Kick off your summer road trip at Buckingham Fountain

Start your 66 drive in Chicago, visit a recently reopened iconic restaurant

Buckingham Fountain, the centerpiece of Chicago’s sprawling Grant Park, will once again thrill the public with hourly water shows and spectacular lighted displays in the evening.

After sitting out the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the focal point of Chicago’s signature park will shoot a geyser of water against the backdrop of the city’s awe-inspiring skyline. The fountain’s reopening, which marks an unofficial kick-off to the summer season, is normally a large event. Festivities will be scaled down this year, in keeping with current social distancing, but still expect this to be a sight worth traveling for.

The event, currently scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Saturday, May 22, is a symbolic relaunch for Chicago’s parks and an exciting start to summer festivities. Can’t make it in person? The event will be livestreamed on ComEd’s Facebook page starting at 2 p.m.

The fun doesn’t stop after the fountain ceremony. Take a short walk over to Millennium Park, where you can spy the world-renowned “Cloud Gate,” the large reflective sculpture that’s affectionately come to be known as “The Bean.” Other popular sights include “Crown Fountain,” an interactive piece of public art where you can see people’s faces displayed on a 50-foot wall of video bricks, and the snake-like Pedestrian Bridge, a popular summertime spot that has been featured in numerous Chicago-lensed films and television shows.

These world-famous parks are conveniently located less than a block away from the official starting point of U.S. Route 66. After you’ve explored these green urban oases, plan on hitting the road to visit another recently reopened icon of Route 66.

Sixty miles southwest of the city, you’ll find one of the most nostalgic towns along the entire Mother Road – Wilmington, Illinois. It’s home to the iconic, 28-foot “Gemini Giant Spaceman” statue, and recently reopened Launching Pad Drive-in restaurant.

Relaunched to the public in May 2021 by owners Holly Barker and Tully Garrett after an almost two-year restoration process, the Launching Pad is ready to welcome visitors again. Whether you dine in or carry out, you know you’ll be getting a little bit of nostalgia in every bite. The 50-plus-year-old Route 66 institution is serving up a delicious assortment of hot food and cold treats, like Chicago-style hot dogs (the owners are both graduates of the Vienna Beef Hot Dog University) and the mammoth “1 Pound Milkshake.”

Other classic Midwestern fare includes burgers, fries, beef sandwiches, sodas and fresh pie. Enjoy their souvenir shop featuring locally made items and a mini-museum, which boasts unique artifacts from Hollywood and classic rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia.