637 Posts
Feature Image

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

 

FEATURE IMAGE

Happy Fourth of July Weekend! It’s never too early to start celebrating, so we asked our Instagram followers to share photos themed red, white and blue 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.

+Navy Pier Fireworks (at) mynameisxela

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than watching fireworks? That’s why we kicked off this week’s challenge with this awesome photo of Navy Pier’s grand firework show. Thanks to @mynameisxela for this great photo!

+ Macy's Chicago (at)Kait.radke

What a great way to showcase the American flag! Thanks for the great picture of Macy’s in Chicago @kait.radke.

+Bloomington (at) selzermusic

Best part of Fourth of July cookouts? Desserts! These cake balls look delicious! Thanks @selzermusic for sharing.

+Bourbonnais Friendship Fest (at) josh.lundmark

The Ferris wheel at Bourbonnais Friendship Fest is all ready to celebrate Independence Day! Thanks @josh.lundmark for this awesome photo!

+Fox River Queen, St. Charles (at)yoga.gal

What a great idea to spend the Fourth of July on the Fox River Queen in St. Charles! Thanks for sharing @yoga.gal.png.

+Galena (at)longhollowcanopytours

Zip lining at Long Hollow Canopy Tours with the American flag, how much more freedom can you get in one picture? Thanks for sharing @longhollowcanopytours!

+Lake Forest (at) elawafarm

Look at those festive sprinkles! Thanks @elawafarm for the great photo!

+Riverside Illinois (at) riversideillinois

How cool is this American Flag from 1976? Thanks for sharing with us @riversideillinois!

+Rt. 66 (at) sauk_it_to_me

Even Route 66’s Lauterbach Muffler Man can’t wait to celebrate the Fourth of July! Thanks for this great photo @sauk_it_to_me!

+Crystal Lake (at)  j_r_petry

Red, white and blue stands out anywhere! Thanks @j_r_petry for sharing this photo of St. Charles!

-Illinois Office of Tourism

FEATURE IMAGE

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

 

FEATURE IMAGE

This week we asked our Instagram followers to share photos that featured their favorite summer treats in 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.

Chicago Ale Fest - (at) bittyreiss

Starting off our challenge this week was this refreshing photo from the Chicago Ale Fest! Cheers @bittyreiss!

Bloomington (at)selzermusic

Look how sweet these cake balls look! Thanks for sharing this awesome photo from Bloomington @selzermusic!

Chicago White Sox (at)msnycole

Take me out the ballgame for these summer treats! Love this shot from the Chicago White Sox Game. (Photo: @msnycole)

Chicago, Coco Pazzo Cafe (at) cocopazzocafe

I’d like a scoop of gelato please! Thanks for sharing this beautiful photo @cocopazzocafe.

Riverside, IL (at) riversideillinois

What an awesome idea for a great cause! Thanks for sharing @riversideillinois.

Tre Soldi, Chicago (at) nicholsfarmand orchard

Since it is the season for farmers markets, we couldn’t end our roundup this week without our veggies! Thanks for sharing this photo from @nicholsfarmandorchard, @tresoldichi!

– Illinois Office of Tourism

Bike Trails Feature Image

As warmer temperatures roll in, so do bikers, eager to get their wheels back out and put in miles towards another season. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a leisurely afternoon ride, there is always somewhere new to explore. Bike trails around the state offer experiences that range in difficulty, from the easy ride to the intense climb, there’s a trail for every rider. So what are you waiting for? Hop in the saddle and get going!

Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Vienna. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one. But if you’re up to the challenge, don’t pass up this Southern Illinois gem.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 1

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 2

Tunnel Hill State Trail

 

And in the opposite direction of Tunnel Hill, head up north to the Fox River Trail in St. Charles, 32 miles of biking, hiking and, in the winter, cross-country skiing featuring the scenic trails of the Fox River. Make this ride as easy or difficult as you like. There are plenty of spots to pull over and enjoy the scenery or snap a selfie, like the Carpenters Dam, Fox River Shores, Tyler Creek, Voyageur Landing, Shoemaker Nature Center and Fabyan Forest Preserve.

Fox River Bike Trail

The Fox River Trail in St. Charles

 

In Chicago, one the most popular outdoor spots is The 606, celebrating its first birthday this summer. This 2.7-mile rails-to-trails path is one of the newest additions to the city’s green space with gardens and parks lining the trail. Enjoy a more leisurely ride along this path, and in the warmer weather, expect to see lots of dogs, children and people enjoying the trail and various summer events.

The 606 - Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

The 606 in Chicago (Photo credit: The Trust for Public Land)

 

Along the western edge of the state, cyclists nationally and internationally ride the 62.5 mile stretch the Great River Trail that runs from the Illinois Quad Cities to Savanna, Illinois. This trail isn’t just for the biking enthusiast. The whole trail system measures 10 feet in width to allow bikers and walkers plenty of passing room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ben Butterworth Parkway

 

From panoramic river views and wooded trails, to prairie areas, backwaters and marsh areas, riders will also enjoy the scenic view and unique towns that call the banks of the Mississippi River their home.

These trails are also part of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a 10-state network of bike trails and bike-friendly roads that lines the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

– Illinois Office of Tourism