There is nothing more historic than a road trip through Route 66. Who has not heard of Route 66? Author John Steinbeck has called it The Mother Road in his novel “The Grapes of Wrath”. It is a famous migrant road built back in the 1920s to travel from east to west. The historic Route 66 is a 2,400-mile road that runs from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. If you’re planning a road trip across USA, this is the route you want to take. It will give you a glimpse of the country’s heart and soul while crossing the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. A road trip across Route 66 will reward you with the urban streets of Chicago, the astounding Grand Canyon, protected Native American communities, and the refreshing beaches of Santa Monica. Here are some activities and attractions for your road trip across Route 66!
Start your trip with some good corn dogs from the family-run Cozy Dog Drive in Springfield, Illinois. Be there at 8:00am to get it sizzling hot and meet locals chatting over coffee. Afterwards, go visit the preserved Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell. Standard Oil Company was founded by John D. Rockefeller and dominated America with its oil refineries and gas stations. The gas station in Odell carries the 1916 Standard Oil of Ohio design that welcomed weary travelers on their journey across Route 66.
Spend the night in the historic Wagon Wheel Motel, famous for its neon signage personally designed by its previous owner John Mathis in 1947. The Wagon Wheel Motel, Café and Station in Cuba has been serving travelers since 1936 and is one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Route 66. After a good night’s rest, visit the Meramec Caverns in the Ozarks, near Stanton, Missouri. This is where the bumper sticker was first introduced by Lester B. Dill back in 1935! It is also one of Jesse James’s famous hideouts.
Kansas will give you a packed glimpse of Route 66 in its heyday. The old highway goes through three towns: Galena, Riverton and Baxter. The older Galena buildings served as inspiration for the “Radiator Springs” community in Pixar’s film, Cars. From gas stations to trading posts and museums, Kansas is as historic as you can imagine.
Do not miss out on the World’s Largest Totem Pole in Foyil, Oklahoma. This Ed Galloway work is worth the detour! The totem is sixty feel tall, six stories and 30 feet in circumference. Grab a bite at Rock Café in Stroud, Oklahoma. Owner Dawn Welch was also the inspiration for the character of Sally Carrera in Pixar’s Cars. Order yourself the old fashioned hot burger or a steaming bowl of homemade chili.
When in Texas don’t forget to stop in Amarillo – its 6th Street Historic District offers a great mix of Spanish Revival, Art Deco, and Art Moderne designs, and by all means check out the Cadillac Ranch public art installation placed in 1974 which features 10 Cadillacs buried nose-down and tilted at an angle intended to correspond to the Egyptian pyramids. Make a stop in Mclean; visit the strangely interesting Devils Rope Barbed Wire Museum and stay the night in the Cactus Inn Motel.
Your weary selves can rest at the Blue Swallow Motel in New Mexico. It is known as “The Friendliest Hotel on Route 66”. This 12-unit offers a front row seat for Tucumcari sunsets, where you can sit, drink and talk with fellow travelers.
Arizona will bring you closer to nature with its Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater and the famous Grand Canyon. The Petrified Forest is 52,000 acres of desert. Get a chance to look for dinosaur fossils, view remains of petrified trees, and explore archaeological sites. You also get to see the oranges, reds and pinks of the Painted Desert surrounding the park. Another famous Route 66 attraction is the Meteor crater between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona. This gigantic crater was created by a meteor impact more than 50,000 years ago. You can spend a guided hike to see the well-preserved crater measuring 2.4 miles in circumference and 550 in depth.
The beautiful beaches of Santa Monica are the perfect ending (or beginning) for your Route 66 road trip. The Santa Monica pier features a small amusement park. Ride the historic carousel and reward yourself with an addictive cup of milkshake. Enjoy the rest of the day walking along the Third Street Promenade. You may also want to visit Pasadena and Needles during your trip.
Today, taking the Historic Route 66 is around 1,410 miles or roughly six days. Route 66 no longer exists on modern maps making it a more unpredictable journey. Taking this road trip will give you the nostalgia any road trip should deliver. Enjoy the tiny towns, odd little trading posts and attractions, and the rest of the pit stops that appear frozen in time. As Bobby Troup sang, “If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, the highway that’s the best. Get your kicks on Route 66!”