This Small Town Along Route 66 Surrounds Its Main Square With Arcades

Since nuclear physicist William Higinbottom created "Tennis For Two" at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958, playing video games has evolved into one of the most popular hobbies in the world. From Sony Playstation to Xbox to the Nintendo Switch to PCs, gamers have many options to play and even more to watch these days. 

According to Statista, over 285 million frequent viewers are estimated to watch competitive gaming worldwide in 2024, which is considerably more than the average 17.9 million viewers who tuned into the NFL in 2023. But if you are aiming to spruce up your game night by getting out of the house and into a classic arcade with fan-favorite gaming cabinets like "Pac-Man," "Galaga," or "Mortal Kombat," then there is a little town in Illinois that just might be the perfect destination to add to every video game enthusiast's travel bucket list.

McLean, Illinois, is a small village on Route 66 at the intersection of Interstate 55 and Route 136. In addition to embracing their place on the famed highway with a mural in the town square, the center of town has also welcomed John Yates' vision to present and preserve the authentic video game arcade experience that was popular throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The former tech entrepreneur brought that vision to life in 2009 when Arcadia: America's Playable Arcade Museum opened for business. But today, his venture has spread to the other buildings surrounding the city center.

Game On

Yates' Arcadia started operations in the fall of 2009 in their flagship location at 107 South Hamilton Street in McLean Village Square. Unlike modern arcades like Round 1, Dave & Buster's, or Chuck E. Cheese, which include all the bells and whistles, there are no ticket machines, refillable cards, or special tokens at Arcadia. The majority of games, from the rotating collection of over 1,500 units, still operate with quarters, just as they did back in the day. According to their website, the goal of Arcadia is to "display the most memorable, entertaining pinballs and video games from the 80s and 90s" to pass on the experience to the next generation.

However, that focus began to grow in 2016 when Pinball Paradise opened across the street from Arcadia. This expansion is housed inside a repurposed bank building that was designed by the trailblazing Arthur L. Pillsbury, one of the first architects licensed in the Prairie State who is also credited with creating many other buildings in McLean and other towns throughout central Illinois. Today, the arcade is home to over 25 restored pinball machines from the 1960s to the 2000s and other arcade staples like "Ms. Pac-Man," "Centipede," a love tester, and a vintage Italian foosball table.

Press Pause

While traveling through Illinois' section of the famous Route 66, Samantha Brown highlighted the town of McLean, and Arcadia, on her acclaimed PBS travel series "Samantha Brown's Places To Love." She went into more detail on her Instagram post that promoted the episode. However, the travel expert forgot to mention that Yates' gaming establishments also offered lodging for visitors to his arcade.

Altogether, there are three incredible video game-themed Airbnbs in McLean Town Square associated with the arcade. First, there is the apartment known as Hotel Arcadia. This three-bedroom, one-bathroom condo can accommodate up to eight guests, as long as some of those guests are children since one of the bedrooms is kid-sized. Next is the Hotel Arcadia Suite, which is a 1700-square-foot, loft-style apartment with three bedrooms that are all comfortable for adults. Finally, Vectorman's Luxury Arcade Palace

Vectorman's is a 4000-square-foot palatial townhouse located above Arcadia and can sleep up to nine guests across the three bedrooms and two sofa beds. The space was originally meant to be the dream house for the founder of this unique utopia of gaming, so it is adorned with high-end appliances, ample seating, high ceilings, and a number of large windows to help take in the downtown area. Although considering that all three units include a selection of arcade cabinets from Arcadia's collection, the majority of which are set to free play, it may be difficult for gamers to focus on anything else in the spaces.