Many Route 66 road trips include a stop in this small town, home to one of the highway’s biggest museums and a lively cultural scene.
Located halfway between Chicago and Springfield, Pontiac is a must-visit for any fans of Route 66 and its history. Follow the collection of 18 Route 66 murals, painted in 2009 by an artist collective, guiding a tour of this immensely walkable downtown, stopping at the charming small businesses lining the streets.
Visit the town’s unusually robust collection of museums, watching for their collection of 15 miniature cars and trucks that have been painted by local artists and art groups. Start at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum, one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. It features the bus that painter Bob Waldmire lived in as he traveled along the iconic highway.
Go next door to the Livingston County War Museum, a small but lovingly maintained tribute to local soldiers who fought in every conflict since World War I.
Continue to the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum, with an extensive collection of vehicles from throughout history and a very impressive collection of oilcans. Indulge your taste for luxury at the Museum of the Gilding Arts, which explores the history and artistry of gold and silver leaf and how it has been used over time.
Wander across unique Swinging Bridges, which connect the two halves of the town across the Vermilion River. These were built to allow shoe factory workers to commute easily between work and home. Linger in Chautauqua Park and watch the river lazily flow by.
Pontiac is located in central Illinois. Fly to the small airport in town or drive from the closest major airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, in 1 hour 45 minutes. Take Amtrak from Chicago in 2 hours, then continue on to destinations farther south. Pontiac itself is walkable, though a car is recommended for exploring the rest of the state.
Combine Pontiac’s cultural scene with outdoor activities. Visit the Humiston Woods Nature Center for hiking, fishing or picnicking in the serenity of this hardwood forest.