ADLER PLANETARIUM AND ASTRONOMY MUSEUM, 1300 South Lake Shore Drive; phone 312-922-7827; web site www.adlerplanetarium.org. This first planetarium built in the Western Hemisphere offers displays about astronomy, telescopes, space exploration, a Sky Show and much more.
THE FIELD MUSEUM, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive; phone 312-922-1410; web site www.fieldmuseum.org. Considered one of the top natural history museums in the world, the Field displays more than 15 million artifacts and specimens. Sue, the most complete and best preserved of T-Rexes is here, as are many other exhibits.
SHEDD AQUARIUM, 1200 South Lake Shore Drive; phone 312-939-2438; web site www.sheddaquarium.org. The indoor aquarium displays more than 20,000 animals; shows include divers feeding underwater critters.
NAVY PIER, 600 East Grand Avenue; phone 312-595-7437; web site www.navypier.com. This Chicago landmark includes more than 50 acres of gardens, parks, promenades, shops, restaurants and live entertainment. There’s an IMAX theater, botanical garden, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, a carousel and a 150-foot high Ferris wheel.
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive; phone 773-684-1414; web site www.msichicago.org. At this first-rate center of informal science and technology education, you can “walk through” a human heart, learn about issues facing our environment, enjoy educational shows at the Omnimax Theater and more.
WILLIS TOWER SKYDECK (SEARS TOWER), 233 South Wacker, Drive; phone 312-875-9447; web site www.theskydeck.com. For a view from the highest point along Route 66, visit the Skydeck, from where (the 103rd floor) you can see up to 50 miles on a clear day. High-powered telescopes bring the city into sharp focus from this 1353-foot high vantage.
THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, 111 S. Michigan Ave.; phone 312-443-3600; web site www.artic.edu. This premier museum, located in Grant Park, displays world-famous paintings by Monet, Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Matisse and many others.
LOU MITCHELL’S RESTAURANT, 565 W. Jackson Blvd., phone 312-939-3111; web site www.loumitchellsrestaurant.com. The restaurant, new in 1923, has long been a Route 66 icon. Breakfast is offered all day, and while you wait for your table, you may dine on donut holes. All female patrons receive a box of Milk Duds. It’s “cash only” here, but there is an ATM available.[slideshow auto=”on” thumbs=”on”]
WHITE FENCE FARM, 1376 Joliet Road; phone 630-739-1720; web site www.whitefencefarm-il.com. The restaurant, which lies along the 1926-1939 alignment of Route 66, is perhaps the largest eatery along the old route, able to seat 1100 diners. Fried chicken is the specialty. There’s also a petting zoo and free museum.
PONTIAC-OAKLAND AUTOMOBILE MUSEUM, 205 N. Mill Street; phone 815-842-2345; web site www.visitpontiac.org. Enthusiasts can learn about the history of these two classic American car brands, and also view numerous pristine vehicles; historical maps are also featured.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, 112 N. 6th Street and 212 N. 6th Street; phone 800-610-2094; web site www.presidentlincoln.org. This is one of the finest museums you’ll visit anywhere. Here you can learn the entire Lincoln story, his youth, his 1860 election, presidency and the Civil War, much about his personal life, triumphs and losses, what happened at Ford’s Theater, and so much more. Some amazing technology puts you squarely back in the mid 19th century.
ILLINOIS STATE CAPITOL COMPLEX, 301 S. 2nd Street; phone 217-782-2099; web site www.cyberdriveillinois.com. This center of state government, built in 1877, is lavishly enhanced with murals, paintings and statuary. The Illinois Police Officers Memorial and Illinois Firefighter Memorial are also here.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, 410 E. Jackson Street; phone 217-782-6450; web site www.illinois.gov. Built in 1855, and filled with all sorts of lovely antiques and artifcts, this is the third oldest continuously occupied governor’s mansion in the country. Sixteen of the rooms can be toured, including the state dining room, library and the Lincoln bedroom.
LINCOLN HOME NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, 413 S. 8th Street; phone 217-492-4241; web site www.nps.gov/liho. The home is the only one Lincoln ever owned. It’s included in a four-block historic complex that includes a visitor center and homes of his former neighbors.
LINCOLN TOMB STATE HISTORIC SITE, Oak Ridge Cemetery, 1500 Monument Avenue; phone 217-782-2717; web site www.illinoishistory.gov. This is the tomb where President Lincoln, his wife, Mary, and three of their four sons are at rest. Statuary inside depicts Lincoln at various times during his public career.
OLD STATE CAPITOL STATE HISTORIC SITE, Old State Capitol Plaza, S. 6th Street at E. Adams Street; phone 217-785-7960; web site www.illinoishistory.gov. This lovely restored building, new in 1837, is where Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech, and where he lay in state before his burial at Oak Ridge Cemetery.
GATEWAY ARCH AT THE CORE OF DISCOVERY, St. Louis Riverfront; phone 877-982-1410 or 314-982-1410; web site www.coreofdiscovery.com. The Gateway Arch, at 630 feet the tallest manmade monument in the country (and attracts more than four million visitors a year), includes Journey to the Top, films, first-rate Museum of Westward Expansion and shopping. The Old Courthouse, scene of the Dred Scott trials and now a fine museum, and the Old Cathedral (Basilica of St. Louis King of France) are nearby. The Old Cathedral is St. Louis’ earliest church; the present building is 170 years old and a national monument. A museum here is home to numerous religious artifacts.
FOREST PARK, bounded by I-64, Kingshighway, Lindell and Skinker; phone 314-289-5300. At 1371 acres, this is one of the largest urban parks in the country. In 1904 the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, arguably the greatest of World’s Fairs, was held here, drawing more than 19 million visitors. Today the park is home to a host of attractions: St. Louis Art Museum, Science Center, world-famous St. Louis Zoo (18,000 animals of 700 species), Jewel Box greenhouse, History Museum, and the 11,000-seat (1500 of them free) outdoor Muny Theatre, new in 1914. Also here are 7.5 miles of hiking and biking trails, a skating rink, fountains, lakes with paddleboats, the Boathouse Restaurant and more.
GRANT’S FARM, 10501 Gravois Road; phone 314-843-1700; web site www.grantsfarm.com. Now the Busch family estate (of Anheuser-Busch fame), the property was once owned by Ulysses S. Grant. Visitors enjoy a petting area, animal shows and tram rides through a wildlife preserve.
HISTORIC CHEROKEE ANTIQUE ROW, 1900-2300 Cherokee Street; phone 314-776-1436; web site www.cherokeeantiquerow.com. Just ten minutes from downtown St. Louis, this six-block area includes more than 30 antiques and specialty shops, a must-visit for “antiquers.”
ENDANGERED WOLF CENTER, Washington University’s Tyson Research Center, I-44 at Beaumont/Antire Road (exit 269); phone 636-938-5900; web site www.endangeredwolfcenter.org. This internationally recognized center breeds and raises endangered wolves and releases them into the wild. Family packs of highly endangered North American wolves and foxes, African wild dogs and South American maned wolves live here in natural habitats. Numerous educational programs are offered to the public.
MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN (SHAW’S GARDEN), 4344 Shaw Blvd.; phone 800-642-8842 or 314-577-5100; web site www.mobot.org. This National Historic Landmark, founded in 1859, now spans 79 acres of magnificent landscaping and historic structures. Main attractions include the Climatron tropical rain forest, Japanese Garden, and founder Henry Shaw’s elegant Victorian home. Narrated tram tours are offered. There’s also a restaurant and extensive gift shop.
TED DREWE’S FROZEN CUSTARD, Old Route 66, 6726 Chippewa; phone 314-481-2652; web site www.teddrewes.com. No trip along Route 66 – or visit to St. Louis for that matter – would be complete without a stop at this long-time tasty icon, here since 1929. The “concretes” here are so thick you can turn them upside down without spilling. There is even a new “Route 66” frozen custard specialty.
MERAMEC CAVERNS, I-44, exit 230; phone 800-676-6105, 636-451-5400, 573-468-3166 or 573-468-CAVE; web site www.americascave.com. Missouri is known for its caves – some 3500 have been documented – but Meramec, “the Crown Jewel of Missouri,” is among the finest, rich in a variety of colorful speleothems. The cave is also rich in history – of Native American culture, French explorers, Civil War battles, Jesse James lore, Hollywood films and more. Guided tours are offered. A campground and a motel are at the site. While here you may also take a riverboat ride, canoe trip, pan for gold in a sluice, ride the zip line, dine at a family-friendly restaurant, or shop at the candy store or gift shop.
FANTASTIC CAVERNS, 4872 N. Route 125; phone 417-833-2010; web site www.FantasticCaverns.com. Eco-friendly trams, following an ancient riverbed, bring visitors through on 55-minute tours of this beautiful cave. Fantastic, where the temperature never varies from 60 degrees, is the only drive-through cave in the country (there are fewer than half a dozen in the world).
BASS PRO SHOPS OUTDOOR WORLD, 1935 S. Campbell Avenue; phone 417-887-7334; web site www.basspro.com. Easily a destination unto itself, Bass Pro is the “granddaddy of all outdoor stores.” The 300,000 square-foot showroom includes an art gallery, firing range, waterfalls, aquariums, restaurants and much more. Any sort of outdoor equipment you can think of is available here (camping, fishing, hunting, boating and golf, among others). You can even watch divers feeding underwater animals.
DICKERSON PARK ZOO, 1401 W. Norton Road; phone 417-864-1800; web site www.dickersonparkzoo.org. Hundreds of animals from around the world are featured in numerous themed exhibits, including “Tropical Asia” with elephants, tigers and siamangs; “Missouri Habitats” with gray wolves, mountain lions, river otters and black bears. The collection also features a variety of reptiles. There’s a children’s playground and water feature, café, gift shop and seasonal train rides.
BATTLE OF SPRINGFIELD DRIVING TOUR, Downtown Springfield; phone 417-881-5300; web site www.SpringfieldMO.org. In early 1863 Union forces defended Springfield against Confederate attempts to gain supplies and high-ground access. Twelve markers commemorate various events of the battle. Maps of the self-guided tour are available at the Springfield CVB; phone 800-678-8767; web site above.
WILSON’S CREEK NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD, 6424 W. Farm Road 182; phone 417-732-2662; web site www.nps.gov/wicr/index.htm. The battle, fought August 10, 1861 just outside Springfield, was the second major battle of the Civil War, and an attempt by the South to bring Missouri into the Confederacy. Wilson’s Creek gave southern forces temporary control over southwestern Missouri, but the 1862 battles of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove would secure Missouri in the Union. Springfield would serve as a base of Union operations for the rest of the war. A 4.9-mile self-guided driving tour leads past eight major points on the battlefield, each with maps, artwork and exhibits that tell the story.
CIVIL WAR MUSEUM AT WILSON’S CREEK NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD, 6424 W. Farm Road 182; phone 417-732-2662; web site www.nps.gov/wicr/index.htm. The collection includes more than 8000 artifacts, each relevant to the Trans-Mississippi Theater (Civil War in the West).
HULSTON CIVIL WAR LIBRARY AT WILSON’S CREEK NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD, 6424 W. Farm Road; phone 417-732-2662; web site www.nps.gov/wicr/index.htm. This research library features one of the largest collections of soft-bound volumes on the Civil War in the National Park Service. On-site use only.