The iconic Route 66 has inspired music, movies, and books and has become a pop culture icon. The highway was initially established in 1926, and fast became one of the most famous roads in America. Covering 2448 miles, the original route crossed eight states and crossed three time zones.
The original starting point was in Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California.
During the 1930 Great Depression dustbowl, the highway served as an escape route to new opportunities out west as well as supporting the roadside culture of roadhouses, Mom and Pop stores and cafes, and the many gas stations that sprang up along the route. John Steinbeck penned his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, in 1939 and dubbed Route 66 “the Mother Road”, which became a symbol of loss, escape, and new hope.
Today this iconic road trip, often romanticized and borderline kitschy, offers travelers a look into classic Americana, all the way from Chicago, Illinois to the Santa Monica Pier in California. In recent(ish) history, interest in the Route 66 road trip exploded once Pixar/Disney released their popular movie Cars in 2006, which was partly inspired by the old Route 66 highway.
So how about your own, non-Pixar, non-angry grape road trip? The journey begins at Route 66 Shield near Grant Park in Chigaco as you head out west, following the Route 66 attractions, state by state. The route is littered with Route 66 shields and markers, y’know, just in case you forgot which road you’re driving on.
Along the way, you can eat at classic restored roadside diners, like the Old Log Cabin Inn, for a plate of fried chicken followed by a serving of homemade rhubarb pie. Visit Henry’s Rabbit Ranch and meet the rabbit wrangler, Rich Henry.
Then, spend a night at one of the many renovated roadside motels, some of which have been in operation since the route was established. Book a room at The Wagon Wheel Motel or The Blue Swallow Motel that helped inspire Pixar’s Cars. Make sure to stop off at the Cars on the Route gas station and meet Tow Tater, the 1951 boom truck and the inspiration for Sir Tow Mater in Cars.
Full disclosure, I unironically love that movie, and my kid is watching it at least once a week right now, so it’s living rent-free in my mind. But even if you hate the movie, there is something for everyone along Route 66, including a trip through Grand Canyon by vintage train with old-style western gunslingers and an Arizona ghost town tour.
Interested? Let’s explore the fun & best attractions on Route 66!
- Most significant landmark – Route 66 Shield at Grant Park
- Best food – Old Log Cabin Inn, Pontiac, Illinois Route
- Best activity for adults – Meramec Cavern, Stanton, Missouri
- Best all-round accommodation – The Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, Missouri
- Best activity for kids – Four Women on the Route, Galena, Kansas
- Best free activity – Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas
- Best park – The Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert, Arizona
- Best nightlife – Santa Monica Pier
Best & Fun things to do on Route 66
1. Breakfast near Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois Route
Address: 78-98 East Adams Street, Chicago, Illinois 60603
The Route 66 attractions are not only about the western landscapes and open highways; they are also urban. The best place to begin the iconic American road trip is at Grant Park in downtown Chicago, Illinois.
Grant Park is one of the oldest parks in the city, established in the 1830s. In 1893 Grant Park played host to the World Exposition, a fair that introduced Cracker Jacks, Pabst beer, diet soda, and Aunt Jemima syrup to greater America. Open from May to October, the fair has gone down in history as one of the most highly attended, innovative, and downright dramatic World Expositions ever.
In 1993 the National Park Service listed Grant Park in the National Register of Historic Places. Before establishing Route 66 as the major east-west highway, the Pontiac Trail already connected Chicago to St Loius. In 1927 when Loius Armstrong and the King Creole Jazz brought the age of jazz to Chicago, Route 66 signage was along the Illinois route.
Today Grant Park is located downtown in Chicago’s central business district, with attractions such as Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, which is one of the world’s largest fountains, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Grant Park is also where you will find signs for both the beginning and the end of the historic Route 66, depending on your perspective. At the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue is the sign that reads “End of Historic Route 66,” and just a few yards away on Adam’s Street is the start of Route 66. Looking for a great base camp to plan your road trip? Check out this fancy Grant Park apartment.
See Related: Best Tools Travel Resources
2. Old Log Cabin Inn, Pontiac, Illinois
Address: 18700 Old Route 66, Pontiac, Illinois 61764
A classic little roadside cafe where you can start your day with fresh eggs and hashbrowns. The Old Log Cabin Inn opened as a quaint roadside eatery and gas station in 1926. Today the Old Log Cabin is one of the best Route 66 attractions and is visited by tourists worldwide.
The rustic interior has not changed much in the last 90-plus years, originally built using knotty pine and seating 45 diners, keeping with the family style and bar seating. When Route 66 expanded to four lanes, the Inn was repositioned to face the new road.
A popular attraction at the Inn and gas station was a talking crow, given to owner Joe Selotis by a retired judge. Under years of Joe’s tutelage, the malt-liquor-loving crow became known for conversation with patrons at the picnic tables out-back. Both Joe and the crow are dead – but their memories live on!
Serving American classics such as fried chicken, pancakes, and made-from-scratch rhubarb pies, this iconic roadside classic, synonymous with Route 66, is open daily, except Sundays.
3. Visit the Historic Murals in Pontiac, Illinois
Address: Downtown Pontiac, Pontiac, Illinois 61764
Pontiac is home to 23 murals depicting the town’s local history, featuring themes from the social, economic, and political past. The largest mural is the world’s largest Route 66 shield.
Painted by Diaz Sign Art in 2006, the mural is on the outside back wall of the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. All the base bricks are from the original Route 66 road running through Pontiac.
The Route 66 Pontiac mural celebrates two important events from 1926. The first event was the building of Route 66, Mother Road, through the City of Pontiac, bringing in much-needed economic growth. The second event was the release of the new Pontiac automobiles by General Motors.
My personal favorite, the Drink Coco-Cola mural was painted by Sonny Franks, and it goes without saying that this is about as Americana as it gets. As well as advertising the world’s favorite soda, there’s also a tribute to the Livingston County War Museum and the area’s military veterans, featuring a fighter pilot necking a bottle of the brown elixir, against a backdrop of some F4U Corsairs.
If you’re into street art, a walking tour is the best way to see the stories behind the murals of Pontiac, Illinois.
See Related: Best Cheap Places to Travel in the US
4. Chain of Rocks Bridge, Madison, Illinois/St. Louis, Missouri
Address: 10820 Riverview Dr, St. Louis, Missouri 63137
The Chain of Rocks Bridge has a fascinating history as one of Route 66’s best-known bridges. The mile-long bridge was privately built in 1929 as a toll bridge and is named after a dangerous 17-mile-long rocky section of the Mississippi River called the Chain of Rocks.
Originally designed to be a straight 40-foot wide roadway with massive concrete support piers standing 55 feet above the highway mark. Riverboat men protested the original design stating it would make the already dangerous conditions of the river more treacherous for the river barges and boats. To counteract this, a 24-degree turn was added mid-way across the bridge.
Construction began simultaneously from both ends of the bridge, with the grand opening planned for New year in 1929. Mother Nature had the last say when floods and ice slowed construction, and the bridge was finally open in July 1929.
During World War Two, the red bridge was painted green to be less visible from the air, which would have mattered if the U.S. was ever in any real danger of air raids. With wartime gas rationing and less travel, toll fees were increased to cover the bridge’s costs.
The iconic Route 66 attraction allowed visitors across the river for more than 30 years until a free interstate bridge opened just north of it in 1966. From there, it fell into disrepair.
In 1997 Trailnet began a restoration of the neglected and run-down bridge, and it was reopened in 1999 as a Route 66 Bikeway as a bicycle and pedestrian trail. The bridge connects Madison and St. Louis and offers outstanding views of the Mississippi River. Today the bridge is a popular Route 66 attraction and stands as a testimony to the love of travel and automobiles from a bygone era.
5. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Staunton, Illinois
Address: 107 Historic Old Route 66, Staunton, Illinois 62088
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is a true celebration of the history and people of Route 66 highway, with an emporium of trucking and car memorabilia next to a replica vintage gas station. A visit to Henry’s Rabbit ranch is not just about the furry kind but also the automobile kind, the VW Rabbit.
Rich Henry, the owner, grew up on Route 66, but the road had been decommissioned by the time he opened Henry’s Old Route 66 Emporium. Feeling there was not much interest in the venture, Rich wanted to do something different.
There is quite a story as to how the furry rabbits became part of this rather weird Route 66 attraction. Owner Rich’s daughter bought a pair of rabbits, not accounting for their population explosion. Rich stepped in, and the Old Route 66 Emporium became Henry’s Rabbit Ranch. A celebration of all things rabbit.
Packed together just like little huddled bunnies, the rears of six Volkswagen Rabbits jut from the ground, where they were planted bonnet down. The original Volkswagen of legendary Route 66 wanderer Bob Waldmire is parked a few feet away. A stop-off at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is a must for families traveling with kids, especially for those who love all things rabbit.
See Related: Best Travel Gifts [Gift & Present Ideas]
6. Visit the Giants of Route 66 – the Lauterbach Giant, Springfield, Illinois
Address: 1569 Wabash Avenue, Springfield, Illinois 62704
Springfield, Illinois, is usually associated with Abraham Lincoln and is the picturesque state capital.
One particular Route 66 attraction is the towering fiberglass Lauterbach Giant in Springfield. First purchased in 1961 by Russ Lewis to bring customers into his business, Midtown Tire. It was during this period that Paul Bunyan-type giant muffler men were popping up all across America as the ultimate advertising gimmick.
When the shop closed a year later (guess the gimmick didn’t quite work), the Lauterbach Giant was rescued and sold in 1962, where he found a new home in front of Roundup Motel until the motel closed in 1978.
Today the Lauterbach Giant once again stands guard in front of Lauterbach Tire & Auto Service on Wabash Avenue, patriotically holding an American flag. Painted with a bright red shirt and blue pants, with weathered-looking brown boots, and a full brown Bunyan beard, he is a beacon for tourists along the famed Route 66 Mother Road.
If you want to spend some serious time admiring this mountain of a man, why not stay in this breathtaking Lincoln-Era National Historical Landmark Home and explore Springfield while you’re at it.
7. World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, Collinsville, Illinois
Address: 800 South Morrison Avenue, Collinsville, Illinois 62234
Catsup? Ketchup? Who cares when it’s as high as a block of flats?! One of the weird Route 66 attractions came about as the owners of the Brooks Tomato Products Co. needed to build a water tank and decided to build one that would serve a dual purpose of advertising.
Designed and built in 1947 as a water tank for the fire suppressant system for a canning company, the world’s largest catsup bottle stands a colossal 70-foot tall on a 100-foot tower. Located in downtown Collinsville, the water tower holds 100,000 gallons of water.
If the Brookes tower was filled with their tangy catsup, the monument would hold up to 640,000 standard-size bottles. Once the canning plant closed in the 1960s, the water tower fell into neglect until it was restored to its former glory in 1995 by a 14-member preservation group selling over 6,000 t-shirts to help fund the project.
The tower was restored to its former glory and repainted in distinct red, white and blue colors. So on your way through Illinois, be sure to pay a visit to this unique piece of history that forms part of the allure of Route 66!
8. Visit the Underground World of the Meramec Caverns, Stanford, Missouri
Address: 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, Missouri 63080
The Meramec Caverns date back to 1720 when explorer Philipp Renault sailed through the fog and found the entrance to the cavern whilst exploring the bluffs of the Meramec River. The American Indians had long claimed that the walls of the cavern glittered with gold, though this turned out to be saltpeter, the main ingredient for gunpowder at that time.
In 1933 the Saltpeter Caves were purchased by Lester Benton Dill, who changed the name to the Meramec Caverns and began offering tours of the caves. Further significant finds were made by Les, including one in 1941 during a significant drought, which resulted in a drop in the water table in the caves. Les found a further cave which is thought to be the hiding place for famed outlaw Jesse James and his crew.
Today a walk through this historic site is 125 miles long and takes the guest through an impressive underground world created by continuous mineral deposits and water erosion. With plenty of available accommodations (such as this comfy, spacious, bargain rental home), this is one of the top Route 66 attractions to visit in Missouri.
See Related: Best Travel Cases For Camera Gear
9. Visit Devil’s Elbow, Pulaski County, Missouri
Address: Historic U.S. Highway 66, Piney River, Missouri
Devil’s Elbow has a long history starting before the area was included in the alluring Route 66 attractions.
Back in 1816, the Big Piney River was used by burly lumberjacks (I’m assuming they were burly) to transport timber downstream, where a u-shaped bend blocked the flow of logs. These rowdy, tough men (I’m also assuming they were rowdy and tough) gave the river bends some rather unusual and colorful names.
Devil’s Elbow comes from both the shape of the u-bend – it looked like an elbow, and this bend was a devil to float the log ties past. A small town was established on the banks of the Piney River and took on this name.
In 1923, as part of the State Highway 14 upgrade, a steel-truss bridge was built over the Piney River at Devil’s Elbow and was incorporated into Route 66 in 1926.
In 1985, the maintenance and upkeep of the bridge became Pulaski County’s job, and the bridge fell into disrepair. The restored bridge was re-opened for public use in May 2014. Multiple properties in the town have been listed as part of Devil’s Elbow Historic District and along with the bridge and Piney Beach.
With so many unique historic attractions (and named Best Route 66 Location by Missouri Life magazine in 2019), Devil’s Elbow should be on your Route 66 bucket list. It’s worth spending some time here, so naturally, you’ll need a place to hang your hat, such as this secluded cabin any lumberjack would be happy to hang their ax!
10. Spend a Night at The Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, Missouri
Address: 901 E Washington Blvd, Cuba, Missouri 65453
Speaking of places to hang your hat, the Wagon Wheel Motel was established in 1935 and is listed as the longest-running motel on Route 66. The 85-year-old motel, with its original neon lights, welcomes weary travelers to stop and rest along the way.
In 1936, The Wagon Wheel Motel started out as a mom-and-pop stop for fuel, food, and roadside lodging. Set back 200 feet from the road, The Wagon Wheel Cabins consisted of nine cabins for weary travelers.
The cafe and gas service station closed in 1940, and the cabins were purchased in 1947 by John and Winifred Mathis. As part of their renovation, the name was changed to The Wagon Wheel Motel, and the now iconic neon sign was erected.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and fully restored with the assistance of the NPS Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. This is undoubtedly one of the top Route 66 attractions that welcomes you to stay the night.
See Related: Best Road Trips in the USA
11. Pay a Visit to the 66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage, Missouri
Address: 17231 Old 66 Boulevard, Carthage, Missouri 64836
As one of only 235 remaining drive-in cinemas in the United States, paying a visit to the 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Missouri, must be on your list of Route 66 attractions.
The Drive-in Theaters became popular in the late 1940s and into the 50s during this postwar travel boom – just know you need a car to enjoy a movie at the drive-in (duh).
Back in 1945, during the peak of the Mother Road’s golden age, Americans took to the road in unprecedented numbers. With war-time rationing and restrictions being a thing of the past, businesses along the famed Route 66 enjoyed increased traffic and growth to cater to postwar travelers.
The drive-in was closed in 1985 with the decommissioning of Route 66 but reopened after renovations in 1998, and many of the original features remain. The Baby-Boom playground in front of the screen, the concession stand/projector booth remains in the middle of the park, and the massive steel structure that houses the screen in front and the slanted rear is still used for advertising.
The theatre opens every spring from April through September, be sure to stop by and enjoy a piece of cinema history as well as Route 66 history.
12. Rainbow Bridge (Brush Creek Bridge) in Cherokee County, Kansas
Address: Rainbow Bridge, South East Beasley Road, Baxter Springs, Kansas 66713
The historic Brush Creek Bridge or Rainbow Bridge is a single-span concrete old Marsh Arch bridge built in 1923. Located on the former Route 66 highway approximately three and a half miles north of Baxter, Springs, Kansas.
The narrow bridge is the sole surviving Marsh Arch bridge on the former highway. In 2000, singer Brad Paisley performed the song “Route 66” for the TLC special “Route 66: Main Street America”.
Today the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and is a Kansas landmark. This is one of the top Route 66 attractions to visit in Kansas, with conveniently located beautifully restored accommodations available in nearby Baxter Springs, like this stunning studio apartment in downtown.
13. Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station, Baxter Springs, Kansas
Address: 940 Military Avenue, Baxter Springs, Kansas 66713
The Kansas Route 66 Visitors’ Center in Baxter Springs was originally the gasoline station owned by the Independent Oil and Gas Company. The Tudor cottage-style gas station replaced a livery barn and opened on July 7, 1930.
The gas service station merged with Phillips Petroleum a year later and continued to sell gas until the 1970s. Since then, it has housed a dog parlor, a gift store as well a chiropractor’s office. In 2003 the Heritage Society acquired the building and was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Located on 940 Military Avenue, the building is now the home of the Kansas Route 66 Visitors Centre, where tourists can explore this and many other Route 66 attractions.
14. Milk Bottle Grocery Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Address: 2426 North Classen Blvd, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106
The historic Milk Bottle Grocery was built in 1930 and is a little Mother Road must-see. The tiny 350-square-foot triangular structure is built on a speck of real estate in the middle of a busy street. Perched on the roof is an enormous eye-catching sheet metal milk bottle constructed in 1948, which stands almost as high as the building and is eight meters in diameter.
Since the 1930s, the building has been home to a grocer, a barbecue diner, a laundry, a fruit stand, a liquor store, and a florist, to name a few. In 1998 the Milk Bottle Grocery was listed in the National Register for Historic Places, where the records show that Braum is the fourth name to appear on the bottle.
See Related: Essential Women’s Travel Accessories
15. Route 66 State Park, Eureka, Missouri
Address: 97 North Outer Road, Eureka, Missouri, 63025
The famed Mother Road of Route 66 has captured the imagination of Americans and travelers worldwide and has exposed them to what real small-town living is like across the country. But it’s also helped showcase some of the nation’s natural beauty.
Wanna do both? Of course you do. So stop in at The Route 66 State Park and visit the former Bridgehead Inn, now the park’s visitor center and view the history that showcases the road and the area. The park offers visitors a quick getaway into nature with many picnic sites and trails, a slice of heaven in a long road trip. The Park has a boat ramp and is on what was once the Times Beach Town.
The Bridgehead Inn is the old 1935 Roadhouse that was on the original Route 66 and is now home to route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs from the long-ago travels across America. View the rich architecture of Missouri from the 1930 and 1960 and take a wander through the attached gift shop.
This is certainly one of the top things to do on the Missouri leg of your Route 66 road trip. If you want more time to explore the park, stay awhile in Eureka and enjoy a quick nature getaway. This lovely rental home is a great choice for big groups, and it’s also a stone’s throw from Six Flags St. Louis!
See Related: Best Travel Backpacks | Efficient Carry-On Options
16. Arcadia Round Barn, Arcadia, Oklahoma
Address: 107 OK-66, Arcadia, Oklahoma 73007
The Old Round Barn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The barn was built in 1898 and is also the only round barn on Route 66.
Built by a local farmer using green native bur oak boards, which were soaked and forced into the shape needed to construct a round barn. A second level was then later added for community events. When the newly created Route 66 was aligned, it passed right by the barn, bringing automobile travelers and growth.
In 1988, the neglected barn’s roof collapsed, leading to its restoration being completed by 1992. Today the barn is a tourist attraction where visitors can admire the engineering of America’s only true round barn. Housing a gift shop on the ground floor, the beautifully restored upper-level loft is available for special events.
17. The Blue Whale of Catoosa, Catoosa, Oklahoma
Address: 2600 Route 66, Catoosa, Oklahoma 74015
The Blue Whale has become one of the recognizable Route 66 attractions. It is a very large waterfront structure located east of Catoosa, and depending on who you are (me for example) it is sheer nightmare fuel.
The curious dam was built by Hugh Davis for his wife as a surprise anniversary present in the early 1970s – poor woman. Originally the dam was for family use only, but soon locals began to use the dam because it was impossible to keep folks away from this grinning monstrosity. So, Dave then developed the area, added picnic tables, and employed a lifeguard before officially opening the attraction to the public.
Dave continued to add attractions to the park, including an art installation and a silver display by his brother-in-law, Native American Chief Wolf-Robe Hunt. When Dave passed away in 1990, the park fell into disrepair until it was purchased in 2020 by the City of Catoosa and turned into a city park.
The Blue Whale of Route 66 has been restored to its former glory to make people smile or haunt their dreams. This is one rather weird Route 66 attraction that you will want to visit.
See Related: Most Beautiful Cities in the World to Visit
18. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, Clinton, Oklahoma
Address: 2229 West Gary Boulevard, Clinton, Oklahoma 73601
About 30 years ago, a smart decision was made to change the vague name and the focus of the Museum of the Western Trails to the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.
This Mother Road museum truly fits the bill from the cherry-red ’57 Chevy, the retro neon sign, and the restored vintage diner. Encounter iconic myths and the history of the dust bowl as travelers head out west along Route 66.
Take a walk down a replica of Main Street America, filled with old cars, souvenirs, and Route 66 displays. No nostalgic trip is complete without this added to your list of Oklahoma Route 66 Attractions.
19. Nelson’s Old Riverton Store, Riverton, Kansas
Address: 7109 KS-66, Riverton, Kansas 66770
Formerly known as Williams’ Store, Leo & Lora Williams opened this community store in 1925. The spot was a handy locale for locals to get their essentials and was famous for Lora’s home cooking!
Williams’s is a great place to find Route 66 souvenirs and helped inspire parts of that movie I swear I’ll stop talking about soon. No promises though; I adore Owen Wilson and I simply love the fact this was Paul Newman’s last voice acting role. But yeah, visit the Old Riverton Store!
20. Kan-O-Tex Service Station (Cars on the Route/4 Women on the Route), Galena, Kansas
Address: Kan-O-Tex Service Station, 119 North Main Street, Galena, Kansas 66739
The Kan-O-Tex Service Station (frequently known as Cars on the Route, 4 Women on the Route, and formally known as Little’s Service Station), is a fun stop on the Old Mother Road Highway and one of the must-see Route 66 attractions, especially if you are a fan of the Pixar movie Cars.
Going back to its heyday in 1926, Little’s Service Station installed fuel pumps and added a service station. When the interstate opened in the area in 1968, it bypassed this neck of Kansas and caused businesses in the area to close their doors including the station.
Four women, Betty Courtney, Melba Rigg, Renee Charles, and Judy Courtney, were instrumental in restoring the historic old filling station and life back into the Galenaleg of historic Route 66. The service station was named Four Women on the Route and serves as a tourist attraction.
Today the service station is often known as Cars on the Route due to its connection to the movie Cars (I told you; no promises) and is famously home to their 1951 International Boom Truck, upon which the Pixar Cars character Tow Mater was based.
Bring your kids and stop in for a bite to eat at the diner-style lunch counter and say hi to this inspirational truck. Don’t expect it to say anything back though.
21. Galena Mining & Historical Museum, Galena, Kansas
Address: 319 W 7th St, Galena, Kansas 66739
The Galena Mining & History Museum, located in the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas railway depot, informs visitors about this historic mining city. It’s a pretty modest museum that also helps showcase Galena’s roots, its slide into obscurity, and the tiny town’s comeback…which may or may not have been aided by the movie Cars. Sue me.
22. Visit the Neon-Colored Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas
Address: 13651 I-40 Frontage Road, Amarillo, Texas 79124
As the nostalgic Route 66 attractions by the state continue, be sure to stop at the unique Cadillac Ranch in Texas. You will not find row upon row of beautifully restored Cadillacs for those wanting to step back in time.
These colorful Cadillacs are a piece of artwork to baffle, befuddle and otherwise delight the public. In 1974 ten Cadillacs were driven onto a field by a band of hippy-arty-types and half-buried, nose down. For car nerds, a number of different models are included, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville. These half-buried Cadillacs faced west as a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin.
The unique paint technique on the cars has been added by tourists visiting the Ranch, who, over the years, have defaced, dismantled, and covered the cars in dayglo paint until they are no longer recognizable. This tradition continues today with many a tourist trudging through mud and animal poo with dayglo spray paint in hand to add their signature to one of the unique and maybe weird Route 66 attractions.
Remember to snap a few photos of your work of art because whatever you create is sure to last a few hours before the next visitor takes your place!
See Related: Best Mancation Destinations Around the World
23. Blue Swallow Motel, New Mexico
Address: 815 East Route 66 Boulevard, Tucumcari, New Mexico 88401
The historic Blue Swallow Motel has been serving customers since the good old days of 1939. Located in Tucumcari, on the decommissioned Route 66, the stucco pink building with the blue swallow neon sign is a welcome sight for the weary traveler.
The movie Cars (I feel like I mentioned it once a few attractions back) makes this dusty New Mexico Motel worth a stop on your road trip for any Dinsey fan. The Disney/Pixar movie revived interest in Route 66 travel and the dusty towns en route.
For those of you who don’t know (what’s wrong with you?), the movie is set in a fictional town called Radiator Springs based on Tucumcari and features the Blue Swallow Motel, right down to that gaudy Neon Sign – “100% Refrigerated Air”.
No Route 66 bucket list trip should be completed without a stop at the Blue Swallow Motel. With the classically vintage rooms restored to the bygone era of the 1940s and 50s, this motor lodge deserves its place in the list of New Mexico Route 66 Attractions.
See Related: Best Things to Do in New Mexico & Places to Visit
24. Stay a Night at the Wigwam Village Motel #6, Holbrook, Arizona
Address: 811 West Hopi Drive, Holbrook, Arizona 86025
Not all motel rooms are four-sided with a traditional pitched roof and A/C. The Wigwam Village Motel in Arizona is made up of traditional teepees of the Plains Indians. The individual units are housed in sturdy wigwams, with one each constructed from steel and concrete with a base diameter of 14 feet and 32 feet high.
The 15 wigwams are laid out in an open rectangle to represent an Indian Village. Each unit has been renovated and includes the original hickory furniture and a small bathroom. Joined by an office and a museum, this motel is a great place to stop and explore the Route 66 Arizona attractions.
Today, parked permanently around the motel court are restored vintage cars, including a classic Studebaker. The museum features a collection of Route 66 and Civil War memorabilia, a petrified wood collection, and Native American artifacts.
In 2002, the Motel was listed in the Nation Register of Historic Places as one of the three remaining Wigwam Villiage Motels in the U.S.
See Related: Best Things to do in Arizona & Places to Visit
25. Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, Arizona
Address: 1 Park Road, Petrified Forest, Arizona 86028
The Petrified Forest National Park is known for its incredible vistas and features one of the world’s largest displays of petrified wood and painted deserted landscapes. Thousands of seemly wood logs litter the expanse, but they contain a surprise, they are rock, not wood.
Over two million years ago, Arizona was lush and green during the Triassic period, with towering trees and rivers. Floating trees absorbed ash from the water that was spewed from the live volcanoes in the area. Over millions of years, the silica in the ash caused the trees to petrify and become rock.
The painted desert is a result of the colorful Chinle, which consists of a variety of sedimentary rocks that have eroded differently over the years into the badlands of this beautiful painted desert. The dry plantless desert landscape makes the Chinle susceptible to erosion and weathering.
Located in the Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona, this National Park is for day visitors, with hikes and private tours suitable for all ages and abilities. After long hours on Route 66, through the heart of the Painted Desert, this is one of those special Arizona Route 66 Attractions that invites you to get up close and personal with nature in one its most unique forms.
26. A Thriving Ghost Town in Oatman, Arizona
Address: Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona
Oatman is a tiny boom town surrounded by the Black Mountains in the Navajo Desert. With the discovery of gold in 1915 and the ensuing gold rush, the town grew and prospered. In 1924 the main mine shut down, and by 1944 all mines in the area closed; the gold was gone.
So what makes Oatman different from all the dusty uninhibited ghost towns? How does a ghost town “thrive?” The 100 or so residents who have fought to keep the traditions alive have not allowed the town to become another ghost town. That might not seem a lot, but considering most ghost towns have a population of zero, 100 is practically booming for any old boom town!
Take a walk through the town, and you will find dilapidated buildings, wooden sidewalks, and gunfights. Take in the locals, laughing and chatting as they craft trinkets and souvenirs to sell. Join the herd of wild burros walking down Main Street. Interested? You can book a tour right here if you’re visiting Las Vegas.
Oatman Road is part of the historic Route 66, a narrow, bone-shaking road with killer curves, cliffs, and a desert landscape. The road is known as the Bloody 66 and will take you back into a time of gold fever and cowboys; this is definitely one of the Arizona Route 66 Attractions you should not miss.
See Related: Practical Tips for Working While Traveling
27. Route 66 Powerhouse Museum, Kingman, Arizona
Address: 120 West. Andy Devine Avenue, Kingman, Arizona 86401
Located on the second floor of the old powerhouse in Kingman, Arizona you’ll find the Route 66 Powerhouse Museum. This compact museum is a gearhead’s delight, featuring a wide variety of vehicles from 19th Century wagons, motorcycles, early automobiles, electric cars, and even record-breaking race cars.
Willy Nelson’s own golf cart is here. Need I say any more?
28. Take a Train Ride from Williams, Arizona
Address: Grand Canyon Railway Depot, 280 N Grand Canyon Blvd, Williams, Arizona 86046
The best way to see the Grand Canyon is to take a ride on a restored vintage train. Williams is a stop along the legendary Route 66 road trip and the location for the old western-style Willaims Station.
Stepping into the train is like stepping back in time. From the gunmen on the platform to the interior of the train with its damask velvet wall coverings, large windows, and reclining seats, this trip really is like a rolling time machine.
Featuring a panoramic vista of wildflowers, pine forests, and plains with canyons and the San Francisco Peaks along the way, the Grand Canyon Rail Depot is the next stop. After a day touring the majesty of the Grand Canyon, the return trip by train holds its own surprises. A wild west train holdup, with bandana-masked cowboys on horseback and guns! Cripes!
Rest assured, the cowboys are the same from the Williams Train Station gunfight earlier in the day, and all ends well. This is a truly epic addition to the Arizona Route 66 bucket list and one that brings a welcome break from your road trip travel.
29. Visit the Calico Ghost Town, Barstow, California
Address: 36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, California 92398
Calico Ghost Town is an old western mining town that closed when the silver lost its value. Today, the Ghost is a renovated tourist attraction located in the Calico region of the Mojave Desert.
Take a self-guided tour through Maggie Mine along a 1000-foot route, down the mine drift, and learn about the history and workings of the mine. The mine is part of the town’s famed ghost tours, with many hauntings and stories to tell.
Visit the working Calico Odessa Railroad and take a ride with Hardrock John through this historic site and pan for your own gold in the surrounding rivers.
From wild west gunslingers to historic restaurants, this old ghost town is one of the best things to do on Route 66. Plus, if you’re thinking of hanging around for a bit and are looking for more iconic Route 66 attractions, book a room at the one and only Route 66 Motel!
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Barstow, California
30. The Road Ends at Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California
Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California 90401
Route 66 ends at the Santa Monica Pier just beyond Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The old road sign was brought back to the pier when it was awarded ” last stop of Route 66″ status. Visit the little 66 to Cali Kiosk for Route 66 memorabilia to commemorate the end of your epic journey of Route 66 attractions by state!
The pier is the pride and joy of Santa Monica and has been a city landmark for over one hundred years. We talk about this place (and the Los Angeles area) a lot – and you can read more about this awesome town here!
Is Route 66 still worth driving?
Absolutely yes! Whether the Route 66 Highway is a bucket list trip, a means of learning about America up close and personal, or a way to relive old family history, this is a trip of a lifetime. Since the Pixar movie Cars has revived interest in Route 66, towns along the Mother Road have sprung back to life – seriously this movie breathed life into tiny towns that time nearly forgot. The route follows the footsteps of American history and allows the traveler to step back in time and experience this golden era.
Why is Route 66 not used anymore?
Well, it is and it isn’t. The Route 66 highway was decommissioned in 1985 and was replaced by interstate highways, legislated in 1956 by President Eisenhower. The popularity of Route 66 became its downfall as the two-lane highway could not cope with the volume of cars.
Where is Cars supposed to take place?
The Pixar/Disney movie Cars is set in a fictional town called Radiator Springs. Based on a real desert town along the famed New Mexico portion of Route 66 called Tucumcari. From the gaudy neon signs to the desert mountain scenes. Blue Swallow Motel was featured in the film, including the neon-lit sign – “100% Refrigerated Air.”
- Best Cameras for Travel Blogging
- Most Haunted Places in the US
- Best Family Travel Insurance Plans Affordable Plans
Lock In Your Travel Now
Find Cheap Flights
Use Skyscanner to find flight deals. As my personal favorite flight search engine, Skyscanner scours websites and airlines across the globe, leaving no stone unturned to help you find the best deal possible. And if you really want to take your savings to new heights, pair Skyscanner with Going (Formerly Scott's Cheap Flights). With access to exclusive mistake fares delivered straight to your inbox, you'll be packing your bags and jetting off on your next adventure before you know it.
Travel insurance is a low cost way to ensure your travel plans go smooth no matter what's thrown at it. Cover yourself against illness, injury and theft, and protect the arrangements you've made with our flexible travel cancellation insurance. My favorite options for travel insurance are:
Book Your Accommodation
In order to capture the widest selection of properties and the best price, use Booking.com as they have the cheapest rates for guesthouses, hotels, luxury condos, B&Bs and so much more.
Want More Destination Ideas Direct to Your Inbox?
Be sure to join the ViaTravelers Newsletter for expert tips, tricks and inspiration for your next travel journey!
Discover the Best Travel Tools
Be sure to visit our page on our favorite travel resources to learn how you too can visit over 10 countries in year.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that we get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. Learn more.