Lorena Petani Outlines the Best Small Towns to Visit in the Midwest

As an expert Site Finder for filming, Lorena Petani, knows that small towns in the Midwest not only offer great places to film, but also great places to visit for their charm and history.

For example, she says if you’re a fan of old gas stations, then Dwight, Illinois, is a place you should consider visiting. The village is home to Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, a 1933 site named after a former manager. The station was turned into an auto garage and eventually became property of the Village of Dwight, which put resources into restoring it.

Photo Credit: Lorena Petani

Original Gas Stations a Highlight of the Area

Photo Credit: Lorena Petani

Meanwhile, in Odell, Illinois, is the Standard Oil Gas Station, built in 1932 that followed the original gas station style of looking like a home. It added service bays and then closed for good in the 1970s, but it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. A team of public and private stakeholders managed to restore it to its original state, explains Lorena Petani.

No trip in Illinois would be complete without a visit to Springfield, the state capital. While it’s not exactly a small town, it offers up a lot of small-town charm with attractions including the Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop built in 1921, which may be the first drive-through window in the country. There are also several tributes to Abraham Lincoln, who spent nearly a quarter century living in Springfield.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Photo Credit: Lorena Petani

You can get to these locations along historic Route 66, which itself is an attraction. There’s even a section of the highway that still has a 1.4-mile brick portion intact outside Auburn, Illinois, notes Lorena Petani. In and around the towns mentioned, you’ll also find a number of inviting back roads to explore the heart of the area.

While a popular tourist draw, these towns have also served as locations in well-known shows and movies. For example, Dwight, Illinois, has been used as a setting for a segment of Hobo With a Trash Can (2015), as well as for part of the documentary War/Peace (2017) starring Noam Chomsky. For its part, Springfield, IL, has been the backdrop for a number of films including The Awakening Land (1978) and Paranoia (2011).

Meanwhile, there are a number of famous movies that are filmed along Route 66, including Easy Rider (1969) and Thelma & Louise (1991).

The Midwest: An Ideal Travel Destination, Says Lorena Petani

The Midwest is an ideal place to visit because it offers up a slice of Americana, while also being family-friendly, says Lorena Petani. If you’re a fan of movies, charming towns and history, then Illinois has much to offer.

Illinois is a top draw in the Midwest, but there are many other Midwest destinations with a small-town feel you should consider visiting in the region including Madison, Wisconsin and Nashville, Indiana.

Photo Credit: Lorena Petani

Lorena Petani is an expert site finder who works in the filming industry.