There’s something about taking to the road, beginning a historic journey that so many people have made before.
Our Route 66 experience was more than just seeing its neat vintage places. There was an energy of optimism in the friendly people along the road, much like I imagine there was when it first came into being more than 70 years ago when people were “heading west.” Illinois’ stretch of Route 66 has seen much restoration and revival in recent years and we could feel it as we drove out of Chicago on “America’s Main Street.”
First Taste of the Road in Romeoville
To say that we ate well on Route 66 would be an understatement, and that started at White Fence Farm in Romeoville. Since 1920, they’ve made this juicy signature fried chicken you really have to try. Some say it’s the world’s greatest. After our meal, we visited the Fitzpatrick House, which includes a Route 66 visitor information kiosk and a photography exhibit detailing the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The information kiosk is one of three Route 66 information kiosks along the Heritage Corridor; the other two are in the lovely towns of Joliet and Wilmington.
The Route 66 Kiosk, a popular stop for visitors to discover all the attractions that Route 66 has to offer
Historic Gems of Joliet
We continued our drive to Joliet where we had another opportunity to learn about the history of the canal, as well as other Joliet history at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center. It was a beautiful interactive space. In the entrance to the museum, we enjoyed the Route 66 Experience and Welcome Center exhibit which detailed information about the entire Illinois segment from Chicago to Springfield.
Perhaps my favorite part about Joliet was visiting the magnificent Rialto Square Theater. Stepping into the theater, not only did I feel like I had gone back almost 100 years, but I had been transported to Europe. The ornate chandeliers, marble columns, gold detailing and sparkling mirrors in the lobby alone took my breath away. We later learned it had been designed after Versailles, which explained a lot. We 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 theater was intimate and beautiful, and the quality of the Broadway shows rivals that of any big city.
Views inside the expansive Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Illinois
Surprising Nature Just Beyond Route 66
I had no idea that this trip that centered around early American car culture would have opportunities for beautiful nature as well. We stopped in Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby and stretched our legs by going for a hike where we saw several beautiful waterfalls. This was voted the No.1 attraction in all of Illinois, and it’s not hard to see why. From the gorgeous landscape and variety of outdoor activities to the historic lodge and unique dining options, you could spend quite a bit of time here.
Illinois’ Route 66 is a great place to take a family vacation and get a fun, “hands-on” historical experience through its eateries, cultural sites and natural wonders. “The Mother Road,” as they call it, offers a unique opportunity to connect with the story of the land, and enjoy time on the road to connect with each other.
Exploring Starved Rock State Park in the Heritage Corridor in Illinois