A drive along Route 66 is the ultimate American road trip. This route that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles is one of the most famous and beloved highways in America. This nostalgic roadway has peculiar sites, doo wop hotels, and unique restaurants in every state along the way. Read on to plan the classic Route 66 summer road trip!
Things to Do a Classic Route 66 Summer Road Trip
Route 66 Highlights in Illinois
You begin your journey in wonderful Chicago. The Historic Route 66 Begin Sign is located in downtown just one block from Millennium Park. Your first iconic stop will be in Willowbrook at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket for tasty fried chicken and 1930s nostalgia.
Continuing on Route 66 in Illinois, there are more wonderful sites. Along the way, you will pass Old Joliet Prison, made famous by the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. If you are in the mood for maple candy, you can buy some at some historic shops such as Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station and Funk’s Grove Pure Maple Sirup.
Route 66 Highlights in Missouri
Driving into Missouri, you will be greeted by the wonderful Gateway Arch. While in St. Louis, you can take a tour of the 19th century Anheuser-Busch Brewery or explore the famous Chain of Rocks Bridge.
Driving past St. Louis will lead you into some nice country towns and interesting sites. At the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, you can spend the night in a 1930s stone and mortar cottage. Don’t miss Fanning 66 Outpost for photo opportunities at its giant rocking chair. Just off the highway, Mark Twain National Forest is a great place to stop for lunch or a walk on Stone Mill Spring hike. You can really be nostalgic with a double feature at the 66 Drive-In.
Route 66 Highlights in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, visit the largest totem pole in middle America at Totem Pole Park. Walk through the giant mouth of the Blue Whale of Catoosa during a road stop. Stop in for great barbeque at Burn Co or indulge in an ice cream float at Rock Café.
In Warwick, daredevil fans can visit the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum. At Pops in Arcadia, soda lovers can have their fill with a choice of more than 130 varieties of root beer alone. The curious can visit the tiny town of Texola, and see the relics of an old farming town, including a one cell cinder block jail.
Route 66 Highlights in Texas
Texas is the midway mark on your Route 66 journey. After crossing the state line, get a Texas welcome from U-Drop Inn Café and Art Deco Tower Station. You can learn all about Texas ranching at Devil’s Rope and Route 66 Museum. Be sure to spend time in Amarillo’s Route 66 Historic District for a bite at charming places like Aldaco’s Tacos or find a unique item at The English Rose Boutique.
After Amarillo, be sure to stop by the Route 66 landmark Cadillac Ranch. This site features graffiti decorated Cadillacs buried nose down in the ground. The ranch is considered one of the most iconic places along Route 66.
Route 66 Highlights in New Mexico
New Mexico is the Route 66 entry into the American West. In Sandia Park, you can see tiny carved figures at the Tinkertown Museum. Grab a bite of Frito pie at 66 Diner before you take a selfie in front of their vintage signs.
In New Mexico, RV enthusiasts will want to stay in a 60s era trailer at Enchanted Trails RV Park & Trading Post. If a more traditional hotel is your style, the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup has the notoriety of being a place where legendary actor John Wayne once stayed.
Route 66 Highlights in Arizona
In Arizona you can visit Petrified Forest National Park. While at the park visit the Rainbow Forest Museum and drive to the Blue Mesa trail and explore the loop around the badlands. For a unique lodging experience, the Wigwam Motel has guest rooms that look like tepees with several 1950s cars parked all about to add to the nostalgia factor.
You can see the remnants of a meteor falling to Earth at Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. To see the marvelous Grand Canyon National Park, you will need to detour 60 miles north at Williams to reach the South Rim. When you return to Route 66, you will drive through prairie, gorgeous red rock, and several small time capsule like western towns like Peach Springs and Kingman.
Route 66 Highlights in California
California is the final leg of this drive. In the Mojave Desert, you can check out Roy’s Motel and Café on your way to see the California Silver Rush era at Calico Ghost Town Regional Park. At Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch, you will be amazed as you view this glass bottle forest.
In this area you can find the original McDonald’s restaurant, which is now a museum to the franchise. For true Route 66 nostalgia, stop by Cucamonga Service Station and see 1915 Richfield pumps that still advertise gasoline for 18 cents a gallon. Continue west and your classic Route 66 summer road trip ends in marvelous Santa Monica. Celebrate the end of your journey at the wonderful Santa Monica Pier’s boardwalk, food, and amusements.
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