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America's Byways ~ IllinoisAuthor: Pj Little (More Trip Reviews by Pj Little )
Date of Trip: May 2011
From Lake Michigan, to the confluence of the Missouri and Ohio Rivers at Cairo, to the Mississippi River there is plenty to do and see in the Land of Lincoln. Historical districts, architecture, museums, lookout tower, Zoo and wild animal park, and large city parks are some of the things found among the rolling hills and towering cliffs in central Illinois. What you will not find is a spider web of routes, flat prairie, five million cars, or outrageous prices or because most of it is free, or very low cost. It is as easy to find the public fountain where kids can play free all summer as it is to find a favorite eatery for hungry kids at Chuck E. Cheese, and don't forget the must see Wheels O' Time museum in Peoria. Kids and adults love it!
Route 29, is an Illinois state numbered route that meanders through the heart of central Illinois on a two-lane road that follows the the Illinois River for some 100 miles through hills and forested areas. It connects 1-80 and Springfield, the State Capitol. Travelers heading south will pass through Lacon with the opportunity to detour to Eureka College at Eureka to visit the Ronald Reagan museum inside the college and the Peace Garden dedicated in his memory. Lacon is unique as it spans the river in two counties. .
The next town is Chillicothe with an opportunity to turn onto Old Rome Road that follows very near the shoreline of the river for a few short miles before it rejoins IL 29 to Peoria. It passes Detweiller Park and 600 acres to walk, hike, run, fly a kite, or just relax. About ten miles north is the Peoria Zoo inside Glen Oak Park, and a bit further is the lookout tower in Peoria Heights which faces the Illinois River Valley. Nearby Grandview Drive offers a stunning view of the river from atop massive cliffs. Grandview Drive ends at IL 29 South.
IL 29 passes through Pekin where Maury's Candies and the Mineral Springs Park are must visit stops. Maury's is an old-tyme candy shop where hot nuts, fresh carmel corn, and good reading have been staples for 50-years. The parks offer paddle boats and miniature golf for the kids as well as a beautiful historic park pavilion and rose garden.
A few miles south IL 29 crosses U.S. 136 where ten minutes west is the gateway to the only State Forest in Illinois, the largest inland wetlands refuge in America, and Dickson Mounds. It is an archaeological site and museum dedicated to Native Americans who lived in the area 1000 years ago. At this point it is much easier to leave IL 29 behind and follow IL 97 south to Springfield and pass through Oakwood and then Petersburg.
However, IL29 continues to Springfield and I-55. It is where travelers find most things Lincoln including the museum and library, Henson Zoo, Knights Action Water Park, State Library with genealogical records and more. IL29 officially ends at Pana, Illinois about 20 miles southeast.
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