Route 66 Road Trip to Pontiac, Illinois
Most travelers seem to start their journey on Route 66 in Chicago, and head westbound. That is the direction we take on this website.
The beginning point of Route 66 in Chicago has changed over the years, originally starting on Jackson Boulevard at Michigan Avenue in 1926. Since 1933 the starting point has been Jackson Boulevard at Lake Shore Drive.
Once outside the metropolitan Chicago area, Route 66 followed the Pontiac Trail, a former Indian trail and stagecoach road.
From its beginning in Chicago, Route 66 headed southwest to Joliet, Wilmington, Dwight, Odell, and Pontiac. The 104 miles segment from Chicago to Pontiac takes about 2 hours to drive, without stopping.
Map showing the approximate route of U.S. Highway 66 in Illinois and the location of Pontiac
History of Pontiac
Pontiac is named after Chief Pontiac, an Ottawa chief and the leader of "Pontiac's Rebellion" in the 1760s. Founded in 1837, Pontiac is the county seat for Livingston County. While agriculture has always been the basis for the local economy, Pontiac has some light industry, a growing tourism sector, as well as a thriving retail community.
With both rail and highway connections, Pontiac as been the commercial focus of the region for many years. Pontiac experienced significant growth spurts with the coming of two important transportation infrastructures: The Chicago and Alton Railroad in 1854, and Route 66 in 1926.
Originally located on Illinois Route 4, it later became part of U.S. Route 66.
Pontiac remains the county seat of Livingston County, on the Vermilion River, and has a population of over 11,000 residents.
As a member of Illinois Main Street and a Main Street America Affiliate™, Downtown Pontiac is part of a national network of more than 1,200 neighborhoods and communities who share both a commitment to creating high-quality places and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.
The City is a popular stop for national and international Route 66 heritage travelers. It offer visitors a wide variety of attractions, hotels and lodging, and dining options.
Pontiac Attractions and Things to Do
Pontiac has become a popular visitor destination for many reasons. The city is home to four wonderful museums and some interesting exhibits - all of them donation only admission.
It has a fabulous collection of outdoor painted murals, nine Looking For Lincoln heritage sites, five Route 66 heritage sites, and of course, our three unique swinging pedestrian bridges.
The Pontiac Visitors Center has maps and brochures available.
Highlights of attractions include:
- Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum
- Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum and Resource Center
- Museum of Gilding Arts
- Livingston County War Museum
- Abraham Lincoln Story Trail
- Murals on Main Street
- The Bob Waldmire Experience
- Historic Walking Tours
- Skateboard Park
Murals on Main Street
Pontiac is home to 23 outdoor murals which, in addition to being beautiful pieces of public art, depict its varied local history. Most of the murals can be seen from your car, however, a walking tour is the best way to see the many details.
The largest mural is the Route 66 shield found on the back of the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. At its base are bricks from the original Route 66 alignment running through Pontiac and it is the perfect backdrop for a photo of your Route 66 road trip.
Eighteen of the city's murals were painted by the Walldogs, a collection of sign painters and muralists who came to town in the summer of 2009. The more than 150 artists painted the entire set of 18 murals in just four days.
Free Mural Guides are available at the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum, the Museum of the Gilding Arts, and City Hall. Or visitors can follow the red painted footprints on the downtown sidewalks for a comfortable walking tour of all of the murals.
Travelers can also use their mobile device to scan the QR code located under or next to many of the murals to guide you from one to the next and hear a bit about their design and significance. An interactive map of the mural locations is provided below on this page.
|Welcome to Pontiac Route 66 mural
||Daniels Oil & Roszell's
|Scenic Vermilion River
Bob Waldmire Memorial Mural ... Get Your Kicks on Illinois Route 66
Robert "Bob" Waldmire was an American artist and cartographer who is well known for his artwork of U.S. Route 66.
He lived for a while in Springfield in a converted Chevrolet school bus turned into a land yacht. Another of Waldmire's modified vehicles was an orange 1972 Volkswagen Microbus that was the inspiration for the character "Fillmore" in the 2006 animated motion picture "Cars". Both the bus and the Volkswagen are on display at the Illinois Route 66 Museum in Pontiac.
In 2004, Bob earned the National Historic Route 66 Federation's John Steinbeck Award for his contributions to the preservation of Route 66.
This mural features a map of the entire length of Route 66. It is 66 feet in length and was designed by Bob from his sickbed just a short time before he passed away in 2009. It was painted in Bob's memory by members of the Waldmire family and about 500 of Bob's friends from along the entire Mother Road. When one stands close to the mural, they will notice hundreds of hand prints. Each person who worked on Bob's mural, and who felt they had been touched by Bob's art, left a hand print. The mural was completed in May of 2011.
His official website, BobWaldmire.com, remains in operation and is currently being maintained by his brother Buz Waldmire.
Interactive Map of the Murals in Pontiac
More Photo Highlights from Route 66 Road Trips to Pontiac
The Pontiac Museum Complex
Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum
A popular stop in Illinois along Historic Route 66 is Pontiac, known for the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as its many murals!
The facility is the repository for thousands of pieces of historic memorabilia from the glory days of the Mother Road. Visitors learn the history of Route 66 in Illinois, see images of the road's wonderful history, and hear a few great stories about life in America when Route 66 was the most important highway in the nation.
The popular Route 66 shield mural at the back of the Museum was the first in Pontiac. It was designed and painted by Pontiac's own Diaz Sign Art. In front of the mural visitors can drive their car, motorcycle, or other mode of transportation, or just stand on original Route 66 bricks for a photo op. Access to the mural is from Main Street in the 300 block, just off of Howard Street.
The address of the Museum is 110 W Howard Street, Pontiac, IL 61764
|The famous Route 66 shield mural
||Bob Waldmire's VW bus
|Bob Waldmire's Road Yacht
||Bob Waldmire's Road Yacht Sign
|Route 66 Wishing Well Sign
||Preserving Route 66 in Illinois
|Livingston County War Museum|
|Pontiac - Oakland Automobile Museum|
|Route 66 Towing on a small scale!
||Edinger's Filling Station
|Livingston County Courthouse
An Underground Crossing ... the Ladd School Subway in Pontiac
Parents in Pontiac were concerned about traffic levels on Route 66 in front of the Ladd School. Subsequently, the State Highway Commission excavated a tunnel under the road. Students crossed under the busy road to reach school until 1945, when a new Route 66 alignment bypassed the city, and the underground crossing was sealed.
The Old Log Cabin ... Classic circa-1926 dining at 18700 Old Route 66 in Pontiac
|Route 66 Attractions in the Pontiac Region heading south ... Chenoa, Lexington and Towanda
Lodging, Dining and Attractions in Pontiac
Interactive Map of Pontiac, Illinois
More Information about Pontiac & Illinois Route 66