Missouri - "The Show Me State" - has plenty to offer! This article brings you a selection of the vast range of sights and attractions to be experienced whilst driving Route 66 in Missouri including beautiful parks, monuments, museums, drive-ins and even the hide-out of Jesse James himself!
As with my earlier post regarding Illinois, this is not intended to be viewed as a definitive list, merely bringing you a flavor of what Missouri can offer. You can find a more extensive list of things to see along the whole length of Route 66 by clicking here.
Listed in order from east to west, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in Missouri...
The Chain of Rocks bridge was, for some time, the path used by Route 66 travelers to cross the Mississippi river. These days the bridge only carries walking and biking trails over the river, although parking is available at the start of the now pedestrian route for roadies wishing to stretch their legs and enjoy the view. The most notable feature of the bridge is the 22-degree bend occurring at the middle.
Read more about Chain of Rocks Bridge.
Gary's Gay Parita is a recreation of a 1930 Sinclair gas station, lovingly constructed by the late Gary Turner but now cared for by his daughter Barbara and son-in-law George. The site includes a replica station, along with original pumps and other memorabilia from the heyday of Route 66. Barbara and George are wonderful hosts who will go out of their way to ensure that visitors are looked after.
Read more about Gary's Gay Parita.
An iconic image of St Louis, the Gateway Arch stands 192m tall and 192m wide at it’s base making it the US’s tallest monument. Visitors can reach the observation deck via an elevator system comprised of a series of small pod-like trams. On a clear day the view can stretch for 30 miles!
Read more about Gateway Arch.
The Meramec Caverns have been allowing road weary travellers to cool off in their 7.4km cavern system since 1935. Legend has it that Jesse James used these caverns as a hideout, using the underground river to make a hasty escape through the “back door”! Meramec Caverns is a popular vacation stop along Route 66 and well worth a look - guided tours are a fantastic experience all year round and an outdoor zip-line experience is available from March to October.
Read more about Meramec Caverns.
This great theatre is one of the last remaining drive-ins on Route 66. It usually opens the first weekend of April and runs through mid-September, depending on the attendance and availability of films. Each showing consists of 2 movies and a nostalgic intermission trailer. What better way to spend an evening on holiday than reclining a with a large popcorn…
Read more about Route 66 Drive-In.
In 2002, Cuba was designated the “Route 66 Mural City” by the Missouri legislature. The many murals – a result of the development of the Viva Cuba organisation – have created a lot of interest and beautified the Route 66 corridor through Cuba. The murals continue to attract many tourists, as well as local people. With the community embracing the idea of public art, Cuba has become an “art friendly” town.
Read more about Route 66 Mural City.
Built in 2008, and situated at the Fanning 66 Outpost, this enormous structure once held the Guinness World Record for being the world's largest rocking chair. That was until it was usurped by an even larger chair in Casey, Illinois. Even so, this 42 foot tall rocker is still able to declare itself to be the largest rocker on Route 66! It no longer rocks however as the fear that tourists might flip it over became too great and the rocker was ultimately welded to it's base. Nevertheless, this is a great photo op!
Read more about Fanning 66 Outpost.
This Route 66 Museum is located with the Laclede County library. The exhibits are fun to walk through including an old gas station, a shabby-looking motel room and a mock up of a diner. There is also a good collection of vintage maps and collectibles including a large collection of salt and pepper shakers from Route 66 restaurants! Admission is free but there is a donation box for you to express your gratitude.
Read more about Route 66 Museum.
Situated with easy access to the Meramec River, the Route 66 State Park is a welcome break for travellers who want to enjoy nature and see interesting historical displays showcasing Route 66. Bridgehead Inn, a 1935 roadhouse, serves as Route 66 State Park’s visitor center and houses Route 66 memorabilia. There are excellent opportunities to picnic, exercise, bird watch or study nature.
Read more about Route 66 State Park.
Uranus Missouri, often called simply “Uranus,” is a tourist attraction located in the rural area of Pulaski County, Missouri. It is a shopping mall featuring a sports bar, nightclub, tattoo shop, festival food truck lot, and an outdoor store with a gun range and pro-shop. It’s also home to a Fudge Factory and General Store. A welcome stop for sweet-toothed lovers of fudge and other candy – the Fudge Factory is a particularly popular destination.
Read more about Uranus Missouri.
If you're travelling Route 66 from east to west then Illinois will be the first state to offer up it's many delights. Illinois was the first state to boast having Route 66 paved from end to end, and boasts many wonderful museums, roadside attractions and historic gas stations.
This is just a small sample of some of the many things to see on Route 66 in Illinois, and is by no means a definitive list - think of it as a "flavor" of Illinois! You can find a more extensive list of things to see along the whole length of Route 66 by clicking here.
So, in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in Illinois...
360 Chicago (formerly The John Hancock Observatory) is a 100-floor skyscraper in the commercial district of Chicago. It's 94th floor observation deck displays exhibits about the city of Chicago while maps explain the view in each direction. A special meshed-in area allows visitors to feel the winds 1,030 feet above ground level. In addition to that you have TILT - an exhilarating downward view of Chicago - for those feeling brave!
Read more about 360 Chicago.
The house, purchased by Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln in 1844, was the only home that Lincoln ever owned. During the time he lived here, Lincoln was elected to the House of Representatives in 1846, and elected President in 1860. Lincoln’s home in downtown Springfield has been restored to it’s 1860 appearance and opened to the public. Access to the house is by ticket only – tickets are free but on a first-come first-served basis.
Read more about Lincoln's Home.
Country Classic Cars started as a weekend hobby for a Midwest farmer. When a piece of land along Interstate 55, just off the path of Historic Route 66, became available, Country Classic Cars acquired the land for not only a large display of classic cars and trucks, but also a garage/service area, inside showroom, and a historic gift shop.
Read more about Country Classic Cars.
The Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum features thousands of artifacts and memorabilia related to Route 66, including Route 66 Artist and Icon, Bob Waldmire's bus and van! There's also a great photo op with the largest Route 66 shield mural, painted on the museum's back wall. Learn the history of Route 66 in Illinois when Route 66 was the most important highway in the nation.
Read more about the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.
This Standard Oil gas station opened in 1932 and stopped serving gas in the mid 1960’s. Subsequently a body shop it finally closed it’s doors in 1975. It’s since been lovingly restored by the Illinois Route 66 Association and their Preservation Committee, and is now staffed by volunteers happy to welcome Route 66 travelers. It no longer serves gas but you can walk around this beautiful building and the friendly volunteers are happy to answer any questions.
Read more about Odell Station.
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is a Route 66 tourist center that is based in a replica old gas station with rusted pumps all around, surrounded by dozens of Volkswagen Rabbits in various states of dilapidation. When you enter the center you find about a dozen rabbits – of the live kind – living amid the Route 66 memorabilia!
Read more about Henry's Rabbit Ranch.
The Ambler's Texaco Gas Station has been identified as the longest operating gas station along Route 66, dispensing fuel for 66 continuous years until 1999! Ambler's was the subject of major restoration work from 2005–2007, and reopened as a Route 66 visitor's center in May 2007. The local community have really done a great job in restoring this to it's former glory and staffing the site with knowledgeable and welcoming volunteers.
Read more about Ambler's Texaco Gas Station.
Navy Pier is a 1000m-long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It’s attractions include sightseeing tours, dinner cruises, an IMAX theatre, restaurants, shops and fairground rides such as 150-foot-tall Ferris Wheel. The pier has fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer, and Friday and Saturday nights during the fall.
Read more about Navy Pier.
Springfield is a pilgrimage site for anyone wanting to celebrate the life of Abraham Lincoln. Aside from the location of his home and tomb Springfield is also the site of the State Capitol building with no small thanks to Abraham Lincoln. It’s a beautiful building found in the heart of Springfield; entry to the state capitol building is free to the public.
Read more about the Illinois State Capitol.
These characters were 3 of many “giants” that were once used by businesses for promotional purposes. They are now icons of Route 66 in their own right and all 3 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, while the Lauterbach Tire Man is found outside Lauterbach Tires on Wabash Avenue in Springfield.
Below you'll find some of the most frequently asked questions about Route 66. This is not an exhaustive list and we will continue to update this FAQ as new questions arise in our Forum or Facebook page.
Established in 1926, Route 66 was a highway founded on a network of pre-existing roads connecting Chicago, Illinois with Los Angeles, California, crossing eight states and three time zones.
During the 1930’s Route 66 was a major path for migrants seeking a better life, heading west to escape the hardships of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
Route 66 underwent many changes to the original 1926 alignment before being officially removed from the US highway system in 1985. Although it no longer exists as a US Highway the efforts of numerous associations to preserve the old road have kept it alive.
These days, for many people, driving Route 66 is an opportunity to pull off the interstate, take the foot off the gas and embrace an endangered American experience.
For further detail check out What is Route 66?
Assuming you're travelling westbound, Route 66 starts in Chicago, Illinois. The official eastern terminus of Route 66 has changed over time due to the introduction of a one-way system on Jackson Blvd and Adams St in the 1950's.
The original 1926 starting point was where Jackson Blvd met Michigan Ave but following the introduction of the one-way system you'll now find the 'Route 66 Begin' sign where Adams St meets Michigan Ave.
To complicate things further, in 1937 the official eastern terminus moved to where where Jackson Blvd meets Lake Shore Drive.
To summarise, for those travelling westbound, you can start your Route 66 road trip where Jackson Blvd meets Michigan Ave (the original 1926 start point) or where Jackson Blvd meets Lake Shore Drive (the start point since 1937). For the completists among you, the EZ66 Guide describes a loop you can take that encompasses both!
Assuming you're travelling westbound, Route 66 ends in Los Angeles, California. Much like the eastern terminus, the western terminus has also changed over time.
The original 1926 alignment ended where 7th St meets Broadway in downtown LA. However, in 1936 the road was extended to reach it's final official endpoint at the intersection of Olympic and Lincoln boulevards.
However, you may also be familiar with the 'End of the Trail' sign at Santa Monica Pier and wondering where this fits in. In 2009, in recognition of the Route's popularity as a tourist attraction, and the anticlimactic nature of the Olympic/Lincoln intersection, the sign was erected at Santa Monica Pier henceforth becoming known as the 'spiritual' end of the road.
Route 66 passes through eight states. From east to west these are Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
The original 1926 Route 66 alignment was 2,448 miles (3,940 km) but this was shortened over its 60 year history as individual sections of road were improved or made safer. The current length is generally accepted to be 2,278 miles (3,666 km).
While you can no longer drive Route 66 from end to end uninterrupted, approximately 85% of the original route remains paved and drivable.
This figure of 85% is an approximation for a standard saloon car so with an off-road vehicle you could certainly push this higher.
For further detail and guidance check out How Much of Route 66 is Still Drivable?
It is widely accepted that Route 66 can be completed in 2 weeks - only visiting the most popular sights and attraction and major cities - but a 3 to 4 week trip would be preferable.
Of course, you could spend months traveling the road but for most this is unachievable. Ultimately, the length of your trip comes down to personal circumstances but in an ideal world 2 weeks would be the minimum.
For further detail and guidance check out How Long Does it Take to Drive Route 66?
Since Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 it has ceased to be recognised as a US Highway and as such is no longer featured on standard maps. However, there are specialist Route 66 maps and guidebooks available that will guide you through from one end to the other.
You can find a selection of Route 66 guidebooks and maps here.
When Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 the official signage was removed but over time each state has taken time to preserve the Route's historical and cultural legacy by erecting new signs and painting new road-shields.
Although not the usual US Highway shield, you will encounter many signs bearing the 'Historic 66' emblem to point you in the right direction along with freshly painted road-shields. These, along with a copy of the EZ66 Guide and/or good map (see here) mean that navigating Route 66 shouldn’t be too difficult.
Generally speaking you'll likely want to take your Route 6 road trip between April and October. Outside of this you'll be travelling in the 'off season' and although there will be less traffic/tourists many of the businesses will be closed.
On the extreme ends of this spectrum (April and October) you'll have a much quieter experience from the point of view of traffic and other tourists but with less predictable weather.
The busiest period for Route 66 travel is June through to August where temperatures and prices both reach a seasonal peak. Either side of this, May and September are good months for those trying to avoid extreme heat, busier roads and higher rates.
For further detail and guidance check out What is theBest Time of Year to Travel Route 66?
Although most people tend to drive Route 66 westbound (Chicago to LA) the choice really is yours - you won't miss anything either way. Also, if you choose to use the EZ66 Guide it provides directions and points of interest for both eastbound and westbound travelers.
The reason that Route 66 is often seen as a westbound journey is for historical reasons. During the 1930’s Route 66 was a major path for migrants seeking a better life, heading west to escape the hardships of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Migrating familes would get in their cars and drive into the sunset in the hope of finding a better life. It came to be seen as the pathway to opportunity and prosperity, with small-town businesses thriving on the passing trade.
The Route 66 represented by neon signs, wholesome small town America and kitschy roadside attractions is pretty well-established in the common psyche. Over the years numerous pop-culture references have ensured that the romantic notion of the American open road - complete with fifties-era diners, vintage convertibles and a classic rock soundtrack - has endured long after the asphalt has cracked.
As far back as 1946 Bobby Troup was encouraging people to get their "kicks on Route 66" in a rhythm and blues track that's since been covered hundreds of times by artists including The Rolling Stones, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Chuck Berry, Eva Cassidy, Glenn Frey and John Mayer.
On the big screen Route 66 has served as a significant backdrop to classic films such as 'Easy Rider', 'Rain Man', 'Grapes of Wrath' and 'Thelma and Louise', whereas in more recent years it was pretty much integral to the entire plot of the (rather excellent) Pixar movie 'Cars'.
Despite this rather nebulous understanding, how many people could accurately answer the question "what is Route 66?". Hopefully this article will provide a little background on the history and resurgence of the "Mother Road"...
Established in 1926, Route 66 was actually founded on a pre-existing network of roads, passing through both rural and urban areas, that connected Chicago, Illinois with Los Angeles, California. A common misconception is that Route 66 was a single road constructed with intention whereas in fact it was very much true to its name – it was a route, not an Interstate.
Route 66 was the 2448 mile stretch of continuous road linking Chicago, Illinois with Los Angeles, California via Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Often referred to as “the main street of America”, Will Rogers Highway, and “the mother road” (based on a quotation from the John Steinbeck novel “The Grapes of Wrath”), Route 66 underwent many changes to the original 1926 alignment before being officially removed from the US highway system in 1985.
During the 1930’s Route 66 was a major path for migrants seeking a better life, heading west to escape the hardships of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. It came to be seen as the pathway to opportunity and prosperity, with small-town businesses thriving on the passing trade. It was around this time that the romance and myth of US Route 66 began to form. This was given an even greater boost during World War II due to further westward migration to the war-related industries of California.
Over the following decades, as Route 66 was celebrated and mythologised in popular culture, it became embedded in the public consciousness as a symbol of free spirit, independence and adventure. The Route became lined with neon-signed motels, giant statues and an array of iconic roadside attractions.
Beginning in the late 1950’s, large portions of US Route 66 were bypassed by completed sections of what was to be the new Interstate Highway system. This was to be the beginning of the end for Route 66 as it once was.
In 1985 Route 66, considered no longer necessary in light of the new Interstate network, was eventually decommissioned, with no single interstate highway designated to replace it. This led to a huge reduction in traffic, which in turn led ultimately to the demise of many businesses that had relied on the continuous traffic of previous decades. This economic hit was catastrophic for some communities and whole towns of people were forced to move elsewhere forming the many “ghost towns” now seen along Route 66.
Fortunately, in recognition of Route 66’s cultural significance and the negative economic impact it's decommisioning had on many communities, a number of non-profit Route 66 Associations were founded and continue to fight for the preservation of the old road. Parts of the old road are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and some are even considered National Scenic Byways.
These days, for many people, driving Route 66 is an opportunity to pull off the interstate, take the foot off the gas and embrace an endangered American experience.
It’s an opportunity to meet like-minded travelers, share experiences, sample new food and drink and embrace new experiences; a chance to be immersed in the nostalgia and kitschy Americana so prevalent along the Route in its heyday.
These days, route 66 road trippers take great pleasure in immersing themselves in the romanticism of what the road once stood for: lodging at vintage motels, eating at original diners, marvelling at the numerous roadside oddities, and filling up at restored gas stations in towns that have been preserved in time.
For these people, route 66 is all about the journey, not the destination.
Just how much of Route 66 is still drivable? Just how close can you get to the original road?
These are common questions when people are considering their road trip, and while it's certainly true that you can no longer drive Route 66 from end to end uninterrupted, a significantly large portion (approximately 85%) remains paved and drivable.
This figure of 85% is an approximation for a standard saloon car, so with an off-road vehicle you could certainly push this higher.
Route 66 is 2448 miles long and in it's most commonly used alignment can be broken down into the following sections:
Within each state there are alternative alignments that can be followed. This article aims to offer information to enable you to follow the original Route as closely as possible. It's also worth mentioning at this point that we have the whole route mapped out on our maps page!
Route 66 is not a simple linear journey, it's existed in many different alignments over the years and therefore there is no single way of making this trip.
These different alignments are in part due to the way that Route 66 developed over time. In the early years the route underwent frequent changes to improve the surface and make it safer, so travelers may find themselves periodically presented with choices between paved sections or more rugged “dirt” alignments. For greater clarity on these options (as there are too many to describe here) I'd recommend picking up a copy of the EZ66 Guide as it clearly highlights and describes these different alignments as they arise.
When Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, some sections of the road were re-purposed, while others were abandoned completely. In many of the cities the old route became the business loop for the interstate (the business loop being a smaller road that passes through core business districts). Even now, when driving on these business loops, you'll often be running immediately parallel to the I40 interstate. At certain points, in areas with no stops, you may wish to join the I40 and bypass these business loop portions if you're pressured for time.
In the maps section of this website alternative/optional alignments are included where appropriate and can be easily enabled/disabled depending on which alignment you'd like to follow.
If you're following the route as described in the EZ66 Guide you'll occasionally be presented with alternative "dirt" options. These are always optional alternatives to a more level, paved route and aren't recommended during wet weather or for larger RV's.
One such example of dirt road Route 66 is the Jericho Gap, an 18 mile stretch of Texan pre-1937 "dirt 66" that ran between Alanreed and Boydston via the town of Jericho. The Jericho Gap was notorious with travelers in the 1930's where vehicles would frequently get bogged down in the mud after heavy rains. Motorists would often need to be pulled free by a team of horses - a service so profitable to local landowners that rumors existed that they would intentionally flood the road! When the road was eventually realigned one mile north the community of Jericho naturally suffered and it is now one of the many ghost towns on Route 66.
Another beautiful stretch of dirt road available to you is upon entering New Mexico from the east. Between Glen Rio and San Jon lies 18 miles of dirt and gravel that once existed as a paved road. This road is so peaceful and I have driven it from end to end only ever encountering one other vehicle - a 4x4 steering some cattle. It's a scenic drive taking in wooden bridges and the views of several derelict cabins.
Since Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 it has ceased to be recognised as a US Highway and as such is no longer featured on standard maps. However, there are specialist maps and guidebooks available that will guide you through from one end to the other. If you are considering driving Route 66 then a highly recommended set of maps is the brilliant “Here It Is! The Route 66 Map Series” by Jerry McClanahan with beautifully illustrations by Jim Ross. Each of the 17" by 21" folding maps depicts a specific state and is a work of art in itself. The text on each map contains clear directions as well as commentary.
Also incredibly useful is the “Route 66: EZ66 Guide For Travelers” by Jerry McClanahan. It’s a very highly regarded book and was developed in conjunction with The National Historic Route 66 Federation. I would consider both to be essential purchases. The EZ66 Guide highlights the alternative alignments as well as significant sections of dirt road Route 66 - I can't praise the work of Jerry McClanahan enough.
Roadtrips and music go hand in hand. Whether searching the airwaves for local stations of docking your iPod for a pre-arranged playlist, chances are that at some point you're going to be cruising down Route 66 listening to a rich selection of songs. This list is just a small selection of what I consider to be good Route 66 driving songs.
Putting the list together was tough - what criteria would qualify one song over another and how would I ever narrow it down to just 20?! In the end I opted for a mix of old and not so old, songs containing obvious road references and others that just had the right "vibe" for a roadtrip (whatever that is!) In some cases I chose to include songs that had happened to pop up on the radio during my own Route 66 experience. Listen to them while you plan your trip or even download them using the links below and add them to your playlist.
So here, in no particular order (the numbers are there just to help keep count), are 20 top Route 66 driving songs - hope you enjoy!
Naturally, this song had to make the list if this list was to have any credibility! There are numerous versions but in light of the sad passing of Chuck Berry it only seemed right to include his rendition.
Creedence Clearwater Revival are one of those bands that could have had any number of their tracks featured in this list - many of their songs have that indefinable roadtrip "vibe" that I mentioned earlier.
I love this song - simple as that. The lyrics have a definite nostalgia to them that seem to fit perfectly with my idea of many small Route 66 towns of the past.
Whether you call it "classic rock", "hair rock" or "dad rock" this is an absolute 80's classic - perfect for those quiet areas where you can sing at the top of your lungs!
While driving Route 66 I found it hard not to start each leg of the trip by singing the title of this song as I started the engine!
If you've seen the Pixar movie "Cars" then you'll know why this track has made the list! This song, for me, is the perfect Route 66 driving song, especially for those sunny days and warm evenings.
Okay, so it's a novelty song that inspired a movie of the same name, but just listen to that chorus!
One of the more contemporary songs on the list, this track mashes up Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London", and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama". So basically it's a two-for-one and a great track in it's own right.
With it's "standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona" lyric how could this not make the list. There were many Eagles songs that could have been included but this seemed the most fitting.
Where's the Route 66 link? This one is very personal - in the summer of 2007 I drove the road end to end and every radio station was playing this tune. And with the lyrics describing one woman's trashing of her cheating boyfriends four-wheel drive, there's also a tenuous link to the road!
Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda riding across America on a pair of choppers - it's a classic cinematic image with an equally classic soundtrack.
Is this another novelty song? I'm not so sure. With the addition of Noel Gallagher's guitar and backing vocals I think this is a good song in it's own right, even if the image of David Brent isn't far from your mind!
Classic rock at it's best. It was a toss up between this and Back in Black, but the highway theme won through! This is a great video - who else can get away with wearing horns like this!
Groundbreaking and risqué lyrics for the time and an incredibly catchy chorus have earned this song it's place in the list. A perfect track for embarking on an adventure.
Made famous by the 1984 movie Beverley Hills Cop, this is the second song in the list by the former Eagles frontman. A great driving record with a memorable saxophone riff.
Fleetwood Mac could have had numerous records in this list but I settled on Go Your Own Way simply for it's singalong quality. The lyrics reflect the difficult relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks at the time but make for a great soundtrack to a roadtrip.
Like the Carrie Underwood track on this list, this track is a personal selection based on the fact that it came on the radio as I cruised through Texas in the sun, and it's fun, summertime sound perfectly matched the moment.
You're driving on Route 66, following the path that many have taken before you, heading towards California (if you're heading west that is!) So what better song to to cruise to than "California Dreamin'"?
I confess... I hadn't heard this song prior to the release of the movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" back in 2004. From that point on this rock epic has come to symbolize fun and having a good time. Plus, the band is called Kansas right?!
A record packed with emotion, that builds from it's gentle opening chords to a memorable singalong chorus. Listen to this record at the end of your trip and try to reflect on your amazing adventure without bringing a little tear to your eye - I dare you! 😀
So there you have it - my 20 top Route 66 driving songs. It was a tough task and I'm sure it would be different for everyone - feel free to leave yours in the comments.
Finally, if I could give you one tip... as you embark on your Route 66 adventure, make a note of any great tracks that you hear on the radio that make you feel good. When you get home you can download them and have your own collection of Route 66 musical memories.
Take it easy, Steve
How long does it take to drive Route 66? The flippant answer would be "how long have you got?" but I'm guessing that you're reading this article because you were hoping for a more helpful and pragmatic response!
So here goes...
Assuming that you don't have months to set aside to meander through every historical alignment, soaking up the atmosphere in every cafe/bar in every town, you should try to set aside at least two weeks for a great Route 66 road trip - but preferably three or four if you're hoping for a richer, more leisurely trip.
At this point I should mention that this advice is aimed at those travelling one-way and not for return journeys.
While it's true that the journey from Chicago to LA can be completed in 4 days if you’re prepared to spend all day on the Interstates, this is NOT the same as driving Route 66. If someone tells you they drove the I40 and thoroughly enjoyed their "Route 66" trip then they've missing the point - Route 66 isn't a case of getting from Chicago to Los Angeles by any means possible. Route 66 is an historical route that follows a complex road network through the many small towns and minor roads that were bypassed by the introduction of the Interstate system.
However, while on the subject of Interstates, it's worth keeping in mind that they're not your enemy. If you're pushed for time and have to follow a strict itinerary then occasionally hopping onto the I40 is a practical consideration if you're pushed for time - sometimes you've just got to be pragmatic.
If you're on a time-limited schedule and you already know which areas you'd like to spend more time in then don't be afraid to use the Interstate to help you get the best out of your trip. In an ideal world you won't feel pushed for time as you certainly don't want to rush your Route 66 experience.
Ultimately the amount of time you need to set aside for a Route 66 road trip is dependent on several factors:
Let's take a look at how some of these factors might influence your trip.
As you get deeper into planning your Route 66 trip you’ll find it increasingly tempting to make the most of the opportunities for great side-trips; the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Monument Valley… If this is the case then you should definitely set aside an extra day or two for each.
One night at the Grand Canyon would allow you to admire the views both as the sun goes down and during its spectacular sunrises. I'd also recommend more than one night for Las Vegas particularly if you wish to spend time catching a show. If you wish to follow the Santa Fe loop this needn't be treated as a side trip and will comfortably fit within your regular itinerary.
Route 66 is every bit as much about the stops as it is the journey. If you intend on getting the most out of the experience then you’ll be stopping frequently along the Route to explore towns, museums and roadside attractions. Of course, all of this takes time and will limit your day’s mileage.
Sometimes you might just stop off to stretch your legs or grab a coffee in a local cafe, whereas there will also be occasions when you will want to see an attraction that will require several hours of your day (for example Acoma Pueblo or the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum).
There are many roadside attractions that are simple curiosities that won't impact greatly on your progress (Cadillac Ranch, the Illinois Giants etc...) and these won't impact significantly on your daily mileage.
If you wish to follow each variant of each alignment then you are certainly not going to be doing this trip in two weeks as this is a very particular way of approaching the Route. One for the purists maybe but certainly not a common approach. Most people don't plan their road trip in this way and instead follow a more generally accepted route and it's occasional variants as outlined in the EZ6 Guide. This alignment is achievable in a minimum of two weeks whilst still having a great trip.
Occasionally, if you are able to look ahead a little, you may find that there are times when all you are doing is criss-crossing the I40 on the frontage road. It's times like these that you might benefit from hopping on the I40 to save time. This may feel like you’re cheating but there are times when you’re on the interstate that you’ll be less than 50 feet from Route 66! By following the EZ66 Guide these occasions are made obvious and the choice is yours. Remember – driving Route 66 shouldn’t be stressful and it’s okay to tailor the journey to your own requirements. There's no shame in making time occasionally!
Ultimately, the length of your trip comes down to your own personal circumstances. I'd recommend no less than a fortnight to cover the full length - three or four would be preferable - whilst at the same time pointing out that if you only have two weeks you're still going to have a great road trip!
This question "what is the best time of year to drive route 66" gets asked a lot, but there's no simple answer. A member of our Facebook group recently came out with this little gem: "anytime between January and December"!
However, as great as that answer is, it probably doesn't help you make a decision with regards to your trip planning. The reason the question can be a tough one to answer is because different people have different expectations and personal preferences. The first step in working out the best time of year for YOU is to pause and consider what you hope to get out of the trip. Here are some factors to consider...
When you're driving over 2400 miles through varied terrain you can't exactly predict the weather with accuracy but it's fair to say that the best (if you consider driest or warmest to be best) weather will be between April and October.
During the winter months - December to February - the average low temperature along Route 66 can be in the 10s and 20s (-12 to -1°C) and the winds can chill you to the bone. The deserts of Arizona can be particularly cold overnight and snow can fall in the unlikeliest of places. Icy roads, sleet and snow will impact on driving conditions and isn't for the faint hearted. It's also worth keeping in mind that road closures due to extreme weather can delay your travel, and the shorter days will certainly limit your time for sightseeing.
November and March are the months transitioning in and out of winter and so weather, although milder than during winter, can still be unpredictable. It's not unheard of for there to still be snow in March. The tourist season is also off-peak so although the roads will be quieter you run the risk of businesses being closed as a result (more on this later).
The weather improves between the months of April and October, peaking during July and August. The weather is fair during April, May, September and October, and the crowds are less abundant. May and September are considered good months to travel Route 66 if you're not a fan of the intense heat that comes with the summer months - you get the benefits of fair weather and reduced tourism.
June, July and August are the peak months in terms of both tourism and temperature. The temperature regularly exceeds 105°F and can be intense if you're not used to it. Although the western states have a dry heat, the eastern states of Missouri and Illinois can be quite muggy. Days are also longer with bright mornings and mild evenings.
I've traveled during these summer months and have thoroughly enjoyed it - being from the UK I found the heat a welcome treat! If you're someone that finds intense heat overbearing or oppressive then you might want to avoid July and August in particular. However, if you're a sun worshiper you'll be in your element! A summertime route 66 trip is fantastic, but consider how you'd feel in such sweltering heat - aircon is essential.
Fortunately, when renting a vehicle you'll be guaranteed to have air-conditioning to keep you comfortable. It's also worth keeping in mind that July and August is the monsoon season in New Mexico, Arizona, and California, while the risk of seeing a tornado is increased in the midwest.
Between October and April many of the businesses and attractions along Route 66 close down due to the drop in tourism. Others will remain open but will operate on reduced hours or weekends only. Although this is an obvious drawback, one positive is that there can be lower prices and better discounts. As it's considered off-peak season hotel/motel rates will be reduced.
From May onwards Route 66 tourism will steadily increase before peaking during the summer and tailing off in September. Many people choose the months of May and September for their road trip for just this reason - the crowds will be smaller and the roads will be quieter. From early September the crowds drop off quickly and there are less people on the road as schools start back and people return to work following their summer vacations.
As with many countries around the world July and August are the major school breaks and vacation periods in the United States. The summer months (June to August) are the peak season for Route 66 tourism so expect the roads to be busier, rates to be higher and queues to be longer. Don't picture interstate-level of traffic though, you will still have sections of quiet road, it's just that during the summer you are more likely to encounter other travelers - in other words plenty of people to swap stories and tips with! A road trip in the summer is an amazing experience, just expect to see more like-minded roadies.
Once you've considered all of the above the final point to consider is when can you actually travel. We all have commitments and few of us have the complete freedom to take a long road trip anytime we want.
The truth of the matter is that whenever you go you're going to have a fantastic experience!
For me, the process of planning my Route 66 road trip was a large part of the whole experience. I was 28 years old, knew next to nothing about Route 66 and had never been to the US before - the whole experience was new and exciting.
When my wife and I made the decision to do it we immediately threw ourselves into the research. We signed up to numerous forums, scanned many websites and then finally bought ourselves some books and maps. In fact, at one point we had a huge corkboard hanging on our wall with a map of the US on it with pins marking our approximate stopping points for each day - it really helped us get some perspective on expected daily mileage. Also, at this point my geographical knowledge of the US was so poor I was also learning which states lay where.
It was the thrill of this process that led to me starting this website - I would now be able to spend time back on Route 66 even if it was vicariously through others! Website and online research are invaluable, but there's nothing like a good paper-based route 66 guidebook to keep by the side of the bed for dipping in and out of. We bought several to get ourselves started (and have since learned of some that we wish we'd had but sadly passed us by. In this post I've listed 5 of the most often recommended guide books by travellers that have experience of driving the greatest American road trip - Route 66...
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When you ask anyone with experience of driving Route 66 to recommend a good route 66 guidebook the EZ66 Guide is nearly always the first on their list. Considered by many to be an essential purchase, this book offers a detailed break-down, turn by turn, of the whole route from start to finish. It's hard to get lost when using this book. It sticks as closely to the original alignment as it's possible to get and offers variations when they come available (the alignment has changed many times over the years). Jerry McClanahan is internationally regarded as a route 66 authority.
This book was invaluable to me and my trip. Every day we'd finish the drive by marking our total mileage for that day in the top right corner, and every evening we'd browse it while waiting for our meal at whichever diner/restaurant we'd managed to find that night to get a feel for the next days adventure.
The book can be used to follow the route east to west or west to east, and also highlights some specific must-see sights and attractions along the way. It's not a guide in the sense of featuring listings of motels and attractions, but more of a series of maps with text explanations of each small stage of the journey. Packed with useful advice and very specific directions the EZ66 Guide should be part of every Route 66 road trip.
Now in it's 17th edition, the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide is one of the Route 66 guidebooks that unfortunately passed me by when I took my trip in 2007. However, being one of the most recommended books by veterans of the mother road, and since the series has now been discontinued, this book comes with a pretty hefty price tag due to rarity!
It features recommendations by members of the National Historic Route 66 Federation and been used by thousands around the world to find the best places to stay and eat along the route. It lists over 500 dining and lodging establishments and concentrates on the vintage properties that made the Route famous.
Although several versions of this book are available, it's worthwhile picking up the latest edition (currently the 17th) if you can stretch to it as it features newer listings and updated details, although older versions will save your wallet! I love the formatting of the book. It breaks the road down into sections and within each section lists the lodging followed by the dining recommendations.
Like the EZ66 Guide this route 66 guidebook is spiral bound making it perfect for a road trip (the book can be left open on the section that you've reached). This is an excellent companion to the EZ66 Guide in that whereas the EZ66 Guide is about the actual route, this flags up the recommended accommodation and restaurants you'll pass along the way - worth a purchase.
This book has a special place in my heart - it was the book that inspired me to take on my route 66 adventure. It was given to me by a friend of a friend after they'd described to me the most amazing road trip they'd taken. I was vaguely aware of route 66 but knew nothing of it's history or mystery. The Route 66 Traveler's Guide and Roadside Companion was my gateway to the world of Route 66 travel and I read and reread the first 4 chapters over and over again because, unlike the previous two guidebooks mentioned here, it features a lot of historical and contextual information on Route 66. For someone new to route 66 this is inspiring reading.
Tom Snyder creates a vivid portrait of life on Route 66 and the people who haunt it, including cattle rustlers, gangsters, hitchhikers, and everyday travelers.
Smaller sections of this book include tips on trip-planning, roadside photography and mini-tours, whereas the bulk of the book is broken down by state, guiding you through, section by section, pointing out roadside attractions and iconic sights. I've often referred to his book over the years to fact check information for this website and for inspiration. Any book endorsed by the great Michael Wallis is a book worth reading!
Now in it's 'High Octane' fifth edition, the Route 66 Adventure Handbook distinguishes itself from others by focusing on the many wonders that you'll encounter on your route 66 road trip. From vintage motels to kitschy roadside art, this book successfully navigates route 66 with very clear passion for its subject. In terms of planning an itinerary this book is packed with tips and suggestions.
Painstakingly researched by Drew Knowles, this book provides information on how to locate unmarked portions of the mother road, contact info for Route 66 associations and local visitor bureaus, an index of all Route 66 towns, and anecdotes, trivia, attractions, and suggested side trips.
The author has a great voice which makes for real entertaining prose. This book delights in taking the reader off the beaten track and introducing newbies and veterans alike to hidden gems and long-forgotten diversions. It also includes a large number of maps.
I didn't have access to this book prior to my trip and I actually bought it back in 2010 when the idea for this website first came to me. Despite being the smallest route 66 guidebook in this list it warrants a mention due to some of the unique content it contains.
This Lonely Planet guide book has some overlap with the other books in this list but the reason why it's made it is for a very specific reason - its box-outs!
It may have many of the same features as other guide books but it has a load of very interesting features littered throughout the book including:
This is just a small taste of the great info included in this book and it shouldn't be overlooked.
So there we have it - my 5 top route 66 guidebooks for planning a route 66 road trip. However... I need to make an honorable mention...
It's not a guidebook and it's not a map, but The Route 66 Encyclopedia by Jim Hinckley is a phenomenal book on the subject of route 66. It's a large, hardback, glossy paged, full colour celebration of route 66. I bought a copy a few years back and my only two regrets were that I didn't buy it sooner and that I couldn't get a signed copy! It's exactly what it says - an A to Z encyclopedia of the road and it's many features. A complete triumph of passion and perseverance, this book didn't really meet the criteria for this list but it would be a travesty to overlook!
It's been over a year since I published my 20 Top Route 66 Driving Songs - Part 1 and so this time around I've tried to mix it up a bit. Again, this list is just a small selection of what I consider to be good Route 66 driving songs and I've made sure to include a mix of the classics and a few less predictable entries.
I know there's at least one that I might get a bit of a roasting for so please be kind!
So here, in no particular order are the second lot of 20 top Route 66 driving songs - hope you enjoy!
A perfect track to get things started ... the ultimate rock song worthy of any credible list of driving tunes. What a riff and what a vocal! Ranked number 190 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
An all-time classic that always features high in polls of greatest rock tracks. "Paradise City" has been the bands closing song for live shows since 1988!
Window down, volume up, singing at the top of your voice... Go on, you know you want to!
The definitive power ballad. Much like Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City", this track is nearly always used as a finale during live shows, often going well over 14 minutes when played live. Great for passengers who might like to play a little air-guitar!
"I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel" - some have described this as the ultimate driving song - what do you think?
A slight change of pace here, this track has a wistful, melancholic vibe that lends itself to night-time driving. If the voice sounds familiar that's because the vocals are provided by Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet.
Recorded by Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, this song brings back great childhood memories - who fancies a road trip to Walley World! Such a good feel-good tune.
A reminder of Prince's incredible talent as a songwriter and musician. The track is laden with double meaning or you can simply choose to hear a song about a car - the choice is yours!
A great track from a great album with a great music video to boot. "Where The Streets Have No Name" is often voted the best track on "The Joshua Tree" album. A great driving song for hitting the open road.
One of those classic tracks that HAD to be featured. Although it's considered a classic driving anthem all over the world, it's imagery and lyrics and make it specifically perfect for an American road trip.
"Born to Run" ranked number 21 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time which is now small achievement. Springsteen is the personification of the US in music form!
I was a latecomer to the Graceland album but fell in love with it when I heard this opening track. The album contains numerous songs that would make this list but this is a personal favorite so please indulge me!
Another personal favorite - James Taylor is one of those artists that can't put a foot wrong in my opinion. From the opening guitar riff to the uplifting singalong chorus, this track is perfect in every way.
A great country artist this track has obvious appeal to a list celebrating driving songs. In the 1970's Charley Pride was RCA Records best selling performer since Elvis Presley!
Even if you don't know the verses so well it's hard not to sing along to the chorus - a staple of any road trip playlist.
A more contemporary addition to this list (well, 2006 is relatively contemporary!) but well deserving of it's place, "Chasing Cars" is a beautiful track building to an euphoric crescendo. Turn up the volume and let it wash over you as you cruise along...
Another relatively contemporary addition to the list but perfect driving material for those days when you've got nothing but open road before you. But don't be fooled, this isn't a record about taking a vacation, the "holiday" in question here is the one we take when we're apathetic about the decisions taken by our political leaders.
Neil Finn from Crowded House provides the backing vocals to this great driving song. Crow's back catalogue consists of numerous tracks that could have made this list but the title of this one just swayed it for me!
I'm going to take flak for this! I'll admit it's a guilty pleasure but in my defense the tune was originally written as a folk tune before being given the pop makeover and I think it shows! Not convinced? I'll move on quickly...
Have I now earned back your respect?! Inspired by a road trip with David Bowie, and loosely based on a poem by Jim Morrison, this one is surely a credible entry? An evocative and moody track with an earworm of a chorus!
So there you have it - the second part of my top Route 66 driving songs. It was a tough task and I'm sure it would be different for everyone - feel free to leave yours in the comments.
Take it easy, Steve
Welcome to Part 2 of our highly recommended places to eat on Route 66. If you've already read Part 1 you'll already know the required criteria for a business to be featured - if not then you can check it out here.
What this list represents is a selection of the most commonly recommended diners and restaurants from the website and Facebook page, and is by no means a definitive list – think of it as a “flavor” of what's on offer!
The Joliet Route 66 Diner is a great retro diner featuring wall signs from the 50’s and 60’s, offering a traditional diner breakfast and lunch menu. Located within walking distance of the Joliet Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, the diner boasts a wide range of dishes including Mexican, crab, Florentine or country Benedicts for breakfast, omelets with corned beef hash, chorizo, feta, spinach or more, burgers, sandwiches and salads galore and breaded pork tenderloin or veal cutlet.
Situated in the small town of Wilmington, the launching Pad Drive-In has been feeding Route 66 travelers since it first opened it’s doors in 1960. The colourful interior has had a recent makeover courtesy of new owners Tully and Holly and makes the diner an inviting stop between Chicago and Springfield. Recent posts on social media indicate a huge renovation after being empty for quite some time. On the south side of the diner is the Gemini Giant – a huge fibreglass astronaut and one of the 3 “brothers” of Route 66 in Illinois. Supporting the Launching Pad, one of the most iconic stops in the first leg of your east to west journey, is essential. Stop by, grab a bit to eat, and soak up the atmosphere - it's out of this world!
The Ariston Café was founded by Pete Adam, a Greek immigrant, in 1924 and has now been placed on the National Registry of Historic places. The Ariston Café is believed to be the oldest café on Route 66 and holds a spot in the Route 66 Hall of Fame. A family-run restaurant, the staff are friendly and genuinely interested in interacting with Route 66 travelers. The menu incorporates a world of influences, including Italian, Western Favorites, Southern Traditions, South of the Border, and Ocean Catches. In April 2015 the café was voted the No.1 Restaurant on Route 66 by users of Route66News.com.
A popular biker bar with notably friendly clientele, the Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ was built in 1929 and has been serving Route 66 travelers ever since. Visitors will often highly rate the brisket and ribs, and even more telling is that locals eat here regularly. Smoking their own meat and serving up very reasonably priced barbecue dishes, the Elbow Inn has something of an unusual reputation for it's ceiling decor! Big, small, lacy, plain or colorful, the ceiling is covered in bras signed by their former owners!
Mr D'z serves classic diner food in an attractive kitschy environment adorned with vintage Americana. Mr D'z is a great dining experience featuring beautiful plastic and chrome booths in electric pink and turquoise, images of 1950's stars and cars, and music in-keeping with the sounds of the heyday of route 66 travel. In 2006 Mr D'z received an unexpected guest in the form of Oprah Winfrey who gave her hamburger and root beer a big thumbs up while filming "Oprah and Gayle’s Big Adventure"!
Famous for its giant yellow fiberglass cuckoo bird emerging from the front wall, Waylan’s KuKu Burger is an authentic Route 66 hot spot. 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 KuKu’s in the US. It remains a highly praised restaurant for both the quality of food and the nostalgic decor inside, and you’ll meet plenty of other Route 66 roadtrippers here to swap stories. The KuKu is often cited as a top venue on Route 66 for burgers and other fast food.
Open 7 days a week for breakfast (served all day), lunch, and dinner, Tally’s Good Food Café has become a fixture for locals and Route 66 travelers passing through Tulsa. Although not an original historic diner the interior of Tally’s embraces the classic fifties-era design and the exterior boasts some impressive neon. Famed for it’s expansive cinnamon rolls (the size of a dinner plate!) the diner has also been the recipient of a number of awards over the years including Tulsa’s Best Diner, Tulsa’s Best Breakfast and the admittedly niche Tulsa’s Best Cinnamon Rolls.
Opened in 1939 and named after the local sandstone used in it's construction, the Rock Café in Stroud is a true historic stop on Route 66. In 2001 John Lasseter and a Pixar research team visited the Rock Café and upon meeting owner, Dawn Welch began developing the character of Sally Carrera for the hit movie Cars. The food is highly rated and the cafe has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor due to it's great menu, service and decor. The interior was given a complete makeover following a devastating 2008 fire, and the cafe reopened in 2009 coinciding with the launch of the restaurants own cookbook.
It may be more glossy than the usual Route 66 restaurant or soda bar but the 66-foot illuminated soda bottle out front (the worlds largest soda bottle) certainly gives the place that familiar touch of kitsch! The roadside soda bottle weighs 4 tons and although appears to be made from neon tubes, is actually lit by LEDs, providing a spectacular light show each night. Pops boasts a strong selection of burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads and home-style dinners including a mouth watering chicken quesadilla and beautifully prepared chicken fried steak.
With exceptionally high ratings on TripAdvisor the restaurant currently (March 2018) holds the number 1 spot of 265 restaurants in Flagstaff! All food is made with fresh ingredients and the portion sizes certainly don't leave you wanting. The staff are very friendly and know their menu inside out. This is a must stop if you're passing through Flagstaff with an empty stomach - not just for the food but the welcoming atmosphere. It's a great place to chat with locals, meet fellow travelers and pick the brains of the friendly and welcoming staff.
The Route 66 experience is packed with many great diners and restaurants so when it comes to places to eat on route 66 you'll be spoilt for choice. Road trips can be pretty exhausting at times so rest assured that after a stop at any of the diners/restaurants in this list you'll be re-energised and ready to hit the road again!
What makes a diner/restaurant “highly recommended”?
What this list represents is a selection of the most commonly recommended diners and restaurants from the website and Facebook page, and is by no means a definitive list – think of it as a “flavor” of what's on offer! That's why this post is Part 1 in a series – so expect a second installment very soon!
Lou Mitchell’s restaurant has earned it’s nickname “the first stop on the Mother Road” due it’s huge popularity with Route 66 roadies. Many folks stop at Lou Mitchell’s for a good breakfast and a caffeine injection prior to heading off on their Route 66 adventure. The restaurant is known for it’s quality food and generous portions making it popular with locals and tourists alike. In 1958 the restaurant added a new service that embodied their sense of fun – free donut holes for all and boxes of milk duds for the ladies and children!
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook, Illinois, started life as a simple sandwich counter in a gas station on Route 66. In 1946, following the purchase of the building next door, it was up-scaled to it’s current form and has been boasting excellent food and service to Route 66 travelers ever since. It’s world-famous slow-cooked chicken has earned the restaurant quite a following, and many would consider it a must-stop on Route 66. The bar area of the restaurant is known as The Blue Rooster Lounge and is open every day except Monday and features live music and events on weekends.
The Cozy Dog Drive-In is the home of the one and only “Cozy Dog.” The Cozy Dog is a delicious hot dog on a stick that is found nation-wide at many county and state fairs and is a speciality of this Drive-In. The restaurant features Route 66 memorabilia and it also features a gift shop with Route 66 merchandise. Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire (1945 – 2009) was the son of Cozy Dog owners Ed and Virginia. He traveled along the route, getting ideas for designs for postcards and maps, and was a much loved and respected icon of Route 66 himself.
Pappy’s Smokehouse is a very well respected BBQ restaurant in St Louis and has been voted the number one restaurant in the city on Urbanspoon. Pappy’s pork ribs – cooked dry and slow over apple and cherry wood – have been making mouths water since 2008. It’s frequently voted the best barbecue restaurant in the state and boasts a delicious range of barbecue food including baby back ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burnt ends, turkey breast and sausage. It’s best to call ahead if you’re planning on going out late as Pappy’s closes when each day’s barbecue sells out.
Well known for it’s great small-town atmosphere and friendly staff, the appeal of the Boomarang Diner covers all ages – great fast food will never go out of fashion. People not only talk about the best burger they have ever eaten but they speak of the genuine service and spotless restaurants. The decor is fun and charming and you are bound to notice something new every time you go. Wall displays feature images of Route 66, Marylin Monroe, The Beatles, Elvis Presley and many movie stars of the ’50s and ’60s.
Lucille’s Roadhouse is inspired by the original Lucille’s historic gas station not so far down the road near Hydro, Oklahoma, including the vintage gas pumps just outside the entrance. The Route 66 themed restaurant is designed in the style of a 1950’s diner complete with brightly colored motifs, colored lighting, glass bricks and polished chrome. Aside from the great food on offer it makes for a brilliantly colorful photo opportunity. The food itself is as authentically “diner” as it gets – hamburgers, mashed potatoes, french fries, pork chops and steak!
The Tumbleweeds Grill is located in Texola, Oklahoma, in the world famous Water Hole #2 building. The owners have completely renovated the original structure into the oldest building on Route 66 operating as a restaurant. Tumbleweeds is open seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7am to 7pm. The restaurant is very clean and serves excellent home-cooked food including all-day breakfasts. A real selling point for the Tumbleweeds Grill is Masel, the owner – a woman who is ever-welcoming and enjoys interacting with her customers with real enthusiasm.
Where else can you get a free 72oz steak? There is, of course, a catch: it’s only free if you can eat it within an hour! Don’t forget to finish the shrimp Cocktail, baked potato, salad, and bread roll too – that’s all part of the deal! This pretty much sums up the entire attitude of the Ranch – big, extravagant and over the top! There are games and exhibits while you wait for your table, live music while you eat, and of course the occasional announcement that someone with eyes bigger than their belly is going to attempt the 72oz challenge! It’s a great family-friendly venue, and a top night out for all.
The menu includes a variety of creative salads served with your choice of homemade dressing, an assortment of sandwiches and burgers, and a range of dinner choices including gluten-free options. What really grabs your attention though are the delicious homemade desserts. The look and feel of the restaurant is that of a traditional old-time diner with vintage 1960’s furniture and booths – the wood on the walls is actually from the old railroad depot. The Windy Cow Cafe is active on Facebook and so it’s worth checking out for news on any upcoming events and images of their delicious food.
If you have made it to the MidPoint Cafe in Adrian then congratulations – you have made it exactly half-way along Route 66! The MidPoint Cafe is located at the exact “geo-mathematical” centre of Route 66 – 1139 miles from both Chicago and Los Angeles. I found the cafe to be very welcoming and the food was great. They’ve made a name for themselves with their home-made pies and terrific gift shop. Every Route 66 traveller should stop here and celebrate their road trip progress.
Getting started planning your Route 66 itinerary can be a daunting task. Do you begin with a wishlist of sights and attractions or the knowledge of where you'll be spending each night? Do you book your accommodation in advance or do you go with the flow? How long does it take? Will I miss anything?
Things can get stressful really quickly if you let it, so take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun!
The good news is that there are answers to all of the questions above. The bad news is that they'll be different depending on who you ask! There's no right or wrong way to go about this but there are a couple of common questions that you'll need to ask yourself before you delve into the details: how much time can you spare and what is your budget? I can offer guidance on the first but only you can answer the second.
When it comes to the time you can spare, if you're considering traveling the full length of the route, then you should allow for at least two weeks. You can find further guidance here on how long your trip might take. Anything less than two weeks and you risk rushing through without being able to truly enjoy the experience.
When armed with the answers to these two questions planning a Route 66 itinerary becomes a far less daunting task. As long as you are able to break the task down into smaller manageable chunks, then planning a trip like this is great fun. For me it just added to the whole experience - months were spent reading blog posts and scanning forums, getting more and more excited as it got closer and closer. I even mapped my route and overnight stops using pins on a huge map of the US on my living room wall!
Now that you know how long you will be spending on this trip it’s time to start penciling in some ideas for where you will be spending each night. I'd recommend going about it this way so that you can plan for a (roughly) even daily mileage. Many people like to spend a night or two in Chicago first (assuming you're heading west) and the same when they reach LA so take that into account. Buy yourself a good sized map of the US and use it to approximate where you'll spend each night, trying to keep roughly equal distances between each stop. You're not committing to anything - just trying to establish a broad idea of where you may reach each evening. Be realistic and make sure that there’s not too far between each stop that’ll not allow you to see what you want to see.
A further consideration might be whether you intend to do any side trips or not (Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, etc...). If this is the case then time should be allowed within your itinerary to allow for the extra travel. A day or more for each would be about right. You can use this guide to the five most popular side side trips to help you decide.
Now that you have a broad idea of where you might end up each day there may be some motels in that area that you feel you would like to book in advance. If so then make a note of them. If you decide not to book any accommodation in advance then you can just make a note of the general area you hope to arrive at each day. You can find more advice on whether to book in advance or "wing it" here.
One of the most commonly asked questions on the Driving Route 66 forum or Facebook page is "what are the best Route 66 motels?" This isn't an easy question as it depends upon what you're looking for - creature comforts, authenticity, or to fit within a certain budget. Also, beauty of driving Route 66 is traveling the road less followed and discovering your own hidden gems. However, if you're looking for guidance on some of the more iconic stops then it's worth checking out my Highly Recommended Route 66 Motels Part 1 and Part 2. Personally I'd recommend a mixture of pre-booked motels and those you'll discover for yourself. Personally, I booked every third night in advance to help me keep on track and to make sure I got to spend the night in some of the more iconic lodging. You should find that you’ll soon have a list of definite motels and potential areas to stop-over spread fairly evenly across your journey.
It’s not uncommon to leave your motel at 9am and not reach your next evening's lodging until 5pm but that’s not to say you’re driving for the whole time (in fact you might have only covered 200 miles!) The special thing about Route 66 is that you’ll find yourself stopping off every so often even if just for 10 mins to stretch your legs or stop at a diner for a coffee. Then of course you have the many towns, museums, gift shops and other sights to experience so 200 miles can easily take a full day. Also, aside from the places you’ve read about, or are included in the EZ Guide, you’ll find your own spots to stop at even if it’s just to take photos or buy a postcard to support a local business.
You might find the Trip Planner on this website useful as you are not only able to filter sights and attractions by state, but also display them in order from east to west or west to east. Alternatively you can check out the guides to the various states here: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California. In addition to these resources try to keep in mind that there's no definitive list of things you have to see on Route 66 and that a great road trip is about exploring and finding things for yourself.
If it helps, you might want to note down some sights and attractions that you'll have the option of exploring each day, but unless there's something you're particularly excited about I'd be inclined to just go with the flow. Plan your trip as you go rather than try to create an itinerary that accounts for every hour of every day. Spending the evening reflecting on your day's travel, and reading up on the following day's possibilities, is all part of the fun!
If you're traveling westwards then you're coming to the final stages of your journey, but that doesn't mean that sites and attractions are low in number. Route 66 in California is home to many natural wonders, oddities and historical sites. And let's not forget the wealth of tourist attractions that await you in Los Angeles that aren't even listed here - there are enough for a whole list of their own!
You can find a more extensive list of things to see along the whole length of Route 66 by clicking here.
Listed in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in California…
Amboy crater is an extinct volcano only 1.5 miles south of Route 66 near the town of Amboy. The crater is estimated to be 79,000 years old with it’s last eruption approximately 10,000 years ago. The drive to get to the crater is astonishing and takes in the most amazing scenery, even if it’s quite desolate at times. Plenty of great photo opportunities and the sunsets are spectacular.
Bottle Tree Ranch in Helendale, California, comprises of an eclectic mix of “bottle trees”, old road signs, retro toys, broken rifles and other assorted odds ’n’ ends all coming together to produce a very quirky experience. The site is open from dawn until dusk, and donations are welcomed but not essential for entry (although highly recommended). Feel free stretch your legs and take photos of the over 200 “trees” – t’s very hard to take a poor photograph in such an inspiring location!
With its 500 mines, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore over a 12-year span. When silver lost its value in the mid-1890’s, Calico lost its population. The miner’s packed up, loaded their mules and moved away abandoning the town that once gave them a good living. It became a “ghost town.” Today Calico is a county park operating mine tours, gunfight stunt shows, gold panning, a restaurant, the Calico & Odessa Railroad and a number of general merchandise stores.
Devoted to the art of soda pop and supporting the small businesses behind each bubbly drink, Galco’s Soda Pop Stop features more than 700 flavors of soda at its Los Angeles storefront and nationwide through its online shop. As you wander through the store you pass through a rainbow of soda colors, most of which are in glass bottles.
There’s not a lot to say about Hollywood that hasn’t already been said many times before. While you’re here make sure to see the Kodak Theatre, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood sign and the stars on the walk of fame. It’s a very touristy area by day and there are plenty of things to see and do with many attractions nearby. Some of the most popular guided tours are the tours of movie star homes. You are also very close to the Universal Studios theme park and Warner Bros Studios Tour.
In 2009 the Route 66 Alliance and the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp got together and declared the end of the Santa Monica Pier to be the western terminus of Route 66. It’s now marked by an upright sign stating “The End of the Trail” and is a popular photo opportunity for travelers at the end of their journey. This is actually a replica of a sign that once stood on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean Ave before it’s mysterious disappearance 50 years ago.
This Route 66 Wigwam Motel is a fun stop and is the final of 7 Wigwam Motels originally constructed (only 3 of which still exist). The motel has been renovated extensively by the Patel Family who were awarded the National Historic Route 66 Federation's 2005 Cyrus Avery Award for their efforts in restoration. The Wigwam Motel is a perfect example of kitsch Americana, and the original "do it in a teepee" sign is still onsite, albeit tucked around the back!
Opened in 1940, this original McDonalds's restaurant changed the face of fast food forever. Packed with original pre-Ray Krok news articles, menus, and memorabilia, the museum does an excellent job of documenting the history of an iconic restaurant. Exhibits representing all corners of the world display thousands of items including Happy Meal toys and historical artifacts. Entry is free.
Ranked #1 of 17 things to do in Barstow (TripAdvisor), the Route 66 "Mother Road" Museum is home to a large collection of historical artifacts of Route 66 and the Mojave Desert communities. The volunteer staff are very welcoming and are eager to ensure everyone enjoys their visit. The retro jukebox is a real pleasure and the gift shop is packed with very reasonably priced books, DVD's and a huge selection of gifts. Entry is free.
The Cucamonga Service Station opened in 1915, closed during the 1970's but was renovated and reopened in 2015 as a museum. A great deal of work has gone into remodeling this historic building, making it well worth a visit if you want to get a sense of how times have changed in the last 100 years. Gas stations certainly aren't built like this anymore!
Route 66 in Arizona features some of the longest stretches of Mother Road still driveable. The "Grand Canyon State" offers plenty to see and do to Route 66 travelers, including many natural attractions such as the Painted Desert, Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest. One natural attraction that can't be left off the list is of course the Grand Canyon itself, something that purists will be quick to point out is not actually ON Route 66. This is true, of course, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that Route 66 passes close enough to the Grand Canyon to make it easily accessible, being just an hour from Williams and Kingman. For decades a trip to the Grand Canyon has been an integral part of the experience for many westbound travelers.
This list merely offers a flavor of what Arizona can offer. You can find a more extensive list of things to see along the whole length of Route 66 by clicking here.
Listed in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in Arizona…
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the US government stored enough food and water rations in these caverns to support 2,000 people for up to two weeks and these supplies are still there to this day! Tours of the Grand Canyon Caverns depart daily every half an hour and last approximately 25 minutes. If you're feeling brave you can even spend the night 22 stories down in a "room" over 65 million years old!
Jack Rabbit Trading Post is a familiar image to anyone acquainted with Route 66. The famous “Here It Is” sign let’s you know when you’ve arrived and the large model Jack Rabbit outside welcomes all travelers. This is an excellent gift shop and contains everything from the more obvious Route 66 memorabilia to old license plates found by the road side!
Although not actually an attraction on Route 66 a jaunt to the Grand Canyon has become such a common side trip that I felt it was worth inclusion. Since it’s birth Route 66 has guided many families on vacation towards the Grand Canyon. It’s situated just an hour from both Williams and Kingman making it easily accessible from Route 66. As a day trip you should allow an hour to reach the south entrance, otherwise there’s good lodging to be found within the National Park itself.
Located just minutes from Interstate 40 in Northern Arizona near Winslow, Meteor Crater is the breath-taking result of a collision between an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour and planet Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. Nearly one mile across, this is the world’s best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. The visitor center on the north rim houses several interactive exhibits and many artifacts.
Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona where wild donkeys roam the streets having descended from the pack animals associated with the town’s early mining history. These days there are plenty of gift shops and “museums” to peruse, while the locals are incredibly inviting. To get to Oatman you must first navigate the Oatman Highway – an intimidating 20 miles of steep grades, narrow road, and sharp hairpin curves!
Formed over 200 million years ago, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park makes for a particularly interesting detour off Route 66. The views are spectacular and photographs can’t do justice to the beauty of the many colored layers – it really has to be seen to be appreciated. For the purposes of your roadtrip, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park can be treated as one destination – Mother Nature’s two-for one!
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 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!
The Arizona Route 66 Museum is located in Kingman’s Historic Powerhouse and depicts the evolution of Route 66 through Arizona. Murals, photos and life-size dioramas depict each of the groups that have traveled the historic route over the years. Follow the paths of the Native American trade routes, the U. S. Army-led survey expeditions, the settlers on their migration west, and the fun and excitement of 1950's Route 66.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is one of only three surviving “Wigwam Villages” in the US and one of two situated on Route 66 (the other being in Rialto, CA). Each concrete tee-pee has a genuine vintage car parked outside - if you can't stay the night at least stretch your legs in Holbrook and check out this great icon of Route 66.
Angel Delgadillo has been dubbed the "guardian angel" of Route 66 and is the main founder of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. Angel has experienced the Dust Bowl of the '30s and the rise and decline of historic Route 66. Over the years, Angel himself has become an attraction along the road with people stopping to talk to him and coming from all over the world just to meet him! Angel's old barber shop and pool hall is now also home to a great visitor center and gift shop.
Route 66 in New Mexico now travels directly through the center of the state whereas between 1926 and 1937 the original alignment took in the beautiful city of Santa Fe.
There is much to be enjoyed as you drive through New Mexico and these ten attractions are just the tip of the iceberg. This isn't a concise list so please consider it a flavor of what Route 66 in New Mexico has to offer. You can find a more extensive list of things to see along the whole length of Route 66 by clicking here.
Listed in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in New Mexico…
Also known as Sky City, this Native American pueblo sits atop a 367 foot sandstone mesa. There are some breathtaking views to be had from the top of the mesa and the pueblo itself is fascinating. There are less than 50 tribal members currently living at the pueblo but there are plenty of opportunities to observe traditional artwork and culture. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and will give you a thorough tour of this amazing site.
History & Ghost Tours of Old Town, Albuquerque, are an incredibly popular attraction for anyone spending the night in the area. This is a story-telling 90 minute walk around the main square of Old Town after dark. This is a story-telling 90 minute walk around the main square of Old Town after dark. Old Town is the birthplace of Albuquerque, founded in 1706, and for more than three centuries people have lived and died around the Old Town Plaza. The historic buildings and dark alleys conceal the long-forgotten secrets of battles, murders, hangings, and hidden cemeteries.
This 10,000 square foot exhibit hall displays dinosaur skeletons, bronze representations of dinosaurs and fossils, and replicas of prehistoric creatures. There is also plenty of original artwork on display throughout the exhibit hall. The great thing about the bronze exhibits is the fact that you can get right in there and touch the exhibits. Kids will also love the sandpit area which encourages you to “excavate” your own dino remains.
For some real retro-road-trip icons you have to stop here. There are over 30 classic/vintage cars on display, all of which are in pristine condition. The cars are incredibly well maintained with colourful bodywork and glistening chrome – they certainly put my hire car in it’s place! They also sell a small selection of their vehicles – imagine driving Route 66 in one of these... Motoring fans will be in their element here – you don’t see vehicles / works of art like this every day.
Built in the early 1940’s this old Gulf gas station eventually succumbed to the widening of Route 66, losing it’s pumps but gaining new business selling curios to Route 66 travelers. The large concrete teepee certainly makes it stand out as you cruise through Tucumcari.
Although a motel and not a tourist attraction, the Blue Swallow Motel is such an icon of Route 66 that it would be remiss to not include it. The neon sign itself is in excellent condition and really is beautiful and eye-catching at night – it must be one of the most photographed signs along the whole route. The motel is very photogenic – even if you’re not lucky enough to be able to get a room it’s certainly worth a stop in Tucumcari to stretch your legs and take a few pics.
The New Mexico Route 66 Museum offers visitors a glimpse of New Mexico's Route 66 history and heritage, with a good collection of antique cars with many images of scenes along the old road. There is no admission fee but a donation is recommended. The museum is open between 9am and 1pm, every Monday to Saturday.
The Blue Hole of Santa Rosa is a circular, bell-shaped pool that is one of the most popular dive destinations in the US. The lake is unsurpassed for its clear, pure water and visibility is an astonishing 100’, due to the fact that the water completely renews itself every six hours. The temperature is a constant 62 degrees, and ideal for a hot summer’s day. A beautiful natural wonder that is worth seeing.
San Miguel Chapel is a Spanish colonial mission church in Santa Fe, built between approximately 1610 and 1626. It is the oldest known church in the United States and remains a beautiful building both inside and out. It's home to the oldest sweet bell in the USA which can still be rung by visitors. The chapel still holds regular services and is a cool and calm destination on a hot summer's day.
The Route 66 monument is a tribute to the glory days of Route 66 located in front of the Tucumcari Convention Center. The chrome, Cadillac fin and tail lights sitting atop the monument point westwards - it's an ideal photo-op if nothing else while you stretch your legs in Tucumcari.
Cutting across the Texas Panhandle region, Route 66 in the Lone Star State is home to wide variety of sights, attractions and photo ops.
This isn't a concise list so please consider it a flavor of what Route 66 in Texas has to offer. You can find a more extensive list of things to see along the whole length of Route 66 by clicking here.
Listed in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in Texas…
Originally a functioning water tower and slated for demolition, the leaning water tower was bought by Ralph Britten and moved to serve as a sign for his truck stop and tourist information center. The leaning water tower still remains a popular target for cameras, and the town of Groom turns on a large colored star mounted on the top around Christmas time.
Not too far from it’s more famous counterpart lies the VW Slug Bug Ranch. Five Volkswagen Beetles lay nose-down in the ground and, as with the Cadillac Ranch, visitors are encouraged to spray paint the cars in order to leave their mark. Whether it’s an homage or a riposte, this is another example of the many off-beat sights to be found along Route 66 and worthy of a stop to stretch your legs and take a few photos.
A little way off Route 66 but a fantastic scenic attraction. Travel the same trails used by Native Americans, early Spanish explorers, buffalo hunters and pioneers. The park occupies over 25,000 acres and offers camping, cabins, riding stables, picnicking, and miles of hiking, mountain bike and horse trails. The outdoor epic TEXAS runs every summer in the park’s Pioneer Amphitheater.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, comprises of a Western-inspired motel and steakhouse restaurant, and is a must-stop along Route 66. The style is typically “Texan” with white stretch limos featuring huge longhorn hood ornaments parked outside, massive portions and even a shooting range! It’s a great family-friendly venue, and a top night out for all. If you're feeling brave you should try the famous 72oz challenge!
Describing themselves as “unlike anything your dreams can imagine, all under one roof, a visual and ecological paradise, plus outdoor sculpture gardens”, the art galleries located at the Sunset Centre are a collective of over a hundred artists. The Centre conducts First Friday Art Walks on the “First Friday” of each month between 5:00pm and 9:00pm.
These ten up-ended Cadillacs have appeared in numerous music videos and TV shows including the video for “Living in America” by James Brown, and in the movie “Cars” under the guise of the “Cadillac Range”. It’s an interesting thought that these cars have now spent longer buried nose down in the dirt than they ever did cruising the roads of Route 66! Free of charge and open 24/7, this is such a Route 66 icon it would have to be in every drivers itinerary.
If you are traveling East to West the Midpoint sign will be on your right, directly opposite the Midpoint Cafe, one of the oldest continually-operating cafes on Route 66. Aside from being a fantastic photo-op, Adrian, Texas, is also a great place to leave your vehicle and stretch your legs. Once a bustling tourist stop on the mother road, it still boasts a sign stating the mileage to various points along Route 66.
The Conoco Tower Station was built in 1936 and is one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings along Route 66. This Art Deco landmark features a 100 foot tower that is lit by a series of colourful lights (the neon was damaged by a storm and replaced with LEDs). Today it is a museum of its own history, giving it the authentic appearance of a working 1940 gas station.
The Devil's Rope Museum and Route 66 Museum share the same building in McLean which is very convenient for travelers. "Devil's rope", or barbed wire as it's more commonly known, is a lot more interesting than you might imagine! Without it the expansion of cattle ranching in Texas would not have been possible. This museum explores it's history and use and features so many variations that you've likely never seen before. The adjoining Route 66 Museum features more than 700 artifacts from Route 66.
Standing at 190 feet tall the giant cross in Groom is visible up to twenty miles away! Surrounding the base of the cross are life-sized statues of the 14 Stations of the Cross. The site is usually very peaceful with non-Christian visitors showing respect to those of faith.
Oklahoma is home to the longest stretch of Route 66 - over 400 miles! So as you can imagine it was no easy task to whittle down the many historic, iconic and interesting sights and attractions to a simple list of ten.
As with the previous posts in this series consider this a flavor of what Route 66 in Oklahoma has to offer. You can find a more extensive list of things to see along the whole length of Route 66 by clicking here.
Listed in order from east to west, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in Oklahoma…
The Coleman Theatre is a beautifully restored theatre that was donated to the City of Miami by the Coleman family in 1989. Originally opened in 1929 as a vaudeville theatre and movie palace, the Coleman was designed to bring a touch of glamour to the city. The Coleman Theatre is open for tours that are packed with stories of it’s past glories and supernatural history - legend has it that three ghosts roam the Coleman Theatre!
Read more about The Coleman Theatre.
This museum is free to enter but it does gratefully receive donations. In lieu of that maybe you'll purchase a vintage motorcycle tee shirt or Route 66 memorabilia from the well-stocked gift store. It features plenty of old Harley’s, Ducati’s and Indians to satisfy most bike lovers, as well as an original 1917 Harley Davidson and even some of Evel Knievels x-rays!
Afton Station is a small private Route 66 memorabilia and antique car museum housed in a 30’s era restored filling station. The car museum can hold 14 vintage autos and a collection of Route 66 and Buffalo Ranch memorabilia along with other interesting items. Sadly, Laurel Kane the beloved operator passed away in January 2016 but you can still access her terrific blog at aftonstationblog-laurel.blogspot.com
Built in the early ‘70’s as an anniversary gift from Hugh Davis to his wife Zelta the Blue Whale of Catoosa served locals and Route 66 travelers in need of a swim. Although no longer in use as a swimming pool the Whale has been given a lick of paint to spruce him up and the picnic area has been restored. This smiling chap is ready to welcome visitors all year round - you can't drive Route 66 in Oklahoma without saying "hi"!
The Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, aims to celebrate and recognise the achievements of Cyrus Avery - often credited as the “Father of Route 66”. The Plaza features the flags of the eight states of Route 66, the Route 66 Skywalk (with its zig-zag art-deco style and familiar logo), a park, a pedestrian walk way over route 66, and several bronze statues including a land-run horse and wagon, and an old automobile featuring Will Rogers.
Read more about the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza.
At 60’ in diameter and 45’ in height the Round Barn in Arcadia claims to be the only “true” round barn: “most are actually hexagonal or octagonal”. Built in 1898 the roof eventually collapsed in 1988 but has since been restored to it’s former glory. The loft space can now be hired for events and there’s a gift shop on the ground floor. The Round barn is a unique landmark of Route 66.
Boasting more than 28,000 exhibits celebrating Western and American Indian culture, the museum houses a huge collection of artworks and historical artefacts including the American Cowboy Gallery, the American Rodeo Gallery, the Native American Gallery and the Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms. It also features Prosperity Junction, a 14,000-square-foot authentic turn-of-the-century Western prairie town!
Lucille Hamon operated this little gas station from 1941 to 2000 and was often referred to as the “Mother of the Mother Road” due to her hospitality to Route 66 travelers. It’s since been restored and a marker now tells the story of Lucille and her family. A great photo opportunity for all driving Route 66. Just down the road is a replica station, complete with a restaurant that is dedicated to Route 66.
This museum spans over 60 years of Route 66 history and showcases vehicles, artefacts, photographs, videos and an audio tour narrated by Michael Wallis (author of the Route 66 Travellers Guide). This is a fun stop and every effort has been made to make sure the exhibits are both eye-catching and informative. Each themed room comes to life with appropriate music of the time and the exhibits are colourful and often interactive.
Located in Erick’s oldest building, the City Meat Market, is the Sandhill Curiosity Shop. Containing a crazy jumble of Route 66 memorabilia this curiosity shop became very well known on the route due to it’s owners: Harley and Annabelle. They became well known on the route for bursting into song, and providing impromptu performances for visitors! Sadly Annabelle passed away in 2014 but Harley has continued to welcome guests to this unique Route 66 stop.
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!
Starting to plan your Route 66 road trip can be a daunting task, particularly knowing that you may very well be spending every night of your trip in an entirely new bed. In this respect a road trip will be unlike any vacation you may have taken before. Having a little information on the types of Route 66 accommodation won't hurt, and so this post aims to outline some of the choices that you'll face. It also aims to answer a very common question - should Route 66 accommodation be booked in advance or should the whole trip be spontaneous?
I hope you enjoy reading it. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments or head over to the Facebook group.
If you're not camping or driving an RV then chances are you'll be staying in a range of different accommodation types; motel and hotel, independent and chain, rural and urban, and finally... teepee!
For the authentic “Route 66” feel you’ll probably want to stay in smaller independent motels along the way – these can book up fast during peak seasons so you should definitely try to make a reservation in advance. If you're travelling at peak season then motels like the Blue Swallow, Munger Moss, Route 66 Motel or Wagon Wheel Motel are certainly worth booking in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.
However, if you don’t want to book Route 66 accommodation in advance and are happy to simply go with the flow and make discoveries, then rest assured that there are numerous independent motels ready to welcome you and grateful for your business. If you keep a copy of the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide in the glove box then you'll have the best advice at your fingertips whenever you're ready to end your day's drive.
If you're happy with simple, homogenous motels, such as Best Western or Super 8, then there are many chains operating along the route that’ll provide a place to rest your head after a long day’s driving. Usually you know what you're getting with a chain motel and sometimes you might be grateful for the familiarity that they offer. If you're happy to mix it up a bit, staying at both independent and chain motels, then you'll never be stuck for a local bed for the night. I've personally had very comfortable nights at the Comfort Inn in Santa Monica, and the Travel Inn in Claremore. Accommodation in both was basic but clean, comfortable and conveniently located in terms of proximity to the route.
Many of the iconic motels will be located in small towns or rural areas, but as Route 66 passes through some major cities you may want to treat yourself to the occasional fancy hotel! Some of the larger metropolitan areas along the route include Chicago, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Tulsa, Amarillo and St Louis. Each of these will boast a range of accommodation from budget chain motels to more luxurious hotels. I stayed the night at the Renaissance Hotel in Oklahoma City, a beautiful 4-star hotel with the best range of breakfast options I encountered on the route! Also very popular is the Wyndham Garden in Amarillo who offer a "roadie rate" if you happen to present a copy of their advert from the Route 66 Pulse.
This is down to personal preference - how much freedom do you want? Finding a place to stay is generally not too difficult, and most areas along Route 66 will be able to offer basic accommodation for the impulsive traveler. However, if you know in advance that you’d like to stay in a specific motel/hotel it’s essential to book in advance during peak season. Certain iconic motels will be fully booked months in advance. A sensible option would be to stay at a mixture of booked and spur-of-the-moment lodging; this way you get to balance the freedom of travelling the open road with the security of knowing you won’t miss out on the most iconic stops. Pick the motels you’d consider a must-see, book yourself a room, and fill in the gaps as you go. Spur-of-the-moment lodging at chain motels is particularly easy to find due to the high number of such establishments.
Route 66 can be a rich experience, encompassing all from small frontier towns to large cities, and the accommodation you choose will reflect this. A mixture of pre-booked motels and spontaneous stops is probably the best way to ensure you get the most out of your trip. Personally I booked about a third of my Route 66 accommodation in advance to make sure I got to stay in particular iconic motels – there were some places I just knew I had to see. Other than that I stopped off in a variety of independent/chain motels when I got tired of driving.
A recent conversation over on the Facebook group revealed that most people planned their trip as I did: book your essential motels in advance, maybe one motel every third day, and just wing it the rest of the time just for the freedom of it all. The great thing about this approach is that it'll help you keep focused in terms of your timings. Knowing that you have a place to be every third day will not only help with your planning prior to your trip, but will also make sure that you keep an eye on your daily mileage.
Once you’ve decided on the type of lodging you’re after you should be able to use the Trip Planner tool found on this website to find somewhere that suits. If you’re simply wondering which motels are considered “essential” to the Route 66 experience or have a long history with the road then I can certainly recommend checking out my previous posts on Highly Recommended Route 66 Motels - Part 1 and Part 2. Each of the motels listed has a rich history and has not only served the Route 66 community for many years but, most importantly, still provides quality accommodation.
The Trip Planner tool has a selection of motels/hotels that have been recommended by users of this website which can be filtered by state. Every Route 66 road trip is different and people’s wants and needs vary greatly, so where appropriate I’ve tried to include a variety of different types of Route 66 accommodation: motel and hotel, independent and chain, rural and urban.
This is Part 2 to the original post that tried to answer the frequently asked question, "can you recommend some great Route 66 motels?"
The motels are listed in the order they appear travelling east to west. If you've not read the first post and would like a reminder of the criteria for making this list then this is for you:
I hope you enjoy Part 2 in this series of posts recommending great Route 66 motels.
If you're looking for somewhere to rest your head before embarking on your road trip then you could do far worse than The Inn at Lincoln Park. It's a cosy hotel just a short bus/taxi ride from the center of Chicago and is a great location for a spot of sightseeing. Situated in a trendy neighborhood, it has the feel of a European hotel and not your usual cookie-cutter American chain.
For more info on the Inn at Lincoln Park, click here.
This refurbished hotel has been providing rooms for Route 66 travelers on vacation for sixty years. As with the Munger Moss, the Route 66 Rail Haven also has themed rooms - the Elvis and Monroe suites both come fitted with a hot tub to unwind in and reflect on a good days travel! If the weather is on your side then there is also an outdoor pool and spa for guests to enjoy.
For more info on the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, click here.
Located in Carthage, Missouri, the Boots Court was built in 1939 by Arthur Boots, and still carries his name today. In August 201 sisters Deborah Harvey and Priscilla Bledsaw began to restore the buildings to their 1940s' appearance. The newly restored rooms include 1940s' touches such as real keys, chrome light fixtures, chenille bedspreads, monogrammed towels, built-in dressers and a radio tuned to a station playing 1940s' hits.
For more info on the Boots Court, click here.
Although this isn't a "classic" or historical motel, the Baxter Inn 4 Less has been offering budget accommodation to Route 66 travelers for many years. For a great price this is a comfortable two-storey modern-era motel. Offering free Wi-Fi and a TV with cable channels in every room, the motel is less than 5 miles from Bicentennial State Park.
For more info on the Baxter Inn 4 Less, click here.
The owners of the Roadrunner Lodge have painstakingly worked to keep the 1960s vibe alive, even going so far as to broadcasting a short range radio station playing hits and commercials from that era. The 60's memorabilia and vintage design features really do a great job of transporting guests back to a time when motor hotels such as this were thriving along the route.
For more info on Roadrunner Lodge, click here.
Established in 1959, the Motel Safari has been welcoming Route 66 travelers for nearly 60 years and has become one of the iconic motels along the route. Very highly rated on TripAdvisor, this motel features artwork of original photo archives from Tucumcari's Route 66 heyday in each of the guestrooms, as well as old linen postcard prints of motels that no longer exist.
For more info on the Motel Safari, click here.
In the 40's and 50's, as the popularity of western films was on the rise, the Hotel Monte Vista became the first choice for many Hollywood stars such as John Wayne, Jane Russell, Spencer Tracy and Bob Hope who shot at the nearby Sedona and Oak Creek Canyons. Located in the historic district of Flagstaff, the hotel is in a prime location with plenty of opportunities to explore the local area.
For more info on the Hotel Monte Vista, click here.
Founded in 1952, the Highlander Motel now offers travellers a refurbished, inexpensive and convenient lodging experience following it's 2005 renovation. The Highlander is only five minutes walk from the Small Town America Museum, Buckskinner Park and Pete's Rt 66 Gas Station Museum.
For more info on the Highlander Motel, click here.
Fender's River Road Resort is the only resort on Route 66 and the Colorado River in Needles, CA. You can enjoy the river with fishing, boating, wave running, swimming or just sitting out on one of our decks right over the river taking in the picturesque view of the famous Needles mountains and listening to the currents of the mighty Colorado River rush by.
For more info on Fender's River Road Resort, click here.
The Wigwam Motel is a perfect example of kitsch Americana, and the original "do it in a teepee" sign is still onsite, albeit tucked around the back! The hospitality of the owners is regularly praised on social media.
For more info on the Wigwam Motel, click here.
One of the most frequently asked questions on this website and it's associated Facebook page is "can you recommend some great Route 66 motels?"
Hopefully this post will go some way towards answering that question. I use the phrase "some way" because there are far more fantastic Route 66 motels than the mere 10 listed in this post. That is why this post is Part 1 in a series - so expect a second installment very soon!
What makes a motel "highly recommended"? Well, the criteria for making this list was simple:
So here you go... Part 1 in a series of posts recommending great Route 66 motels - I hope you enjoy!
(The order of the 10 motels listed is based purely on the order in which they would appear if travelling east to west.)
Spend a day cruising up one alignment of Route 66 and back down another to the CarlinVilla Motel. Relax after your travels in their hot tub and pool, or just lounge in the comfortable lobby area. Located near the heart of historic Carlinville, the CarlinVilla makes for a good get away. Located in a quiet area it will give you a chance to relax and unwind.
For more info on the CarlinVilla Motel, click here.
The Wagon Wheel Motel was originally built in 1934 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The motel has been restored in recent times and, as the oldest continuously operating motel on US 66, celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2016. Each of the individual rooms has been renovated with new plumbing, wiring, bedding and modern amenities, making for a clean, comfortable and attractive stop.
For more info on the Wagon Wheel Motel, click here.
There are special themed rooms at the Munger Moss and if you're lucky there'll be one free on your visit. I've been fortunate enough to stay in the Route 66 Room which was adorned with images spanning the whole journey - fantastic! The Munger Moss’s iconic neon sign was restored in 2010 and is a shining example of the retro neon to be seen along Route 66.
For more info on the Munger Moss Motel, click here.
The Flamingo Inn is a classic motel on Route 66 and has been nicely remodeled without ruining the all important "Route 66" feel. It is an inexpensive stay with plenty of charm and character. Each renovated room comes with a large flat-screen TV, good internet service, microwave, coffee machine and mini fridge. The owners are very welcoming and offer complimentary bottles of ice-cold water upon arrival.
For more info on the Flamingo Inn, click here.
To discuss the Big Texan Motel without mentioning the adjoining restaurant would be to miss the big picture - the two go hand in hand as an all-round experience known as The Big Texan Steak Ranch. The motel itself is designed to look like a main street in a Wild West town, complete with shuttered windows and an actual area for the horses! The rooms are not huge but are clean and comfortable.
For more info on The Big Texan Motel, click here.
The Blue Swallow is one of the most well-known and easily recognisable motels along Route 66, largely due to its wonderful neon sign. Built in 1939, the Blue Swallow perfectly encapsulates the classic route 66 feel. A particularly charming feature is that every room has its own adjoining garage.
The rooms themselves are retro but cosy, clean and well kept, and the showers are very powerful. The owners are clearly proud of their motel and, upon arrival, showed us to our room to check that everything was okay.
For more info on the Blue Swallow Motel, click here.
The El Rancho Hotel and Motel was opened in 1937 as a base for movie productions by the brother of film director D.W. Griffith. It was the temporary home for many Hollywood movie stars including Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne! The Hollywood history plays a large part in the charm and attraction of this hotel. It's an historic venue and the decor may seem dated to some, so don't expect a shiny, contemporary experience. This is a hotel/motel that revels in it's vintage status and the glamour of classic Hollywood.
For more info on the El Rancho Hotel and Motel, click here.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is one of only three surviving "Wigwam Villages" in the US and one of two situated on Route 66 (the other being in Rialto, CA). The term "iconic" can be overly used when discussing Route 66 but in this instance is wholly deserved. Each "room" is a huge concrete tee-pee and has a genuine vintage car parked outside.
For more info on the Wigwam Motel, click here.
The Downtowner Motel offers newly remodeled rooms that range in size from, single kings, double queens, and double queen suites. Conveniently located just an hour from the Grand Canyon, with access to the Grand Canyon Express Train, the Downtowner Motel provides easy access to a range of shops, bars and restaurants.
For more info on The Downtowner Motel, click here.
The owners have done a wonderful job restoring the property and are keen Route 66 enthusiasts, being very helpful and welcoming. The exterior decor is vibrant and inviting while the interior is every bit as comfortable as you'd like. What is ideal about this motel in terms of it's location is that it's only a 150 mile drive from Las Vegas should you decide to take a side-trip to the strip.
For more info on the Route 66 Motel, click here.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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".
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.
Route 66 is a 2448 mile trip without taking in to account small detours or larger side-trips. That's an awful lot of driving!
Considering how much time you're going to spend behind the wheel it’s imperative that you try to make the journey as comfortable (and therefore safer) as possible. Here are my 5 tips to keep comfortable when driving Route 66...
It's the most often-repeated advice to any driver regardless of whether they're on Route 66 or not - but taking breaks is essential to keeping comfortable and safe. Current advice is to not drive for longer than 2 hours without taking at least a 15 minute break. With that in mind, it's actually unlikely or very rare that you'd find yourself driving for this long on Route 66 without stopping to take it all in anyway.
So be sure to take regular breaks – but not just for the safety aspect - because that’s what the Route 66 experience is all about. Stop at cafe’s, diners, museums, roadside art, photo ops… Have a coffee or soda, buy a fridge magnet or postcard from a small business, chat to the locals… Basically, do your best to support the local businesses that embody the spirit of Route 66. Without custom of Route 66 tourism many businesses just wouldn't survive. Perhaps decide on a collection before your trip - maybe a postcard or fridge magnet from each town or attraction you stop at. When I returned from my trip I was able to plot my journey on the side of my fridge using a huge array of magnets - it became quite a talking point!
It's just not a road-trip without a great set of tunes to set the mood! There are numerous radio stations along Route 66 to soundtrack your road-trip. If you’re after the traditional American road-trip sound then the following stations will provide you with a mix of classic rock, country and rockabilly:
But keep exploring the airwaves – there are numerous stations along the route just waiting to be discovered. I like to make a note of some of the best tracks I stumble across so I can make a playlist when I return home.
You'll spend a lot of time in the car so make sure you have a small selection of snacks to nibble on and keep the energy up. When you stop of at one of the small towns maybe pick up a bag of pretzels or some boiled sweets. If you're going to opt for something healthier then be prepared and carry a cool bag with you to keep things fresh. Just be sure that whatever you choose it's something that is safe and easy to eat on the road.
Another great tip is to always have a load of bottled water in the car. Before leaving Chicago I made sure that I visited a mini-mart and picked up a crate of bottles so that we would always have a steady supply of drinks. Of course, in this more eco-aware time it would actually be better to carry a refillable bottle to reduce plastic waste. Either way you'll be glad to have a fresh drink with you to keep you hydrated and the energy levels high.
If you're driving with a partner try and take turns behind the wheel. Not only will it prevent one person becoming worn out and tired on the road, but the process of driving Route 66 is just as enjoyable for the passenger as it is for the driver. Taking a rest from behind the wheel will give you an opportunity to soak up the scenery, maybe film some footage and take photos, or simply take control of the radio!
If you've traveled to the US from overseas you may find yourself driving with a passenger that is reluctant to take the wheel. Maybe they're anxious about driving on a different side of the road, or they've not used an automatic transmission, or they are simply not confident drivers. If this is the case then you may very well find that once you've moved away from the built up areas, and you hit the quieter, more open roads, that your passenger becomes a little less reluctant to give it a go. My wife had no intention of driving on our trip, but once she realized that large portions of Route 66 are driven on clear roads she decided to give it go. She loved it of course and then for the remainder of the trip we shared duties, with me taking over when we approached built-up areas.
If you're driving in a rental car then it'll almost certainly be equipped with plenty of features to keep you comfortable. Air conditioning is an essential feature when driving during the warmer months, particularly in the mid-western states. Temperatures can get extremely high during the summer and you'll want to be familiar with the AC settings of your car. Some cars have dual AC controls so that the driver and passenger can set individual temperatures for their side of the vehicle.
Also, you may have a vehicle equipped with cruise control which really helps during the long, straight stretches. It allows you to relax your legs a little during extended, uninterrupted periods. Again, if you're not familiar with cruise control then simply check the glove box where you should hopefully find the manual. If this is not he case then it might be something you'll want to ask about when picking up your car.
Adjusting the seats and head rest appropriately can not only keep you comfortable but actually help prevent accidents and improve safety should an accident occur. For example, you should be able to rest the heels of your hand on the top of the steering wheel without leaning forwards in order to improve your reaction time. Being seated in a relaxed position means that you won’t tire as quickly. Sitting in the wrong position will increase the chances of neck, shoulder or back pain.
If you've not driven in the US before then there are some basic differences that every driver should be aware of. Quite often you'll be driving on quiet roads but occasionally you might want to slip onto the Interstate or drive though one of the cities along the route. This selection of tips for driving in the United States is specifically tailored towards the Route 66 states, and is designed to keep you safe and operating within the law.
When driving in the US it’s worth noting that each state does have their own driving laws, but before you start to think this is going to get complicated, it’s fair to say that they don’t differ greatly. Generally speaking the maximum speed limit across each of the Route 66 states is between 70 and 75mph (110 and 120 kph) except in situations where signs indicate a lower speed limit. The state-specific maximum speed limits are:
If you’ve not driven in the US before then you're going to find driving Route 66 a real treat! Aside from the fantastic scenery you will most likely be driving a rental car too, and in most cases that means automatic transmission. At first I was unsure of how I’d find driving an automatic but I very quickly came to love the ease and comfort. Stop. Go. Simple.
If you’ve not previously driven an automatic it’s best to tuck the left foot away and into a comfortable position in order to operate the brake/gas pedals with the right foot only. This will help avoid any sudden braking should you have the urge to go for the clutch! Don't forget that you'll also be driving on the right-hand side of the road, and this, combined with being sat in the left side of the vehicle, takes a little adjustment. You may find yourself reaching for the window each time you think you feel the need to change gear!
Auxiliary controls (indicators, wipers, etc…) will also be reversed but the pedals remain in the same position - brake on the left, accelerator on the right. There's no clutch in an automatic transmission – this space is taken up by the over-sized brake pedal.
Each of the following rules may be new to you depending on your home country. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these before hitting the road.
Traffic lights will often be on the far side of a junction or even strung high above the road, rather than fixed to posts by the roadside. You need to be mindful of this as for a new driver in the US it may not be immediately obvious which set of lights are intended for your position.
The sequence of lights is usually red-yellow-green-red, but occasionally you may come across a set of lights that skips the yellow phase and immediately cuts from red to green and back. An amber light does not mean that you may proceed, it is simply giving you an indication that the light is about to change - don't pull away on yellow.
One of the most unusual features of traffic lights in most US states, and certainly all of the those on Route 66, is that it is legal to turn right at a red light. This can feel alien at first as driving through a red light goes against everything you may have learnt in your home country, however, you will very quickly adjust. Remember that you are already driving on the right-hand side of the road so all you are doing is simply checking to your left to ensure that the road you are pulling into is clear. Always look left to ensure the path is clear and don’t be bullied into turning if you feel uncomfortable. Be assured that in cases where it is considered dangerous to turn right there will always be signs stating “Do not turn right on red”.
When turning left at a traffic light remember that, as you are driving on the right, you need to make sure that you aim for the correct lane, particularly when turning in to a dual carriageway. Be sure to enter the correct lane upon turning (the right-hand lane) and not accidentally enter the left-hand lane!
In the US you'll find that the vocabulary of driving may be different to your home country. Here are some of the more common words you'll encounter:
You'll find that you will very quickly adjust to driving in the US. Route 66 is a long trip and so you'll learn out of necessity if nothing else. Following on from all these tips for driving in the United States, my biggest piece of advice for you to take away is to relax and study other drivers. If you arrive at a junction, or a set of traffic lights, and you're not sure what to do just observe the cars in front and take their lead. If you're really unsure then pull over if it's safe to do so and wait for the vehicle behind you to proceed. Never feel pressured to do something if you feel uncomfortable even if the car behind beeps their horn.
Remember, "Life is a Highway" and there is always something new to learn!
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...
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Alongside the great road itself there are several very popular detours that you can take whilst travelling Route 66. When deciding which, if any of the most common side-trips that you opt for, the most important question you can ask yourself is “if I don’t do this now, when will I?” Simply put – when will you next be able to afford the time and money to visit places such as the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, etc…
Side-trips are not a part of the Route 66 experience, they are merely an option should you wish to take advantage of your location and squeeze in some extra sight-seeing. For those travelling from overseas, Route 66 manages to place you relatively near some great locations that you might not otherwise get a chance to visit. Let's not also forget that the original Route 66 vacationers back in it's heyday also made many of these side-trips for the exact same reasons.
Presented below, in no particular order, are my five top Route 66 side-trips...
Okay, so technically this is not a side trip, as for the first twelve years of Route 66’s existence the road actually passed through Santa Fe. However, as many people don't follow this pre-1938 alignment I thought it was worthy of inclusion. These days many guide books (particularly the EZ66 Guide) point this out as the pre-1938 alignment or the "Santa Fe Loop".
I found Santa Fe to be a lively and vibrant destination with beautiful architecture and colourful market areas. Popular Santa Fe tourist spots are the oldest house in the United States and the “miraculous” staircase at the Loretto Chapel.
Take your time and explore the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, catch some live music in Santa Fe Plaza, or even buy some Native American jewelry.
Since it’s birth Route 66 has guided many families on vacation towards the Grand Canyon. And why not? It’s situated only an hour from both Williams and Kingman making it easily accessible from Route 66. It’s an easy day-trip but if you’re feeling more adventurous why not stay the night within the grounds of the Park itself and catch a sunrise, or even take a short hike down into the canyon?
On my visit I stayed at one of the many lodges within the national park and set my alarm an hour before sunrise. My wife and I packed a few snacks and drinks and took a short walk into the canyon to watch the sunrise. There was something about the view that seemed unreal, like a painting, as if we could reach out and touch it. We walked as far as we could in an hour before stopping to admire the views before starting our ascent. I'd thoroughly recommend it.
A visit to Monument Valley warrants a significant detour off Route 66 - a 400 mile detour in fact! If your time on Route 66 is quite limited then this isn't the side-trip for you. A two week trip that tries to include Monument Valley would be too stretched in my opinion. However, if you're lucky enough to have time on your side then this is an opportunity you may not want to pass up. A detour from Flagstaff is possible and allows you to return to the exact same spot to pick up Route 66 where you left off.
Perhaps the most famous example of the classic American West landscape, Monument Valley has been the backdrop for numerous Hollywood films. Part of the Navajo reservation, the views at Monument Valley are nothing short of breathtaking. If you're lucky enough to book far enough in advance you can secure a room or cabin at The View Hotel. The name says it all really - it's a prime spot to enjoy the sweeping vistas and magnificent scenery. The place can be fully booked in peak season so keep this mind.
Depending on how much time you have at your disposal, a side trip to Vegas may come at the cost of missing some of the California stretch of Route 66 for those travelling west-bound. However, if time permits, you could re-trace your steps back from Vegas to Route 66 and pick up where you left off. The path to Vegas isn’t a short drive and so be prepared for some very desolate roads through the desert. Personally, I very much enjoyed the drive as the desert landscape has always appealed to me.
Las Vegas isn’t to everyone’s tastes but personally, I loved every minute of the Vegas experience – the cocktails, slots, shows and spectacle were completely absorbing. It's garish, over-the-top, and shamelessly decadent, but if you can take it at face value it's also incredibly fun.
A visit to Vegas is no longer about gambling, and although I did spend a brief time trying out the slots (it would have been rude not to!), the highlights were to be found away from the casino floor. The fountains outside the Bellagio are a joy to watch with a cocktail in hand, and the many bars and restaurants also feature live entertainment of some sort. During the days you can simply walk the strip soaking up the atmosphere - the many exhibitions, street performers, and even zoos will keep most people entertained.
Again, this isn’t a true side trip but more of an extension to Route 66. If you’re travelling west-bound then your Route 66 trip ends in Los Angeles. However, if you have the luxury of a few more days of travelling then you could take the scenic Highway 1 up the west coast to San Francisco.
This journey can be comfortably made in three days and will take in some great stops such as Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo before you reach your destination of San Francisco. The coastal views are fantastic on a clear day but the west coast fog is very unpredictable and may conceal the views entirely.
When renting a car in the US you need to be at least 21 years old with a valid drivers license. That's not to say that every rental company is obliged to rent to you - some rental companies have a 25 year minimum age or require an additional payment if you're between 21 and 25 years old - prices vary so shop around. Most companies will also require you to produce a credit card before leasing you a vehicle.
Inform your rental company if there will be multiple drivers prior to signing your contract and budget for an additional payment for the privilege - this varies between companies - be sure to check on this.
There are several major companies to choose from when renting a car:
However, trawling through each of these sites individually, having to enter the same information time and time again soon becomes tiresome. There are websites out there that will search all of these companies on your behalf to find you the best deal. If you don't want to spend the time searching each company I would recommend using RentalCars.com - a price comparison site that will do all the donkey-work in finding the cheapest deal.
I have always used this company to help me find the cheapest deals for car rental and have never been disappointed - they are easy to communicate with via email or phone. One point worth noting is that if you get an estimate for car hire online but do not book straight away, they often wait a couple of weeks before sending you an email with a slightly reduced rate to entice you back!
When renting your vehicle be sure to understand that you are responsible for any damage to the vehicle - you will be presented with a few insurance options by the rental company. At the very least you will need liability insurance to cover any damage caused to third party vehicles. However, I'd recommend a comprehensive insurance in order to cover any damage to your own vehicle too. Some credit cards, such as American Express, will offer rental insurance if the card is used to pay for the rental. Be sure to check this in advance, and if needs be ensure you're not being billed for separate insurance by the rental company.
Most rental companies have locations at airports, large hotels and cities and are plentiful across the US. If none of these locations are suitable for you then Enterprise offer a service whereby they will come to you when you are ready to rent your vehicle.
When you book your car you will most likely only be able to specify the type of car (compact, saloon, 4WD, sports, etc...) rather than the specific model. Upon arrival at your chosen pick-up point you will likely be directed to the area of the parking lot which houses your type of vehicle and you will be able to choose your own vehicle from the available selection - a very exciting experience!
In the unlikely event that you should encounter a problem with your car, these companies will either repair the vehicle if it's unable to start or more likely replace the vehicle if you are able to get it to the nearest branch (which are numerous and widespread).
Most cars in the United States are fitted with an automatic transmission and will only have two pedals. If you are used to a manual transmission then you can forget the clutch - your car will only have accelerator and brake pedals. With an automatic gearbox you set it to P in order to park or stop, D to drive, and R to reverse. It can take some getting used to but makes for a very easy driving experience.
Your car will be presented to you with a full tank of gas and you will be expected to return it in a similar state. If you return the vehicle with less gas than you started with, the company will fill it up to the desired level for you but will charge a premium for this (sometimes as much as twice the cost of having done it yourself!)
Most people that drive Route 66 opt to return their car at alternative site to where they collected it. If you wish to only use your vehicle for a one-way journey (Chicago to LA or vice versa) then you will have to pay a one-way drop-off fee. Be sure to enquire about this with your chosen company as it can vary from company to company. Alternatively, if you're booking your car hire through RentalCars.com then this is taken into account when providing you with your quote.
I hope this information has been helpful - enjoy your trip!
In the 1930's, particularly during the dry, arid years of the "dustbowl", Route 66 was the primary thoroughfare for those who migrated west in search of agricultural work, and the volume of traffic was sufficient to support the economy of the many small towns through which it passed. By the time the 1950's hit, and the United States had recovered from the Great Depression, Route 66 had evolved into the main highway for vacationers heading towards the sunny, sandy promise of California.
It was a natural pathway for road-tripping families as it passed near such beautiful natural attractions as the Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Meramec Caverns, Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon. The increased tourism brought new prosperity and innovation to the many towns that lined it's path, and all manner of roadside attractions started popping up to compete for the trade of the renewed interest in the road - motels in the shape of tee-pees, reptile farms, "giant" roadside objects, and Indian curio shops!
Meramec Caverns, the “Jesse James hideout” was now advertising itself on the side of huge barns, whilst The Big Texan Steak Ranch boasted a 72oz steak dinner (free to those who can polish it off in under an hour!)
These were exciting times and also birthed the idea of "fast food" as we know it. In Springfield, Missouri, Red's Giant Hamburgers became the first drive-though restaurant, and San Bernadino, California, was home to a small restaurant called McDonalds that had their eye on the bigger picture (they're doing okay for themselves now!) Route 66 came to epitomise American culture at the time, and to this day is still viewed through a romantic lens of nostalgia and the promise of the American dream - all you needed was an automobile to explore it! These days, many of these vintage attractions have been saved and restored by Route 66 preservation groups.
A lot of what Route 66 has to offer you will simply encounter as you travel - you really won't have to look too far. Something to bear in mind of course is that a lot of the roadside attractions are just that – attractions at the side of the road! Therefore the chances of missing The Gemini Giant, Tow Tater, The Blue Whale or The Big Texan are slim so long as you’re not driving with your eyes closed! Of course it helps to have an up-to-date map and guide book (I’d recommend the EZ66 Guidebook as an essential purchase) to make sure you are actually sticking to Route 66 and therefore have advance warning of an upcoming attraction.
There are a wealth of sights and attractions gracing the old road from the historic and informative - Coleman Theatre, Acoma Pueblo - to the weird and wonderful - Cadillac Ranch, the Blue Whale, Tow Tater. Route 66 is now an icon of vintage Americana and every year thousands of people from all over the globe travel it's 2,448 miles.
There’s never a dull moment driving Route 66!