Cruisin’ with Lincoln Visitor’s Center
Travelers looking to take to the road this season can get their kicks on Route 66 in a big way in the Bloomington-Normal area. The new Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center located on the ground level of the McLean County Museum of History in historic downtown Bloomington is your ticket to the Mother Road. This new site is a partnership of the McLean County Museum of History, the Illinois Office of Tourism and the Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau. The center serves as a gateway - the only one of its kind in the area, an information hub for all area attractions and sites including restaurants, historic Route 66 sites, parks and historic communities. There is a large kiosk that features area attractions with a focus on things to see and do in the area. The partnership anticipates national and international travel to increase along the Route with the addition of this new site to the community.
At the plaza entrance you will be greeted by the iconic work of Rick Harney’s sculpture, the Lincoln Bench. The Abraham Lincoln connection with Route 66 is underscored by Lincoln’s push for a railroad from Alton to Springfield in 1840, defining the first leg of what would eventually become Route 66. The Abraham Lincoln theme also signifies the 16th president’s ties to the Bloomington-Normal area. Before being elected president, Lincoln practiced law in McLean County as part of his circuit. The Route 66 theme represents the stretch of the Mother Road that runs through McLean County and highlights points of interest along Route 66 in McLean County.
The stories and sites are highlighted through a series of ten 48 inch billboard styled exhibit panels. Executive director, Greg Koos served as curator for the exhibit, which were designed by Frank Madsen of Teller-Madsen with graphics by Andy Yamashiro.
Exhibit themes cover stories about Dining, Lodging and Travel, which were experienced by both Lincoln and Route 66 travelers. There are two 42-inch screen mini-theaters, one featuring Lincoln impersonator, George Buss who introduces the visitor to area Lincoln sites. On the second screen, hear what life was like on Route 66 in its heyday with retired state trooper Chester D. Henry, a Route 66 Hall of Famer who patrolled the Route between 1958 and 1984.
The gift shop features Abraham Lincoln and Route 66 publications, souvenirs, route maps and items unique to the area including artwork and Museum publications. The shop will also offer Steak and Shake non-perishables, Beer Nuts snacks and other locally produced products. There will are also seasonal events of interest to both the Route 66 traveler and Lincoln enthusiasts planned for the visitor Center.
The Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center is free to visit. Located at 200 North Main Street, the Visitor Center’s hours will be the same as the Museum of History. May through October: Mon, Wed, Thur., Fri., 9am - 5pm; Tue, 9am - 9pm; Sat., 8:30am - 5pm. November through April: 9am - 5pm. Use Washington Street entrance. Visit their website or call 1.309.827.0428.
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