Route 66 news: 2016 Illinois events calendar and trip advice


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Most of you think the ‘official’ Route 66 related events begin every year in May.  Those of you who are hipper than that already started looking for things to do/see along the route in April.  Good for you!  But the truth is, you can travel this iconic American road trip at any time, during any season, and find things and people to see, places to visit, and yes, great things to eat (!) along the route all year long – even in Chicago in winter.  You might not be able to leave the top down on the convertible during the winter, but honestly:  how many of us these days travel the entire route in a classic ragtop, let alone without sunscreen?  Right:  most of us just see it and travel it however we can, even if that means taking a tour bus.

It isn’t the vehicles we use on historic Route 66 that matter; that’s the frosting.  It’s the road trip itself, what we experience, and whom we meet along the way – that’s the cake.  Our job here on the CuriousTraveler66 blog is to give you ideas and keep you informed of what’s along the way between the eastern terminus in downtown Chicago and the south end of Joliet (before you hit the sticks), sometimes even downstate, and what may have changed recently.  Therefore, the full 2016 events calendar (well, as complete as we can make it at this point in the year) is at the end of this post.  Bookmark this page for further reference, but know that we’ll be updating the calendar later on as we get additions, deletions and corrections.  Of course, all information is subject to change, so stay tuned right here in case something does change.

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Route 66 this weekend:  Berwyn Car Show and CineFest


Hello again, fellow roadies!  This weekend, route roadies in Chicago are blessed with a full two days’ worth of worthy events (that’s in addition to everything else going on in the immediate area, like the special exhibits at the Art Institute and the usual tours at the top of the Sears Tower, etc.).  First up today is the annual Berwyn Route 66 Car Show, a don’t-miss, no-admission event in Illinois as it is second in size only to the Mother Road Festival in downstate Springfield.  Flashy vehicles, food and fun, and did we mention it’s FREE?  Yessir!  Be there, or be square.  Berwyn is the second suburb you encounter outside Chicago when traveling Route 66, one whose civic leaders very consciously promote Route 66 – and Berwyn’s history on the route – all year long.  It’s also home to the Berwyn Route 66 Museum, which is one of the co-sponsors of the car show.

Then there’s the first annual CineFest in the Douglas Park area of Chicago, a weekend-long celebration of feature-length movies and TV series filmed in Chicago (many of which have been at least partially produced at fest sponsor Cinestage Chicago).  And perhaps the best part of that festival is that the beverages of choice will be brewskis supplied by next-door neighbor Lagunitas-Chicago brewery, Chicago’s largest craft beer producer.  Cinestage Chicago occupies the historic former Ryerson Steel campus, which is located between Western Avenue on the easternmost end and Washtenaw Avenue on the west, Route 66/Ogden Avenue on the north and the railroad viaduct that runs on an angle roughly between 17th to 18th Streets and parallel to Ogden.  In fact, Lagunitas itself is in a former Ryerson warehouse that the brewery rents from Cinestage under a 99-year lease.  So you have history all around you at both of these events this weekend.

In fact, our suggestion is that you attend the car show today and CineFest tomorrow – work them both in, if you can, then dine somewhere on the route afterwards.

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Route 66 news:  events calendar update & Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Instead of the ghastly Chicago summer humidity of the last two weeks, we had a nice, dry sunny day on Friday.  Excellent weather for starting a weekend road trip!  But there is one good thing about warm weather, even with a bit of humidity:  eating and listening to music al fresco, whether it’s at your favorite grill or tavern, neighborhood street fest/art fair, or a downtown extravaganza like the gargantuan music fest descending upon Chicago this weekend.

I mean Lolla, of course – short for Lollapalooza, the event that will be monopolizing a good chunk of Grant Park, starting immediately south of Jackson Drive/Route 66 and centering on Congress Plaza and Buckingham Fountain (with all the stages, scaffolding and speakers, you’ll be lucky if you get so much as a teensy glimpse of that fountain before next Monday or Tuesday).

We recommend that route-roadies heading for Chicago this weekend bunk down north of the river or perhaps further down the route (like on Jackson or Adams in the financial district, or in the West Loop/IMD – there’s a Marriott on the medical campus, for example), or even in suburban Countryside or Willowbrook (it might be worth it just this once to sleep outside the Loop, if you want to get any sleep at all: those Lolla folks party hearty, no matter where they’re staying).  On the other hand, if you don’t intend to sleep, by all means: hang around.  But expect to pay for the privilege – all too many hotels, restaurants and bars downtown will be capitalizing on the event and charging up the wazoo for whatever.  Don’t even dream about street parking.

Buckingham Fountain:  get a good look at it now, because you won’t see much of it behind all the stages, steel lighting scaffolds and thousands of sweaty, overindulging bodies surrounding it for three days.  (Photo courtesy of Alanscottwalker via Wikimedia Commons)

Buckingham Fountain:  Get a good look at it now, because you won’t see much of it during the 3-day Lollapalooza bash behind the stages, steel lighting scaffolds and thousands of sweaty, overindulging bodies surrounding it.  (Photo by Alanscottwalker via Wikimedia Commons)

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Route 66 highlights:  the secret garden in Chicago’s Grant Park


For many people, April 15 – Tax Day – isn’t necessarily a happy occasion.  Some folks look for a way to chase away the blues.  My co-author Joe decided to accomplish that differently this year and paid a visit to a little-known point of interest right off Route 66 in downtown Chicago.  Here’s his report.  Take it away, Joe!
Millennium Park is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.  So much fun with The Bean (Anish Kapoor’s giant mirrored sculpture, Cloud Gate), the Crown Fountain with its changing faces and wading pool, and so on.  But Millennium Park is really a subset of the much larger Grant Park, better known as Chicago’s magnificent front yard on the lakefront.  However, at Millennium Park’s southern end sits a hidden jewel:  Lurie Garden.  It’s a little slice of serene Illinois prairie in the heart of the city, an open secret to Chicagoans and to the wildlife that call it home or use it as a rest stop – but it’s unfamiliar to most human out-of-town visitors.

Chicago's Lurie Garden in early spring (Photo copyright 2015 by J.D. Kubal; all rights reserved)

Chicago’s Lurie Garden in early spring, with light blue Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) covering barren areas of the ‘dark’ plate.  (Photo copyright 2015 by J.D. Kubal; all rights reserved)

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Route 66 news: new events calendar update, and photos!


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Have you shaken off the dust of winter yet?  It’s Memorial Day weekend, when the Route 66 cruising season here in Illinois begins in earnest, and we have an updated events calendar for you below.  Bring out those convertibles and dust off those bikes, because it’s time to hit the road! Even if you only warm up locally to start.  Which can be fun.  Just remember to buckle up wherever you go, because the Smokies will be out in force this weekend on all the major highways across the nation, making sure you use your seat belts and handing out stiff fines if you don’t.  Better safe than sorry, right?   Right.

picnic 1 - classic Rt.66 rides - a bike, a 'Vette & a ragtop Mustang - blog (MRTraska)

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Route 66 news update:  Car show and event dates for spring and summer 2015


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Spring is finally here in Chicago, albeit grudgingly, which means a roadie’s attention turns to thoughts of road trips.  We have a partial list here for you of Route 66 events in Illinois (no, we didn’t just stick to our own neck of the woods in the NE corner of the state; we’re more broadminded than that.  Besides, a road trip requires putting on some mileage, right?).

We’ll have more details on these events and shows as we come nearer to their individual dates.  Please note:  the annual Berwyn Route 66 Car Show, which usually occurs on the first Saturday after Labor Day in September, will instead be happening two weeks early in late August.  We don’t know the reason for the change in date, but we imagine there was some kind of conflict with something else.  It can’t be because of the weather:  August is usually way too hot up here, whereas September has typically been just about perfect.  Oh, well …

Anyway, with the road shot below from our Funks Grove trip last summer on the day of the Route 66 Association of Illinois annual picnic at the Sugar Grove Nature Center to inspire you, please mark the following events on your Route 66 calendars; you won’t be sorry!

Route 66 southbound in Funks Grove  (photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

Route 66 southbound in Funks Grove (photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

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Seeing Route 66 by air in Illinois: Romeoville to Springfield-Decatur, part 2


Previously:  part 1 – Takeoff at O’Hare to Coal City

(Editor’s note:  As in part 1, for the convenience of readers unfamiliar with the route, I’ve added a few details here and there about precise locations and what else of interest to travelers is in the area that Keith visited; but this is Keith’s trip and his story, so we’ll let him finish his travelogue.  Here you go!)


From 8,000 feet up, the enormity of the Illinois prairie is really striking, with only occasional groves of trees scattered here and there amid the emptiness, which in summer will be covered with waving fields of wheat, corn and soybeans.  How startling to imagine that these empty fields will be different shades of green barely two months from now.  No wonder that the earliest settlers saw the enormous sea of grass that was the virgin Illinois prairie as the perfect place for farmland.  In fact, Decatur and Springfield lie in the center of Illinois’s agricultural heartland.  It’s no accident that Decatur is also home to a major outpost of agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland, aka ADM.

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