Route 66 Leg One: Chicago to St. Louis

Classic motel neon, vintage filling stations, roadside giants, and historic bridges

  • 71
  • 16:31
  • 636 mi
  • $145
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Created by Rich Maypark - September 17th 2021

The stretch of Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois, to St. Louis, Missouri, is home to aluminum-and-chrome diners, historic, family-owned cafes, bizarre attractions, and other reminders of the route’s charming past. You’ll also see plenty of cornfields and flat prairie land between the bustling cities and sleepy towns along this first leg.

Photo of Indiana Dunes State Park
4.5

1600 N. 25 E., Chesterton, IN, US

Indiana Dunes State Park

If you plan on starting your Route 66 adventure in Chicago, this is the perfect campground for tenting, RVing, or cabin camping. The South Shore Line offers rail service directly from the state park to downtown Chicago.

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50mi 01h 08m

Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Start your epic journey at the route’s original 1937 terminus at Lake Shore Drive and E. Jackson Drive in downtown Chicago.

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3mi 00h 12m
Photo of Route 66 Starts Here Sign
3.2

65 E Adams St, Chicago, IL, US

Route 66 Starts Here Sign

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Don’t miss the Route 66 Starts Here sign at the corner of S Michigan Avenue and E Adams Street. The sign (along with a handful of replica signs on the same block) is located in a busy section, so you may need to find parking elsewhere and walk to the sign for a photo.

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2mi 00h 09m

565 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL, US

Lou Mitchell's Restaurant

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Lou Mitchell’s is the perfect place to get breakfast—and a cup of the “world’s finest coffee”—before you leave the Windy City. The restaurant has been serving home-cooked comfort food to travelers since 1923, predating the designation of Route 66 by 3 years. Before sitting down, diners are handed a freshly-made donut hole and a miniature box of candy. And because one donut hole is never enough, you can order some to-go.

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1mi 00h 08m
Photo of Buckingham Fountain
4.5

301 S. Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL, US

Buckingham Fountain

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Chicago's landmark is considered one of the country's finest fountains due to its Beaux-Arts-style landscape design, finely wrought bronze sculpture, and innovative use of technology.

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1mi 00h 08m
Photo of The Willis Tower (Sears Tower)
4.5

233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL, US

The Willis Tower (Sears Tower)

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It's one of the first stops Ferris Bueller makes on his day off, so you know it's an essential Chicago icon. The Skydeck really does offer great views when the weather is good, plus the glass-floored "ledge" is an unforgettable experience for those brave enough to step on to it.

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0mi 00h 05m

17 W Adams St, Chicago, IL, US

The Berghoff Restaurant

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3mi 00h 09m

1000 S Leavitt St, Chicago, IL, US

Lulu's Hot Dogs

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2mi 00h 09m
Photo of Castle Car Wash
3.8

3801 W Ogden Ave, Chicago, IL, US

Castle Car Wash

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3mi 00h 11m

6031 W Ogden Ave, Cicero, IL, US

Henry's Drive-In

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2mi 00h 08m
Photo of Hofmann Tower
4.0

3910 barry point rd., Lyons, IL, US

Hofmann Tower

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22mi 00h 38m

Tinley Park, Illinois, United States

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On a balmy August evening in 2004, Chicago residents reported seeing a series of red or white lights that formed a triangle shape. Several videos captured the light show, and it was even reported by local news outlets. The phenomenon occurred about 45 miles from O’Hare International Airport, but the lights moved too slowly to be a commercial plane. What makes this one of the more significant UFO sightings is that it was investigated by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), a non-profit with thousands of civilian volunteers. The mysterious occurrence was also featured on the History Channel’s UFO Hunters.

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19mi 00h 34m

645 Joliet Rd, Willowbrook, IL, US

Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket

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Route 66 is renowned for its classic American cuisine. If you’re not still full of donut holes (or even if you are), visit Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket, just outside Chicago, for some of the best fried chicken you'll ever taste. The roadhouse has been serving its home-cooked goodness since 1946, and even if you’re not ready to eat just yet, the neon sign is a classic photo op.

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7mi 00h 12m

255 S. Joliet Road, Bolingbrook, IL, US

Montana Charlie’s Little America Flea Market

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11mi 00h 19m

920 N Broadway St, Joliet, IL, US

Rich & Creamy

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1mi 00h 04m
Photo of Joliet Area Historical Museum
4.5

204 N Ottawa St, Joliet, IL, US

Joliet Area Historical Museum

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0mi 00h 02m
Photo of Rialto Square Theatre
4.5

102 N Chicago St, Joliet, IL, US

Rialto Square Theatre

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4mi 00h 10m

500 Speedway Boulevard, Joliet, IL, US

Route 66 Raceway

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12mi 00h 15m
Photo of The Gemini Giant
4.0

810 E. Baltimore Street, Wilmington, IL, US

The Gemini Giant

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The Illinois stretch of Route 66 is home to several great roadside attractions, but nothing shouts "retro kitsch" louder than a massive Muffler Man. Snap a picture with the Gemini Giant the newly-reopened Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington. Named for the Gemini space program, he’s one of many similar statues made by International Fiberglass. The giant stands guard over the Launching Pad Drive-in, which also houses a gift shop, a restaurant, and the Mini Americana Museum.

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5mi 00h 08m
Photo of The Polk-a-dot Drive In
4.5

222 N Front St, Braidwood, IL, US

The Polk-a-dot Drive In

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You did it—one leg down, five more to go. As you travel further southwest, the weather will get warmer, the road will get flatter, and the views will only get better. While it’s true that you never forget your first, so much of Route 66 is still in front of you—so keep going and let the Show-Me State show you why almost 100 years after its creation, the Mother Road is still the best place to get your kicks.