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Wilmington Community Profile & Itinerary
Description
"The Island City" of Wilmington has witnessed a lot of history and has intricate ties to The Illinois & Michigan Canal, Route 66, and even the Underground Railroad. The city’s historic downtown is an antiquarian’s dream with 20 different antiques shops to browse. The annual Catfish Days Festival is a great place to get a taste of local flavor and a bite of catfish. Another popular stop along Route 66 is The Gemini Giant, a fiberglass man sporting a space helmet and rocket ship which serves as a tribute to the country’s obsession with space travel during the 1960’s. Outside the city, one can enjoy boating and fishing on the Kankakee River, as well as, The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.


Wilmington is located on the banks of the Kankakee River, along the original 1926 alignment of Illinois Route 66. Wilmington has a unique geographic feature - a large island in the Kankakee River, which divides the river into a large channel and a small channel. This is why it is known as, "The Island City." The city's origins date back to 1834, but it wasn't until 1854 that it was incorporated officially as the city of Wilmington. The population is 5,134 as of the 2000 U.S. census. The portion of Route 66 traveling from Joliet to Wilmington was placed on to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. 


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ATTRACTIONS:


The Launching Pad/Gemini Giant
The Launching Pad Drive-In Restaurant is home to the famous Gemini Giant, one of the iconic fiberglass “Muffler Man” sporting a space helmet and holding a rocket ship. The location is a remnant of America’s fascination with space travel in the 1960’s with the Gemini Space Missions. The restaurant also houses a Route 66 Welcome Center, an Americana Museum for Hollywood and Rock & Roll and a gift shop! Stop in and taste some classic foods and drinks and get your picture made with the Gemini Giant! This location has been fully restored by new owners, Holly Barker and Tully Garrett and is now fully open. Don’t forget to try the pineapple Dole Whip or the new dessert the Bananas Foster sundae!  
(815) 476-6535
The Launching Pad/Gemini Giant Facebook Page


Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Encompassing 18,000 acres of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, this is the largest tallgrass prairie restoration in North America. Historic Route 66 bisects the preserve. The immensity of this open grassland contrasts with the urban landscape of Chicagoland. In October 2015, a small herd of bison was introduced at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie as a 20-year experiment in prairie restoration. The herd is a conservation herd, and their grazing pattern is helping to create a more diverse ecosystem for prairie plants, birds and other wildlife as volunteers, staff and other partners work together to restore what was once native Illinois prairie. The long-term goal, which will take decades, is to hopefully one day be able to show people what the Illinois prairies might have looked like hundreds and thousands of years ago.
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
30239 IL-53
(815) 423-6370
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Official Website
 

Historic Water Street Shopping District
Conveniently located off Route 66, downtown Wilmington is home to an assortment of shops offering antiques, collectibles and other unique items, including the Old Theatre Antique Mall, Hayden’s Crossing, Paraphernalia Antiques and the Treasure Cove.
North Water Street
(815) 476-2175
Historic Water Street Shopping District City Website
Historic Water Street Shopping District Downtown Merchants Association Website


Wilmington Island Park District - North & South Island Parks
Wilmington has a unique geographic feature - a large island in the Kankakee River, which divides the river into a large channel and a small channel. This is why it is known as, "The Island City." The Wilmington Island Park District maintains North & South Island Parks, which are divided down the middle by Illinois Route 66.
Wilmington Island Park District
1165 S. Water St. 
(815) 476-2175
Wilmington Island Park Official Website
North & South Island Parks Website


Sinclair Dinosaur
The Sinclair Dinosaur stands on top of a Sinclair gas station built in 1963, which is now G & D Tire & Alignment. In 2001, the new owner bought the statue which was previously located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, making it a popular attraction for Route 66 visitors.
200 E. Baltimore St.
(815) 476-7744
Sinclair Dinosaur Website


Eagle Hotel
The Eagle Hotel was built as a stage stop and hotel by David Lizer in 1836. Since then it has also been a warehouse, tavern, bank, and storefront. The hotel may be one of the oldest commercial structures on Illinois Route 66.
200 E. Baltimore St.
(815) 476-7744
Eagle Hotel Website
 

The Mar Theatre
Built in 1937, the building has only been used as a movie theatre. The original auditorium comfortably seats 300 moviegoers with a new second auditorium accommodating 64 patrons. Outside, the original marquee is still used to inform moviegoers of current shows. The Mar is still a fi rst run theatre and is one of the oldest and the only privately owned operating movie theatres in the Will County Area.
121 South Main Street
(815) 476-4662
The Mar Theatre Official Website


Nelly’s Restaurant
Nelly’s has become a favorite restaurant on Route 66. The handmade 100% Angus burgers and large selection of specialty sandwiches to choose from makes this a frequent return stop. Hand cut fries and lightly battered onion rings are among the favorite selections. While you wait for all your food to be cooked fresh, write on the marker boards or sign the ceiling! Many visitors from around the world traveling Route 66 have made their mark here. Flags hang from Nelly’s beams from visitor countries, some as far away as Australia.
140 Bridge Street
(815) 476-9590
Nelly’s Restaurant Official Website

 
Wilmington Illinois Route 66 Experience Hub
You are standing on an island surrounded by the scenic Kankakee River, the source of Wilmington's nickname, "The Island City."  People have crossed the river here for hundreds of years.  It was a winter camp of the Potawatomi Tribe.  In 1834, Thomas Cox Harnessed the water for a saw mill and soon after platted the town.  Route 66 passed through her from 1926 to 1939. The most photographed citizen of Wilmington is not a person.  He is The Gemini Giant, a 1960's "muffler man" at the Launching Pad Drive-in.  These enormous advertising characters towered over roads across America, clutching mufflers, hot dogs, axes, and, in Wilmington, a rocket ship.
140 Bridge Street
(217) 525-9308
Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Interpretive Exhibits Official Website


MAJOR EVENTS:


Catfish Days
Catfish played a large part in initiating the event, Catfish Days, after Forked Creek spilled over its banks and flooded the cellars of a section of Wilmington called, “Catfish Town”. The annual festival dates back to 1976, and features a carnival, live entertainment, flea market/craft show, 5K race, food & drink, catfish dinners and much more!
North Island
147 North Park Street
(815) 476-2175
Catfish Days Official Website


Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Events
What is the history behind the introduction of the Midewin bison herd? Where did they come from? What was the main purpose in bringing the bison to Midewin and what changes have been noted to date? Learn all about this famous conservation bison heard! Midewin is the largest tallgrass prairie restoration in North America. Historic Route 66 bisects the preserve.
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
30239 IL-53
(815) 423-6370
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Events Official Website


Wilmington, IL Downtown Merchants Association Events
  • The Water St. Flea Market takes place the first Saturday of the Month – April through October from 9am to 3pm on N. Water St. in Wilmington.
  • Bewitched on Route 66, held on a special Saturday in mid-October, features Halloween themed fun for the whole family, including a flea market, live music, kids games, scarecrow contest and more.
  • An Evening on Water Street. Each year in August, October & December, a special night is chosen for some old fashioned late night shopping downtown! Music will be playing on the street and many merchants will stay open late, have sales and provide refreshments!
Wilmington, IL Downtown Merchants Association
202 N. Water Street
(815) 926-2741
Wilmington, IL Downtown Merchants Association Events Website


Red Carpet Corridor Festival
The Annual Red Carpet Corridor Festival is held the first full weekend in May and traverses 13 Communities from Joliet to Towanda along a 90-mile stretch of Old Route 66 that collectively celebrates the Mother Road. Each town puts together its own events for the weekend, making for a great shopping and sight-seeing experience. Gather the family and take a trip down memory lane. Towns include Joliet, Elwood, Wilmington, Braidwood, Godley, Braceville, Gardner, Dwight, Odell, Pontiac, Chenoa, Lexington and Towanda.
(815) 844-5847
Red Carpet Corridor Official Website


Route 66 Association of Illinois Motor Tour
The Motor Tour has been traversing Illinois Route 66, alternating each year from North to South and South to North. The caravan makes passport stops at major attractions along the way (including in Joliet), and also includes the annual Hall of Fame Banquet. Held the second weekend in June.
(708) 444-1312
Route 66 Association of Illinois Official Website


AMENITIES:


City of Wilmington

1165 S. Water St.
Wilmington, IL 60481
(815) 476-2175
City of Wilmington Official Website
City of Wilmington Tourism Website


Wilmington Island Park District
1165 S. Water St.
Wilmington, IL 60481
(815) 476-2175
Wilmington Island Park Official Website
 


Heritage Corridor CVB Visitors Center - Joliet
30 N. Bluff Street
Joliet, IL 60435
(815) 727-2323
Heritage Corridor CVB Official Website
Heritage Corridor Wilmington Tourism Website

Van Duyne Motel & Canoe Rental
107 Bridge St.
(815) 476-2801
Van Duyne Motel Facebook Page
 
Knight's Inn - Wilmington
24001 Lorenzo Rd
(815) 476-4271
Knight's Inn - Wilmington Official Website

City of Wilmington Dining & Shopping Website
Welcome to Wilmington Dining & Shopping Website

GOOGLE MAP:
Location
Alignment 1926||1930||1940
Northern Region

Wilmington, IL
60481

Contact
815-476-2175
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