Route 66 crosses the entire state of Illinois, from the banks of Lake Michigan in the northeast to the border with St. Louis, Missouri in the southwest.
Along the way, it passes through the cities of Chicago, Bloomington and Springfield, as well as many smaller towns.
If you’re making the drive along Route 66 across the state, there’s a lot to see by way of historical significance if you can make the time.
Here are our top picks for the Illinois Route 66 attractions you should absolutely put on your list if you want to get the full Illinois Route 66 experience.
(Note: We have only included Route 66 attractions specifically related to the Mother Road, and they’re in order from east to west.)
Route 66 in Chicago
Route 66 starts in Chicago. That’s where it all began.
And the three attractions of note are also three of the most important markers you’ll find along the entire route – the Start Historic Illinois U.S. Route 66 Marker, the End Historic Illinois U.S. Route 66 Marker, and the First Route 66 sign in the state.
Since they are located so close together (within walking distance), we consider them one essential attraction.
Start Historic Illinois U.S. Route 66 Marker
This marker marks the place where Route 66 begins.
End Historic Illinois U.S. Route 66 Marker
This marker marks the place where Route 66 ends.
First Route 66 Sign in Illinois
The most essential of the three makers, if you’re only going to see one, this marker was the first Route 66 marker erected in the state of Illinois.
Dwight, Illinois Route 66
Cottage-style gas stations are some of the most iconic architecture left on Route 66, and this one in Dwight is one of the best preserved.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, and today is the visitor center for the town.
Odell, Illinois Route 66
Just down the road from Ambler’s Texaco Station is another well-preserved cottage/canopy-style gas station from Route 66’s heyday.
Like the station in Dwight, the Odell station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1997) and serves as visitor center for Odell.
Pontiac, Illinois Route 66
The Route 66 Association of Illinois is headquartered in Pontiac, and there they have a Hall of Fame housing all sorts of Route 66 memorabilia.
The crown jewel of Illinois’ Route 66 attractions (in our opinion), if you want to roll back through the history of Route 66 in the state, there is simply no better place.
Lexington, IL Route 66
Route 66 Memory Lane
If there is one place that comes close to rivaling the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame for pure Route 66 immersion, it’s less than 20 miles down the road in Lexington.
There, you’ll find a roughly one-mile section of an old alignment of Route 66 that still boasts historic road signs and ads like you would have seen back in the day.
Memory Lane isn’t always open to vehicles – only occasionally throughout the year – but you can always walk down it and soak up that old-road experience.
Bloomington, IL Route 66
Part of the McLean County Museum of History, the Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitor Center is just what it sounds like – half Abraham Lincoln exhibit, half Route 66 exhibit.
It showcases travel through the area in a truly unique way (perfect for us car lovers), and you won’t find another like it anywhere along the Mother Road.
Atlanta, Illinois Route 66
Route 66 Original Alignment
With each re-alignment of Route 66, smaller, less streamlined sections of road were bypassed.
Many of those sections were simply left to crumble into disrepair and disuse.
But a few of them still survive and are drivable, if you don’t mind testing your shocks and steering around potholes.
This dead-end segment in Atlanta, IL is one of them.
Auburn, Illinois Route 66
This 1.4-mile segment of hand-laid brick road on Route 66 in Auburn lies along our designated Route 66 route through the state.
It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an absolute beauty.
Granite City, Illinois Route 66
Just a little off our main Route 66 route, stretching across the Mighty Mississippi, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (there’s a New Chain of Rocks Bridge too) is no longer open to cars, but you can walk or bike across it.
This bridge, which was on an early alignment of Route 66, is famous for its sharp (30-degree) turn, which was designed to accommodate riverboats.
‘If You’ve Got The Time’ Route 66 Attractions in Illinois
While we think the attractions above comprise the must-see stops on Route 66 through Illinois, there are a few other Route 66 attractions absolutely worth a pop-in if you have the time.
These attractions are a little more kitschy, a little less historically valuable, or just too similar to attractions above to be “must-sees.”
But if you’ve got extra time on your Route 66 road trip through Illinois, by all means make these pit stops.
Joliet, Illinois Route 66
Route 66 Park
As far as kitsch, this place may top the list. (Though it does have some competition a few attractions down.)
There’s not a lot to it, and you’ll have to get off our main Route 66 route for a while and follow an older alignment of Route 66.
But, if you’ve got the minutes, there is some signage and quirky attractions that can be worth the pop-over.
To get there, follow the alternate Joliet alignment through Illinois on our Route 66 Maps.
(If you follow this alignment, you will also go past some non-Route 66 specific attractions, including the Gemini Giant and Sinclair Dino.)
Lincoln, Illinois Route 66
We struggled with whether or not to make this attraction a must-stop.
It does have historical value, both outside and inside, as it’s a unique, original building (circa 1929) that houses a Route 66 museum.
But, when it comes down to it, our must-see museums are better, so if you’re only going to stop at one or two museums along the route, choose one of those instead.
The Mill IS a very different type of museum than those above, though, so if you do have the time, you’ll find some worthwhile things to see.
Plus, it’s only a brief swing off the main route, which at least makes it worth a drive-by to see the exterior.
Girard, Illinois Route 66
Weird, weird, weird.
If you’re looking for the weirdest attractions on Route 66, you can’t miss these.
Before Route 66 was rerouted to IL-4, it ran along Donaldson Road through Girard.
During the paving of the road, wild turkeys walked into the wet cement and their tracks remain to this very day.
It’s not an essential Rt. 66 attraction (and there’s no designated stopping spot), but the turkey tracks are well-marked and show just how long the most random of things can last.
It’s silly, but fun, if you’ve got a minute.
Mt. Olive, Illinois Route 66
Beautifully-restored, this old Route 66 service station is yet another on the National Register of Historic Places.
You’ll see others like it, though, and it’s slightly off our recommended Route 66 route.
Still, it’s only about a 20-minute detour round trip, so if you’re making good time, it’s a well-preserved relic.
Staunton, Illinois Route 66
The biggest challenger to Joliet’s Route 66 Park for the kitschiest attraction on our list, if you love all things quirky, this may be a must-see for you.
There’s a replica of a cottage-style gas station, Route 66 and trucking memorabilia, a big rabbit statue, and a collection of VW cars buried Stonehenge style (or Cadillac Ranch style).
It’s not essential, but it’s an entertaining stop if you’re looking for one last thing to squeeze into your Route 66 itinerary before you leave the state.
And there you have it, the must-stop and maybe-stop Route 66 attractions through Illinois.
Drive safe, and happy historical road tripping!