Route 66 attractions are plentiful, even today. Back in its heyday, these attractions are what brought the people and the money to the small towns along The Mother Road. They are quirky and eclectic and some are just downright puzzling. But that’s the charm of Route 66. Even today new businesses pop up heralding the Route 66 logo still trying to attract the travelers that explore what is left of The Mother Road.
I’d love to cover EVERY attraction along the Route, but that would be a long blog! I’ll highlight a few in each state, and give you my opinion on the best of them! There were several alignments of Route 66 over the years. I may list some attractions that weren’t on the original alignment, and some that are on later alignments. I believe all of these attractions merit mentioning when talking about Route 66.
Some advice before you head out, I recommend grabbing a book or checking my website (and others) for the attractions and stops. Then make a list of what you want to see! I could spend days and days in almost every state soaking up the history of a road I love! I’m pretty sure if you do this trip once, you will want to do it again and again!
One more thing, there were several alignments of Route 66 over the years. I may list some attractions that weren’t on the original alignment, and some that are on later alignments. I believe all of these attractions merit mentioning when talking about Route 66.
Now lets Motor Thru Illinois, The Land of Lincoln
** I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. This is to help support my blog and does not have any impact on my recommendations. **
Route 66 Attractions
Route 66 begins on the corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. Actually, it begins and ends where Jackson runs into Lake Shore Drive, but that’s a one-way street ending in Lake Michigan.
On Jackson Street you will find Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant, it’s been there since 1923. Stop in for some Greek-American food and, according to Lou, the World’s Finest Coffee. Lou Mitchell’s offers great food and quality baking while continuing the unique tradition of giving every female customer a free box of Milk Duds; everyone gets a donut hole.
Take time to stop in Wilmington and grab a quick pic with the Gemini Giant. This very large statue stands on Route 66 at the Eastern entrance to Wilmington. It stands in front of the Launching Pad Diner which was purchased and restored in 2013. Bringing back the ambiance of simpler days and family travels across Route 66.
There are many historic buildings in Dwight. So many of them are in ruins but Amblers Texaco Station was saved. Ambler’s Texaco Station was built in 1933 and later became The Marathon Oil Station serviced travelers until 1998. Today the building has been renovated and is now a visitor’s and information center.
Another very large statue on Route 66 is found in Atlanta. The Giant Muffler Man with a Hot Dog! Created as an eyecatcher and an adverting promo The Giant Muffler Man with a Hot Dog Stands 19 feet tall. He is one of many muffler men created and used across the country. I told you Route 66 has some quirky attractions!
We have gone from statues to Rabbits! Staunton, Il is home to Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, both the hopping kind and the Volkswagen kind. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is a visitor’s station and an attraction all rolled into one. While it is a newer attraction on Route 66 and not an original attraction, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch embodies the true spirit of Route 66. In 2003, Route 66 Caravan visited the Ranch and honored them with a Roadside attraction sign and saying that Henry’s Rabbit Ranch was worth seeing.
Ready for another statue? How about come Catsup? Or is it Ketchup? Either way in Collinsville you will find World’s Largest Bottle of Catsup water tower. Originally built as an advertisement for Brooks Foods, the extremely large bottle of Catsup was saved from demolition and renovated to its current glory. Making advertisements larger than life was a sure way to have them seen from the road, and I can tell ya, people certainly talked about it!
The last town on Route66 in Illinois, Granite City is home to the Luna Café. The café was built in 1924, two years prior to Route 66. It has long been rumored that gangsters like Al Capone frequented the establishment. The Luna did operate as a café‚ on the main floor but had a gambling operation in the basement and a “house of ill repute” upstairs. The neon sign out front, still standing, has a cherry that used ruby glass to enhance its red glow. It is said that if the cherry was lit, the girls were in. At one time, the café was a “fine dining establishment” and so expensive that most law-abiding citizens could not afford to eat there. There is an ongoing effort to have the neon sign restored to its former glory.
After leaving Luna Café, its’ time to motor west to Missouri. Let’s see what the Show Me State has to offer!