The summer of 2018 is a great time to travel the Mother Road, or as songwriter Bobby Troup wrote in 1946, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.” The National Trust For Historic Preservation has a motorcade that, as Troup wrote, “winds from Chicago to LA, more than two thousand miles all the way.”
The “Preserve Route 66” motorcade invites travelers to meet up at a variety of good Route 66 sights and destinations. The first segment is Chicago to Springfield that is the first week of July. The Missouri segment is July 6-10.
You can catch up with the group, join them at any date that suits your schedule or use their schedule of stops as a guide for your own trip. Their meetups are free and open to the public.
Since Springfield, IL is on the list, here are some recommendations of places to stay and things to do in the capital city of “The Land of Lincoln.” St.Louis is next with where to stay, eat and go.
But first, if coming from Chicago, go downtown to where it supposedly begins. The route historically starts in Grant Park near Jackson boulevard, east of Michigan Avenue.
However, the sign for it can be found across Michigan Avenue opposite the front entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago. In Illinois I-55 (known in Chicago as the Stevenson Expressway) basically follows historic Route 66. Illinois has posted Route 66 signs along the popular old road. Tip: Chicago to Springfield is about 197 miles so plan on it taking about 3 ½ hours. Police do patrol the highway.
The city has enough fascinating Lincoln spots from the Lincoln Museum and his home, to the Old State Capitol building and the current Capitol building, to fill two days so look for a place to stay that makes it a fun vacation.
Where to stay – The Springfield Visitors and Convention Bureau is a great resource for places to stay, eat and see. If you like historic inns and B&B’s consider The Inn at 835. An early 1900’s former apartment house, the Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two places close to the action are The President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and the State House Inn. Tip – Wear comfortable shoes and bring the sunscreen. This is a walking town.
An option for people who like a pool and sauna break after a day of sightseeing is to stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a conference-style facility on the Dirksen Parkway at the edge of town near I-55.
Unpacked and ready to go – Springfield is about Lincoln, about state government, about historic homes and about Route 66.
Lincoln – Renew your acquaintance with the 16th President at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. You will be in for a remarkable two hours. Plan to spend at least that amount of time to see the movies and the exhibits that peel away the myths from the man and the times.
While downtown Springfield, walk over to the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, where he worked above Seth Tinsley’s dry goods store, and to the Old Capitol across the road where he served as a representative and gave his “house divided” speech. Also visit his and Mary Todd Lincoln’s home.
Then drive north of downtown to the Lincoln Tomb where he, his wife and three of their four children are buried. If time allows, drive north 20 minutes on IL Hwy 97 to New Salem, a wonderful village recreated with the timbered homes and stores that existed when a young Abe Lincoln worked there.
State government – Tour the Old Capitol, Illinois’ fifth statehouse (but first in Springfield) to see where bills were debated and state laws passed from 1839 to 1876. The building was reconstructed in the 1960’s. The impressive dome of the State Capitol, 361 feet above ground can be seen from miles away. But go inside to see where legislation has been argued and passed from 1888 to today in the House and Senate chambers on the third floor.
Historic homes – Unless you are a Frank Lloyd Wright maven you might not know that one of the best examples of his work is the Dana Thomas House in Springfield. It still has all of its original art glass and much of its original furnishings.
Also put the Vachel Lindsay Home on the itinerary. Built in the late 1840’s, the house was home to Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister Ann. Vachel Lindsay’s parents bought the house in 1878. It was the poet’s home until his death in 1931.
Route 66 – Visitors can go back in time by taking in a double feature at the Route 66 Drive In or stop for a bite at the Cozy Dog Drive In, where the family still makes the famed “hot dog on a stick” that they have been serving up since 1946. Another must stop is the Moterheads Bar, Grill and Museum. Rte 66 places are included in Things To Do/Attractions.
However, car enthusiasts really into what is the Mother Road of historic routes come for the town’s annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in September. This year’s festival is Sept. 21-23. That is when hundreds of vintage vehicles from street rods to motorcycles will roll into town and live music fills Springfield’s downtown streets.