Route 66 Chicago to St Louis – 9 Must See Stops in Illinois USA

Last Updated on November 13, 2023

The Route 66 Chicago to St Louis stretch through Illinois may be your first introduction to ‘The Mother Road’! In all honesty, it’s too much to do in one go. But it is possible. With the stops we made, we were on the road for 12 hours! In this post I share 9 must see roadside attractions and stops along Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis. From ‘giants’ to historic landmarks!

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Route 66 Chicago to St Louis

How many miles is Chicago to St Louis?

Distance from Chicago to St Louis via Route 66: 334 miles = approximately 12 hours drive time with stops

(Following I-55 (Route 66 mostly runs parallel): 297 miles = approximately 4hr 30 hours drive time without stops)

Where To Stay

For accommodation in Chicago IL, check out:

Comfort Suites Oโ€™Hare Airport in Schiller Park (free on-site parking)

Motel 6 O’Hare in Elk Grove Village (free on-site parking)

Chicago Loop Hotel in Downtown Chicago (no parking)

For accommodation in St Louis MO, check out:

Hampton Inn St Louis at the Arch (on-site parking)

Chicago to St Louis Must See Stops

๐Ÿš™Route 66 Begin Sign | ๐Ÿš€Gemini Giant | โ›ฝ๏ธStandard Oil Gas Station | ๐ŸšŒPontiac | ๐Ÿง๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธThe Bunyon Giant | ๐ŸŒญCozy Dog Drive-In | ๐Ÿ‡Henry’s Rabbit Ranch | ๐ŸŒ‰Chain of Rocks Bridge | ๐ŸŒ†Gateway Arch

Chicago – Route 66 Begin Sign

๐Ÿ—บE Adams St, Chicago, IL 60603, United States

You can’t talk about the first stretch of this iconic road trip without mentioning the Route 66 starting point! I wrote a full guide on the official and unofficial Route 66 starting point in Chicago which you can find here.

As a tourist driving Route 66, the Route 66 BEGIN sign may be on your list of things to see. This can be found close to the corner of E Adams St and N Michigan Ave. Sometimes it is covered in stickers and difficult to see though!

Route 66 Chicago Start Sign
Route 66 Start Sign

For more information about Route 66 in Chicago, this may be useful: Route 66 Chicago: A Guide To The Start of Route 66 & 2 Days In Chicago!

Wilmington – Gemini Giant

๐Ÿ—บS East St, Wilmington, IL 60481, United States

The Launching Pad Restaurant is the location of one of Route 66’s ‘giants’. The giants were originally Paul Bunyan statues created by International Fibreglass in California.

Other companies (mostly car garages) then started using the ‘moulds’ for other advertising giants, switching out Paul Bunyan’s axe for other objects, such as mufflers and tyres. They became known at ‘The Muffler Men’.

The 28ft Gemini Giant was purchased in 1965 and holds a rocket and has an astronaut helmet. The Launching Pad is a restaurant and gift shop that’s open during the peak travel season (closed in winter).

Route 66 Gemini Giant Wilmington Illinois
Gemini Giant, Wilmington IL

Odell – Standard Oil Gas Station

๐Ÿ—บ400 S West St, Odell, IL 60460, United States

The Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The gas station was built in 1932. It was designed to look like a house with a canopy, which helped create a homely feel, making travellers feel comfortable.

To keep up with traveller demand, a garage and repair shop was added in the 1940s. It operated as a gas station until the last 1970s. The gas station is now a welcome centre for the town of Odell. It is open daily between 11am – 3pm.

Route 66 Odell Standard Oil Gas Station Illinois
Odell, IL

Pontiac – Route 66 Association of Illinois

๐Ÿ—บ110 W Howard St, Pontiac, IL 61764, United States

Unfortunately out of all the things listed in this post, Pontiac was a place we decided to skip as we were restricted for time. Looking back, I really wish we had made a stop there! The Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum has a large Route 66 mural on the side of the building!

In this same location is Bob Waldmire’s converted school bus. He was famous for his Route 66 artwork and driving around in an orange VW Bus. ย Because of this Bob became the inspiration for Filmore the VW bus in Cars: The Movie.

He sometimes lived in the school bus which is now permanently parked in Pontiac after his death. It is a piece of artwork on its own!

Route 66 Pontiac Illinois Dice Sales
Photo Credit: Dice Sales – Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

Atlanta – The Bunyon Giant

๐Ÿ—บ112 SW Arch St, Atlanta, IL 61723, United States

Another Route 66 giant is ‘The Bunyon Giant‘ in Atlanta. This one looks like the more traditional Paul Bunyan character but instead of an axe, he is holding a giant hotdog! It was originally used to advertise Bunyans Cafe which was located in Cicero, Illinois. However it has since found its home in Atlanta.

Route 66 Bunyan Giant Atlanta IL
Bunyon Giant, Atlanta IL

Springfield – Cozy Dog Drive In

๐Ÿ—บ2935 S 6th St, Springfield, IL 62703, United States

Illinois is said to be home to the hot dog on a stick. They are a hot dog, covered in a corn bread like batter, which is then deep fried. It first made an appearance at the Illinois State Fair in 1946. (The Iowa State Fair serves almost 70 types of food on a stick now!).

The Cozy Dog Drive In was built 3 years later but has been at its current location since 1996. It’s a fun little place to stop at for a cheap quick bite to eat while travelling along Route 66 between Chicago and St Louis. There’s also a gift shop. The Cozy Dog Drive In is closed on Sundays and on public holidays.

Route 66 Cozy Dog Drive In Springfield Illinois
Cozy Dog Drive In, Springfield IL

Staunton – Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

๐Ÿ—บ1107 Historic Old Rte 66, Staunton, IL 62088, United States

One of Route 66’s many quirky roadside attractions is Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois. This visitor centre and gift shop looks like one of the classic gas stations. BUT is it also a rabbit ranch, yes, with real rabbits! It started after 2 pet rabbits begun multiplying out of control and eventually turned into a Route 66 attraction.

As well as rabbits that are alive and kicking, there’s also an art installation similar to that at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas (minus the spray paint). 7 VW Rabbits (also known as a Mark 1 Golf) are buried nose first into the ground! The Rabbit Ranch (Hare It Is) is also a play on the ‘Here It Is’ Jackrabbit Trading Post along Route 66 in Joseph City, AZ.

When the information centre and gift shop is closed, visitors are welcome to take photos from the outside.

Henry's Rabbit Ranch Route 66
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, IL

Granite City – Chain of Rocks Bridge

๐Ÿ—บ4205-4207 Chain of Rocks Rd, Granite City, IL 62040, United States

A 4-mile round trip detour off Route 66 will take you to the Illinois side of the Chain of Rocks Bridge. The one mile bridge across the Mississippi River was constructed in 1929. What makes it unique is that there is a 30 degree bend in the middle!

The Chain of Rocks Bridge is closed to vehicle traffic, however it is open for cyclists and foot traffic. There has been crime around the bridge in the past. It is recommended to park on the Illinois side, rather than the Missouri side. Vehicles are left at your own risk.

We parked up and walked a short section of the bridge to get a few photos. Otherwise it can be seen from the ‘New Chain of Rocks Bridge’ (I-270) that runs parallel.

Chain of Rocks Bridge Route 66
Chain of Rocks Bridge Route 66

St Louis – Gateway Arch

๐Ÿ—บGateway Arch, St. Louis, MO 63102, United States

Finishing up this section of Route 66, you can’t miss the St Louis Gateway Arch. This 630ft tall arch way celebrations western expansion and is the taller monument in the US. It is located in the Gateway Arch National Park, with the arch being completed in 1965. A 4 minute tram ride takes visitors to the observation desk at the very top of the arch.

Tickets do often sell out in advance. If you plan to visit the museum and ride the tram it may be best to stay in St Louis for the evening and do the tour the following day.

As it took us 12 hours to travel along Route 66 Chicago to St Louis, we arrived close to closing time, so were unable to get tickets. I have since been back to St Louis several times and did the tour on a return visit.

Gateway Arch St Louis
Gateway Arch St Louis

Chicago to St Louis FAQs

How long does it take to drive Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis?

Via Route 66: 334 miles = approximately 12 hours drive time with stops
Following I-55: 297 miles = approximately 4hr 30 hours drive time without stops)

Does Route 66 go from Chicago to St Louis?

Yes, Route 66 goes from Chicago to St Louis. It’s approximately 334 miles between the two cities.

What to see on Route 66 from St Louis to Chicago?

There is loads of things to see on Route 66 from St Louis to Chicago. Highlights include: The Route 66 Start Sign in Chicago, the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, the Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell, Pontiac, the Bunyon Giant, the Cozy Dog Drive In, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Chain of Rocks Bridge and the Gateway Arch in St Louis.

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About the Author – Kylie

My travels have taken me to over 40 countries worldwide (& I lived in USA for 4yrs). I hold a BTEC National Diploma in Travel & Tourism (triple distinction) and have been writing on Between England & Everywhere since 2015.

Expert in: Adventure travel๐ŸŽข, beach destinations๐Ÿ–๏ธ, and packing light (mid-budget backpacker)๐ŸŽ’

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Route 66 Chicago to St Louis

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