Route 66 is the selfie-takers dream; jam-packed with weird and wonderful sights, gorgeous scenery, and iconic landmarks - if you're a keen photographer or simply someone who loves to capture every moment of your travels, you're in for a treat.
In fact, there are certain sights along this road that are so iconic, so synonymous with the Route 66 experience, that it's almost impossible to pass them by without bringing out your camera. These are the sights that will make your Route 66 photo collection truly complete. This list is about those sights - the ones you simply can't resist posing in front of!
To determine the top ten Route 66 photo opportunities, I delved into the archives of many a Route 66 road tripper to see which sights appeared most frequently in their photo collections. And, of course, I took into account their cultural relevance to the Route 66 experience.
So, without further ado, presented here, in my humble opinion, are the ten most essential Route 66 photo opportunities. Grab your camera, hop in your car, and hit the road - trust me, your photo album will thank you!
Well, lookie here, folks! Your adventure commences at this very spot! Right here on East Adams Street in the mighty metropolis of Chicago stands a sign that must surely be one of the most snapped street signs in all of the United States. You can't miss it - it's a popular spot for groups and solo travelers alike to strike a pose before embarking on their epic journeys. So strike a pose, grab your gear, and get ready to explore!
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.”
For all you folks just getting your wheels on the road, you might have had your initial brush with Route 66 courtesy of that delightful Pixar flick "Cars." And that's precisely why "Tow Tater" had to earn a spot on this list. While you can certainly snag "Cars" trinkets up and down the route, it's only right here that you'll discover the bona fide muse for that lovable character "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.
As you make your way down the dusty roads of Joseph City, Arizona, you'll notice a curious thing. Mile after mile, the roadside markings become increasingly bold and frequent, all leading inexorably to one unmistakable destination: the Jack Rabbit Trading Post. It's as if the very earth is conspiring to guide you to this iconic landmark of the American Southwest.
And what a sight it is! A relic from the golden age of Route 66, the trading post exudes a sense of timeless charm that belies its decades of service. Visitors can peruse an impressive array of souvenirs and trinkets, or simply bask in the warm glow of nostalgia that permeates the air.
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! Right smack dab in the middle of it all, you'll find a sign that's practically begging to be photographed. It proudly proclaims its position as the geo-mathematical midpoint of the entire stretch, a perfect balance point between the far-flung metropolises of Los Angeles and Chicago.
So take a moment to snap a picture, soak in the scenery, and appreciate the fact that you're standing right in the middle of something truly remarkable.
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.
Ah, the unofficial conclusion of historic Route 66 - a spot that beckons road-weary travelers to pause and proclaim "I've made it!" Sure, it may not be the official end of the route, but it's a prime spot for that perfect photo op. Just like the sign at the beginning of the journey, this location is often teeming with contented adventurers eager to capture the moment.
Head to Santa Monica Pier for this great photo op.
Standin' on the Corner Park - a true gem of Winslow, Arizona - first opened to visitors in 1999 and what a magnificent place it is!
But why, you may ask, is this park such a beloved spot? It's all because of a little song called "Take It Easy" written by none other than the great Jackson Browne and the late, great Glenn Frey, and famously recorded by the Eagles.
Yes, this park was created to commemorate that very same song. As the song goes, "Well, I'm a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see". And now you too can stand on that very same corner and strike your best rock and roll pose!
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.
You can learn more about the Muffler Men of Route 66 here.
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.
This jolly fella never fails to flash a grin and welcome visitors to his charming abode! This aquatic wonder has undergone a makeover in recent years and been doused with a fresh coat of paint, making him even more inviting to all who chance upon his merry presence.
Back in the day, the Blue Whale was actually a playful addition to an outdoor swimming pool, providing endless entertainment for young and old alike. Though the pool may have since gone the way of the dodo, there's no need to despair, as a delightful picnic area has taken its place, ready and waiting to provide a lovely respite for anyone seeking a bit of rest and relaxation.
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 to the ranch are allowed to spray their own messages on the cars! Although you can spot Cadillac Ranch from the road, why settle for just a glance? Take a short stroll through the field where these beauties are planted and get up close and personal with the Texan terrain.
The Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza is a relatively new addition to the Route 66 scene but has made a name for itself not just for its shiny, new appearance, but for the historical and cultural significance that it brings to the table.
Cyrus Avery is often dubbed as the "Father of Route 66". The man had a vision, and he saw it through, creating a network of highways that connected people and places like never before. And now, right there on Southwest Boulevard at Riverside Drive in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you can pay homage to the man himself at this wonderful plaza.
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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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.
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!
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!
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.