Back in it’s heyday, if a business wanted to stand out from the crowd on Route 66 it would need to do something pretty special. If that was a tough task during the day, can you imagine how much more challenging it would have been by night? This is where the neon sign comes in handy!
The neon sign is a nostalgic icon of Route 66. Can you imagine roads, busy with travelers, lined with glowing neon inviting you in? The following businesses have each earned their place on this list for hosting great neon signs on Route 66…
1. Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is a restaurant in Willowbrook, Illinois.
A popular stop on Route 66 and with good reason – many glowing online reviews are testament to the quality of the food served here, at this well-frequented Route 66 stop. The building and its classic freestanding neon sign were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
2. Munger Moss Motel
The Munger Moss in Lebanon, Missouri, has been a real icon of old route 66 since the 1940’s and well worth a stop. The Munger Moss’s iconic neon sign was restored in 2010 and is a shining example of the retro neon signs on Route 66.
There are special themed rooms at the Munger Moss and if you’re lucky there’ll be one free on your visit. I was fortunate enough to stay in the Route 66 Room which was adorned with images spanning the whole journey. Read more here.
3. Blue Swallow Motel
The Blue Swallow is one of the most well-known and easily recognizable motels along Route 66, largely due to its wonderful neon sign. Built in 1939, the Blue Swallow perfectly encapsulates the classic route 66 feel.
Situated in Tucumcari, New Mexico, the Motel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Read more here.
4. Wigwam Motel
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, is one of only three surviving “Wigwam Villages” in the US. In the 2006 Pixar film Cars, one of the characters runs a neon-lit motel called the Cozy Cone Motel that is clearly inspired by the Wigwam Motel – except that in the movie each room is a traffic cone!
As if the sight of 15 giant concrete wigwams wasn’t enough the whole things is even more eye catching after dark when the lights are switched on.
5. Wagon Wheel Motel
One of the oldest motels on Route 66, the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri, was built in 1934 and, like many properties in this list, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The landmark neon sign has been standing for over 60 years and is only clearly visible to traffic arriving from the east.
6. Tepee Curios
Tepee Curios in Tucumcari, New Mexico, is just a moments walk from the Blue Swallow Motel. Both of which are shining examples of eye-catching neon signs on Route 66.
Formerly a gas station, the building is now home to a fantastic curio shop selling a great selection of Route 66 souvenirs. The unusual design of the building sees a large concrete wigwam fused to tit’s front wall!
7. Rest Haven Court
The neon sign at the Rest Haven Court in Springfield, Missouri, is a favorite for Route 66 photographers, and for good reason. The sign displays a range of colored neon and is very well maintained.
It was this sign that inspired the owner of the Munger Moss at the time to adapt the design for his own motel – the two are notably similar.
8. Dog House Drive In
The Dog House Drive In has been serving burgers, hot dogs and tater tots to Route 66 travelers for over 60 years. The neon sign is one of a kind with a dog happily chomping on a string of sausages – how do we know he’s happy? His tail wags in delight!
In recent times the Dog House has gained wider exposure due to being a filming location for AMC TV productions Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
9. Hill Top Motel
The Hill Top is a traditional “mom and pop” motel in Kingman, Arizona that opened in 1954. Rooms are basic but priced accordingly, while the full neon sign proclaims that the Hill Top Motel has the “Best View in Kingman”.
10. Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger
Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger in Miami, Oklahoma, certainly knows how to grab your attention. The building itself is modeled on a giant cuckoo clock, with a giant yellow cuckoo protruding from the front! And then of course you have the fantastic neon sign that draws in business after dark.
Located just off Route 66, this restaurant remains the only surviving location of an original fast food drive-in chain from the 1960s. Believe it or not, there used to be close to 200 Ku-Ku’s in the US. Read more here.