Planning a Route 66 trip? Be sure to allow a full day in Pontiac Illinois. With four museums, all free (donations appreciated), lots of Route 66 nostalgia and outdoor recreation, you’ll have plenty to pack in.
Start at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum. If you see nothing else in Pontiac, this is the place to stop. Mother Road memorabilia fills the museum, including art works by the late Bob Waldmire, an award-winning artist who worked tirelessly on Route 66 preservation. He lived in a converted school bus and drove a van, both packed with Route 66 memorabilia. His van is inside the museum, and the bus is outside, sometimes open to visitors.
Upstairs see a recreation of a 1940s home. Big band music plays in the recreated Stage Door Canteen, a popular New York night club that operated from 1942 until 1945 for military men on leave. The night club exhibit segues into the Livingston County War Museum. The War Museum focuses on the stories of 88 individual service men and women whose uniforms are displayed along with military artifacts.
On the square, across from Pontiac’s historic courthouse, the Pontiac Oakland Museum showcases automobiles and memorabilia, from the first Pontiac, a horse-drawn buggy, to the end of Pontiac production.
The International Walldog Mural and Sign Art Museum tells the history of outdoor mural and advertising art.
Over twenty murals decorate building walls, billboards and even a sidewalk. Probably the most photographed is the Pontiac Route 66 mural on the back of the Route 66 museum. Others include nostalgic themes like an old time soda shop, a service station and a Coca-Cola mural painted in the exact location that an original Coca-Cola mural was painted years ago.
Fifteen miniature cars and trucks, painted by various artists and groups, decorate the corners throughout Pontiac’s downtown area, adding to the city’s Route 66 theme.
Walk across the three swinging bridges in Pontiac, all accessed in city parks. One of the bridges connects two parks, Play Park and Chautauqua Park, which also share a disc golf course.
Just outside of town the Humiston Woods Nature Center offers seven hiking trails and picnic facilities.
Where to Eat
The Old Log Cabin Restaurant was in existence before Route 66 was even called Route 66. Later, when the highway was rerouted to the west side of the restaurant, the building was literally picked up and turned around to face the new road.
Ask locals where to eat, and many will recommend Lydia’s Cup, which offers a variety of sandwiches and fresh salads. Or try the appetizer sampler with battered mac ‘n cheese wedges, crispy cheddar nuggets, sweet potato bites and fresh potato chips.
Pontiac is located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago along I-55.
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