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Route 66: Joliet, IL

Barely 50 miles from the start of Route 66 in downtown Chicago, Joliet markets itself as "The Gateway to Route 66." Joliet is a convenient beginning to the journey for westbound travelers wishing to bypass the big city experience of Chicago.

Along Joliet's stretch of Route 66, travelers will encounter Educational Opps, Photo Props, and Food Stops.

Featuring photo props, food stops, and educational opps, Joliet is a great first stop heading west on Route 66!

EDUCATIONal OPpS

Route 66 Welcome Center

Joliet's Route 66 Welcome Center, while small, is packed with interactive elements to immerse visitors in the Route 66 experience.

Pick up maps for the journey. Lounge in a classic car, drive-in style, and watch period broadcasts. Walk along a Route 66 map that doubles as a timeline. Or for a slightly less 66-ish -but fun!- experience, pose with Jake and Elwood Blues near the prison that was Jake's home for three years.

The Welcome Center's gift shop offers sentimental Route 66 paraphernalia, plus a few nostalgic toys, and our favorite: Route 66 sodas (which actually weren't invented until a year after the highway was decomissioned).

Admission: Free! (although there is a fee for rest of museum, which showcases Joliet's non-66 highlights, as well as small, rotating exhibits)

Hours: Monday 10am-5pm from May through October (except for holidays), Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm

Location: 204 N. Ottawa St., Joliet (map)

 

Route 66 Park

Interpretive signs line a walkway through this park, highlighting area Route 66 attractions. The walkway passes Rich & Creamy ice cream shop (see below, in "Food Stops"), before hitting an overlook with views of Blues Brothers' famed Joliet Prison (seen more recently in Prison Break). The park's walkway finishes at a large "Joliet Kicks on 66!" photo prop.  

Location: 920 N. Broadway, Joliet (map)


PHOTO PROPS

Route 66 Welcome Center

Featuring photo props, food stops, and educational opps, Joliet is a great first stop heading west on Route 66!

Classic car couches, arranged drive-in style; a life-size car hop statue; and oversized, colorful maps and murals are just some of the great photo props and backdrops found at the Welcome Center.

Hours: Monday 10am-5pm from May through October (except for holidays), Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm

Location: 204 N. Ottawa St., Joliet (map)

 

Route 66 & Lincoln Highway Commemorative Sign

Did you know a cross-country interstate pre-dated Route 66 by more than a decade? Lincoln Highway took travelers all the way from NYC to San Francisco as early as 1913; Route 66 wasn't commissioned until 1926, and only took travelers as far east as Chicago. While Lincoln Highway was decommissioned in 1928 -just 2 years after 66's debut-, its two hub cities are still connected today by Interstate 80.

Find a commemorative marker where the two highways intersect in Joliet (photo below, left).

Location: intersection of E. Cass St. and N. Chicago St. Joliet (map)

Route 66 Park

Fun photo props at Route 66 Park (mentioned above in "Education Ops") include a replica vintage Shell gas pump (photo above, right), a life-size Jake and Elwood Blues atop an ice cream shop, and an oversized "Joliet Kicks on 66" sign.  

Location: 920 N. Broadway, Joliet (map)

 

Dick's on 66

Near the park, across the road and down a few hundred yards, Dick's on 66, aka Dick's Towing, also makes for great vintage-style photos. 40's and 50's automobiles, including one adorned with "California or Bust!", sit in the parking lot -and on the roof!- at Dick's.

Location: 911 N. Broadway, Joliet (map)


FOOD STOPS

The Joliet Route 66 Diner

Featuring photo props, food stops, and educational opps, Joliet is a great first stop heading west on Route 66!

Serving basic diner fare that is nothing to write home about, the diner's main draw is its extensive Route 66 kitsch, beginning with its fabulous vintage sign, pictured above.

The diner's décor includes Route 66 highway signs from all eight of the road's states, old-school Coca Cola advertisements, and music and movie posters from the 50s and beyond, all of which work well together to overpower the 1980's glossy paneling and drop ceiling. 

Hours: daily 6am-4pm, closed Mondays

Location: 22 W. Clinton, Joliet (map)

 

Chicken-N-Spice

Featuring photo props, food stops, and educational opps, Joliet is a great first stop heading west on Route 66!

Opening just six years before the decommissioning of Route 66, and sitting a block off The Mother Road, it is likely that Chicken-N-Spice did not cater to hoards of the highway's travelers. However, visitors driving Route 66 today may enjoy the no-pretense atmosphere and service of Chicken-N-Spice, not to mention their chicken-n-waffles. And their buttermilk biscuits. And their prices. (Two dollars for a large serving of chicken and gravy? Yes, please!)

Hours: daily 7:30am-10pm

Location: 215 N. Chicago St., Joliet (map)

 

Rich & Creamy

Featuring photo props, food stops, and educational opps, Joliet is a great first stop heading west on Route 66!

Built in 1965 (as a mobile home sales office, of all things!), this Route 66 location has been serving ice cream to the highway's travelers since 1977. Locals cherish nostalgic memories of childhood turtle sundaes served here; tourists appreciate this rare opportunity to patronize a quintessential, American mom & pop ice cream shop.

Hours: daily 11am-9pm, Sundays noon-9pm

Location: 920 N. Broadway, Joliet (map)


Have you visited the Route 66 sites in Joliet? Tell us about it in the comments!


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