Chicago, known as the windy city, is located in the state of Illinois and is the third most populous city in the United States with almost 3 million residents. The city is an international center of finance, commerce, industry, telecommunications, and transportation, and is served by O’Hare International Airport, the second-busiest airport in the world. Originally, the starting point of Route 66 in Chicago began on Jackson Boulevard at Michigan Ave, but in 1933 it was moved east onto land reclaimed for the Worlds Fair to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive.

In 1955, Jackson Boulevard became a one way west of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street became the westbound Route 66. Nevertheless, the start of Route 66 remained on Jackson Boulevard at Lake Shore Drive. Chicago came into existence in August of 1833 and had a population of around 200. Three years short of a decade later it would grow to a population of over 4,000 residents. On March 4, 1837 the City of Chicago was incorporated and became the fastest growing city in the world for the next several decades. As the site of the Chicago Portage, the city emerged as an important transportation center between the eastern and western United States. In 1848 Chicago’s first railway, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. At that same time the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal allowed steamboats and sailing ships on the Great Lakes to connect to the Mississippi River. During the 19th century, Chicago became America’s railroad center, with over 20 different railroads operating passenger services out of 6 different downtown terminals by 1910.

With the ratification of the 18th amendment to the Constitution in 1919, it made the production, sale and exportation of alcoholic beverages illegal in the United States. This brought about the beginning of what is often referred to as the Gangster Era, a period roughly spanning from 1919 until 1933 when the Prohibition Act was repealed. During the early 1920s there weres gangsters, including Al Capone, Tony Accardo, Dion O’Banion, Roger Tuey and Bugs Moran often found in shoot outs with local police, federal agents and each other on the streets in Chicago.

It is in Chicago that you can see the tallest building in North America. Visitors to the Willis Tower can step out onto The Ledge – a glass box suspended 1,000 feet above the city from the Skydeck Chicago Observatory. Take a ride on the big ferris wheel modeled after the very first ferris wheel built in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Rides, shops, restaurants and boat tours are just a part of the amenities in this area. Enjoy some time on the Chicago River with a boat tour that explores the Chicago architectural wonders on the only river in the world that actually flows backwards.

This being due to a huge pioneering public works project that saved the Chicago region from waterborne diseases in the early 1900s by reversing the water flow of the Chicago River. Chicago provides over 26 miles of shoreline, 33 beaches and an almost 20 mile long bike path along Lake Michigan which can be ridden down during the warmer weather. Chicago is home to 77 community areas that contain more than 100 different neighborhoods with their own unique cultures, ethnicity and histories – helping give Chicago the distinction of being the 2nd largest Polish city in the world and home to large populations of different ethnic groups.

Chicago has one of the world’s finest and largest collections of French impressionist art displayed at The Art Institute of Chicago which includes the modern wing that houses great collections of modern and contemporary art. Visitors to the Chicago Cultural Center, the first free municipal cultural center in America, can look up at the largest Tiffany art glass dome in the world created with almost 30,000 pieces of stained glass. Chicago is the only city to have five regional Tony award-winning theater companies where visitors can enjoy performances every day of the week. The term “Jazz” was first coined in Chicago back in 1914 and many live jazz clubs across the city keep this great music tradition alive. Visitors can also check out the U-505 German submarine at the Museum of Science & Industry – the largest science museum in the western hemisphere. Travel to deep space at the Adler Planetarium Grainger Sky Theater. As the most advanced digital theater anywhere in the world, the Grainger boasts images that are eight times sharper than any other digital cinema. Or if you prefer you can dive in to a watery environment of Beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, and seals at the 3 million gallon saltwater Oceanarium at Shedd Aquarium, the largest indoor marine mammal habitat in the world. As you can see the city of Chicago is truely a world-class city.

Just outside Chicago is Joliet, a city in Will and Kendall counties of Illinois, located 40 miles or 64 kilometers southwest of Chicago. It continues to be Illinois’ fastest growing city and one of the fastest growing in the southwest Chicago metropolitan area. After the Black Hawk War in 1873, Charles Reed built a cabin along the west side of the Des Plaines River. Across the river in 1834, James B. Campbell, treasurer of the canal commissioners, laid out the village of Juliet, a name local settlers had been using.

The origin of the name was most likely a corruption of the name of French Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet, who in 1673, along with Father Jacques Marquette, paddled up the Des Plaines River and camped on a huge mound, a few miles south of present-day Joliet. That hill was named Mound Jolliet, later renamed to Heap Joliet. Just before the depression of 1837, Juliet incorporated as a village, but to cut tax expenses, Juliet residents soon petitioned the state to rescind that incorporation. In 1845, local residents changed the community’s name from “Juliet” to “Joliet” and Joliet was reincorporated as a city in 1852.

Among local landmarks are the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Visitors Center as well as the Chicagoland Speedway (NASCAR) and the Route 66 Raceway (NHRA). The Joliet Prison is located near Joliet’s downtown district on Collins Street and is the same prison that has been featured in both television shows and movies. One such television series filmed at Joliet Prison was Prison Break. The Prison was also used for the opening scenes in the popular 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers, which starred John Belushi as “Joliet” Jake Blues and Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues. The first Dairy Queen store opened in Joliet, but the location is now occupied by Universal Church. The Rialto Square Theatre, a favorite haunt of Al Capone and a filming location for scenes from Kevin Bacon’s film Stir of Echoes, is on Chicago Street. There are two casinos which originated as riverboat casinos in Joliet: the Hollywood Casino near Channahon and a Harrah’s hotel and casino downtown. Joliet is the only city in the State of Illinois to have two casinos. The Auditorium Building is located at the northeast corner of Chicago and Clinton streets. Designed by G. Julian Barnes and built of limestone in 1891, it was controversial as one of the first buildings to combine religious, civic and commercial uses. Nonetheless, people such Theodore Roosevelt visited and spoke at the building. The building was originally built for the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet; however, the church sold the building in 1993 and is no longer used by them.

The Jacob A. Henry Mansion, 20 South Eastern Avenue is a three-story, red brick, Second Empire/Italian Renaissance style structure built on a Joliet limestone foundation in 1873 and completed in 1876. The structure is set on bedrock and the entire basement floor is made of Joliet limestone from the building owner’s quarry. The walls of the structure are constructed of red Illinois sandstone and deep red brick specially fired in Ohio, then wrapped individually and shipped by barge to Joliet. A commanding three-story tower is the focal point of the structure and it has steel trim with slate shingles on a Mansard roof.

The front and side porches are single slabs of limestone. The largest stone ever quarried lies in the sidewalk under the front entry gate. The stone is 9’ X 22’ X 20” thick.

In 1885, an immense Byzantine dome was added to the south façade. The interior of the mansion has elaborate polished walnut woodwork, massive, carved pocket doors, original wood mantles and a solid walnut staircase. The original owner, Mr. Henry, was a railroad magnate, building railroads in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. He had ownership in a local quarry and was a principal stockholder in Will County National Bank. The mansion won the Architecture Award at the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876, and is claimed[by whom?] to be the largest and best example of Renaissance Revival architecture still standing in the state of Illinois. The structure is a local landmark, part of the East Side National Register District and individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Leaving the city of Joliet and heading south on Route 66 there is a small own called Gardner. Gardner is a small midwestern town about 60 miles or 97 kilometers southwest of Chicago. Gardner hosts an annual celebration on the first weekend during May in conjunction with the Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor. Gardner is known on Route 66 for its historic 2-cell jailhouse and the Riviera Restaurant, 1-mile or 1.6 kilometers east of town. The Riviera was a prohibition hangout of Al Capone and his friends that had a beer cooler located in a basement vault.

Unfortunately on June 8th, 2010, the Rivera Restaurant was destroyed by a fire that broke out in the basement. Gardner has one grade school and one high school that serves five local towns combined.

Leaving Gardner, travelers came upon a restored gas station. The station is Ambler-Becker’s Gas Station, an historic gas station situated at the intersection of U.S. Route 66 and Illinois Route 17 in the town of Dwight, Illinois. The station was the longest continuousely operating gas station anywhere along Route 66. This station pumped fuel for 66 continuous years up until 1999. It got its name from being owned by two different men. From 2004 through 2007, Ambler-Becker’s Gas Station was the subject of major restoration project and reopened as a Route 66 visitor’s center in May 2007.

Further on south down the highway is Bloomington, a city in McLean County, Illinois and the county seat. During the first two decades of the 20th century, Bloomington experienced rapid growth due to agriculture, the construction of highways and railroads, and the growth of the insurance business headquartered there – State Farm Insurance. All of this influenced the growth of Bloomington and its downtown area. The downtown area became a regional shopping center attracting trade from adjoining counties.

Labor unions grew in strength and this trend has continued up until the present as well as including many restaurants and other businesses. The Central Illinois Regional Airport is located on Route 9 and is currently served by three airlines – Delta, AirTran and American Eagle Airlines, five rental car agencies, and has direct daily flights to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Orlando. Additional seasonal service has begun to include flights to Fort Myers, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada with AirTran.

Continuing on to Springfield, Illinois, the third and current capital of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County with a population of 116,250 according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census in 2010, making it the sixth most populated city in the state and the second most populated city in Illinois outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area. The citys most famous past resident is President Abraham Lincoln, who lived in Springfield from 1837 until 1861, when he went to the White House after being elected. Springfield

has been home to numerous individuals, who contributed to the broader American culture. Wandering poet Vachel Lindsay, most famous for his poem “The Congo” and a booklet called “Rhymes to be Traded for Bread”, was born in Springfield in 1879. At least two notable people affiliated with American business and industry have called Springfield home at one time or another. Both John L. Lewis, a labor activist, Marjorie Merriweather Post, the founder of the General Foods Corporation, lived in the city and in addition, the astronomer Seth Barnes Nicholson was born in Springfield in 1891.

The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop in Springfield still operates what it claims as being the first drive-thru window in America. The city is also known for its chili, or “chilli”, as it is known in many chili restaurants throughout Sangamon County. The unique spelling is said to have begun with the founder of the Den Chilli Parlor in 1909 and attributed to a spelling error in its sign. Another interpretation is that the mis-spelling represented the “Ill” in the word Illinois, so in 1993, the Illinois state legislature adopted a resolution proclaiming Springfield to be the “Chilli Capital of the Civilized World”. For a diversion from the heat of the day on the most famous of US highays there is an option for those wishing to take a break and cool off. Springfield has the area’s largest amusement park: Knights Action Park and the Caribbean Water Park, which are open from May to September.