brought a taste of the Mother Road to London with a street party and pop-up mural. Well-known street artist Will Vibes created a 52-foot mural depicting iconic attractions along Route 66, which starts in Chicago.

The mural was accompanied by a pop-up party in Central London and included a food truck with Chicago-style hotdogs, a blues band and a classic car.

Ofterdingen, Germany

A bit further away in Germany, Route 66 fanfare was in full effect at the first ever Route 66 Festival in Ofterdingen, just outside Stuttgart. Enthusiasts of the Mother Road from all over the globe came to the festival to share their excitement and celebrate this year’s anniversary. Festival goers even got to experience the Illinois stretch of the road through an interactive photo booth with fun props and by speaking with tourism experts about Route 66 in Illinois.

Chicago, Illinois

And right here in the U.S., Bow Truss Coffee Roasters recently opened a new shop right at the start of Route 66 in downtown Chicago! A pop-up party brought the Illinois Route 66 experience to Chicagoans. Here, they sampled the new Bow Truss Route 66 Blend, interacted with authentic memorabilia from the Berwyn Route 66 Museum and watched a live mural depicting classic Route 66 stops in Illinois – like the Gemini Giant and Cozy Dog Drive In – come to life before their eyes.

The event featured a 1944 red Ford Coupe, pictured here, and authentic memorabilia from the Berwyn Route 66 Museum. Visitors could even enter to win an official Route 66 road sign.

There are even more celebrations in the works as we move closer to the Mother Road’s official anniversary date this November, like these upcoming events in Illinois:

Stay tuned to Enjoy Illinois’ social channels for updates so you can join in on the fun! And if you’re looking to start planning your Route 66 trip, be sure to visit EnjoyIllinois.com for inspiration.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

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The journey can be just as rewarding as the destination, and the roads and paths throughout Illinois can bring us on some pretty amazing journeys. This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos of their favorite roads and paths across Illinois. Check out a few of our favorite shots from around the state below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

7.11 Roads kickoff (atjonfromchicago

We started this week’s challenge with this photo leading us to the Loop in Chicago! Thanks (at)jonfromchicago for the awesome shot!

Shawnee National Forest (at)nomadicvisuals

There are incredible pathways all over the state, like this one in Shawnee National Forest. Great capture by (at)nomadicvisuals

+Southern Illinois (at)_skinnyman_

You might be surprised about what you might cross paths with in Illinois! Thanks (at)_skinnyman_ for the great photo of Southern Illinois!

-Galena (at) danreynoldsphotography

You never know where the path may lead especially when exploring Galena! Thanks (at)danreynoldsphotogaphy for the great photo!

-Golf Course Road, Marion IL (at) my_tinfoil_crown

Follow the yellow brick road? We’ll follow the Golf Course Road instead! Thanks for the cool photo (at)my_tinfoil_crown!

-Great Western Trail (at) stufotog

We could spend all summer exploring the Great Western Trail! Thanks (at)stufotog for the awesome photo!

-McHenry County Conservation District North Branch (at) discovermccd (at)iltrailbiker

Listening to Robert Frost and taking the road less traveled to McHenry County Conservation district! Thanks (at)iltrailbiker for the great shot!

-Rockford (at) projectrockford (at)checoimgd

This covered path leads us right to downtown Rockford! Instagrammer (at)checoimgd captured this one for Project Rockford!

Country Roads (at)sheisthewoods

There’s nothing like a trip down country roads, just ask (at)sheisthewoods.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

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Route 66. It’s a road so mythical, you may wonder if it still exists. And yet, cutting through Illinois is a 300-mile stretch of Route 66 that even today captures the imaginations of travelers from around the world. The kitsch, the nostalgia, the people – it’s got all the makings of a road trip that’s just as much about the journey as the destination. The journey down the Mother Road is sure to be one that won’t disappoint.

Summer is the perfect time to pack your bags, roll down the windows and cruise along the legendary road. Below are the must-visit spots along Illinois Route 66 to get your summer road trip plans started.

First up, stop in to Lou Mitchell’s diner in Chicago to fuel up for the journey ahead. This classic American diner has been around for nearly 100 years, serving all the classics, plus freshly baked donut holes when you walk in the door.

Route 66 is known for its assortment of roadside attractions, and Illinois is home to plenty of them. Make sure to snap an Insta-worthy photo at the Gemini Giant statue in Wilmington. And while you’re there, head ten minutes down the road to the Polk-a-Dot Drive In for a burger, fries and chocolate shake.

Gemini Giant

The Gemini Giant in Wilmington

About 1.5 hours into the trip, you’ll come to a quaint town called Pontiac, one of the most famous Route 66 towns along the way. The nostalgia and charm of Route 66 is what this town is known for. Here you’ll find the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum, a tour of hand painted murals around the town, and even the Pontiac-Oakland Auto Museum. This entire museum is dedicated to the Pontiac car.

“The Pontiac Museum has been a wonderful addition to the attractions found here in Pontiac. It’s the second most popular attraction and is slowly gaining on the Illinois Route 66 Museum,” said Ellie Alexander, director of Pontiac tourism. “Having the Pontiac-Oakland Museum here has led to dozens of car clubs coming to town, some of them multiple times.”

As you continue your journey, you’ll come to an even smaller town – Atlanta. This little town packs a big punch in Route 66 history. Make sure to grab a bite, or at least a slice of pie and coffee, at The Palms Grill Café. Head across the street and snap a selfie with the Paul Bunyon Hotdog statue, another Muffler man.

Paul Bunyon Hot Dog

The Paul Bunyon Hotdog Statue in Atlanta, next to The Palms Grill Café

Keep driving and you’ll come to Springfield, known as the home Abraham Lincoln. But did you know Springfield is also home to the Cozy Dog Drive In? This classic Route 66 diner is the originator of the corn dog, or “Cozy Dog.” Stop by for a true Route 66 experience. And just outside Springfield is a stretch of the original hand-laid brick road.

Doc’s Soda Fountain in Girard was originally a pharmacy built in the 1880’s, and the soda fountain was added to the business in the 1950’s. Stop in for an old-fashioned treat or ice-cream.

Doc's Soda Fountain

Doc’s Soda Fountain and drug store museum

The Ariston Café in Litchfield is one of the oldest along Route 66 and placed on National Registry of Historic Places. Stop in for a bite to eat and then head across the street to the Route 66 Welcome Center to see memorabilia and history from the Mother Road.

Ariston Cafe

The Ariston Café in Litchfield, across the street from the Route 66 Welcome Center

To end your Route 66 journey through Illinois, get a final photo at the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville.

Whether you follow our guide or choose your own adventure, a trip down Route 66 is one that you will be looking back on with a smile for years to come.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

 

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Summer is here, and that means soaking up the sunny weather and spending as much time outside as possible. Activities that are usually indoors head outside to help you take full advantage of the season. For all you movie buffs out there, we have found some of the top spots to catch a flick outdoors.

There are countless things to do in Galena each season, and this summer, star-gazing gets better. The Goldmoor Inn turns its beautifully landscaped estate and charming Pavilion into an alfresco cinema when it debuts “Classic Movie Nights Under The Stars.” Sitting on 21 acres overlooking the Mississippi River Valley, the luxury Inn will screen classic double features this summer. And just because you’re skipping the theater doesn’t mean you’re missing the snacks. Freshly made popcorn is part of the deal.

GoldmoorMoviePavilion_Credit JumpingRocksPhotography

The Goldmoor Inn in Galena (Photo credit: Jumping Rocks Photography)

“Our gardens and grounds are gorgeous, and the star-gazers will be doubly thrilled to catch classic celebrities on the silver screen beneath the incredible constellations shining above,” says Birgit Radin, co-owner of the Goldmoor Inn. “Guests and visitors wondering what to do in Galena are invited to add to their list an evening of outdoor movies surrounded by the tranquil nature surrounding us.”

The Classic Movie Nights begin at 7 p.m. on select Saturdays during June-October, and the movie schedule includes:

  • June 11: Citizen Kane and Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • July 23: Cool Hand Luke and Some Like it Hot
  • August 20 Casablanca and Roman Holiday
  • September 17 Metropolis and North by Northwest
  • October 29 Dressed to Kill and Frankenstein

Nothing is more American than spending a summer night under the stars watching a big Hollywood movie. So why not take a drive back in time and spend an evening at the McHenry Outdoor Theater? This unique classic cinema experience features all the nostalgia of a classic drive-in theater. You can watch 21st century blockbusters or enjoy favorites from the past. So pack the popcorn, bring a blanket and curl up under the stars for a unique viewing experience.

McHenry Outdoor Theater

The McHenry Outdoor Theater

Get double the nostalgia during a movie at the Route 66 Drive In in Springfield. This restored movie theater along historic Route 66 gives visitors the chance to see new and classic movies in a unique setting.

Route 66 Drive In sign_web

The sign at the Route 66 Drive in Springfield

In Chicago, the Millennium Park Summer Film Series takes place Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. during June-August. Grab a seat in the pavilion or bring a picnic to the Great Lawn and enjoy the free outdoor movies at Chicago’s architectural gem, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

The schedule:

  • June 21: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • June 28: Soul Food
  • July 5: A League of Their Own
  • July 12: Thelma & Louise
  • July 19: Full Moon Double Feature – Moonstruck & Silence of the Lambs (1991; R)
  • July 26: Kartemquin Films 50th Anniversary Celebration
  • August 2: West Side Story
  • August 9: Grease
  • August 16: Finding Nemo
  • August 23: Purple Rain
  • August 30: Audience Choice – Favorite Chicago Film
Millennium Park Summer Film Series

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago

Looking for more ways to spend your summer in Illinois? Visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

 

Indoor Activities for Kids Feature Image

With kids, we understand that there is no such thing as a “lazy day” while waiting for the weather to warm up. Check out this list of kid-friendly indoor activities!

American Girl Place

Shop, play and let your imagination run wild at the American Girl Place on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Stop by the Doll Hair Salon where American Girl dolls receive stylish new hairdos and a bit of pampering. Or, indulge in the Truly Me Signature Studio and customize a doll outfit or a personal backpack to take home. Complete your day with brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at the American Girl Café, where there is always a special seat for your child’s American Girl doll.

LEGO Store

Just a short walk from American Girl Place, the LEGO store features a “Pick-A-Brick Wall”, where you can hand pick and purchase specific LEGO bricks to add to your family’s collection. If that isn’t cool enough, an interactive play area called the “Living Room” gives visitors a chance to get hands-on with the LEGO products with new, creative building scenarios each month.

LEGO store

The LEGO Store in Water Tower Place can entertain all with its LEGO pieces, buildings and games.

Indoor Water Parks

Outdoor water parks may not have opened yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in water park fun just yet. Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort and Enchanted Forest in Utica is the ultimate family getaway that is a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. Enjoy its 24,000 square foot indoor waterpark complete with slides, a lazy river, kiddie pool, wave pool, and even a spa that is located near Starved Rock National Park for a scenic view.

And don’t forget to visit KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee! The water park features a wave pool, whirlpools, body and tube slides, and waterfalls that will entertain adults and children alike. Had enough water for the day? KeyLime Cove also has 10,000 square feet of entertainment including the RipTide Reef Arcade, Pinki’s Pet Palace, and The Enchanted Lagoon Kids Spa.

IMG_3397

KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort boasts family fun with its various entertainment options.

DuPage Children’s Museum

Illinois is home to multiple children’s museums, and one of our favorites is the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville. Whoever said that rainy days couldn’t be productive? This unique, hands-on museum offers an early educational experience where kids can learn and play in its multiple exhibits that promote skill development in math, science and art.

For more ideas, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism