Route 66 is the selfie-takers dream; jam-packed with weird and wonderful sights, gorgeous scenery, and iconic landmarks. There are some sights in particular that are just so iconic and representative of the Route 66 experience that it’s almost impossible to pass them by without bringing out the camera. This list is about those sights – the sights that you ask your spouse/friend/child to stand alongside for a quick pic!
To qualify for this list I took into account just how often these images appear in people’s Route 66 photograph collections, and their cultural relevance to the Route 66 experience.
Presented here, in my humble opinion, are ten of the most essential Route 66 photo opportunities…
1. Route 66 Begins
Your journey starts here! Situated on East Adams Street in Chicago, this sign must be one of the most photographed street signs in the US. You’ll often see groups or individuals posed alongside this sign just before setting out on their adventure.
If you start your journey at the official eastern terminus, Lake Shore Drive and Jackson Blvd, then you may just do some drive-by photography as you scoot past. If you’re able to stop and get out of your vehicle you could do far worse than to stroll over to Lou Mitchell’s – a restaurant that’s been serving Route 66 travelers for many years, earning it’s nickname “the first stop on the Mother Road.”
2. Tow Tater
For many newcomers to the road they may have been first introduced to Route 66 by the Pixar movie “Cars”, and for that reason “Tow Tater” had to make this list. “Cars” merchandise is to be found in many spots along the route, but only here will you find the real-life inspiration for the character of “Tow Mater”.
Tow Tater is based at Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas, along with his friends! Cars on the Route sell sandwiches, snacks, antiques, and Route 66 and “Cars” memorabilia, including several made by local craftspeople and artists.
3. Here It Is!
This iconic sign was the culmination of miles of roadside markings informing you that you’re headed towards the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Joseph City, Arizona. The trading post is from the glory days of Route 66 and is still popular today.
This isn’t the only photo opportunity that you’ll find here – there is also the giant-sized fibre-glass jack rabbit that allows your subject/victim to jump on top for a quick snap!
You’re halfway there! Situated at the geo-mathematical midpoint of Route 66, a well-photographed sign proudly states it’s position as being exactly 1,139 miles from both Los Angeles and Chicago.
If you are traveling East to West the Midpoint sign will be on your right, directly opposite the Midpoint Cafe – a wonderful place to stop for a bite to eat and to refresh yourself for the second half of your journey.
5. End of the Trail
Not the official end of historical Route 66 but a great photo op to say “I made it”! As with the sign at the start of the route, this is frequently to be seen surrounded by happy travelers trying to get that perfect pic.
Head to Santa Monica Pier for this great photo op.
6. Standin’ on the Corner Park
Standin’ on the Corner Park opened in 1999 and commemorates the song “Take It Easy”, written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, and, most famously, recorded by the Eagles.
The song includes the verse “Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see”. Now, you too can stand on the corner give your best rock and roll pose!
7. Route 66 Muffler Men
From left to right you’ve got Tall Paul, the Gemini Giant and the Lauterbach Tire Man…
These characters were 3 of many “giants” that were once used by businesses for promotional purposes. They are now icons of Route 66 in they’re own right and these 3 are all found in Illinois. Tall Paul is located alongside Route 66 in Atlanta and cannot be missed as you drive past. The Gemini Giant stands alongside the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington and also can’t be missed. The Lauterbach Tire Man is found outside Lauterbach Tires on Wabash Avenue in Springfield.
8. Blue Whale of Catoosa
This smiling chap is ready to welcome visitors all year round. He’s been given a lick of paint to spruce him up and is a fun stop in Catoosa Oklahoma.
The Blue Whale was originally a play object attached to an outdoor swimming pool. Although the pool is no longer in use there is a picnic area for visitors. If you are a fan of this guy and you’d like your very own Blue Whale T-Shirt you pick one up here.
9. Cadillac Ranch
10 Cadillac’s buried nose-down in the dirt – in most places this would be a bizarre sight but on Route 66 it just seems to fit in perfectly!
An art installation in Amarillo, Texas, since 1974, Cadillac Ranch has become a popular spot for roadside photography due to it’s unique nature – visitors are allowed to spray the cars with their own messages. Although Cadillac Ranch is visible from the road it requires just a short walk through the field on which it’s built for a closer look.
10. Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza
The Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza is a new addition to the route but has made this list for it’s historical and cultural significance. Cyrus Avery is often dubbed as the “Father of Route 66” and is located on Southwest Boulevard at Riverside Drive in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The plaza is a great place to pull over and stretch your legs whilst also making for many excellent photo opportunities. Hop on board Will Rogers’ car or pose with the landrun horse and wagon!