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Travelling Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois

By Heiko Obermoeller

There is a road that is certainly among the most famous in the entire world, one that symbolizes the American dream of freedom like no other: Route 66. This Mother Road begins here in Illinois. I made a stop in Joliet and discovered some great attractions during my tour of Route 66.

The Joliet Area Historical Museum

I first visited the very interesting Route 66 Experience exhibit at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center. Along with classic cars, pictures and video exhibits, the museum also features an impressive exhibit about the history of Joliet itself, as well as an exhibit about John Houbolt, citizen of Joliet and NASA engineer who played a vital part in the American moon landing program in the 1960s. There’s even a lunar landing simulator that you can step into and pretend you’re going to the surface of the moon, just like the moon landing in 1969.

Don’t miss the Route 66 Welcome Center and exhibit, full of Route 66 artifacts, memorabilia from the cult movie the “Blues Brothers” and other interesting finds and facts about the area.

Old Joliet Prison

You’ll see the sign: “Get Locked Up . . . At the Old Joliet Prison.” And then you’ll see the building. This historic prison was built in 1858 and closed in 2002. It’s the perfect spot for a unique photo. It was featured in the “Blues Brothers” as well as the TV series “Prison Break.” Though you can’t go inside the prison, you can walk around its imposing perimeter and read the information kiosks, and even have a picnic outside with the prison as a backdrop.

Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park

Home of Joliet’s first street, Bicentennial Park is a 10-acre park along the waterway in the city’s downtown. It’s a hub for many activities: Throughout the year, you’ll find concerts, theater productions and popular holiday events here. I took a scenic, self-guided tour along this historic street and learned fascinating details about this lovely town. 

The Rialto Square Theatre

Joliet is also home to the beautiful Rialto Square Theatre, built in 1926 and formerly a Vaudeville movie theater. As I entered the building and walked into the lobby, I felt like I had gone back almost 100 years and had been transported to Europe. The ornate chandeliers, marble columns, gold detailing and sparkling mirrors in the lobby took my breath away. I later learned it had been designed after Versailles, which explains a lot.

I had the opportunity to tour backstage and see the green room, where performers have been signing the walls after their shows. Everyone from Bill Cosby to Carol Burnett to Taylor Swift has been here. The quality of the Broadway shows here rivals those of any big city.

Add Joliet to your list of places you must visit along Route 66. I found such unique, scenic and historic spots, all located in a welcoming and beautiful city.

For more information, please visit us:

Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau

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Start exploring

Start exploring