So you’ve decided on a road trip across the iconic Route 66 – it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime. Taking anywhere from two weeks to two months to complete, this isn’t the easiest road trip to plan. With so much to see between Chicago and Santa Monica, choosing where to stop and how to plan can be intimidating.
Travel to: USA
Here’s our advice on how to see Route 66.
1. Paul Bunyan and a Hotdog (Atlanta)
Nearly six metres tall, the Paul Bunyan statue stands confidently in Atlanta, Illinois with a giant hotdog in hand. Originally designed to advertise a cafe in Arizona, the statue has made a few moves in its lifetime, but has made Atlanta its permanent home.
2. The Guinness World Record World’s Largest Covered Wagon (Lincoln)
Hand built by David Bentley in 2001, this landmark was built to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Route 66, and therefore should not be missed.
Lincoln, Illinois. Photo credit: davidwilson1949 on Visual Hunt / CC BY
3. The Historic Standard Oil Gas Station (Odell)
Built just six years after Route 66 was aligned through Odell in 1932, this retro gas station is perfectly preserved in time. You may not be able to fill up on gas, but it makes for a great photo op.
4. Mural City (Pontiac)
Route 66 isn’t complete without a drive through the town of Pontiac to explore the famous Route 66 Murals. With some as old as the 1800’s and some as new as the 2000’s, they’re quite the sight to see.
5. Largest Catsup Bottle in the World (Collinsville)
Standing 52 metres tall, this ketchup bottle (which is actually a water tower) is said to be the world’s largest Catsup bottle. See it in person and you’ll understand why.
6. Chain of Rocks Bridge (Madison)
The original Chain of Rocks bridge was constructed in 1927, but has since been replaced with the “New Chain of Rocks Bridge”. Seem familiar? The bridge was used in the 1981 movie, “Escape from New York.”
7. Ariston Cafe (Litchfield)
Opened in 1924, the Ariston Cafe is widely considered to be the oldest restaurant on Route 66. As the cherry on top, it’s still open and serving delicious meals!
Photo credit: darastar on Visual hunt / CC BY
8. Start of Route 66 Signs (Chicago)
Route 66 may not have an official start and end point, but Chicago would say otherwise. At 99 E Adam Street, tourists can find the historic “BEGIN Route 66” sign — and pose for a photo!
9. The World’s Second Largest Rocking Chair (Fanning)
Second in size, but still a must-see, the “Route 66 Red Rocker” has quickly become one of the most iconic landmarks of the highway since its construction in 2008.
10. Wagon Wheel Motel, Cafe & Gas Station (Cuba)
Back in 1936, The Wagon Wheel Cabins opened for business. All these years later, they’re still open and lodging guests! The gas station and cafe are now a gift shop, but not a lot else has changed.
11. 66 Drive-In Theatre (Carthage)
Opened in 1949, this historic drive-in theatre is a hot spot for tourists travelling Route 66. Re-opened in 1998, the theatre is fully functional and shows films nearly every weekend.
The historic 66 Drive-In. Photo credit: Marcin Wichary on Visual hunt / CC BY
12. Rock Fountain Tourist Court (Springfield)
Built in 1945 as a cottage style motel, these cozy cabins are stone-faced buildings stuck in the past. Now apartment buildings that aren’t open to the public, they’re still a great sight from the highway.
13. Meramec River US 66 Bridge (Eureka)
You may not be able to drive on this bridge, but it’s filled with history and worth a visit. Originally constructed in 1900 and updated nearly four times since, it’s seen a lot of change in its 100 year lifespan.
14. Big Chief Hotel (Wildwood)
Known as the Big Chief Roadhouse, the old hotel opened in 1928 as a cabin “hotel” with 62 cabins for guests. The cabins have since been demolished, but a fantastic restaurant remains.
15. Gillioz Theatre (Springfield)
Timelessly restored and open to the public, the Gillioz Theatre is a beautiful attraction on Route 66. Opened in 1926 and restored in 2006, this age-old building is the perfect entertainment stop along the highway.
Photo credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA
16. Circle Inn Malt Shop (Bourbon)
Styled in the 50’s, this shake shop and restaurant is filled with classic Route 66 memorabilia that no tourist should pass up. Plus, with the massive sign on the roof, it’s a little hard to miss.
17. Munger Moss Motel (Lebanon)
The Munger Moss Motel is the perfect place for any Route 66 tourist to lay their head for the night. Totally retro and filled with Route 66 goodies, you’ll come out with at least one or two souvenirs.
18. Cafe on the Route (Baxter Springs)
The Cafe, bed and breakfast, and restaurant was closed in 2013, but still remains a popular destination thanks to a local legend. Rumour has it, the building (which used to be a bank) was robbed by the famous outlaw Jesse James in 1876.
19. Bush Creek Bridge – AKA “The Rainbow Bridge” (Riverton)
As part of the original Route 66, this concrete arch bridge was built in 1923 by award-winning engineer James Barney Marsh. It’s no longer open to traffic, but you’re still able to walk across it.
20. Kan-O-Tex Service Station (Galena)
This vintage service station has been perfectly preserved in its original 1934’s glory. Now a gift shop and roadside cafe, the restored gas station is a blast from the past. It also showcases the tow truck that inspired the character “Mater” from Disney-Pixar’s Cars.
21. The Williams’ Store (Riverton)
The Williams’ Store, also known as the Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store, was opened in 1925 and remains open today. It’s become a popular tourist destination, as it’s known as the oldest continuously-operating store on Route 66.
22. The Litch Historical and Mining Museum (Galena)
If you’re looking to experience a bit of history on your road trip, the Litch Historical and Mining Museum has you covered, complete with an impressive collection of mining operations artifacts.
See Also: Tips for Travellers Driving in the USA
23. Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station (Baxter Springs)
1930’s marketing strategies for major oil companies was clever: design gas stations to blend into town scenery with a cottage look and feel to put locals at ease and provide a sense of trust to travellers. Who knows if it worked, but you can check out the style at this gas station.
24. Galena Historic District (Galena)
The Route 66 Historic District of Galena is classic 1900’s sitting in modern day. The red-brick buildings are timeless and almost exactly as David Rittenhouse described them way back in 1946.
25. Fort Blair – Civil War Battleground (Baxter Springs)
During the Civil War, forts in Kansas were often used to escort military wagon trains through native territory. Fort Blair is known for the infamous Baxter Springs Massacre, making it a historic stop on your Route 66 tour.
26. Route 66 Museum (Clinton)
What’s a tour across Route 66 without a stop at the Official Route 66 Museum? This museum is a complete exhibition on Route 66 and includes iconic photographs, vintage artifacts, and memorabilia.
27. Hole in the Wall Conoco Station (Commerce)
This gas station relic is unique, seeing as it’s built directly into a brick wall. Originally opened in the 1920’s, this bizzare landmark is now open as a gift shop selling route 66 memorabilia.
28. Dairy King (Commerce)
Right across the street from the Hole in the Wall Station sits Dairy King. Not Queen – King! What used to be a Service Station is now a fully stored and functioning restaurant, selling ice cream, burgers, and Route 66 cookies.
29. The World’s Largest Totem Pole (Foyil)
This historic (and impressive) totem pole is just over 27 meters tall and nearly three meters wide. Built in 1948, this attraction has become popular amongst Route 66 travellers and is open during daylight hours. There’s even a gift shop!
30. The Arcadia Round Barn (Arcadia)
Most barns are constructed with four walls – but this barn, built in 1898, has no corners at all. Open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm, this odd landmark is a must see. Plus, admission is free!
31. The Blue Whale of Catoosa (Catoosa)
Google image “The Blue Whale of Catoosa” and you’ll instantly want to go. After two years of construction, the massive 25 metre long and six metre tall whale was completed by Hugh D. Davis in 1972 and quickly became one of the most popular sites along Route 66.
32. Rock Cafe (Stroud)
This landmark has been transformed a few times. Opened as a cafe in 1939, it was turned into a Greyhound bus stop after World war Two, and into a burger restaurant after a fire in 2008. It’s open daily from 6am to 9pm.
33. Coleman Theatre (Miami)
Built by a local millionaire in 1929, this theatre is one of the most historic and beautiful stops along Route 66. Completely refurbished and renovated, this Spanish Revival-style theatre is open to the public and even offers free tours.
34. The CONOCO Tower Station (Shamrock)
Built in 1936, this Art Deco landmark has become increasingly popular and was even featured in Pixar’s 2006 movie, Cars. Today, it’s open as a museum showcasing the charm of a 1940’s filling station.
35. The Leaning Water Tower (Groom)
Forget The Leaning Tower of Pisa – Route 66 has its own leaning water tower! While it used to be fully functional, it was saved from demolition and repurposed as a sign to advertise a truck stop and tourist centre.
36. Route 66 Midpoint (Adrian)
The perfect place to snap a photo, the Route 66 midpoint sign lets travellers known how far is left driving in either direction. Plus the Midpoint Cafe is right across, in case you’re in need of a bite to eat.
37. Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo)
Featured in numerous music videos, movies, and TV shows, these ten up-ended Cadillacs have become a famous landmark that should be on every Route 66 itinerary. Free and open 24/7, there’s no reason not to stop.
38. The Big Texan Steak Ranch (Amarillo)
Totally delicious and totally Texan, this steakhouse is an endless afternoon of fun. The portions are huge and, believe it or not, there’s even a gun range. If you’re feeling brave, ask to try the 72oz challenge.
39. Palo Duro Canyon State Park (Outside Amarillo)
A little bit off of Route 66, this state park is the perfect place to stretch your legs and pitch a tent for the night. Filled with unbelievable views, walking trails, and horseback riding, it’s a perfect oasis just off the highway.
40. The Vega Motel (Vega)
A classic image of the 1940’s, the Vega Motel is an impeccable example of the motor court days of Route 66. Before air travel was an option, this motel was bustling with travellers. Now, it’s more of a sleepy memory of what used to be.
41. VW Slug Bug Ranch (Conway)
Similar to the Cadillac Ranch, this “ranch” showcases five nose-down Beetles ready to be spray painted. It might be a little odd, but it’s another stop you can’t miss along the way.
42. The Giant Cross (Groom)
This landmark is exactly as it sounds – a giant cross. Standing nearly 60 metres tall, this outstandingly large cross is visible over 30 kilometres away, so it’s pretty hard to miss.
43. Acoma Pueblo (Cibola County)
Also known as “Sky City”, this authentic Native American pueblo sits atop a sandstone mesa and showcases some of the most beautiful views in all of New Mexico. Less than 50 tribal members currently live there, but the culture is still shiningly evident.
44. Blue Swallow Motel (Tucumcari)
If you’re looking for a vintage motel complete with a classic neon sign, this is your best bet. Opened just before the start of World War II, The Blue Swallow is amazingly still open after being restored in 2007 as part of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.
45. Mesalands Dinosaur Museum (Tucumcari)
If dinosaurs are your thing, this 10,000 square foot exhibit hall will give you a thrill. Filled with skeletons, fossils, and replicas of prehistoric creatures. It’s a fun and educational stop along your tour of Route 66.
46. Route 66 Auto Museum (Santa Rosa)
This retro museum has over 30 classic cars on display, all of which are in pristine condition. These colourful, well-maintained and glistening cars will really throw you back to the retro days of Route 66.
47. Santa Rosa Blue Hole (Santa Rosa)
This natural wonder along Route 66 is definitely worth seeing. As one of the most popular dive destinations in the US, the Blue Hole is filled with crystal clear, pure water that completely renews itself every six hours.
48. San Miguel Chapel (Santa Fe)
The San Miguel Chapel is the oldest known church in the United States, built somewhere between 1610 and 1626. Open to the public, it still hosts regular services and even lets visitors ring its bell. It’s a cool and relaxing stop on a hot summer’s day.
49. Route 66 Monument (Tucumcari)
Built as a monument to the glory days of Route 66, this landmark is located right outside the Tucumcari Convention Centre. So if you need to stretch your legs and want a cool photo, this is a pretty good excuse to stop.
50. Teepee Curios (Tucumcari)
Built in the early 1940’s, this old gas station was eventually swallowed by the widening of Route 66. While it may have lost its pumps, it started a new chapter selling curios to hungry travellers. If you’re worried you’ll miss it, just watch for the huge concrete teepee out front.
51. Meteor Crater (Meteor City)
50,000 years ago, an asteroid collided with Earth, creating a breathtaking crater nearly two kilometers across. Just minutes off Interstate 40 near Winslow, this amazingly-preserved impact site is well worth the stop.
52. Standin’ On The Corner Park (Winslow)
If you’re an Eagles fan, the Standin’ On The Corner Park is one place you’ll want to see. The song includes a verse that says, “Well, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see.” Well – now you know what the sight is!
53. Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park (Holbrook)
Over 200 million years old, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest are two of the most bizarre landscapes Route 66 has to offer. The views are otherworldly and because they’re so close, it’s a two-for-one destination.
54. Wigwam Motel (Holbrook)
This Motel is one of only three surviving “Wigwam Villages” in the US, making it one of the greatest icons of Route 66. Each teepee has a vintage car parked outside, creating the perfect retro feel for a night on the highway.
55. Grand Canyon Caverns (Peach Springs)
In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis pushed the US government to create “safe havens” in the event of a nuclear disaster. The Grand Canyon Caverns are an example of such, with enough food and water rations to last 2,000 people over two weeks. Tours run every half hour and last 25 minutes.
56. Jack Rabbit Trading Post (Joseph City)
This famous sign simply reads “Here It Is” with a large Jack Rabbit – yet somehow it’s become one of the most famous road signs along Route 66. The gift shop is one of the best, and it’s a perfect place to stretch your legs for a photo.
57. Oatman (Oatman)
Oatman is a sleepy former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County. The drive to the town can be somewhat intimidating, but once you arrive the wild donkeys and charming locals will make you realize it was more than worth it.
58. The Grand Canyon
Technically The Grand Canyon isn’t an attraction on Route 66, but because it’s only an hour or so away, it would be a shame not to take the detour. To make the trip extra special, lodging is found within the park so you can sleep right next door to this natural wonder.
59. Cucamonga Service Station (Rancho Cucamonga)
Originally opened in 1915, this gas station was reopened as a museum in 2015 – exactly 100 years later. Flawlessly restored and endlessly fascinating, this is one stop that truly showcases what changes in over a century.
60. The Original McDonald’s Museum (San Bernardino)
If you’re a fan of the famous “Golden Arches”, this museum is just what you’ve been craving. Opened in 1940, this is the McDonald’s restaurant that started it all. Complete with news articles, menus, timeless memorabilia, and free entry, it’s one stop you won’t forgot.
61. Calico Ghost Town (Mojave Desert)
Once a bustling mining town producing over $20 million in silver, Calico now sits as an abandoned ghost town. When silver lost its value, the population up and left, leaving behind what’s now a county park devoted to preserving a little piece of history.
62. Hollywood (Los Angeles)
While it might be a bit more touristy than the rest of Route 66, Hollywood is a wonderland of adventure that can’t be missed. From the Hollywood Sign to Universal Studios, take the time to explore this city fully before continuing on your way.
63. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch (Helendale)
This is one place you really have to see to believe. Created by Elmer Long, this ranch is comprised of over two hundred scrap metal trees with bottles welded on their branches. As strange as it sounds, it’s become one of the most iconic attractions in California’s stretch of Route 66.
64. Galco’s Old World Grocery (Los Angeles)
Believe it or not, this Soda Pop Stop has more than 700 flavours behind its doors. Showcasing the art of soda, this store is a rainbow of colours and carbonation that’s too thirst-quenching to pass up.
65. Aztec Hotel (Monrovia)
Route 66 is known for its bizarre collection of hotels, but this one takes the cake. Designed in a “Mayan style,” this hotel was fully restored in 2000 to show off its beauty. The Mayan style didn’t last long, but this hotel showcases just how great it was.
66. Santa Monica Pier (Los Angeles)
At the end of your journey across Route 66, this is one place you’re going to want a photo. Deemed the official Western terminus of Route 66 (aka “The End of the Trail”) this sign will be one of the most memorable and bittersweet attractions of the entire trip.
Have we missed something? Let us know in the comments below!