Route 66 and Abraham Lincoln are both iconic pieces of Illinois history. Although the “Mother Road” wasn’t established until decades after Lincoln’s lifetime, the route travels through a number of important Lincoln destinations from Bloomington to Alton and many places in between. To commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the Illinois Office of Tourism has teamed up with the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition to give visitors a road trip itinerary to go “Looking for Lincoln” that includes the perfect mix of classic Route 66 stops and amazing Lincoln sites:
Day 1 – Springfield
After breakfast, start your day at the world-class Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. Located on historic Route 66 in Springfield, the presidential museum is a gem along the “living museum” that is Illinois Route 66. Here you will travel from the humble beginnings of a young pioneer to the halls of the White House, as the story of Lincoln comes to life as captured through original artifacts, special effects theaters with high action and ghostly images, and so much more. Afterward, step outside where you can look for Lincoln in the many authentic historic sites and stories told throughout the city.
Just a short walk from the Museum is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Here you’ll step into the daily life of the Lincoln family as you enter the only home the Lincoln’s ever owned. A stroll through the lovely historic neighborhood surrounding the home will give you a rare glimpse of Mr. Lincoln as a husband, father, neighbor and friend.
Lunchtime means a stop at the iconic Cozy Dog Drive In – one of the most famous stops along the entire stretch of Route 66. This classic Route 66 drive-in diner is named for the famous hot-dog-on-a-stick, or ‘Cozy dog,’ found at state and county fairs around the country – but invented here. Established in 1949, Cozy Dog is also home to a smorgasbord of Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs.
A final stop as you head north toward more of Route 66 in Lincoln country must be Oak Ridge Cemetery and the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site. The second most visited cemetery in the U.S., behind only Arlington Cemetery in our nation’s capital, Oak Ridge is home to a majestic monument that is the final resting place for our 16th president, his wife and three of their four children.
Time to hit the open road! Next stop is Lincoln, the only city in the United States that was named for Abraham Lincoln before he became president. It’s not a surprise that it contains a perfect mix of Lincoln history and Route 66 nostalgia. Here you will find a great Lincoln/Route 66 photo op at the giant Railsplitter Covered Wagon – a tribute to the city’s favorite son and the iconic kitsch that is Route 66.
Down the road, step back in time to Lincoln’s day for a glimpse into the life of Lincoln the lawyer, with a visit to the Postville Courthouse State Historic Site. Imagine yourself arguing a point of law in this rugged, brown-frame building – a replica of the building that served as the Logan County government from 1840-48. You will find exhibits that tell the story of the 8th Judicial Circuit, where Lincoln honed his skills as a successful prairie lawyer.
You won’t want to miss a remarkable collection of Lincoln-related artifacts and documents at the Lincoln Heritage Museum, on the campus of Lincoln College. Treasures include dishware, books and mourning clothing that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln, as well as original letters from President Lincoln and information about every member of his cabinet and Civil War military leaders.
Just as we preserve the legacy that is Abraham Lincoln, communities all along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles are trying to preserve that iconic legacy of America’s Main Street, and the city of Lincoln is no exception. Before you head out of town, check out The Mill on Route 66, a recently saved and restored original Route 66 restaurant now featuring a museum that tells the story of the county’s ties to the legendary road.
As you head to Bloomington for your overnight stay, be sure to make a stop in Atlanta – Illinois, of course! – for pie and coffee or a late afternoon bite at the famous Route 66 diner, the Palms Grille Café. While you’re there, check out the Lincoln exhibits upstairs for a glimpse into his influence on this small, rural town. Across the street from the Palm’s, be sure to get your photo taken by the giant Paul Bunyon Hot Dog Statue. If there’s time, a stop a few miles north at Funks Grove Maple Sirup will be well worth it for some delicious homemade Maple syrup and candy.
Day 2- Bloomington
For your first stop, visit the McLean County Historical Museum, located inside a beautiful old courthouse on the town square. In the first floor visitor center, you will find out all about the rich Route 66 history in McLean County as well as all the information you need for discovering the Lincoln story along Illinois Route 66. Upstairs in the Museum, you will find many stories of the people and landscapes of McLean County through the years, including many local residents who were Lincoln’s contemporaries as he rose from prairie lawyer to the man who would be president.
Afterward, visit the magnificent David Davis Mansion, once owned by Lincoln confidante and close friend, Judge David Davis. This stately 19th century mansion and its beautiful grounds will give you a glimpse of the social and political life Lincoln knew. History credits the influence and support of Judge Davis as an important factor on Lincoln’s success in becoming the Republican nominee for the presidency. You’ll also want to make a stop at the Sprague Super Service Station for some iconic Route 66 photos in Bloomington.
Next stop: Pontiac, arguably one of the most famous towns along Route 66. In this charming slice of Americana, you’ll find the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, including the International Wall Dog Mural and Sign Art Museum, the Bob Waldmire Exhibit, as well as a tribute to Mr. Lincoln with the Music of the Civil War exhibit.
Stroll around the town square to take in all of the spectacular Murals on Main Street and be sure to stop by the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum & Resource Center to see some of the world’s finest, and rarest, examples of the former Pontiac autos.
– Illinois Office of Tourism