Historic Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, was once the well-traveled U.S. Highway 66. Today the original highway is gone, but the legend is not. Travelers who want to take Route 66 have to do a little planning ahead of time, since the path of Route 66 is occasionally confusing and poorly marked. If you choose to embark on this historic journey from Chicago to Los Angeles you will have the chance to see some of this nation's living history.
Route 66 was one of the original gems of the U.S. Highway system. Opened in 1926, the highway is featured in hit songs by Bobby Troup, the Nat King Cole Trio, The Rolling Stones, and others. In the 1960s, there was a popular Route 66 television show. Here are just a few of the interesting stops and attractions along Historic Route 66:
Chicago is the start of historic Route 66. A sign at Grant Park on Adams Street marks the official beginning of the Route. Route 66 travelers in Chicago should also make sure to keep a look out for the long-closed, but still standing, Castle Car Wash. Before embarking on the Route 66 journey, stop for a bite to eat at Lou Mitchell's Restaurant, which has been in business since 1923.
St Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is another must-see stop along Route 66. Visitors to St. Louis can view the Gateway Arch in the downtown area, tour the Museum of Westward Expansion, and wander through the National Museum of Transportation, which has a carefully reconstructed piece of the Coral Court Hotel.
The piece of Route 66 between Rolla and Lebanon were the last parts of the historic highway to be completed. Rolla has plenty of interesting sights for visitors including the John A. Dillon Log House, which was built in 1857 and still stands today, and the Mule Trading Post. Route 66 travelers may want to take some time to enjoy the outdoors and recreation near Rolla, which is the headquarters of the Mark Twain National Forest. Rolla is also home to Rolla Stonehenge, which is a partial reconstruction of the real Stonehenge and well worth a visit.
When driving through Kansas on Route 66, you will pass through a little town called Riverton. Many of the town’s former attractions are gone now, however, any Route 66 traveler should be sure to stop at the Eisler Brother Store. This store, founded in 1925, offers travelers old-fashioned deli sandwiches and a variety of souvenirs.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City still has a few remnants of the success of Route 66 in the downtown area. Visitors have to see Ann's Chicken Fry House, which is located in a 1948-era gas station. The restaurant will bring its patrons back to Route 66's heyday with memorabilia and great food. Route 66 travelers should also take some time to visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, which will satisfy curiosity about the frontier days.
A stop in Amarillo will take visitors back to the era of the Old West. The town is surrounded by ranches that work nearly the same way today as they did in the 1800s. Visitors to Amarillo should make sure to stop for a meal at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, which is no longer located on the original Route 66, but started its history along the highway. This restaurant still offers the free 72-ounce Steak Dinner for customers who can eat it in less than an hour. As you leave Amarillo, keep your eyes peeled for The Cadillac Ranch. The Cadillac Ranch was founded by Stanley Marsh III, the Texas millionaire, as a piece of art outside of Amarillo.
Tucumcari, New Mexico
Tucumcari was once known as a rowdy town full of outlaws. Old Route 66 passed through Tucumcari on Tucumcari Boulevard, which brings visitors back to the 1940's-50's. Route 66 travelers can also learn more about the history of Route 66 in Tucumcari at The Tucumcari Historical Museum. The Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce offers a Visitors Guide, which has information about many Route 66 attractions in and around Tucumcari; it even highlights the neon signs that light up the night along the Route in town.
Canyon Diablo and Two Guns, Arizona
When I-40 was built, many old Route 66 towns could not survive the change. Canyon Diablo and Two Guns Arizona are both ghost towns today, but you can see the remnants of what were once travelers’ stops. Canyon Diablo is the old town, which died when travelers were diverted by the building of the Canyon Diablo Bridge. Two Guns started in the same area when Route 66 was built, but suffered its end when travelers were diverted away by I-40. Today visitors to Two Guns can still see the buildings that were full of life when travelers stopped on Route 66. Travelers who wish to visit these ghost towns need to be aware that this stretch of road is not in good condition. Best for four-wheel drive vehicles.
Travelers along Historic Route 66 have to stop at the Route 66 Museum in Barstow, California. This museum is housed in a former Harvey House, Casa Del Desierto. The Harvey Houses were run by the Fred Harvey Company and built by the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company. The museum has lots of information about Route 66, including photos and artifacts. If you want to take some time away from driving, the Mohave National Preserve, located 60 miles east of Barstow, is a great place to play outdoors.
Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica marks the end of Route 66. Stop at the Will Rogers State Historic Park, where you can see Will Rogers' ranch, which is being restored to look as it did during Will Rogers' lifetime. No stop in Santa Monica is complete without a stop at the Santa Monica Pier, where you will see street performers, a historic Carousel, and beautiful sunsets from the pier.