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4 Breathtaking Scenic Drives in Illinois

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route 66 illinois
Route 66 mural in Pontiac, Illinois
Photo: Andreas H.

Illinois provides picturesque panoramas, tasty wines, and historical towns to explore. Here are four gorgeous scenic drives you should take to cultivate a deeper appreciation of the state’s natural beauty.


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Illinois River Road

Drive the Illinois River Road from Ottawa to Havana for a pleasant 123-mile jaunt. The route parallels the Illinois River and also provides watery views of Big Lake, Rice Lake, and Goose Lake as you head closer to Havana. And if you like geocaching, make sure to check out the 90 different caches hidden along this route.

Historic Route 66

The Historic Route 66 goes from Chicago to East St. Louis, stretching 300 miles. Though it’s now known as I-55, part of it was a portion of old Route 66 back in its heyday. This path isn’t just pleasantly retrospective, however — it also has some quirky landmarks that make great photo-ops, such as the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville and the “Cow in the Corn” sculpture in Lincoln.

Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

Sample some Illinois vino when you and some friends find a designated driver and hit up the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. The 17-mile route starts in Makonda and ends in Murphysboro, boasting 12 award-winning wineries to pick from. Pack a swimsuit if visiting in warmer weather then make a pit stop at Lake Murphysboro State Park to cool off in the water. You can also hike one of Giant City State Park’s trails and explore the prehistoric-era fort there.

Knox County Scenic Drive

This 19-mile trek spans from Galesburg to Maquon. When in Galesburg, make sure to stop at the Corpus Christi Catholic Church to view its famous neo-Gothic architecture. Plan your drive for one of the first two full weekends in October if you want to participate in the county’s annual scenic drive event. It’s a great way to explore historic sites, witness craft and cooking demonstrations, and ancient structures like the circa-1832 log cabin and railroad depot.

For even more Illinois destinations to explore, check out these haunted places. And try one of these reputable diners if you need a bite to eat when you’re on the road.


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