Kick off your adventure on the Mother Road with a photo at the Historic Begin Route 66 sign in Chicago, Illinois! Whether you’re driving the entire route or taking a shorter adventure, this is an essential photo op for any roadtripper.
Technically the official starting point of Route 66 has moved several times since the road was commissioned. But today travelers can mark the start of their journey near the junction of E. Adams Street and Michigan Avenue.
The starting point of Route 66 has moved several times. The 1926 alignment was at Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue near the Art Institute. This point was decided on because federal highways mandate that highways cannot reach a dead end and must instead connect to a new route. In this case, that was U.S. 41. In 1933, the start of Route 66 moved several blocks east to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive, closer to the World’s Fair. Then, in 1955, Jackson became a one-way street heading eastbound. So Adams Street, one block north, became the new westbound starting point of Route 66.
Tips for Visiting the Begin Route 66 Sign
You’ll find the Begin Route 66 sign on E. Adams Street just west of where it intersects with Michigan Avenue, directly in front of the Art Institute of Chicago. This section of Adams Street is one-way heading westward, which is convenient for Route 66 travelers. However, it can make parking for a quick photo op a little tricky.
If you’re only planning to stop for a quick photo op, the late David Clark, who was known as the Windy City Road Warrior, shared a great tip when he was on the Route 66 Podcast. The Begin Route 66 sign is located next to the Consulate General of the Philippines, which has a few reserved spots in the no parking lane. If you happen to be visiting outside of the consulate’s hours of operation, this is a great place to stop for a few minutes. If you want even more historic on where Route 66 begins, the podcast episode is a great listen!
When you turn westbound onto Adams, the sign will be on your left on the south side of the street.
Note: If you’re traveling Route 66 from west to east, there is also an “End Route 66” sign one block south.
E. Adams Street and Michigan Avenue (across from the Art Institute of Chicago)
Best Places to Stay Near the Begin Route 66 Sign in Chicago, Illinois
Closest to the Start of Route 66: Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel is located just around the corner from the iconic start of the Mother Road. If you plan to explore Chicago before you hit the road, this is a popular downtown option.
Best Beautiful Boutique Option: Chicago Athletic Association – The Unbound Collection by Hyatt is a wonderfully restored historic hotel overlooking Millennium Park. If you want to start your travels with luxurious, old school charm, this is the place for you.
Best Budget Option: Travelodge by Wyndham Downtown Chicago is a convenient budget option for travelers who want to be close to the city’s popular attractions without breaking the bank.
Nearby Chicago Tours & Experiences
Let's Be Social
Want even more offbeat adventures, roadside attractions and world's largest things? Follow Olio in Iowa on your favorite social media platforms, and tag #OlioOnTheRoad when you have quirky adventures of your own.
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! Have you driven Route 66? Did you start your adventure at the Begin Route 66 sign in Chicago?