Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum & Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum and Resource Center

These two museums in Pontiac, Illinois, celebrate America’s obsession with the open road and historic cars from throughout history. 

1957 Chevy mural in Pontiac, Illinois (photo courtesy of Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum & Resource Center)

Historic road signs, gas-station pumps, vintage ads, and a colorful wall full of throwback license plates pack the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. Paper hot-dog sheaths and 1950s-era posters from the Cozy Dog roadside drive-in restaurant, a 78-rpm record of Bobby Troupe’s hit song “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66” and thousands of other items tied to Illinois’ portion of the famed highway fill this museum in the charming town of Pontiac. 

Fully paved by the mid-1930s, U.S. Route 66 connected Chicago to Los Angeles and, today, the highway reflects the influence and cultural nostalgia of American road transportation.

Notable local Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire hit the road for nearly 20 years in the museum’s 1972 VW Microbus. Outside, duck into Waldmire’s “Road Yacht,” a 1966 Chevy school bus, which he bought in the 1980s, gutted and converted into a mobile home. The artist’s final commissioned work was a 66-foot-long map of Route 66 on Main Street.

On North Mill Street, the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum & Resource Center houses a collection of Pontiac- and Oakland-brand classic cars and associated memorabilia. Opened in 2011 by car enthusiast Tim Dye, the museum houses a rotating roster of vehicles, such as a 1926 Pontiac Coupe, 1969 GTO Judge, 1976 Trans Am, 1984 Fiero and more. Throughout the museum, multi-era period staging with neon signs makes for a fun visit. The resource library stocks original car design mock-ups, vintage maps and owner’s manuals. 

On your way out of town, stop by Wally’s, a huge gas station and convenience store that stocks anything a family might need before hitting the road. Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, 110 W. Howard St., Pontiac, Illinois 61764, 815/844-4566,; Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum & Resource Center, 205 N. Mill St., Pontiac, Illinois 61764, 815/842-2345,