Here in Downstate Illinois territory, there are several major roadways that helped build the United States. While most know and love U.S. Route 66, another highway was constructed the same year with a greater purpose, U.S. Route 40. What is commonly known as the Main Street of America, Route 40 once connected Atlantic City, New Jersey to San Francisco, California. This roadway was created using existing local and national highways including the National Road (the first federally funded road known as the “road that built the nation”) that connected Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois.
To celebrate the history and importance of this great roadway, we have put together an itinerary of places to go and see on U.S. Route 40!
What a better way to start a road trip than with some homestyle cooking? 9th Street Café in Highland will get your trip going in the right direction whether you start with breakfast or lunch! Located at 900 Laurel Street, this café will get you stuffed on their omelets, French toast, or burgers.
Just a little ways down the road, you will find Pocahontas, birthplace of Grammy Award-winning country singer Gretchen Wilson. This quaint town has multiple eateries, a winery, and shops including the Mercantile & Sweet Shoppe. This old-fashioned general store will have you feeling like a time traveler! This shop has something for everyone no matter if you have a sweet tooth or if you want to find that little something for your home. Be sure to mark this spot on your map – 105 Academy Street – you won’t want to miss it.
Continuing east sits the American Farm Heritage Museum and Hills Fort in Greenville. This museum preserves agricultural history and memorabilia. With 3 buildings housing multiple exhibits and 7 acres of space, the museum has enough for you to spend hours learning about farming history. Be sure to check their website while planning your road trip as they host several family-fun events every year! Make sure to also check out Hills Fort, which was originally built in the early 1800’s and has since been reconstructed on the museum’s land. The fort played an integral role in opening the Northwest Territory, offering protection from the indigenous population.
In case you have worked up an appetite, our next stop is in Vandalia at the Blind Society. From brisket tacos to lobster bisque, Blind Society has a little bit of everything to please everyone in your party. If you love a great tasting hand-crafted cocktail or a delicious old-fashioned, be sure to ask for the drinks menu!
Staying in Vandalia, you can learn more about U.S. Route 40 and the National Road by visiting the National Road Interpretive Center located at 106 S 5th St. Inside you can learn firsthand how the road truly built the nation.
For those who want a unique shopping experience, visit Driftstone Pueblo in St. Elmo, just 14 miles from Vandalia. At this authentic Native American store, you can shop from thousands of souvenirs including jewelry, moccasins, and pottery. This 8,400 sq. ft. showroom makes it one of the largest in the Midwest and a must-stop attraction!
From there, be ready to pull off for a family photo-op at the Cumberland Covered Bridge and tag us on Instagram @illinoisouth! Once past the bridge, you will enter the beautiful town of Greenup. Make sure to look for the Train Depot & Museum off Cumberland Street. This museum includes static displays, model layouts, and trains traveling about the room to grab your attention. This family-friendly stop will keep the kids engaged and learning. The depot once served 4 major railways dating back to 1870!
To wrap up your road trip, head into Casey where there is a ton to do and see! For dinner, we suggest stopping at barn-turned-restaurant Richards Farm! With plates like shrimp scampi and prime rib, make sure to come with an empty stomach! While in town, check out some larger-than-life items. Casey is home to 12 of the world’s largest things including a rocking chair standing 56 feet tall!
The best way to finish a long day of adventure is to be welcomed by a cozy bed. For that, check out Eighteen-Ninety Sleepover in downtown Casey. This nostalgic hotel brings an 1890 charm with modern amenities, including a Harry Potter-themed room! Check their website for availability before heading out on the road as rooms fill fast!
This road trip and others to come can be found on our app! Using our app allows you to not only follow this itinerary but gives you the option to add and change stops to your liking, or create your own road trip. Be sure to visit the app store to download it for free today!
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