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Route 66 Illinois


Illinois had the first completely paved section of Route 66. It is the traditional starting point of Route 66 on the shores of Lake Michagan. "If you wanted to get to California, you had to come to Chicago to do it."

Quote by David Clark, Author of "Exploring Route 66 in Chicagoland"




"Your Route 66 Illinois Visitor Center"

Link to United States and International Route 66 Associations


"Between the great cities of Chicago and St. Louis, there are 300 miles of adventure, history, culinary delights, and quirky attractions. This is the “Land of Lincoln” and roadside giants. There are cozy motels, cozy diners, and Cozy Dogs. Route 66 goes through the hearts of the towns, wandering onto old brick pavement far from the roar of the interstate. Historic restaurants like Lou Mitchell's in Chicago, the Palms Grill in Atlanta, and the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield still keep their coffee pots warm. Waitresses, pump jockeys, gangsters, cops, and politicians all gave the “Main Street of America” its distinctive personality. So slow down, take the next exit, and head toward the beckoning neon in the distance. Come explore Route 66 in Illinois – where the road began."

From the back cover of Route 66 in Illinois by authors:  Cheryl Eichar Jett and Joe Sonderman"


The construction of US 66 was important to the economies of small, rural towns in Illinois and the Midwest in general, which witnessed a burst of activity when the road passed through.  However, the communities in Illinois were already profiting from the paved road that preceded Route 66 by a few years.


Fast food restaurant opportunities emerged with the increase of hungry travelers on the road.  One pioneer was the White Castle chain which was founded in 1921.  The oldest White Castle restaurant on Route 66 is still in business in Berwyn, IL.


The corn dog on a stick is claimed to be invented in Springfield under the name “Cozy Dog”.  The Cozy Dog Drive-In has been a Springfield Route 66 staple since 1950.

One of the first U.S. drive-thru restaurant windows is still in operation in Springfield on Route 66 at the Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop.

"On the Go" - Route 66 travels with Little Guy Trailers

The oldest restaurant still in operation along the entire stretch of Route 66 is the Ariston Café in Litchfield.  This establishment is an excellent example of the mom and pop operations that flourished along Route 66 in Illinois.

In the early days, motorists usually packed essentials and set up camp on a rural roadside for their overnight rest.  Eventually, tourist camps emerged along the highway.  These unfurnished campsites and cabins offered few amenities and cost  25 – 50 cents apiece.  These camps evolved into motor courts that consisted of a row of cabins, then motor hotels which were long buildings with individual rooms side by side with parking in front of them, the name for which was in time shortened to “motel”.


The starting point of Route 66 was the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard in Chicago.


The trip from Chicago to St. Louis was rarely more than one day.  There was little need for motels along the way, but restaurants and gas stations were plentiful, along with an occasional garage for the unlucky motorist who had the misfortune to experience unexpected car problems during their travels.


Innovative paved roads made Illinois initially the only state on Route 66 to have “hard” roads on which to travel.  All the other seven states’ roads were mostly gravel and dirt roads.


Early franchise restaurants such as A&W and Steak n’ Shake appeared along Route 66 in Illinois and became recognizable to hungry travelers anywhere, not just on the 291 miles of Route 66 in Illinois.


Get Your Kicks On Route 66 - Illinois Route 66 Attractions

Hare it is - Hop into Henry's Rabbit Ranch - Staunton - Illinois

Joliet Area Historical Museum



Visit (300 miles) Chicago, Joliet, Pontiac, Lexington, Bloomington, Lincoln, Atlanta, Springfield, Staunton, and Litchfield.


Community Life


Illinois Route 66 Museum and Hall of Fame

Discover Our Interactive

Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary Map

Interactive map provided by the National Park Service

(click on map to find out information about your location on Route 66)


U.S. Highway 66 -- popularly known as Route 66 or the Mother Road -- holds a special place in American consciousness and evokes images of simpler times, mom and pop businesses, and the icons of a mobile nation on the road. This travel itinerary aids the public to visit the historic placesthat recall those images and experiences that are reminders of our past and evidence of the influence of the automobile.


The Route 66 DiscoverOur Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary was produced by the National Park Service's Heritage Education Services and the National Park Service Route66 Corridor Preservation Program, in partnership with the American Express and World Monuments Fund Sustainable Tourism Initiative and theNational Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.


Interactive Map of Illinois and Missouri

provided by the National Park Service

(click on map to find out information about your location on Route 66)