Route 66 Adventures: Springfield to Saint Louis, Missouri

It’s time to hit the road again, we are leaving the Land of Lincoln and heading to the Gateway of the West. The two cities are only about 100 miles apart, but we took our time stopping at some of the most well-known Route 66 attractions along the way. It was a day of a little bit of this and little bit of that.

Highpoints were an original section of the road, bunnies, a brothel, one of the most interesting bridges in America, and a sandwich that made Travel Channel’s “Best Sandwich in America” show.

On the road again, Goin’ places that I’ve never been

Seein’ things that I may never see again

And I can’t wait to get on the road again ~ Willie Nelson

A Little Piece of History in Auburn, Illinois

Only twenty minutes into our drive we stop in the small town of Auburn to walk, then drive, on an original section of the Scenic Byway. The historic brick road is a little over a mile of hand-lain brick completed in 1931.

Illinois Route 66
Original Brick Route 66 Road: Snell and Curran Roads, Auburn, IL

A Bunny Ranch on Route 66?

Did someone say bunnies? It is clear immediately that Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton is going to be a favorite stop for me. Just a hop away from Route 66, Henry’s front lawn touches the road making it a straightforward detour.

The owner and bunny-lover, Rich Henry, is a sweet man that welcomes us to his emporium. He walks outside to introduce himself as we are laughing at the newest rescued bunny, Sir Hubert, as he reminded us of an 80s rocker with his long hair blowing in the wind.

Illinois Route 66

We take a tour of the property and my husband points out all the cars scattered about are Volkswagen Rabbits from years past. He has seven sticking straight up in the air similar to Cadillac Ranch in Arizona that we will be seeing later on down the road.

Like many Route 66 attractions, photo ops are aplenty. Along the outer wall of the side of the building sits a cemetery of lost buddies and a climbable giant rabbit similar to the jackrabbit at Wall Drug in South Dakota.

We take a look at the memorabilia inside and chat with Rich for a short time. He shares stories of Route 66, his family and how his daughter’s random litter of bunnies turned into this kitschy roadside attraction. We say farewell and hop back on the road.

Gambling and a Brothel on Route 66

The story goes Luna Café, built in 1924, was once home to a gambling operation frequented by none other than Al Capone, the gangster of all gangsters. Illegal betting wasn’t the only unlawful behavior going on, a brothel of sorts was run on the second floor.

Luna Café’s signs is one of the oldest signs on Route 66. It is said that if the red cherry on the old neon sign was turned on, then the girls were in!

Illinois Route 66

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, the End of Illinois Route 66

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge once carried travelers over the Mighty Mississippi into the state of Missouri. It is now closed to vehicular traffic and is only used by pedestrians or cyclists. A long, deserted road dead ends at the parking lot for the bridge. It is an eerie ride, but worth it to see the unique bridge. Illinois Route 66 signs and markers welcome you to the spot.

Illinois Route 66

*Tip: If you decide to walk the bridge, lock your car and do not leave valuables inside. We did not have any issues but I read that other people have*

Illinois Route 66

It is made of steel and concrete and opened in 1929 as a toll bridge at a cost of $2.5 million. There are two peculiar things worth checking out on the bridge: the 30-degree turn midway down and the castle-like intake towers jutting out from the river.

Illinois Route 66

Missouri Route 66

Heading into Missouri via Route 66

Since the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge doesn’t allow cars anymore, we get back in our van and backtrack down the lonely Chain of Rocks Road to a working bridge to carry us over to the state of Missouri. The short drive to downtown St. Louis is through a sketchy part of town so I don’t suggest stopping anywhere apart from Bellefontaine Cemetery. It’s a beautiful cemetery and arboretum originally founded in 1849 shrouded in history. Adolph Busch, founder of the Anheuser Busch Brewing Company, and William Clark, the explorer, are laid to rest here.

Missouri Route 66
Busch Mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery

Crown Candy Kitchen, a St. Louis Landmark

A few blocks off Route 66, before hitting the center of St. Louis, you can find Crown Candy Kitchen. We have stopped here before and couldn’t resist the call of their heart-stopping BLT sandwich.

Missouri Route 66

The plain white walls are covered in vintage posters and signs, a visit is like stepping back into simpler soda fountain times. It’s been around for over 100 years and not much has changed. We order a chocolate shake and one BLT sandwich to share. We learned last time that they do not mess around with the portions here! The owner said they go through up to 200 pounds of bacon on a typical day.

Missouri Route 66

Adam Richman visited for his “Man vs. Food” series and took the malt challenge, attempting to drink five malts in 30 minutes. Yuck! He was sent home with a BLT for later and ended up coming back years later for the “Best Sandwich in America.”

If you like nostalgia, bacon or ice cream, Crown Candy Kitchen is a must-stop in St. Louis.

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis

We walked to the base of the Gateway Arch, but didn’t go up this time. We did it years ago so we chose to skip it, but would recommend it to anyone on a visit to the city. We come to St. Louis frequently and have a few favorite things we recommend.

Read HERE for the Top 10 Things to Do in St. Louis

Missouri Route 66

The city is in the middle of a huge overhaul project of the riverfront so we went to check out what they’ve done so far. The walking path and park area that is already done looks nice. I can’t wait to see the completed project.

Route 66 St. Louis

Breweries Galore

St. Louis has over ten breweries, each of them bringing something different to the table. Our first stop is at 4 Hands Brewery in the LaSalle Park neighborhood only a few blocks off Historic Route 66. They offer six year-round beers and a long list of rotating ones. City Wide, an American Pale Ale, is a favorite that put them on the beer map. A percentage of proceeds are donated to local non-profit organizations.

I tried and enjoyed Incarnation, a Mosaic hopped IPA, it is tropical and hoppy with a bit of a bite. A good bite that is. The hubby tried the Chocolate Milk Stout. It’s velvety and smooth with hints of dark chocolate. Perfect for a sipping beer in the fall or winter.

*Tip: Try beer only, skip the food*

Next up is Civil Life Brewing Company, a cozy brewery with wood-paneled walls and a friendly neighborhood vibe. It’s a half a block away from the original alignment of Route 66, southwest of downtown.

Missouri Route 66

It’s my favorite brewery in the city for not only the beer but the atmosphere as well. The bartenders and patrons alike are always willing to strike up a conversation. For instance, on this visit we ended up talking to a guy sitting on the stool next to us. After about 30 minutes of getting to know him, we were in the employee-only section of the brewery finding out all the ins and outs of beer canning. Turns out he is the canner for Civil Life and was excited to show us the process.

Missouri Route 66

Going to a brewery and making the statement, “I can’t find a beer I don’t like” is a pretty big deal. Usually there are one or two I would consider purchasing or find myself looking for on the shelf of my local liquor store, but that is what I say every time I visit Civil Life. Cream Ale? Good. British Bitter English Pale Ale? Good. American Brown Ale? Good. And I am on an IPA kick right now which they don’t have a lot of. Missouri Route 66

There are so many more cool things to do in St. Louis, but since we are so close we kept our visit short this time. We need to get out west!

*Tip: If you are visiting make sure to check out the City Museum, the craziest place I’ve ever seen*

Stay tuned. Next, we are heading down to Springfield, Missouri. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog by entering your email below to follow along on our Route 66 journey!

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12 Responses

  1. Some nice breweries to add to my bucket list.

  2. I would love the Bunny Ranch. It is so cute. We have traveled most of the Missouri section. Route 66 takes you to another era.

  3. I am a road trip and mostly covers road trips on my blog.
    Route 66 is high on my priority. And certainly i would do this.
    Thanks for writing on this part of route 66. Have bookmarked 🙂

  4. I’m so loving reading about your journey. I so want to see that brick road!! How cool is that?! And, the bunny ranch, looks like a hoot! Would love to do this route one day.

  5. The bunny tombstones are a wee bit pet cemetery creepy but he loves his hoppers. How cool you saw where Adolph Busch is buried along your brewery 66 tour. I’m not generally impressed by a Blt but that’s a lot of Bacon

  6. I did a small stretch of Route 66 in Illinois several years ago. I made a stop at the bunny ranch, but it wasn’t open so I just took a few pics and had to leave. When I first visited The Gateway Arch, it was way more impressive than I thought it would be!

  7. This road trip looks perfect! The food in Crown Candy Kitchen looks incredible and Bunny Ranch looks like the perfect quirky roadside attraction. Would love to do this when we visit the US!

  8. What a fun post! Crown Candy Kitchen and the Volkswagen Rabbits look right up my alley! I really learned a lot from this post and would love to follow in your footsteps. 😉

  9. I love trips with a nice combination of adventure and history and this route 66 looks that way to me! Liked the Luna Cafe story and would not mind a selfie in front of the bridge ending everything with a cold beer in one of St Louis 10 breweries

  10. Route 66 is something I really want to do one day so this information is being saved for when I do. Would totally love to go see the giant bunny haha

  11. Breweries galore? SOLD! So many fun landmarks. I love that old sign at Luna Cafe. Thanks for sharing!

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