Illinois’ The Great Rivers area is also home to great drives thanks to its location along the final leg of Route 66 in Illinois. This stint of the Mother Road has everything from soda fountains to giant rabbits, elephants and catsup bottles all the way to St. Louis.
Route 66 is known for its iconic collection of roadside attractions, oddities, signs and nostalgia-laden spots. You'll find a full selection of all of those as you drive through this stretch of the Mother Road through Southwestern Illinois.
Start in Girard
It doesn’t get more Route 66 than a classic soda fountain. Girard is home to the famous Doc's Soda Fountain — originally established in 1884 as Deck's Drug Store. Find breakfast, lunch and dinner, or stop in for pies, ice cream, Route 66 beers and of courses, old-fashioned sodas.
Neon Delights in Litchfield
Neon lights beckon to Route 66 travelers in Litchfield, home to the historic Ariston Cafe, Jubelt's Bakery, the Litchfield Route 66 Museum, Skyview Drive In and more. Be sure to snap a photo at the Ariston Cafe, the oldest, continously operating diner on the Mother Road. The cafe shines brightly at night with its newly refurbished neon lights calling out to travelers to stop in for a bite!
Travel Back in Time to Mount Olive
Start your drive by fueling up your photo roll at the Soulsby Service Station in Mount Olive. The charming gas station was built in 1926 and designed by the owner, Henry Soulsby. Thanks to a preservation effort, it looks as good as new and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2004.
(Photo by Instagrammer Kerilyn LaFournaise)
Step further back into history with a stop at the Mother Jones Museum, dedicated to preserving the memory and spirit of the famous 19th-century labor rights activist. You can also visit her grave in the historic Union Miners Cemetery, established in 1899 to hold the remains of the deceased from the 1898 "Virden Riot."
Get Hare to Staunton
There’s no heading down Route 66 without stopping at Henry's Rabbit Ranch in Staunton. They’ve got both kinds of rabbits at the ranch — the animal and the classic Volkswagen model. Be sure to explore and grab a photo in front of the eight-foot tall rabbit statue.
Stop and Shop in Livingston
Hope you’ve left some room in the car for some antiques. You’ll be scoring some new loot at the iconic Pink Elephant Antique Mall. And thanks to the giant pink elephant out front, you’ve got the perfect back drop for a family photo.
(Photo by Megyme Productions)
Find Comfort Food in Hamel
Time to pull off the road and refuel with a classic meal at Weezy's Bar & Grill. Check out all the photos and posters lining the walls while you choose between stick-to-your-ribs options like biscuits and gravy or cheese-smothered fries.
Go Historic in Edwardsville
Take it to-go and explore (OK, pose in front of) all the charming houses on historic Saint Louis Street — dating back to the 1890s. Don't leave Edwardsville without a stop at the famous Wildey Theatre, which is known as much for its vintage signage as it is for the bands on its stage. And if you’re looking for lunch, check out Dewey’s Pizza or pair a beer with the Nightmare Burger over at Stagger Inn.
(Photo by Megyme Productions)
Get Quaint in Glen Carbon
A covered bridge is worth pulling over when it's the Glen Carbon Covered Bridge. The charming wooden bridge was constructed in 1976 to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States and has been a focal point for the town ever since. Once inside the town, take a moment to visit the Glen Carbon Heritage Museum, which is housed in an old schoolhouse, and its satellite exhibit, the Yanda Log Cabin, which is believed to have been originally built in 1853.
Catch Condiments in Collinsville
Did someone say catsup? Fans of the condiment won't want to miss the World's Largest Catsup Bottle after circling back into Collinsville. The 170-foot-tall water tower was originally built in 1949 but is still standing tall.
See the Mississippi in Madison
Find a parking spot and enjoy a walk across the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which takes you into St. Louis, Missouri. Not only is it a mile long and stands more than 60 feet above the Mississippi River, but it makes a dramatic 30-degree turn in the middle and is ideal for overlooks and photographs.
(Photo by Scott Evers)
Don't forget to hashtag #ExploreGreatRiversandRoutes on all of your pics!