Illinois Office of Tourism and Rivian Automotive Kick Off Upcoming Route 66 Centennial

New video series will spotlight The First Hundred Miles and beyond

Photo provided by the Illinois Office of Tourism

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Office of Tourism, has announced their collaboration with Rivian Automotive, Inc. to kick off the state’s celebration of the Route 66 100th Anniversary in 2026. Through an upcoming series of compelling videos, this collaboration will showcase the experiences of three notable travel influencers, from the U.K., Canada and the U.S., who are friends in real life, as they drive the Illinois stretch of Route 66 in a Rivian R1S electric vehicle (EV) custom-wrapped with Route 66 Centennial branding.

“We are thrilled to launch this exciting new initiative as part of our Route 66 Centennial initiatives ahead of the milestone anniversary in 2026,” said Daniel Thomas, deputy director of DCEO, Office of Tourism. “Illinois’ 300-mile stretch of Route 66 is an iconic attraction that both domestic and international travelers love to experience, and this initiative will bring global attention to Illinois’ Route 66, encouraging more visitors to explore our state. By highlighting Route 66, we continue to celebrate the significant economic impact it has had on tourism across our state, and the importance of preserving it for future generations.”

This video content series also will spotlight unique makers of Illinois – craftspeople, artists and entrepreneurs, many of them in the state’s Illinois Made program, who embody the spirit and innovation of the route. This is also an opportunity to highlight just how easy an EV road trip can be in Illinois with resources on to plan a trip and find more than 1,200 EV charging stations across the state.

Photo provided by the Illinois Office of Tourism

Three travel influencers – Tonia Hope from the U.K., Phil Calvert from Milwaukee and Brian McIntosh from Canada – undertake an exciting five-day road trip along Historic Route 66 in Illinois while traveling in a customized Rivian R1S electric vehicle.

“As a Midwesterner who loves exploring the diverse cultures and histories of our world, I’m so excited to get my kicks on Route 66 in Illinois during this road trip,” said travel influencer Phil Calvert. “This is an incredible opportunity to connect with the past, celebrate the present, and inspire future travelers to embrace the spirit of adventure and sustainability.”

The 300-mile road trip down Route 66 will unfold over three episodes, starting in downtown Chicago and heading south along Route 66 through central and southern Illinois, ending at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Granite City. Each episode, produced by the Matador Network, will feature the friends’ journey as they experience iconic Route 66 attractions and local businesses along the way.

Episode one will highlight some of the great attractions you can find along The First Hundred Miles of America’s Mother Road. From the hustle and bustle of Chicago’s awe-inspiring Magnificent Mile to the picturesque farmland of central Illinois, The First Hundred Miles of the original two-lane blacktop is lined with throwback diners, fascinating museums and some of the most popular photo ops you’ll find along the entire route.

Photo provided by the Illinois Office of Tourism

The First Hundred Miles is a comprehensive tourism brand, linking the communities between Chicago and Pontiac. At, you’ll find feature articles dedicated to noteworthy attractions, lists of fan-favorite restaurants, inspiring photo galleries and comprehensive business listings. You’ll also find convenient maps and pre-built, road-trip itineraries, directing you to popular boutique shops, sprawling nature preserves and delicious dining destinations.

This series invites viewers to discover the heart and soul of Illinois’ Route 66, while inspiring a kind of travel that welcomes everyone along the way. The content series also will demonstrate the state’s progress in offering sustainable travel options along Route 66 by promoting the highway’s convenient electric vehicle charging facilities. Illinois ranks as the nation’s second-largest EV market, and it’s home to Rivian’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Normal. This past week, automotive giant Volkswagen announced it will invest up to $5 billion in Rivian, part of a growing commitment to electric vehicles.

“We are proud to have built more than 100,000 electric vehicles at our plant in Normal, Illinois, including the Rivian R1S that the travel influencers are driving down historic Route 66,” said Tim Fallon, Rivian vice president, manufacturing operations. “We look forward to being part of a campaign that celebrates excellence in Illinois.”

This content series is the next chapter of the Illinois Office of Tourism’s campaign “Real People. Real Stories. Real Outdoors.” The new Route 66 content series will be available on, as well as Enjoy Illinois YouTube and social channels.