Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in the United States, with many interesting visitor attractions. If you’re planning a trip on the Mother Road, don’t miss a Route 66 tour of the Illinois & Michigan Canal Heritage Corridor section. This scenic 96 mile canal dates from 1848 and stretches between Chicago and LaSalle.
A Route 66 Tour of Heritage Corridor
The I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor played a key role in connecting different regions of the nation, leading Illinois to become the most populated inland state. In recognition of its historical importance, the IMCNHA became the first National Heritage Area in the United States in 1984.
Today the I&M Canal encompasses 862 square miles across five counties. The area is a paradise for nature lovers, with many hiking trails and outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking and rafting. It also boasts some fascinating Route 66 attractions that you’re sure to enjoy.
There are two options for your Route 66 Heritage Corridor tour. You can either take a day trip from Chicago or a tour through Illinois lasting several days, travelling on to Pontiac, Springfield and the Great Rivers region.
We highly recommend this, as there are so many great things to see on your Illinois Route 66 road trip. Start your tour in Joliet, a charming small town with lots of historic sights.
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Nicknamed the City of Excitement by the locals, it’s true that there are plenty of fun things to do in Joliet. It’s also a key stop on Route 66, with several attractions relating to the Mother Road.
Visitors should also check out the ornate Rialto Square Theatre, built in 1926. It’s known as The Palace for the People and is one of the most beautiful theaters in the United States. The Duchess is the largest of the 100 hand cut chandeliers.
Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center
This interactive museum is fun for all the family, with a replica 50s Corvette and a step-in Lunar Lander Simulator. The NASA engineer John Houbolt was a Joliet resident who was heavily involved with the American moon landing program in the 1960s.
Housed inside a church dating from 1909, it’s situated at the only crossing of Route 66 and Lincoln Highway. This museum tells the story of Joliet, the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Illinois section of Route 66. There’s free parking for the museum on the corner of Ottawa Street.
Opening Hours: 10.00-17.00 Tuesday-Saturday | 12.00-17.00 Sunday | 10.00-17.00 Monday from May to October
Address: 204 N Ottawa St, Joliet, IL 60432
Old Joliet Prison
Opening in 1858, Old Joliet Prison featured in both The Blues Brothers and Prison Break before closing its doors in 2002. Renovations to the old prison began in 2009, with the goal being to reopen the prison for public tours.
Regular fundraisers take place to raise funds. At The Great Joliet Prison Break-In, guests listen to music and enjoy food trucks and beer vendors in the old prison yard. Get your tickets at jolietprison.org.
Address: 1125 Collins St, Joliet, IL 60432
One of the best names we’ve come across for a craft beer brewery, My Grain Brewing is a friendly neighborhood pub run by friends Gregory and Vince. Inside the former Union Station, you can see the beers being made through a window, watch a big game and enjoy grilled chicken sandwiches and grain burgers.
Try the flight of four draft beers of your choice, such as Collision Theory, City of Stone or Stateville Stout, brewed with Dutch chocolate malt.
Address: 50 East Jefferson Street, Suite 106, Joliet, IL 60432
It’s hard to miss the Gemini Giant on your journey along Route 66. This iconic fiberglass statue is 30 feet tall and was originally used for advertising.
He’s a prime example of a Muffler Man, as these roadside figures dating from the 1960s are known. Many Muffler Men were variants of the first figure created, a giant Paul Bunyan character.
The Gemini Giant has a silver helmet, green sleeveless spacesuit. He is holding a rocket inscribed with the words The Launching Pad.
Address: 810 East Baltimore Street, Wilmington, IL 60481
The Launching Pad
Since 1960, The Launching Pad has been a popular stop on Route 66. Its current owners, Holly Barker and Tully Garrett are giving a new lease of life to this diner, Route 66 welcome center and gift shop.
The plan is to reopen the restaurant in 2019. In the meantime they are serving great coffee from Starved Rock Coffee Roasters as well as Route 66 sodas and ice cream.
Address: 810 East Baltimore Street, Wilmington, IL 60481
Route 66 Park
This roadside park has a historic ice cream parlor, Rich and Creamy Ice Cream. It has neon lights and life size figures of Jake and Elwood Blues, aka The Blues Brothers dancing on its roof.
The parlour is the official starting point for Route 66 in Joliet. From here there’s a path with a view of the Old Joliet Prison where scenes from The Blues Brothers were filmed.
There are also informational signs which showcase each Joliet Route 66 attraction, and a 12 foot Joliet Kicks sign which makes a great photo opportunity.
Address: 920 N Broadway St, Joliet, IL 60435, USA
Blues and Brews on 66
Downtown Joliet is hosting the annual Blues and Brews on 66 Festival on 18 August. Celebrating the history of the blues and of craft beer in Joliet, it’s a fun packed event.
Entry to the blues fest is free, and there will be some great artists including T-Bird Huck and Jonathon Boogie Long.There’s an admission charge for the craft beer VIP tasting area, and all proceeds will benefit the Joliet Park Foundation to upgrade playgrounds at Joliet area schools.
Other Great Route 66 Attractions in Heritage Corridor
- White Fence Farm, Romeoville – serving their signature fried chicken since 1920
- Fitzpatrick House, Romeoville – Route 66 information kiosk and photography exhibit on the I&M Canal.
- Polk-A-Dot Drive-In, Braidwood – a restaurant playing songs from the 50s and 60s
- Starved Rock State Park, Oglesby – voted number 1 attraction in Illinois
Our first glimpse of Route 66 outside Chicago was absolutely fascinating. From the friendly people that we met, to the iconic roadside attractions, we definitely recommend that you take a trip along Route 66 in Joliet.
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In association with Enjoy Illinois and Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau
1 thought on “A Fascinating Route 66 Tour of Heritage Corridor”
Sounds like a fascinating section of the Route 66! The Illinois Route would be my choice too 🙂
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