Route 66 and the Illinois Odyssey

A mural of Route 66 on the side of a brick building, capturing the Illinois Odyssey.

Illinois is a state of many wonders, not the least of which is its section of the world-famous Route 66. Route 66 stretches from Chicago, Illinois, all the way to Santa Monica, California. Illinois encompasses the starting point of this iconic highway, and travelers embarking on a journey down Route 66 often begin their adventure here, making their way through historic towns, farmlands and scenic landscapes that represent the heartland of America. 

The Illinois Stretch 

The Illinois stretch of Route 66 is about 300 miles long and laden with attractions and scenic beauty. Starting in Chicago, the road winds its way through various small towns, each one carrying its unique charm and history. Some of the notable stops along the Illinois Route 66 include Joliet, a city known for its beautiful architecture and fun Route 66 stops; Springfield, the state capital that’s home to numerous Abraham Lincoln historical sites; and Pontiac, a town famous for its murals and Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. 

Historical Significance 

Illinois was the first state to have its section of Route 66 paved completely. This made travel smoother and more accessible, leading to an influx of tourists and contributing to the economic growth of the state. The road symbolizes the era of the Great Depression, during which it served as a path to a better life for many families migrating westward. Today, it is a reminder of the past and a testament to the American spirit of adventure and exploration. 

The Road Today 

Today, Route 66 in Illinois has been replaced by Interstate 55 in many sections, but several stretches of the original road still exist and are maintained by the state. Travelers can follow the historic route, stopping at various roadside attractions, diners and motels that have been preserved or restored. The Route 66 Association of Illinois actively works to preserve and promote the road and its surrounding landmarks. Every year, thousands of travelers from around the world embark on a journey down the Illinois stretch of Route 66 to experience a piece of American history. 

The Legacy of Illinois 

Illinois is a state of compelling historical value and natural beauty. Its section of Route 66 is a living testament to the American spirit of adventure and the resilience of the people who traveled its length in search of a better life. From the bustling streets of Chicago to the quiet farmlands of the countryside, Illinois offers a diverse and enriching experience for all who visit. Beyond Route 66, the state offers a wealth of attractions, from the magnificent architecture of Chicago to the serene beauty of the Shawnee National Forest. As the starting point of the iconic Route 66, Illinois holds a special place in the hearts of road trippers and adventure seekers from around the world.