Stretching 2,448 miles, from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 is one of the most iconic highways in America. It was pieced together in 1926 from existing roads, it passes through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Throughout history, the highway has become a symbol of freedom and adventure. It was memorialized in literature – “The Grapes of Wrath,” and in songs such as “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”
Even though it was decommissioned in 1985 by the federal government, much of it is drivable today. Passing through the heart of the US, Route 66 still captivates people with its charm and archetypal roadside scenes. Also known as “The Mother Road,” it defines a road trip of a lifetime.
Whether you’re looking for fabulous displays of neon signs, kitschy Americana, or rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops, this road has it all. Gift shops, classic restaurants, lodging options, and many unique buildings will come your way.
With no doubt, Route 66 takes you past many unusual places. Here are few of them you should definitely check out and experience.
1. Lou Mitchell’s, Chicago
Located on 565 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, this nationally recognized diner has been serving tasty breakfasts to travelers, celebrities, and even presidents since 1923. One of the unique things about them is their focus on hungry, eager customers waiting in line. You have to try their huge omelets, thick and fluffy pancakes, and their World’s Finest Coffee.”
2. 66 Drive-In Theater, Carthage
This drive-in provides a perfect place to stop, stretch your legs, and spend few hours of excellent entertainment from in your car. It was established in 1949, closed at one point in 1985, but re-opened in 1998. Today they show two movies on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
This drive-in venue was the inspiration for “Cars,” Pixar’s classic. The drive-in that was featured in the animated movie strongly resembled the 66 Drive-In Theater. It even has almost the same neon signs and pole-mounted speakers.
3. Cars On The Route, Galena
This fantastic place is a fun stop for the whole family. Throughout the years the place changed ownership a number of times, and today it focuses on the connection to the Disney movie “Cars.” For many years, this place provides travelers with a pick-up sandwiches, antiques, snacks, and handmade Route-66-inspired items.
In front of the building, you will be able to see rusty cars that inspired a character in “Cars.” Traveling the route, the director saw and loved the 1951 boom truck, and created the film’s “Tow Tater.”
4. Pops, Arcadia
The 66-foot-tall soda bottle in front gives you a great first impression of what to expect inside. This place offers all you ever dreamed of when it comes to fizzy drinks. You’ll have the opportunity to taste a huge variety of unusual flavors, like peanut butter and jelly, bacon, buffalo wing soda, and classics like Jones Soda, Sun Drop, Crush, and many others. The shelves are full of soda pop bottles, all arranged by color.
You can have a fresh and cold drink inside, or pack your favorite six-pack for the road. One thing is for sure, you won’t be leaving the place thirsty.
5. Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo
This attractive roadside stop isn’t an actual ranch. It’s actually an art installation made of old Cadillacs, set up in 1974. The Cadillacs are half buried into the ground, at an angle similar to the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.
The idea behind this installation is to represent the evolution of the vehicle, starting from 1949 to 1963. Each car has a different version of the tail fin, which was the defining feature of the Cadillacs in the mid-twentieth century.
6. Teepee Curios, Tucumcari
This shop has a unique and quirky tee-pee-shaped entrance with bright neon sing, which is hard to miss. They sell a variety of souvenirs and gift items, handmade earrings, signs, shirts, stickers, and Route 66-inspired goodies. The best thing is that they have very reasonably low prices.
7. Route 66 Auto Museum, Santa Rosa
If you’re a car enthusiast, this is the right place for you. The privately-owned collection has over 30 vintage, chromed out, hot rod cars. Along with the showcased vehicles, there are old gas stations pumps, and lots of Route 66 memorabilia as well.
The $5 admission fee is a well worth price to pay for this fantastic place. The collection is unlike any other automobile one you’ve ever seen, and some of the cars are even up for sale.
8. Wigwam Motel, Holbrook
Unlike any other resort, this one offers a unique type of lodging, with each room designed as a teepee. The vintage charm is enhanced with a classic car parked in front of every room. Each of the teepees are equipped with full bathroom with shower, heat, cable TV, and AC.
9. Barringer Meteor Crater, Winslow
Make a side trip, and visit the mind-blowing meteorite impact side, just off the highway. This crater is about one mile wide, 2.4 miles in circumference, and it’s 500 feet deep. It’s believed that it was formed 50,000 years ago when an asteroid hit Earth. The rim crest has slowly lost height throughout the years, because of natural erosion.
Unfortunately, you cannot walk in the crater, but there are many observation areas where you could see the magnificent site. On the north rim there is a visitor center, that has interactive exhibits about meteorites, space, comets, asteroids, and the whole solar system, and a movie theater and gift shop as well.
10. Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In, Seligman
The first thing you’ll see in this place is a sign on the door that reads, “Sorry, We’re Open.” The unique sense of humor of the owner Juan Delgadillo is one of the charms of this classic restaurant. The menu is full of funny puns and unusually named items like, “Cheeseburgers with Cheese,” “Hamburgers Without Ham,” and “Dead Chicken.”
Apart from the delicious food, this place is also known for its fun and groovy setting. A roofless 1936 Chevy will greet you, decked with paint, emblems, horns, and even a Christmas tree in the back.
This place is one of the wackiest drive-in joints around, and you’ll be glad you stopped by.
11. Roy’s, Amboy
Back in the day, this place was one of the most famous stops on Route 66. It offered it all – a gas station, motel, cafe, and auto repair shop. Placed in the now-ghost-town of Amboy, at one point it was the only gas station and lodging in the area.
Unfortunately, the place was shut down, but the gas station and cafe were refurbished and reopened in 2008. The property owner, Albert Okura, has been dedicated to preserving and restoring the stop for years.
12. The Last Stop Shop, Santa Monica Pier
At the Santa Monica Pier, you will see a sign that reads “End of The Trail.” This shop marks the very end of your trip on the Route 66. Make sure that you check out the Last Stop Shop, for one last souvenir. The shop offers a variety of Route 66 merchandise, like mugs, magnets, signs, license plates, hats, and other collectibles.
“Get your kicks on Route 66!” This cross-country route has a lot to offer. You and your friends will have the time of your life road tripping this fantastic road. So, grab your keys and camera, and hit the road, Jack.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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