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Cutting through Illinois is a 300-mile stretch of Route 66 that still captures the imaginations of travelers from around the world. The midway point of Route 66 in Illinois is the state capital, Springfield – home to a variety of museums, roadside attractions, diners and more, all bursting with the nostalgia of the Mother Road’s golden age.

The Annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield pays homage to all that the road has to offer, including classic cars, drive-in movies, quirky roadside attractions and diners. Taking place September 25-27 this year, the fun-filled event features more than 1,100 automobiles and expects more than 85,000 spectators to converge on historic downtown Springfield.

The International Annual Route 66 Mother Road Festival is an event that draws visitors from all over each year!

The International Annual Route 66 Mother Road Festival is an event that draws visitors from all over each year!

While exploring Route 66 history in Springfield, travelers must visit the birthplace of the battered, fried, hot dog on a stick that most people call a corn dog today. Springfield’s Cozy Dog Drive In is the home of the hot dog on a stick phenomenon – and coined the phrase “Cozy Dog” for their variety. Considered a historic Route 66 landmark, the drive-in has been a popular local spot since its opening in 1949.

The Cozy Dog Drive In is home to the original corn dog! (Photo credit: Instagramer @nathanmichael)

The Cozy Dog Drive In is home to the original corn dog! (Photo credit: Instagramer @nathanmichael)

The original brick road of Route 66 still exists in Auburn, about a 30-minute drive from the city center. Visitors can cruise the brick road, getting a feeling for what the original drive was really like.

The original brick road in Auburn.

The original brick road in Auburn.

Along Route 66, you’ll see a number of quirky roadside attractions, such as the large “Muffler Men” statues. Springfield is home to the Abe Rail Splitter and the Lauterbach Muffler Man statues, both offbeat attractions perfect for a road trip photo op!

The Lauterbach Muffler Man statue is stands tall in front of the Lauterbach Auto Service in Springfield.

The Lauterbach Muffler Man statue is stands tall in front of the Lauterbach Auto Service in Springfield.

The kitsch, nostalgia, and people make this a road trip you’re sure to remember. Plan your Springfield trip today at enjoyillinois.com.

 

–Illinois Office of Tourism

Romantic Spots in GRC Feature Image

The Great River Road, which travels along the Mississippi River, has countless opportunities for couples to experience romantic moments. Bluff-top views, river sights, charming B&Bs and sprawling vineyards sprinkle the Illinois portion of the road on the western boarder of the state. We rounded up six spots along the Great River Road in Illinois that are the epitome of romance. Have other ideas that we didn’t include? Comment and share with us!

Take a wintery stroll through Galena’s historic Main Street. Click the photo for more information about bustling downtown Galena. (Photo by Instagramer (at) foundflavor)

Take a wintery stroll through Galena’s historic Main Street and enjoy the bustling nature of downtown Galena. (Photo by Instagramer (at) foundflavor)

Galena’s Main Street
There’s something nostalgic about the small town charm in winter. Visit Galena’s historic Main Street to shop the local boutiques, take a historic trolley tour of the snow-dusted town, and cozy up on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the town. Walk across the river to visit Grant Park, a great location for couples to take in the breathtaking views of the historic town. The park is home to a charming gazebo has been the site of many nuptials throughout the years!

Instagramer (at) squezdog captured this amazing shot of Bayview Bridge at sunset. Click the photo for more attractions to enjoy at Bicentennial Park.

Instagramer (at) squezdog captured this amazing shot of Bayview Bridge at sunset.

Bicentennial Park and Bayview Bridge
Bicentennial Park in Quincy is the place to see Bayview Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge over the Mississippi River. Snap photos with the bridge as the backdrop or relax on a park bench and look out at the moving waters.

Beall Mansion
Located just 12 blocks from the Mississippi River, the elegant bed and breakfast Beall Mansion features an in-room massage, spa treatments and a 24 hour chocolate buffet! This quaint B&B mansion is the perfect romantic getaway for two.

Share a warm slice of pie at this cozy sweet shop. Click the photo to see more activities in Alton. (Photo by Instagramer (at) kayris06)

Share a warm slice of pie at this cozy sweet shop. (Photo by Instagramer (at) kayris06)

My Just Desserts
My Just Desserts in Alton is a tasty place for couples to stop along the Great River Road. This cozy confectionery and restaurant is located in the historic Alton in a building that dates back to 1845. With up to 13 types of pie to choose from, you won’t want to miss out on this indulgence.

Piasa Winery
The charming Piasa Winery overlooks the Mississippi River and is home to delicious varietals from the Piasa vineyards. Its deck is a great spot to sip a sweet white or sparkling wine with your loved one while enjoying the region’s rolling landscape as the backdrop.

Luxury is not hard to come by at Irish Hallow as seen in the inn’s spa-like bathrooms. See more pictures of the accommodations by clicking the photo. (Photo by (at) aniababicz)

Enjoy the warm, relaxing atmosphere of The Inn at Irish Hollow. (Photo by (at) aniababicz)

The Inn at Irish Hollow
Sitting on 500 acres in the Galena countryside, The Inn at Irish Hollow is a truly magical destination for couples. Irish Hollow has five English countryside cottages perfect for two, complete with wood burning fireplaces, spa-quality bathrooms and plush furnishings.

For more information on romantic destinations in Illinois, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

bright lights feature image

Every year, the holiday season in Illinois means electrifying light parades, bustling holiday festivals and treasured annual traditions all throughout the state. With so many holiday experiences to choose from, there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate the season.

If you’re looking to start a new holiday tradition with your family this year, consider exploring the local seasonal festivals in Southern Illinois’ picturesque Trails to Adventure region. You’ll find a plethora of towns that offer the perfect mix of bright lights, old-fashioned holiday traditions and small town charm.

Du Quoin Annual Holiday Lights Fair

The Du Quoin State Fairgrounds transforms into a magical holiday utopia for the Du Quoin Lights Fest from November 25 – December 31. The three-mile drive through lighted exhibitions will delight visitors of all ages. After taking in the beautiful light displays, visitors can see decorated trees, visit with Santa, enjoy live entertainment and devour holiday treats.

Du Quoin Lights Festival

See the twinkling lights at the DuQuoin Lights Fair

Festival of Lights

This season, visitors can enjoy Fairfield’s Festival of Lights December 5 – January 1. To celebrate the season of giving, the beautiful lights and holiday decorations are donated by the citizens of Fairfield themselves, creating a festive and homemade atmosphere to celebrate the season.

angels_and_lights

There’s no shortage of lights illuminating the night sky at Fairfield’s Festival of Lights

Olde Tyme Christmas and Living History

Historians and holiday fanatics can experience what life was like in Metropolis during the 18th century by visiting the Olde Tyme Christmas and Living History on December 14. Fort Massac re-enactments of Christmas traditions will depict the French Colonial, American Revolution, Lewis and Clark, War of 1812 and the Civil War periods.

What are your favorite holiday activities? Comment and tell us below! For more winter festivals, celebrations and activities, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

 

 

 

 

Want to get away this summer, but don’t know where to begin? Perhaps you’ll get inspired by the photos Serdar Ozturk (@Trashhand) and Elise Swopes (@Swopes) captured on their trip through Illinois.

Together, they embarked on an epic outdoor adventure over the course of four days, visiting Alton, Peoria and Shawnee National Forest. Here’s what they had to say about their favorite and most surprising parts of the trip!

Q: Out of all the stops you visited on your outdoor adventure in Illinois, what stands out as most memorable and why?

Elise Swopes: The most memorable stop was the zip-lining because while we were on the 5th out of 8 zips, it started raining like crazy and we had to stop and hide under some bluffs. It was totally adventurous and fun.

Serdar Ozturk: My favorite stop in our trip across Illinois was when we went zip-lining. You went from tree to tree resting on different platforms high above the ground. We got caught in a heavy rainstorm too in the middle of the runs which turned the zip-lining to a real adventure.

Elise Swopes zip-lining through southern Illinois with Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

Elise Swopes zip-lining through southern Illinois with Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

Q: Which attraction or location surprised you the most and why?

Elise Swopes: This famous restaurant called “Fast Eddie’s Bon Air” was in the middle of nowhere. We walked inside and noticed more than 400 people inside with a line of at least 50 people. They had kept their prices from when they opened many years ago, which were really cheap and they had one rule: No takeout.

Serdar Ozturk: Pomona Natural Bridge definitely surprised me the most. I wasn’t expecting to see this “bridge” that spanned 90 feet made out of sandstone from millions of years of erosion. I felt like I was in the Amazon at that point. 

Pomona natural Bridge Trashhand

Pomona Natural Bridge in Pomona. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

Q: Did you realize there were so many outdoor adventures in Illinois?

Elise Swopes: I had done some research in the past about some of the places that are in Illinois and not until now did I realize how massive some parts really are. You really have to see it yourself.

Serdar Ozturk: Nope!

Q: What is one word you’d use to describe your trip?

 Elise Swopes: Epic.

Serdar Ozturk: Adventure.

Hot air balloon ride near Peoria. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

Hot air balloon ride near Peoria. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

Q: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wanted to plan an outdoor adventure trip in Illinois?

Elise Swopes: You have to have directions planned out ahead of time or you will be totally lost. We had little to no cell service in many, many places. It’s best to bring up directions and a map on your phone while you have service because even if you lose cell service, if you bring it up ahead of time, it will still follow those directions when you lose service.

Serdar Ozturk: I would tell them to make sure and visit Garden of the Gods for a landscape view and head to Fast Eddie’s for the best American lunch in their life. I can still taste Fast Eddie’s chicken and burgers…

A beautiful Saturday sunrise near Peoria. Photo by Elise Swopes (@swopes)

A beautiful Saturday sunrise near Peoria. Photo by Elise Swopes (@swopes)

Q: What destination do you think was the most beautiful and why?

Elise Swopes: The most beautiful destination was the Garden of Gods in Shawnee National Forest. The formations of the trees and rocks were absolutely insane.

Serdar Ozturk: Garden of the Gods was something else… Amazing to see and know that Illinois is not that flat.

Garden Trashhand

The picturesque Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

Q: What is your favorite photo from the trip?

Elise Swopes: My favorite photo was a sunset in Cobden. It’s definitely realistic to think the sunsets and sunrises are far more epic the more south you go from the city.

Serdar Ozturk: The photo I took of Elise zip-lining through the forest while it was pouring rain.

A sunset in Cobden. Photo by Elise Swopes (@swopes)

A sunset in Cobden. Photo by Elise Swopes (@swopes)

Q: Where did you eat your favorite meal during the trip? What did you order?

Elise Swopes: Wow, honestly, every single restaurant had their own amazing thing about them but I have to give it to Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. I ordered the chicken stix, a cheeseburger and fries. Seriously the most delicious thing I have ever eaten and it was so simple.

Serdar Ozturk: Fast Eddie’s. Best lunch I’ve had in years!

The Clark Bridge, a must-see in Alton. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

The Clark Bridge, a must-see in Alton. Photo by Serdar Ozturk (@trashhand)

Q: Anything else you’d want to share about experiencing the great outdoors in Illinois?

Elise Swopes: Illinois is one of the most beautiful states in this country and not only because of the things that are visible to the eye but the kindness of all the people we encountered. The positivity and support we were given by the many people we had met on our journey was something that can never be bought! Illinois is all about family and respect… and I respect that.

Serdar Ozturk: Whatever you think you know about Illinois is wrong. This state will surprise you over and over as it did for me.

 

Peoria Cruise Swopes

Captured while on a river cruise on the Spirit of Peoria. Photo by Elise Swopes (@swopes)

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including Peoria Area Convention and Visitors BureauPeoria Marriott Pere MarquetteAll Around AltonHoliday InnSouthernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau and Rustle Hill Cabins.

Want to follow in our Mile Markers’ footsteps? Click on the below links and travel the map!

[Embed Google Map: http://www.enjoyillinoisblog.org/2014/06/12/illinois-outdoor-adventure-mile-markers-trip/]

Peoria:

Peoria’s Grandview Drive

Wildlife Prairie Park

Peoria Riverfront

Midwest Balloon Ride

One World Café

Alton:

Fast Eddie’s Bon Air

Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower

Melvin Price Locks & Dam

Pere Marquette State Park

Tony’s Restaurant

Clark Bridge

Shawnee National Forest:

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour

Garden of the Gods

Blue Sky Vineyard

Giant City State Park

Pomona Natural Bridge

Rustle Hill Winery

Giant City Lodge

Route-66-Road-Trip-Blog-Feature

Thinking about taking a trip along Route 66 in Illinois? We sent four Mile Markers, Nathan Michael, Grant Legan, John Stoffer and Dan Kelleghan, on an epic road trip along the Mother Road over the course of three days. Discover their firsthand accounts of the experience and what stops they recommend.

Q: Out of all the stops you visited on Route 66 in Illinois, what stands out as most memorable and why?

Nathan Michael: I loved Pontiac. It’s a true American staple. The locals were so friendly and there was visually a ton of inspiration to take in.

Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac by Grant Legan

Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac by Grant Legan

Grant Legan: Definitely the two cell jail and Pontiac. But much of traveling for me is about the people you are with and the experiences you create together. Info wise, I enjoyed the Lincoln History museum in Springfield, it was a beautiful museum. The first stop for food and chicken potpie [Dell Rheas Chicken Basket] was my favorite as well, the owner gave us a deep history of the location and the food was incredible. 

Two-cell jail in Gardner by Grant Legan

Two-cell jail in Gardner by Grant Legan

John Stoffer: The Abraham Lincoln Museum. Not for photo opps but for the history.

Dan Kelleghan: I really liked the two-cell jail because of how it reminded me of the Wild West period. It made me feel like I was living in a different time.

Q: Which attraction or location surprised you the most and why?

Nathan Michael: The Lincoln Museum. It truly gave me a deeper understanding of our country’s roots. I assumed that it would be outdated and un-emotive, but it was the complete opposite. I thoroughly enjoyed the detail and modern storytelling. I would gladly go back again.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield by Dan Kelleghan

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield by Dan Kelleghan

Grant Legan: Definitely the Lincoln History museum, the features and displays were so captivating. Also Pontiac was a fun little town, and Bob the Mayor was a delightful man to chat with.

John Stoffer: Springfield surprised me! I had no idea how much was happening down there.

Dan Kelleghan: I was blown away by the presentation at the Lincoln Museum. I’ve never seen anything even close to that in my entire life.

Q: Did you realize there were so many attractions in Illinois?

Nathan Michael: In Chicago? Yes. :) In the rest of Illinois? No. I was pleasantly proved wrong. Heading outside the traditional borders of Chicago was the best thing I’ve done all year. Really.

Grant Legan: Had no idea!

John Stoffer: I had no clue and I’ve been living in Illinois my whole life.

Dan Kelleghan: No way! Especially not that many iconic food spots.

Pie at the Palms Grill Café in Atlanta by Nathan Michael

Pie at the Palms Grill Café in Atlanta by Nathan Michael

Q: What is one word you’d use to describe your trip?

Nathan Michael: Greasy. Just embrace it. You’ll thank me later.

Grant Legan: Adventurous

John Stoffer: Full. Of stuff to do and tasty food.

Dan Kelleghan: Enlightening.

Q: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone traveling down Route 66 in Illinois?

Nathan Michael: Enjoy the ride. Savor the time along the way and don’t hesitate to stir up conversation with the locals. Believe me; everyone has a good story to tell if you just give them enough time to share it.

Grant Legan: Stop often and ask locals for their favorite spots, we found some great bars in Pontiac that way, and some awesome antique markets that weren’t on the timeline.

John Stoffer: Take your time. Explore the back roads, the places the less travelled. Those are often the best and most beautiful.

Dan Kelleghan: Take your time and exercise often to work off all the calories from the great roadside restaurants.

Q: What meal or dish was your favorite?

Nathan Michael: I really enjoyed the Cozy Dog Drive In. The atmosphere was an overdose of true American nostalgia and they paired it perfectly with just the right food. I mean, who can turn down a dipped corn dog, fresh cut fries, and an ice cold Coke? No one.

Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield by Nathan Michael

Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield by Nathan Michael

Grant Legan: The first chicken pot pie. I want it right nowand for the rest of time.

John Stoffer: The classic chicken basket at Dell Rhea’s. Getting the whole history from the owner as we were eating made it that much better.

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook by Nathan Michael

Dan Kelleghan: All of the burgers. Literally all of them.

Q: What is your favorite photo from the trip?

Nathan Michael: By far, “Death By Thunderbird.” To no one’s surprise, Route 66 has an endless amount of beautiful vintage cars. You can’t help but be inspired to take a few pictures along the way. This gem not only slayed my heart, but unfortunately severed John’s head too 😉

Captured in Springfield by Nathan Michael

Captured in Springfield by Nathan Michael

Grant Legan: I had fun playing with #MiniAbe and creating funny positions for him to hang out in. He was a great addition to the trip. Him looking at the map was cracking me up in real life, and the photo is a memory of that laughter. He’s such a celebrity.

Mini Abe planning his Route 66 adventure by Grant Legan

Mini Abe planning his Route 66 adventure by Grant Legan

John Stoffer: Made it to the capitol”. Loved the night time scene with the capitol building in the background.

Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield by John Stoffer

Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield by John Stoffer

Dan Kelleghan: I really enjoyed using the smoke bombs that John brought… Definitely a great way to turn an OK photo into a great one!

Captured along Route 66 by Dan Kelleghan

Captured along Route 66 by Dan Kelleghan

Q: What is your go-to road trip game? Or do you have a favorite road trip song?

Nathan Michael: For me it’s probably the “Quiet Game” or “See Who Can Hold Their Bowels The Longest After a Fried Chicken Lunch.” I’m not really good at either, but I really love cranking up “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers when hitting the road.

Grant Legan: Foals: My Number. Favorite game is how much fried food can you eat in one dayBut really my favorite game is when someone says lets stop and take a photo, don’t question it JUST DO IT.

John Stoffer: The best thing for me was just sharing music that we loved with each other. Grant had made a road trip playlist that lasted us all the way down to Springfield.

Dan Kelleghan: Not really a game player myself but listening to the band Real Estate has been really great for road trips

Q: Anything else you’d want to share about experiencing Route 66 in Illinois?

Nathan Michael: There’s something special that happens when you get a broader view of your surroundings. Whether a born and raised local, city dweller, or someone having a hankering to travel; I would highly suggest taking a road trip in Illinois as soon as possible. It will give you a deeper appreciation for the people around you and it’s an affordable way get re-inspired.

Grant Legan: I really think we had a great group of guys for a trip like this. I would definitely love to share the adventure with others and tell them to stop as often as possible and explore some of the small towns a bit more. Those little cafes and bars and random shops were great to discover.

John Stoffer: Getting out of your bubble seems hard, but Route 66 is worth it and it’s in our own backyard.

Dan Kelleghan: Illinois has a lot more to offer than people realize. It’s got incredible history, food, and the friendliest people as well.

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including Visit Pontiac, Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lydia’s Loft Pontiac and The State House Inn in Springfield, An Ascent Collection Hotel.

Want to follow in our Mile Markers’ footsteps? Travel the map below!

Meet the Mile Markers:

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Nathan Michael

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Born in England and raised a Texas southern boy, Nathan has traveled around the United States, living in West Palm Beach, San Francisco, and finally landing in Chicago. As a photographer and designer, Nathan is driven by artistically capturing people and their stories.
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Grant Legan

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Grant is a Visual Storyteller and travel enthusiast. Based between Chicago and Los Angeles, he is an experience driven creative constantly on the go.
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John Stoffer

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John is a photographer based in Chicago, who owns a wedding photography business with his wife, Maura. He enjoys good music, family, coffee, bike rides and more.
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Dan Kelleghan

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Dan Kelleghan is a Chicago photographer and self-titled professional “road tripper.”