10 Essential Route 66 Photo Opportunities

Updated March 3, 2017
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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!

Jack Rabbit Trading Post, Joseph City

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!

4. Midpoint

Route 66 Midpoint, Adrian

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

Illinois 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

Blue Whale, 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.

9. Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo

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

Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, Tulsa

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!

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11 comments on “10 Essential Route 66 Photo Opportunities”

  1. I'm enjoying your website and posts immensely. Any travel hints for a woman traveling Route 66 alone? I am picking up Route 66 out of Flagstaff after I complete a photo workshop in Monument Valley in Utah. I will head east to Amarillo TX then drop down to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to visit family. I have a copy of EZ 66 and Jerry McClanahan's maps so I am highlighting important photo ops along the way.

    I am recently retired so I have lots of free time ahead. Appreciate any thoughts on traveling alone.

    Becky Waters

    1. Hi Becky,
      Your photo workshop sounds amazing! I’ve not been to Monument Valley but would love to see it one day.
      You can’t go wrong with the EZ66 Guide – that’s always my first bit of advice for Route 66 travelers.
      Patti’s advice is spot on – lone traveling is something I may cover in a future blog post.
      Have a great time!

    2. Becky,

      Congratulations on your recent retirement!! I too retired at the end of March.

      The thing I personally love about traveling alone is that there is no negotiation about where to stay, where to eat, etc. I hope your trip east was fantastic!

      1. BTW Becky, Monument Valley is amazing as you know. If you have not also seen Moab and Arches NP put that on your bucket list too. AND, be SURE to get the Park Service senior pass (assuming that you retired at 62 or older). For a one-time $10 fee you get free admission (for you and occupants of your car) to all US Park Service facilities and discounts to other facilities like BLM campgrounds. (Since Monument Valley is Navajo this permit does not apply there.)

        With some US Park service attractions requiring a $20 to $30 fee the lifetime $10 fee is a real help to seniors traveling to those facilities. I bought mine within days of turning 62. :o)

  2. Lucky you, Becky! I used to travel alone a lot, and did so on segments of Route 66 when I was younger. It's a hoot being able to do exactly what you want to do whenever you want to do it. I hope you can take it slow and linger.

    Things you may want to consider for safe travels (I'm pretty sure you have already thought about these things but maybe others haven't): go to locations where there are other people, especially at night. Wear a wedding ring! Wear practical shoes. Use RFID-protecting wallet and bag. Travel light. Enjoy meeting fellow travelers--that is a great feature of the Mother Road since they come from all over--but avoid sharing too much about your solo travels. Don't make yourself a target for thieves--look and sound like you fit in. It's sad that we have to think about these things in such a welcoming place but these are different times.

    Just common sense, you know! My husband and I are going in early October. He's never been and I'm really excited to show him my favorite places and experiences.

    This website is great. I just found it myself. Lots of good information. The National Park Service also has a good website--check it out, too: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/index.html

    You will have the time of your life. Enjoy!


    1. Good advice Patti! A few years ago I was traveling solo from Aspen to Show Low, AZ around July 4th. I stopped in a campground in Chinle, AZ for much needed saftey rest. Since I was just going to sleep a few hours then get back on the road I opted to nap sitting in the driver's seat of my truck instead of using the camper on back. Being July it was warm so I rolled my window down a few inches for ventilation.

      Some time after falling asleep I was startled awake when a young native man put his hand on my neck. I'm sure he was just a bored kid looking for thrills, but he could have easily done me serious harm (cut throat?) had he chosen to do so.

      With all that said, Canyon DeChelley is fantastic and worth seeing, but unfortunately the reservation has some serious social problems so use caution in Chinle / Canyon DeChelley. Consider taking change for panhandlers or not stopping in town.

  3. Becky. I travel Route 66 alone a lot. I usually don't go out too late at night. Stay in Authentic motels where the owners know I am there. Fortunately have always had a great time. Gotten better pictures cause I can go at my own pace and someone is not waiting for me to get "the perfect shot". I carry my camera everywhere and people start talking to me. I love traveling the route by myself.

  4. Ciao! I am an Italian tour leader for students from Europe. But this summer I decided I am going with my gf to Coast to Coast Route66 of the Eclipse. Yes because on August 21st there will be a total solar eclipse visible only from the middle part of USA, right along Route 66. Probably we will be in St Louis area to watch it.

  5. Steve, Great website!

    I lives an hour south of Holbrook for 6 years. Fantastic place to live - so much to see and do.

    I added La Posada to the forum last night. It is an absolute must see and do. Great food, many photo ops, a fantastic place to be. Only a short walk from Standin' on a Corner park.

    Please consider adding it to your lists of places to eat and places to stay.


    1. Sorry, first post should have read "I lived..." not "...lives...".

      Grand Falls in Leupp, AZ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Falls,_Arizona) is worth seeing. Actually taller than Niagra Falls!

      Also, Planes of Fame aviation museum in Valle, AZ (https://planesoffame.org/index.php?page=valle-az-location) has great photo ops for aviation enthusiasts.

      Grand Falls is near Leupp, AZ - about an hour drive north of I-40/Rt66 near Winslow. Some of the trip is on dirt roads.

      Planes of Fame is in Valle, AZ - about a half hour drive north of Williams, AZ and on the way to the Grand Canyon.

  6. hello
    i'm impressed with your page. i'm planning route66 road trip now. but i 've never lived in America.
    so i have some questions. Are there start sign only in Chicago and finish sign only in Santa monica? I plan to start in the west. do most people start in Chicago?
    And Can you recommend which month is good to go?
    i hope you understand my strange writing because i live in non-English language.
    Thanks for reading.



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