This corridor is like a journey through American history, where you can see flickering neon signs, abandoned gas stations, quirky museums, breathtaking natural formations, old-fashioned diners and motels, and some of the nation’s most-famous landmarks.
Don’t rush your Route 66 road trip; the journey is the destination here.
While some of the landmarks have shut their doors, there are still plenty of great stops along the way. Here are our favorite ways to “get your kicks on Route 66.”
The Grand Canyon is worth the short detour off Route 66 — Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park
The magical Grand Canyon National Park is just north of Route 66 and is worth the slight detour. This 200-mile-long, dramatic canyon of the Colorado River is a destination, in and of itself, and is easily one of the best natural formations along the historic route. The canyon is more than a site to gaze (in awe) at, though. You can also book thrilling whitewater river trips, hiking, and camping excursions. However, most visitors see the site from the free buses or car along the South Rim, according to the National Park Services.
The Petrified Forest
This national park in Arizona is like nowhere else, with unusual petrified logs, ancient petroglyphs, and fossils. If you have time to stop for a day, backpack into the backcountry and explore the Painted Desert. Camp overnight for free. At the very least, drive through the park to see the stunning overlooks in this famous, expansive natural wonder. You don’t have to get out of your car to be amazed, but you won’t regret a stop to get out in nature (and get some great pics).
Stay in a teepee in Wigwam Village — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ken Lund
Wigwam Village Motel No. 6 in the Arizona desert is one of the most interesting places to sleep on Route 66: in a concrete teepee. (Technically, it should be called Teepee Village.) These white and red, 28-feet-tall teepees were built in a semicircle in the 50s, but you can still stay here today. Don’t miss the on-site museum of Native American and historical memorabilia. Each of the 15 teepees contains a toilet, sink, shower, and furniture. Rooms are sparse, but also inexpensive. You can find a few other remaining Wigwam Village Motels across the country, too.
If you’re looking for hidden treasures, the Meramec Caverns in the Ozarks in Missouri are it–quite literally. Beneath the Meramec Valley you can find a cavern system filled with ancient mineral formations, marking the largest cave formations in the world. See the seven-story “mansion” built underground and learn why Missouri is called “the cave state” in a guided tour.
The London Bridge was relocated to Arizona from England — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Bradley Gordon
You might not expect to see the bridge of the well-known children’s song along Route 66 in Arizona, but it has been relocated here, from its original location over the River Thames in England. Today, you can see the reassembled and restored bridge in Lake Havasu City, above a canal that draws water from the Colorado River. This site looks somewhat out of place in the American desert, but the constructed English-style structures built nearby give it surprising context and make it a popular tourist spot. Take a walking tour and visit the museum and visitors center.
The Acoma Pueblo’s Sky City in New Mexico is one of the state’s most important cultural destinations. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America, perched atop a sandstone mesa. Here, you can witness up close the region’s ancient history. Explore the museum, see exhibits, take guided tours throughout the year, and enjoy the vast views across the plains. You can only reach the several-hundred-feet-tall mesa via tour bus.
Walk across the Chain of Rocks bridge — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Doug Kerr
Chain of Rocks Bridge
Another famous bridge along Route 66 is the Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Louis. Although you can no longer drive over this unusual bridge, named after the rocky rapids in this dangerous stretch of the river, you can still walk and ride bikes over it today. Venture out to the sudden sharp turn halfway across the bridge, which has barely changed over the years since its construction in the 1920s, making it an important and authentic historical landmark. In fact, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cozy Dog Drive In
Sometimes some of the best stops on a journey are the simplest. That’s why we love a quick stop at the Cozy Dog Drive In in Springfield, Illinois. This relaxed diner is a great place to grab Route 66 memorabilia and fill up your belly. The Cozy Dog claims to have invented the corn dog, which is called a Cozy Dog here, in the late 40s. Food at this historical restaurant is inexpensive and the atmosphere is fun. You've never seen hot dogs on sticks celebrated like this before.
Travel back in time in Seligman — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mispahn
Seligman, Arizona, claims to be the “birthplace” of Route 66, so it’s a must-visit stop along the trek. This small, quiet town feels like time-traveling in the Old West, with hitching rails for horses and an old town that looks like a movie set for a Western. But the lifestyle is real around here, where you can find large cattle ranches. Grab a bite to eat at the Roadkill Cafe (“You kill it, we grill it”), peruse the wildlife museum, and check out the historic stretch of old Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman.
Cadillac Ranch is a traditional stop on Route 66 — Photo courtesy of Flickr user CGP Grey
Cadillac Ranch is the quintessential Route 66 stop. This odd public art exhibit in Texas features a line of colorfully painted Cadillacs essentially standing on their heads. Cadillac Ranch is a famous reference in pop culture, from songs to films to photo shoots. Stop for your own photo shoot and marvel at the strange display near the halfway point along Historic Route 66.