Where is the Heritage Corridor?
The Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) encompasses the communities and counties along the historic 97-mile Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. The Heritage Corridor spans from the Chicago Portage Area just southwest of Chicago to LaSalle-Peru including the counties of Will, Grundy, LaSalle and Putnam. The region conveniently located along I-55 from Chicago to Joliet along I-80 west to LaSalle-Peru.

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Chicago Portage Area | Bolingbrook Area | Joliet Area
Morris Area | Starved Rock Area | Putnam County

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The First Hundred Miles

Many remember their stories of driving along Route 66, an adventure that took them part or all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles. For example, my parents took a trip on Route 66 that lead them from their home in Northern Michigan to Yuma, Arizona. My father was stationed at the US Army base there and was reporting for assignment. I grew up hearing stories about the different stops, the different diners, and the different adventures they had on the way. 

Stories and memories of adventures along the road were created by both the drivers and the people that reside in the small towns, mom & pop shops, roadside attractions and entrepreneurs located along the stretch. When Route 66 was designated in 1926, the towns along the path saw a true economic boom. That’s when the historic shops, the “niche” roadside stops, and the Americana sprang up – and the nostalgia is what one can still experience when they hit the “Mother Road.” 

There is no better place to start than along the first hundred miles of Route 66. In fact, Paul McCartney made a few stops in the stretch during his trek down the road. Just imagine the faces of the employees of the Joliet Area Historical Museum when the former Beatle made an impromptu visit. 

The collection of roads that became known as Route 66 started in Chicago. Illinois was the first of the eight states to have its path paved completely. 

If you are looking for the world-famous chicken, visit Willowbrook’s Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket. The restaurant was featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” This is one of the many amazing fried chicken locations in the first hundred miles. Romeville’s The Original White Fence Farm and Pontiac’s Bernardi’s II Restaurant are the other two we recommend.

The Original White Fence Farm

For a quick meal, stop in at Chevere Latin Café, Jitters or the Joliet Route 66 Diner. You will get a lot of amazing food at a great price.

One of the most beautiful stops on the Route is in Joliet. The “Jewel of Joliet,” the Rialto Square Theatre, opened in 1926, the same year Route 66 was certified, and continues to hold concerts, musicals, theatrical showings and more each year. 

Further down the Route, you’ll come across Chicagoland Speedway, Route 66 Raceway and Dirt Oval 66. These attractions host several motor sports during the year including Chicago’s yearly NASCAR event and the Route 66 NHRA Nationals. 

Chicagoland Speedway

The Gemini Giant, a 30-foot tall “Muffler Man,” stands guard at the newly re-opened The Launching Pad Drive-In. Stop in for a bite to eat here, or just a little bit down the road to Nelly’s on Route 66 or the Polk-a-Dot Drive-In

The Old Joliet Prison is definitely a must see, but did you know that there is a second prison on the first 100 miles of Route 66? The Two-Cell Jail in Gardner is a perfect place for a selfie and to “do a little time.” Stop into Gardner’s Streetcar Diner to learn a bit more about the type of mobile establishments that used to frequently be seen along the streets. 

Depending on when you last ate it might be time to stop for a meal. And, Dwight’s Old Route 66 Family Restaurant is a great place to do so. The décor on both the inside and outside walls make you feel like you are in the heyday of Route 66. Don’t forget to stop at the nearby Ambler-Becker Gas Station and snap a few photos as well. The location actually serves as a visitor center, and during its open hours, you can learn more about things to do along Route 66. 

A must for any trip down Route 66, you will want to make sure to take a photo in front of the World’s Largest Outdoor Painted Route 66 Shield. It’s located on the back outside wall of the IL Route 66 Association’s Hall of Fame in Pontiac, along with Bob Waldmire’s Road Yacht, the wishing well from the Wishing Well Hotel, and keep an eye out for more Murals on Main Street. In fact, there are 26 murals throughout the city of Pontiac – painted by the internationally renowned Walldogs. In Pontiac, other museums include the Pontiac Oakland Automobile Museum and the Museum of the Guilding Arts. Take in a show at the Eagle Performing Arts Center or check out the town’s Swinging Bridges. And if you’re hungry, we recommend Edinger’s Filing Station

Edinger's Filing Station 

Dan Mulka is the Marketing Manager for the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau and can be seen, quite regularly, taking photos and eating along Route 66.