If you are traveling south of Chicago on I55 heading toward St. Louis, you may be looking for some great places to stop, stretch and experience some of the Midwest local attractions and landmarks. Sure, you can stop at a chain restaurant or rest area to get a cup of coffee or a hamburger, but here are 5 things to see and experience that you may have missed.
Though not a stopping spot for most travelers, south of Chicago on I 55 you can see miles of windmill on both sides of the interstates. These wind farms power much of the country and provide an amazing spectacle as you cross the flat land of northern Illinois.
Swinging Bridges of Pontiac
Looking for some play time at the local park? Why not stop at Pontiac, Illinois and discover the three swinging bridges in historic downtown. One of the bridges dates back to the late 1800’s and still is in use today. You get history, a little exercise and a fascinating new thing to experience. While you are in Pontiac, take some time to explore and find the 15 art cars that have been decorated and put on display in downtown Pontiac. These unique art exhibits are great photo opportunities that you will definitely want to capture with a camera.
Lincoln Homeplace / Burial and Museum
Located in Springfield Illinois, visitors can spend a few minutes or a whole day discovering the life and history of our 16th president. Abraham Lincoln spent many years living in Springfield, Illinois and is also buried here. There is a fee to tour the home place but you can tour the area for free.
If you are lucky enough to go on the right days, you may find Abraham Lincoln himself ready to meet and greet you as you tour the historic area of Springfield. Many of the furnishings in the house are actual items used by the Lincolns. You can actually see the couch where he sat to make his decision to become president as well as his desk where he worked during the years of his political career.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum while you are in Springfield.
Along the interstate, be watching for small brown historic sites. You may see a small brown sign alerting you to the burial site for Mary Harris Jones also known as Mother Jones. You may not recognize her name, but she was an early influential leader in the workers right who stood up for the common people and miners. She lived to be 100 years old and spent much of her life fighting for the rights of the working class people. The gravesite of Mother Jones is a tribute to the lives she touched. Located just a few minutes off the interstate, this is a great place to stretch your legs and learn some history at the same time.
One of the most iconic landmark of the Midwest is the St. Louis Gateway Arch. If you are traveling through St. Louis, it is well worth the time and small ticket fee to take the elevator to the top of the world. There is a free museum at the base of the arch as well as several additional activities if you choose to buy the extra tickets.
Tip for those who have never ridden to the top: The elevator to the top is small and only holds 5 people but it does go fairly quickly. They have air piped in and soft music playing as you make the ascent to the top. Though it is is tight, it is well worth the trip and the view of the city is spectacular.
Where do you like to stop for stretch breaks when you are on a road trip? I’d love to hear your favorites!