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
Map showing the location of Pontiac, Illinois on Historic Route 66


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.

Pontiac Illinois on Route 66 ... in neon

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 Today

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.

The Pontiac Illinois Visitors Center

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

More about Pontiac attractions at VisitPontiac.org

Murals on Main Street

The Visit Pontiac Illinois on Route 66 mural, with the yellow 1957 Chevrolet BelAir

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.

Read more about each of the murals and their designers and painters

Welcome to Pontiac Route 66 mural
Welcome to Pontiac, Illinois  Route 66 mural
Daniels Oil & Roszell's
The Daniels Oil Co. & Roszell's Soda Fountain mural in Pontiac, Illinois
Scenic Vermilion River
Scenic Vermilion River mural in Pontiac, Illinois
Drink Coca-Cola
The Drink Coca-Cola mural in Pontiac, Illinois

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 Volkswagon 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.

Bob Waldmire Memorial mural ... Get Your Kicks on Illinois Route 66, in downtown Pontiac

Bob Waldmire Memorial mural ... Get Your Kicks on Illinois Route 66, in downtown Pontiac

Interactive Map of the Murals in Pontiac

More Photo Highlights from Route 66 Road Trips to Pontiac

The Pontiac Museum Complex

The Pontiac Illinois Museum Complex The Pontiac Illinois 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

Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum website

Route 66 kiosk in Pontiac, Illinois ... You Are Here! Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac, Illinois
The famous Route 66 shield mural
The famous Route 66 shield mural at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac, Illinois
Bob Waldmire's VW bus
Bob Waldmire's VW bus on display at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac, Illinois ... Bob Waldmire's VW Bus
Bob Waldmire's Road Yacht
Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac, Illinois ... the Bob Waldmire Road Yacht
Preserving Route 66 in Illinois
Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac, Illinois ... Now showing ... Preserving Route 66 in Illinois
Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac, Illinois Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac, Illinois ... the license plate Route 66 shield
Livingston County War Museum
The Livingston County War Museum in Pontiac, Illinois The Livingston County War Museum in Pontiac, Illinois

Pontiac - Oakland Automobile Museum
Pontiac - Oakland Automobile Museum in  Pontiac, Illinois Indoor exhibit area at the Pontiac - Oakland Automobile Museum in  Pontiac, Illinois

Route 66 Towing on a small scale!
Route 66 Towing on a small scale, in Pontiac, Illinois
Edinger's Filling Station
Edinger's Filling Station in Pontiac, Illinois
Livingston County Courthouse
Livingston County Courthouse in Pontiac, Illinois

The Old Log Cabin ... Classic circa-1926 dining at 18700 Old Route 66 in Pontiac

Old Log Cabin website

Old Log Cabin in Pontiac, Illinois Cloverleaf Motel in Lebanon, Missouri

 

Lodging, Dining and Attractions in Pontiac

TripAdvisor

Pontiac Travel Guide at TripAdvisor

Hotels in Pontiac with traveler reviews at TripAdvisor

Pontiac restaurant reviews at TripAdvisor

Attractions and Things to Do in Pontiac

Interactive Map of Pontiac, Illinois

 

More Information about Pontiac

VisitPontiac.org

 

City of Pontiac, Illinois website

 

Downtown Pontiac: Main Street America Affiliate

 

Pontiac Murals on Main Street

 

BobWaldmire.com

 

Heritage Corridor Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum

 

Livingston County

 

Pontiac Weather at WeatherUnderground

 

Pontiac Travel Guide at TripAdvisor: Hotels, restaurants, things to do

 

Route 66 Association of Illinois

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