The pretty backdrop of fall colors may entice you travel down unexplored roads. Ramble beyond the city and watch your kids flip out about Illinois’ kitschiest treasures, including the world’s largest catsup bottle and a remake of Pisa’s leaning tower. Flip through our photo album and discover the roadside oddities that have “family photo op” written all over them.
Gemini Giant – Wilmington, Illinois
In the 1960s, fiberglass “muffler men” -- known for their steely gazes, squared shoes and broad shoulders -- were common advertising tools used to promote mufflers, tires and other various roadside businesses. The 30-foot-tall Gemini Giant has become a significant Route 66 icon noted in numerous guides and photo books. He once loomed over the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant, now closed. You'll still find him holding a silver rocket ship in his hands and wearing an astronaut’s helmet, which some say looks more like a welding mask. This big guy evokes a special time in American history when space travel, satellites and rocket ships were awe-inspiring.
After enjoying your photo op with Gemini Giant, mosey down to Nelly’s on Route 66, known for delicious diner food and a friendly atmosphere. Kids are welcome to draw on the marker boards and guests are encouraged to sign the ceiling to memorialize the visit.
Distance from Chicago: 60 miles southwest
810 E. Baltimore St., Wilmington, Illinois (815-476-6535)
What is your kid’s favorite roadside landmark? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Maria Barnes