Stretching between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan, the historic I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor is perfect for lovers of outdoor recreation.
Trails and waterways wind about 161 kilometers from suburban Chicago to Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby. Take a nostalgic road trip along Route 66, dine on hearty home cooking or haute cuisine, and play in parks large and small.
Romeoville: Route 66
Route 66 is certainly among the most famous roads in the world. This “Mother Road,” which symbolizes the American dream of freedom, begins in Illinois. Stop in Romeoville to explore a section of this iconic road, which has such a rich and storied history. Dine at the popular White Fence Farm, family-owned since the 1920s and home of the “World’s Best Chicken.”
Stop at the historic Fitzpatrick House, named for Patrick Fitzgerald, who became an important figure in 1830s Illinois when he helped construct the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Learn more about the history of the area, especially the importance of the canal.
Visit the Route 66 Information Kiosk, which has a list of the best places to stop along the highway. Must-sees include the Gemini Giant, a 9-meter statue in Wilmington, and the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In, a Braidwood restaurant that plays tunes from the 1950s and '60s and serves a famous turtle sundae.
Joliet: Step Back in Time
Make a beeline to the Route 66 Experience at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center. Along with classic cars, pictures and videos, the museum features exhibits about Joliet’s history and John Houbolt, former Joliet resident and NASA engineer who played a vital part in the American moon landing program of the 1960s.
The historic Old Joliet Prison was built in 1858 and closed in 2002. Visitors can walk around its imposing perimeter, take a selfie or two and have a picnic with the prison as a backdrop. Check out concerts and other events at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, a four-hectare park along the waterway in the city’s downtown. Built in 1926, the beautiful Rialto Square Theatre is a former Vaudeville movie theater. Enter the lobby and be amazed by the ornate chandeliers, marble columns, gold detailing and sparkling mirrors.
Oglesby: A Stunning Park
In Starved Rock State Park, discover 20 kilometers of wooded trails leading past stunning rock formations, cascading waterfalls and deep canyons. Situated on the south bank of the Illinois River, Starved Rock is best known for its tall sandstone bluffs. In some places, streams have cut under the sandstone, creating stunning overhangs. Visitors enjoy fishing, boating, hunting and picnicking. From March through December, take a narrated historic trolley tour through the park. At the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center, stay overnight and enjoy the lodge’s enormous fireplace, gourmet food and indoor pool and hot tub. As an alternative, the park offers tent and cabin camping.