Being the shortest section doesn't mean that Route 66 in Kansas is short on sights or attractions. At only 13 miles and passing through three small towns - Galena, Riverton, and Baxter Springs - the Kansas portion embraces it's Route 66 heritage and features some great historical attractions as well as one buck-toothed tow truck!
Here are my 7 things to see on Route 66 in Kansas... Enjoy!
At the north end of Main Street in Galena, Kansas, stands the old Kan-O-Tex service station, now known as “Cars on the Route”. This restored Kan-O-Tex service station is home to “Tow Tater” – inspiration for the character Tow Mater from Pixar’s classic movie "Cars".
Cars on the Route openly celebrates the connection between Route 66 and the Pixar movie “Cars”. They sell sandwiches, snacks, antiques, Route 66 and “Cars” memorabilia, including several made by local craftspeople and artists. I definitely recommend this stop as you drive through the short stretch of Kansas 66.
The Angels on the Route building has been a part of history for quite some time. Originally opened in 1865 as Cooper's Dry Goods Store, the building has been a drug store, treasure shop and donut shop before it's new incarnation as a top rated restaurant in Baxter Springs. Visitors praise the staff, food and live entertainment (Angels offers live music on Friday and Saturday). Baxter Springs is a great place to stop in Kansas and Angels on the Route is highly recommended for a spot of lunch.
The Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store has been operating along Historic Route 66 since 1925, the year before Route 66 was designated. It's known around the world as one of the most authentic, still working 75-year-old stores of its kind on all of Route 66. Aside from typical groceries and produce it also has an old-time deli serving sandwiches and a selection of gifts including Route 66 memorabilia and local handicrafts.
The store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and serves as the headquarters of the Route 66 Association of Kansas.
The Brush Creek Bridge in Baxter Springs is the sole surviving bridge of it's type on the entire length of Route 66. The bridge was built in 1923 and has been repainted in recent times in beautiful white. In 1983 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places ensuring it will be preserved and enjoyed by many future motorists and pedestrians. The bridge is quite narrow and therefore a replacement bridge has been built nearby. However a short, one-way road carries traffic to the old bridge which may still be crossed.
As you exit Galena heading westward keep your eyes to the right and you'll spot an old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad depot. Unassuming from the outside, this building is home to the Galena Mining & Historical Museum. Packed with mineral samples, mining equipment and a collection of oil paintings, the museum also has on display a great model of the Grand Central Mine. There is also a display of military vehicles behind the main building.
Following the Great Depression many of the surviving oil companies rebranded their properties to make them more identifiable to customers. One such strategy was to try and blend their properties in with the local community and give them a more homely look and feel. Baxter Springs is home to one such cottage-design gas station. The station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and now serves as the Kansas Route 66 Visitors Center.
The Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum contains twenty thousand square feet of exhibits celebrating the history of the city. Exhibits include Native American, The Civil War, 1870’s Boardwalk, World War I, Boardwalk of the 1930’s, World War II, The Black Experience, Historic Route 66 and many more. A typical visit would last an hour but enthusiasts could easily spend longer exploring the many areas of the museum - and it's all free of charge!