Route 66 is the ultimate American road trip and we’ve put together a comprehensive 2 week Route 66 itinerary to help drivers navigate this historic route. This detailed day-by-day Route 66 itinerary covers all the basic details (mileage, general route) and sightseeing highlights along the 2,400 mile route.
We cover quirky Route 66 roadside attractions, historical buildings, vintage roadside diners, museums, natural wonders, and so much more. We also provide suggestions for where to eat and where to stay each day along the drive with a strong focus on Route 66 era businesses.
Use this Route 66 itinerary to plan your travels from Chicago to Santa Monica and get the most out of your Route 66 road trip!
Things to Know Before you Take Off on your Route 66 Drive
Before you take off on your 2,400-mile “Mother Road” road trip, we’d recommend reading our Route 66 road trip planning guide to get you oriented with all the basics of driving Route 66. Our planning guide covers the history and current status of the historical route, tips on how to stay on the route, tips on figuring out how much time you need to drive Route 66, a list of some of the highlights, packing tips, and a list of resources.
Below is some basic information about how to get to Route 66, where to rent a car for the drive, and how to figure out how long it will take you to drive Route 66.
Getting to and from Route 66
The first thing to think about in planning your Route 66 road trip is how you are going to get to the starting point of Route 66 and how you are going to get from the Route 66 ending point back home.
Driving: If you have your own car, motorcycle, or RV and live in the U.S. (or maybe Canada) then driving may be the best option. However, if you live far from the starting or ending point (e.g., Florida, Maine, Nova Scotia) then it might make more sense to fly there and rent a car. If you do drive your own car, just remember you have to also drive the 2,000+ miles back.
Flights: If you are planning to begin and end your Route 66 experience with flights, I’d recommend flying into one of Chicago’s 2 major airports (O’ Hare or Midway) and then flying out of either Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or Long Beach Airport (LGB).
Trains: If you are planning to begin and end your Route 66 experience by train, Amtrak has a number of trains to and from both Chicago and Los Angeles from a number of destinations around the country.
Buses: The main national bus company in the United States is Greyhound and you can get to or from Chicago and Los Angeles from just about anywhere in the country (as well as some parts of Canada and Mexico). It just may take some time!
Route 66 Car Rentals
If you are renting a car, motorcycle, or RV, you’ll likely want to book a one-way rental unless you are able to drive it back. For a Route 66 road trip, you’ll probably want to look for a car or RV rental company that allow you to rent a vehicle at one end of your journey (e.g., Chicago) and return it at the other (e.g., Los Angeles).
Car Rentals: There are a lot of major rental car companies (Thrifty, Hertz, Alamo, Avis, Dollar, Enterprise, etc.) that have offices in both Chicago and Los Angeles and allow one-way rentals so check around and compare prices. Be sure to check to see if there are any extra add-on fees for one-way rentals before you book. We usually find that Enterprise have the best rates for one way rentals.
RV, Motor Home, & Campervan Rentals: For RV rentals, there are a several companies that allow one-way rentals with offices in both Chicago and Los Angeles which include USA Rentals and Cruise America.
Should I Plan my Route 66 road trip in advance?
It is entirely up to you how much you want to plan ahead. Some people want to be completely flexible to take as much time as they like and then find a place to stay wherever they end up that night. Others want to plan out a detailed itinerary and have their lodging booked well in advance.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both styles of travel, and most people end up traveling somewhere in between. Knowing that you have some place to each night when you arrive in a town can make the trip a bit less stressful. Certainly we’d recommend doing some research before your trip, and if there are any special places you want to stay or special things you want to attend (e.g., a concert or baseball game for instance), I’d book those in advance.
Read through our Route 66 planning guide for a more thorough guide to planning.
How do you Decide How Long to Drive Route 66?
We recommend at least 2 weeks, although the more time you have the better. A month would be ideal. But most travelers time is dictated by the amount of vacation time they have and when they can travel. Most people do not have a full month to travel so we based our itinerary on the fact that 2 weeks is probably what would work for most travelers. We ourselves have driven Route 66 in its entirety (following the EZ66 guide for directions) in 14 days so we know that it can be done.
A big factor that should help you decide how long to drive Route 66 is to think about how much time you want to spend just driving each day. We’d recommend that you don’t spend more than 4 to 5 hours per day driving in your car. Historic Route 66 is approximately 2,278 miles (3,665 km) long and across 14 days, a person needs to drive an average of 163 miles (262 km) per day. If one drives at 45 miles per hour (MPH) on average, that would be approximately 3 hours and 37 minutes of driving each day. Note this doesn’t account for driving additional alignments, detours, and the like so I’d always assume it will take you a bit longer than you calculated.
Then once you have an idea of how much time you want to spend driving each day, you can then make a rough estimate about the amount of time you’ll be stopping each day (attraction visits, photo stops, restroom breaks, food stops, walking tours, etc.). Putting those together can help you determine how long it will take you and allow you to pinpoint which towns or cities would be good places to overnight along the route.
What if I have Less Time than 2 weeks to Drive Route 66?
We would recommend 2 weeks as a good minimum to go at a moderate pace and still have time to visit many of the major attractions along the route. If you have a bit less time, we’d recommend using the Interstate more to go at a quicker pace, avoiding the more congested cities by taking bypass routes of their downtowns, and skipping detours and slower alignments. You can modify this itinerary accordingly to fit the time you have available .
If you have less than 10 full days, I would not recommend trying to drive Route 66 in its entirety as you’ll have to go at such a quick pace that you’ll not have time to really enjoy the drive. If you have 8 to 10 days, you might want to come up with an itinerary that has you doing sections of Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles, and use the Interstate the rest of the time to get from place to place.
But a better way if you are short on time would be to just choose to explore a section of Route 66 based on your interests and explore that section at a more leisurely pace. Many people travel Route 66 in sections, doing a part one year and returning to drive another section the next.
To choose a particular section, you can read our Route 66 guide which includes recommendations and descriptions of several section of the route that are best suited to a number of interests and people. Whether you are an Old West lover, Cars films admirer, culture seeker, or photographer, you should be able to find a section that is well-suited to a shorter itinerary.
What if I have More than 2 Weeks to Drive Route 66?
If you have more than 2 weeks to drive Route 66, that is fantastic! We’d recommend doing our suggested 2 week itinerary at a slower pace, overnighting at more places in between the suggested stops and staying in cities/towns that are of most interest to you for 2 nights or more. With more than 2 weeks, you’ll have more time to explore, and also more time to make detours if you wish (see our Notable Detours sections within the itinerary for ideas). You can use this itinerary as a guide and then split up the route into more sections, and also add extra days to some of the stops as your schedule allows. If you want suggestions, just ask us in the Comments section at the end of this itinerary.
How to Use the Suggested Route 66 Itinerary
We recommend that you use our Route 66 itinerary as a suggested guide rather than an inflexible itinerary. There is no way you can visit all the listed attractions or eat in all the restaurants in one road trip so choose the ones of interest. Modify the road trip itinerary to best suit the time you have available for your trip, your preferred pace of travel, and your interests. It is your trip!
We designed this Route 66 itinerary with the idea that the 2 weeks would be spent driving along Route 66 and we only leave a day or less for exploring the beginning and ending points in Chicago and Los Angeles. But if you want to really explore Chicago and Los Angeles, we’d recommend adding 2 or 3 extra days to both the beginning and end of your trip. Or if you only have 2 weeks for the trip, you’ll need to travel further each day to allow enough time to explore these cities within this time frame.
Below is a brief guide to each of the sections within our Route 66 itinerary to help you understand and make the most of it:
Starting & Ending Point: This provides our suggested starting and ending point for each day. On some days we have an alternative starting and/or stopping point for those preferring a shorter route or secondary Route 66 alignment.
Route: This section provides a rough idea of the route for that day if you are following the historical Route 66 road. We list some of the main cities/towns but we highly recommend that you use the latest EZ66 Guide to guide your driving as it provides detailed route guidance and directions so you can find and stay on the route. Route 66 is not signed in most places so you will need to use a guide if you want to stay on it. We also list alternative routes here if applicable.
Mileage: We list the approximate mileage that would be driven that day if a person followed the Route 66 route for the itinerary that day. The mileage is approximate and not exact given the nature of the route and the different alignments. Of course, if you make any detours or deviations from the route, this will likely add to your overall mileage. We found that we almost always drove a bit more (and sometimes a lot more) as we often made small detours to visit attractions, eat at restaurants, find parking, etc..
Historic Route 66 was about 2,448 miles (3940 km) long and today the trip is approximately 2,278 miles (3,665 km) long. If you drive Route 66 in 14 days, you’ll need to drive an average of 163 miles per day. If one drives at 45 miles per hour (MPH) on average, that would be approximately 3 hours and 37 minutes of driving each day on average. However, some days will have you going not as far or a bit further than 163 miles. We used these figures to help develop and guide the suggested itinerary.
Speed limits will vary as you’ll be driving both major highways and country roads throughout the road trip, so don’t rely on the mileage to calculate driving time. But on average you’ll likely be driving 45 MPH to 50 MPH. If you need to make up time at any point on the route, you can almost always jump on the Interstate to save time.
Time Zone: In this section, we note the time zone and any time zone changes for that suggested day’s Route 66 itinerary. The route crosses 3 different time zones.
Big City Avoider Section: Some people drive Route 66 to escape the cities and want to avoid the big cities along the route and focus on the smaller cities and towns. Others may feel stressed or uncomfortable driving in a larger city or not want to try to drive or park a large RV or motorhome in big city. For that reason we have a section that alerts drivers to larger cities, which we are classifying as any city of 250,000 or more people, and routes to avoid them. The really big ones include Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, and Los Angeles, but some may also want to avoid cities like Oklahoma City and Albuquerque.
Route 66 Main Attractions: In this section we highlight many of the main attractions along that day’s suggested route such as Route 66 era signs and businesses, roadside attractions, museums, scenic viewpoints, and historical sites. Some are just spots to note as you drive by whereas others are places you’ll want to stop and explore. We include those directly on Route 66 plus those that are just a short detour away from the route. On most days, you won’t likely have time to stop and explore all of the attractions, so I’d prioritize those that are of most interest.
We cannot possibly list all the attractions nor can we provide addresses or directions to each (we’d have to write an entire book!). So we recommend that you use either the new Guided 66 Tour Book or the latest edition of the Route 66 Adventure Handbook for attraction recommendations, descriptions, and addresses.
Notable Detours: If there are any notable popular big detours off the route that day, such as the Grand Canyon, we list them in this section. However, note that taking any long detours will either add additional needed days to your trip or you’ll need to skip some sections of Route 66.
Route 66 Dining Recommendations: In this section we’ll recommend places you might stop for breakfast, lunch, snacks, or dinner on that day’s route. We’ll specifically try to highlight Route 66 era or Route 66 themed spots. Many of these suggestions are taken from recommendations we got from using the Route 66 Dining & Lodging Guide compiled by the National Historic Route 66 Federation which is sadly no longer being published. Note that some places take cash only, so it is always a good idea to keep some money on you.
Hamburgers, fried chicken, meatloaf, hot dogs, French fries, corndogs, burritos, chili, steaks, fruit pies, milkshakes, and the like are common Route 66 road food. If you are a vegetarian, vegan, have food allergies, or have more complex dietary restrictions, I’d plan ahead a bit each day in terms of food, especially on days when you are in more rural areas. In general, many of the recommended Route 66 era spots are not the most vegetarian/vegan friendly spots and are unlikely to be able to accommodate more complicated food requests. Ethnic food options can also be limited outside of the larger cities. So if you have dietary restrictions, I’d do a little research ahead of time and always have snacks with you.
Route 66 Lodging Recommendations: In this section we list recommended hotels across a number of budgets and types. We try to highlight any special places at each recommended stop, particularly Route 66 era motels or Route 66 themed hotels. We also list a few of the local RV parks and campgrounds for those planning to drive Route 66 in a RV or are planning to camp in a tent along the route.
We list both independent motels, B&B’s, and hotels and well-known chain motels and hotels. We love supporting independent family-run motels and hotels, but do remember that many chain hotels are locally run and operated and some chain hotels (such as Hampton Inn) have been big supporters of Route 66. So don’t feel bad about staying in chains if that is what you prefer, although we’d definitely recommend also supporting some of the independent Route 66 era motels along the route as well.
We have attempted to provide options that will suit a luxury to budget traveler for each stop; however, know that many towns along the route do not have any 4- or 5-star hotels and most towns don’t have any backpacking hostels. But there are always mid-range options (3-star and 2-star) in every recommended stop. I think that budget travelers should be able to find something suitable at almost every place but those seeking luxury hotels may struggle in a few places.
Note that parking is available for free at most of the recommended lodging throughout the route. In smaller cities and towns, on-site parking is almost always free for hotel guests. The exceptions will be in larger cities where parking space is limited such as Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and the greater Los Angeles area. I’d always check about parking before booking any hotel, but I’d especially pay attention in larger cities as fees for parking can add significantly to a hotel stay (e.g., $50 per night in cities like Chicago and Santa Monica).
**Important Note: Businesses open, close, and re-open along Route 66 almost daily so be sure to check ahead for latest information. Signs are removed, bridges close to traffic, and roadside attractions disappear. I would not make a significant detour to visit a particular place without checking out opening times and hours beforehand.
Check out this informative Route 66 website for the latest news about businesses and happenings along the route.
If you know of an attraction that has disappeared or a business that has closed (or a great place that has opened or re-opened) please feel free to leave us a Comment and we will look into it and update our information!**
Quick 14 Day Route 66 Itinerary Summary & Map
Below is a quick outline of our suggested Route 66 route and the starting and ending points for each day are shown in the map below. You can click this link or double click on the map image below to explore or save the map. This is just a quick reference Route 66 map to roughly show the route and itinerary so you can visualize it!
Day 1: Chicago, IL to Springfield, IL
Day 2: Springfield, IL, to Sullivan, MO
Day 3: Sullivan, MO to Carthage, MO
Day 4: Carthage, MO to Tulsa, OK
Day 5: Tulsa, OK to Clinton, OK
Day 6: Clinton, OK to Amarillo, TX
Day 7: Amarillo, TX to Tucumcari, NM
Day 8: Tucumcari, NM to Albuquerque, NM
Day 9: Albuquerque, NM to Gallup, NM
Day 10: Gallup, NM to Flagstaff, AZ
Day 11: Flagstaff, AZ to Seligman, AZ
Day 12: Seligman, AZ to Needles, CA
Day 13: Needles, CA to San Bernardino, CA
Day 14: San Bernardino, CA to Santa Monica, CA
Our Suggested 2 Week Route 66 Road Trip Itinerary
Here is our suggested 14 Day Route 66 itinerary. The itinerary begins in Chicago and goes east to west as this is historically the direction of travelers driving the route. However, you can easily reverse this route and start your trip in California. You just need to start reading from the end. Or if you are just driving a section of the route, you can find that part of the itinerary that is relevant to you. As noted earlier, we suggest that you use it as a guide for planning your trip and that you personalize and modify it as needed.
To make the most of your trip and time, we recommend that you use this suggested Route 66 itinerary in conjunction with our Route 66 guide and state-by-state Route 66 photo essays to help plan your trip before you go. Then during your trip we strongly recommend using the itinerary along with the latest edition of the EZ66 Guide, a GPS, and a good USA road atlas to actually guide your trip.
Route 66 Itinerary Day 1: Chicago, IL to Springfield, IL
Welcome to Route 66 – today your great American road trip begins! The beginning is a bit anticlimactic as there is just a small sign in Chicago and the Chicago traffic can be stressful. But once you leave the city and its urban sprawl, you’ll come upon some Route 66 icons like the Muffler Men, restored old gas stations, a maple syrup shop that dates back to 1824, and a giant covered wagon. If you are interested in U.S. presidential history, be sure to leave plenty of time to explore the many Abraham Lincoln related sites along the route today. This stretch of Route 66 is also filled with dozens of classic Route 66 eateries so you will not go hungry. Let’s get started!
Starting & Ending Point: Chicago, Illinois to Springfield, Illinois
Today if want to start at the “official beginning” you can start at either Jackson Blvd at Michigan Avenue (original 1926 beginning point) or Jackson Blvd at Lake Shore Drive in Chicago (since 1933). The official starting and ending points for Route 66 are a bit confusing as they changed over time and there are now one-way eastbound and westbound lanes making it even more tricky. Note that all these two locations are just a couple of blocks from one another!
General Route: Chicago –> Joliet –> Pontiac –> Bloomington –> Lincoln –> Springfield
Mileage: ~ 186 miles (299 km). Alternatively if you want a shorter first day or have a late start from Chicago, you might end your first day in Pontiac, IL which is ~ 95 miles (153 km) from Chicago.
Time Zone: Central Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
If you are wanting to avoid big cities on your trip, you might want to skip Chicago and some of its urban and suburban sprawl. If you are OK with missing the official starting point, you can avoid Chicago and begin the route in a town like Joliet, Illinois. You can use the Route 66 Welcome Center at the Joliet Museum (204 N. Ottawa Street) as your route starting point! Then just continue onto Springfield.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- Chicago is the starting point of Route 66 and the city has numerous tourist attractions and points of interest if you have extra time to explore. Just a few of the attractions include the Sears Tower (renamed the Willis Tower), the Chicago History Museum, the Pullman Historic District, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago is also home to world-class performing arts companies and national professional sports teams like the Cubs and Bulls. There are lots of things to do and see in Chicago and we’d recommend getting a good Chicago guidebook if you have more than a day here to make the most of your time. If you plan to visit some of the city’s top attractions, you might check out local discount passes like the Chicago CityPass or GoCard to save money on sightseeing.
- If you want to start from the “official” beginning you can start your Route 66 journey from either Jackson Boulevard at Michigan Avenue or Jackson Boulevard at Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. These beginning points are just a couple of blocks apart. There are small brown Route 66 Begin and End signs posted in Chicago although not at the actual official beginning or ending points. The Route 66 Begin sign was located on E. Adams Street at Michigan Avenue when we last drove the route (the End sign was just a block away at Jackson Boulevard and Michigan) so you may want to walk over there first for a photo opp of the sign.
- Along Ogden Avenue in Chicago you’ll see the Castle Car Wash which is a former castle-like car wash dating from 1925. Originally the John J. Murphy Filling Station, it later became a car wash.
- Cicero has a couple vintage Route 66 era motels and signs such as the neon sign at Henry’s Drive-In.
- You’ll pass the castle-like Hoffmann Tower in Lyons which was built in 1908 to attract visitors to a park. Those interested in early Chicago history may want to head to the Chicago Portage National Historical Site which is often referred to as the “birthplace of Chicago” and offers historical info as well as hiking and biking opportunities.
- Joliet is a great town to explore a bit as it sort of the “unofficial” starting point to what most people imagine Route 66 to be like. There are some Route 66 era businesses and signs, and the Route 66 Welcome Center & Gift Shop at the Joliet Museum is a good place to stop and actually feel that you are starting Route 66. Here you’ll also find the Rialto Square Theatre, a beautiful restored 1926 vaudeville theater that offers both performances and tours, the Jacob Henry Mansion (impressive 1873 mansion built by railroad magnate, interior not usually open to public), and the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site (land preserve with historical panels, perfect for a picnic or walk).
- Be on the outlook for Giant “Muffler Men” statues today. These are a few survivors of the many large fiberglass advertising sculptures made in the 1960’s. You’ll find the first, the “Gemini Giant” in Wilmington.
- In Dwight is a restored Ambler-Becker Texaco service station from the 1930’s. The town has a number of notable historical buildings, including a bank designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There is a historical museum in the restored old train depot but it has very limited hours.
- There is another restored fuel station in Odell, a 1932 Standard Station.
- There is a restored Meramec Caverns advertisement on a local barn in Cayuga. Barn advertisements used to be common sights along Route 66, but today only a handful remain.
- You’ll likely want to stop and visit the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac. This is a good town to explore and there are lots of murals and a few other museum here including the Pontiac-Oakland Auto Museum, International Walldog Mural & Sign Art Museum, and the Livingston County War Museum. The Route 66 museum, war museum, and mural museum are all next to one another.
- There is a Historic Route 66 1.6 mile self-guided walking trail and a sign denoting “Dead Man’s Curve” (a curve on the road that once led to many traffic accidents) in Towanda.
- In Normal is yet another restored filling station, the 1931 Sprague Super Service Station. Also here is Normal Theater, an Art Deco style theater from 1937 (still operating) and the Eyestone School Museum, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1899 sitting on the Illinois State University campus.
- Bloomington has several attractions that might be of interest including McLean County Museum of History, Miller Park Zoo, Prairie Aviation Museum, and the Victorian David Davis Mansion
- In Shirley you may want to stop to tour the Funk Prairie Home Museum, built in 1864 as a family home. The museum also has a large mineral and gem collection. You need to call to reserve your tour in advance.
- You’ll find the famous Funks Grove Maple Sirup in Funks Grove – this family-run operation has been selling maple syrup since 1824!
- The restored Dixie Travel Plaza in McLean has been serving travelers and truckers since1928.
- In Atlanta you’ll find another of the Muffler Men, this one being the Bunyan Giant, the Atlanta Museum (near the octagonal library building), and the interesting J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum which features a functional giant grain elevator from 1904.
- The town of Lincoln, named after the former U.S. president since he lived and practiced law here, has several Abraham Lincoln related sites including the Lincoln Heritage Museum, Postville Courthouse State Historic Site, and a giant Lincoln statue and covered wagon.
- Springfield is the state capital of Illinois and has a number of Route 66 era buildings and business as well as several museums and other attractions. Route 66 attractions include the restored 1920’s Mahan’s Filling Station (restored by Bill Shea) and another Muffler Man, the Lauterbach Giant. Springfield has loads more Abraham Lincoln related sites, including the Lincoln Home, Lincoln Tomb, Old State Capitol Building, Lincoln Depot, and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. A few of the other non-Lincoln attractions include the Illinois State Museum, Elijah Iles House (historic home that can be toured), Illinois State Military Museum, and a few Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings including the Dana-Thomas House and Lawrence Memorial Library.
- If you are looking for a retro evening out in Springfield, we recommend grabbing some food from the Cozy Dog Drive-in and seeing a movie at the Route 66 Drive-In (seasonal).
There are a LOT of restaurants along this stretch of Route 66 that date back to the Route 66 era, have a Route 66 or retro theme, or have been strong Route 66 supporters. We have eaten at several of these. You can stop in just about any town along the way to find a good spot, and you will not go hungry today!
- Berghoff (17 W Adams Street) in Chicago – Long-time restaurant serving German food like spätzleknödel, wiener schnitzel, and bratswursts since 1898! A great historic spot to stop for a sausage and beer. There is a restaurant as well as a cafe and bar. Reservations recommended for dinner in the restaurant. Located close to the beginning point of Route 66.
- Lou Mitchell’s (565 W. Jackson & Jefferson) in Chicago – An iconic casual family-run eatery that has been serving American comfort food since 1923. They give you Milk Duds or donut holes when you walk in. Serves breakfast and lunch. Several blocks from beginning point of Route 66.
- Lulu’s Hot Dogs (1000 S Leavitt Street) in Chicago – Simple no-frills place that has been serving local favorites such as Chicago hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and Vienna beef sausages since 1968. Across from VA hospital in Chicago’s University Village/Medical District area.
- Henry’s Drive-In (6031 Ogden Avenue) in Cicero – A long-time hot dog eatery that also serves sandwiches, Mississippi Delta style tamales, chili, and ice cream. Popular local spot with a cool neon sign. Been around since the 1950’s.
- Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket (645 Joliet Road) in Willowbrook – A no-frills restaurant serving fried chicken since 1946. Best known for fried chicken but also serve seafood, pizza, and a weekday lunch buffet. Serve lunch and dinner.
- White Fence Farm (1376 Joliet Road) in Romeoville – Another contender for the best fried chicken on Route 66 in Illinois. Restaurant opened in 1920’s and has been serving fried chicken since 1940’s.
- Rich & Creamy (920 N. Broadway Street) in Joliet – This little spot serves tasty soft serve ice cream with retro flair. Good place to stop if you are looking for a cool, sweet treat.
- Joliet Route 66 Diner (22 West Clinton Street) in Joliet – American diner with vintage decor serving American classics . Open for breakfast and lunch.
- Nelly’s on Route 66 (140 Bridge Street) in Wilmington – A diner serving American classic sandwiches like hot dogs, pulled pork, and burgers. Visitors are encouraged to sign their ceiling.
- Polk-A-Dot Drive-In (222 N Front St) in Braidwood – A roadside diner known for its retro 1950’s decor and hamburgers, chili fries, and milkshakes.
- Old Route 66 Family Restaurant (105 S. Old Route 66) in Dwight – An American diner serving home-style meals such as chili, burgers & fried chicken. Located across the street from a restored Texaco station.
- Old Log Cabin Inn (18700 Old Route 66) in Pontiac – Log-style roadhouse cafe offering American comfort food, made-from-scratch fruit pies, and a bar.
- Lucca Grill (116 E. Market Street) in Pontiac – Restaurant that has been serving Italian American food since 1936. This is believed to be the first pizzeria in the Midwest. Serves pizza, pasta, salads, and sandwiches.
- Palms Grill Cafe (110 Arch Street) in Atlanta – A 1934 diner serving American breakfast, sandwiches, comfort food, and pies. Restored and reopened in 2009 and retains a 1930’s vintage decor.
- Maldaners’s (222 S 6th Street) in Springfield – Upscale historical restaurant serving American and European dishes using fresh seasonal ingredients. Lunch, dinner, and cocktails. Lunch menu is more simple with reasonable prices, dinner is more formal. Reservations recommended for dinner. This restaurant has been around since 1884 and in its current location since 1889!
- Gabatoni’s Restaurant (300 E Laurel Street) – Long-time no-frills Italian American eatery and pizzeria serving salads, pizza, sandwiches, and pasta. Serve beer and wine. This restaurant opened in 1951 and is often voted as having the best pizza in Springfield. Dine in and carry out. Lunch, dinner, and late night eats.
- Charlie Parker’s Diner (700 North Street) – Modern American diner with retro decor serving all day breakfast, sandwiches, and lunch plate specials. Breakfast and lunch only. Interesting location in a World War 2 era Quonset hut. Opened in 1992.
- Cozy Dog Drive-In (2936 S. 6th Street) in Springfield – A Route 66 era no-frills casual eatery with lots of vintage memorabilia serving American fast food classics. Run by the Waldmire family, this place is known for its “perfect corn dogs” called cozy dogs which were developed by Ed Waldmire Jr. while he was in the military in the 1940’s. Also serves breakfast, chili dogs, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, and other sandwiches. Serves all meals. A special Route 66 spot since 1949.
Lodging Recommendations from Chicago, IL to Springfield, IL
Our suggested itinerary takes you to Springfield today, but we know many people will be wanting to spend at least one night in Chicago so we start with some recommendations for Chicago. There are thousands of choices in Chicago so it should not be difficult to find something that suits in the Windy City. For those who want a short first driving day or will be getting a late start we also provide suggestions for Pontiac below.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Chicago before or after your road trip, you have hundreds of options for every budget and taste. Note that parking can be an issue and that parking overnight in Chicago will generally cost between $30 to $50 per day, so if you want to spend a few days in Chicago you may want to wait to pick up a car until you are ready to start your road trip. It is easy to travel around Chicago by public transportation or taxi. Here are accommodation options we recommend checking out near the starting point for Route 66:
- The Congress Plaza Hotel – This 3-star iconic old hotel opened back in 1893 and several presidents and celebrities have stayed here. Views of Lake Michigan from the hotel. Private on-site parking available for a fee. A great place to begin (or end) your journey as it is only 2 blocks from the starting and ending spots for Route 66!
- The Langham Chicago – If you are looking to start your Route 66 off with a luxury stay before hitting the road, you have loads of choices in Chicago. One recommendation is the 5-star The Langham, which is less than a mile from the starting point. Private on-site parking available for a fee. Great for those with a larger budget who want to celebrate the start or end of their road trip.
- Travelodge Chicago – A safe bet for a good-value stay that is located near the starting point of Route 66. There is no parking on-site but there is a paid public parking lot within a short walking distance.
- Getaway Hostel – Our recommendation for those looking for a well-reviewed budget hostel stay within 3 miles of the starting point. Offers private, family, and shared dormitory rooms. Private parking available on-site, reservations needed.
- Camper Recs – There are not many big campsites within Chicago but there are several just outside the city. A couple of options are Chicago Northwest KOA and the various campsites of Cook County Preserves. Chicago, like many cities of its size, is not an easy place to find RV parking or places to overnight, so we’d recommend looking for spots in the suburbs.
Pontiac, IL Hotels
These lodging options are for those wanting a shorter drive on their first day. We recommend Pontiac as an alternative spot to stay if you don’t want to drive on to Springfield.
- Three Roses B&B – A lovely B&B that serves big cooked-to-order breakfasts. Only 3 rooms so book in advance. Nice cozy spot for your first night, and within walking distance of the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum.
- Hampton Inn – Well-reviewed good-value hotel offering free breakfast and a swimming pool. This hotel chain has historically been strong supporters of Route 66.
- Best Western Pontiac Inn – Chain hotel offering free full breakfast and in indoor pool.
- Quality Inn – A well-rated budget motel with included breakfast.
- Camper Recs: Check out these local campsite options.
Springfield, IL Hotels
We offer our Route 66 lodging suggestions for Springfield which is our recommended first overnight stop on the Route 66 itinerary.
- Route 66 Hotel & Conference Center – This Route 66 themed hotel is a popular first (or last) stop for those driving Route 66 so a good place to chat with others about your road trip. Offers on-site restaurant, bar, and swimming pool.
- Inn at 835 – This is your best bet if you’re looking for a cozy and historical bed-and-breakfast. Serves a full breakfast.
- Baymont Inn & Suites – Well-reviewed chain hotel with swimming pool. Located next door to a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
- Motel 6 Springfield – Well-reviewed no-frills chain motel. Our pick for best bet for a budget motel in Springfield.
- Camper Recs: Riverside Park Campsite or Springfield KOA
Route 66 Itinerary Day 2: Springfield, IL to Sullivan, MO
The big city highlight today is St. Louis which includes plenty to see and do, but there are also loads of small town highlights today. Highlights include old-time soda fountains, a giant pink elephant, rabbits, the crossing of the Mississippi River, frozen custard, and the iconic Gateway Arch. Those really wanting to explore St. Louis, may want to overnight there instead of Sullivan today. You can also make a small detour to visit Six Flags amusement park, which may particularly appeal to those traveling as a family.
Today there are two splits in the road where you can choose to drive alternative historic Route 66 alignments. The first occurs as you leave Springfield where you can choose to drive the 1926 alignment or the post 1930 alignment of historic Route 66. Both have their appeal and you can check the Attractions section to help you decide. The second split occurs as you leave St. Louis beginning at the junction of U.S. 67 and 366 (the pre-1932 option going to Des Peres and the post 1932 route through Eureka) and the route rejoining about 23 miles later in Gray Summit. Although a bit more scenic, there is not as much Route 66 era things to see on the pre-1932 route so I’d recommend taking the post 1932 route through Eureka.
Starting & Ending Point: Springfield, Illinois to Sullivan, Missouri
General Route: Springfield –> Staunton –> Edwardsville –> St. Louis –> St. Clair –> Sullivan
Mileage: ~168 miles (270 km) – The mileage today may vary by 10 to 30 miles depending on the alignments you choose (leaving both Springfield and St Louis) and the route you choose to take through St. Louis.
Those starting the day in Pontiac will need to add 91 miles (146 km) onto the above figures.
Time Zone: Central Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
Those wanting to avoid big cities, may want to bypass St. Louis. After your cross the Mississippi River, you can jump onto the I-270 to bypass St. Louis and then rejoin at either Des Peres (pre-1932 Route 66) or Watson (post 1932 route).
- As you leave Springfield, you’ll need to choose the alignment you wish to follow, either the 1926-1930 or post-1930 alignment.
- 1926-1930 alignment (via Chatham and Carlinville) attractions: old sections of paved and brick highway including a 1.4 mile restored stretch in Auburn, Battle of Virden Monument in Virden, Doc’s Soda Fountain in Girard, turkey tracks on the pavement in Nilwood, the historical district of Carlinville which includes its “Million Dollar Courthouse” and the Macoupin County Historical Museum
- Post 1930 alignment (via Farmersvile and Litchfield) attractions: Sugar Creek Covered Bridge in Glenarm, “Old Lady of the Highways” shrine south of Waggoner, Sky View Drive-in Theatre (still operating, seasonal) in Litchfield, Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center, and the restored 1926 Soulsby Shell Station and Mother Jones Monument in Mt. Olive.
- Henry’s Rabbit Ranch & Route 66 Emporium in Staunton is a must-stop for any fans of rabbits or old signs, which includes upended VW cars, old signs, historical vehicles, and live bunnies. Get a souvenir or drink here to help support the place.
- In Hamel, you have the St. Paul Lutheran Church which is notable for its large blue neon cross that commemorates a man who died in World War II and was placed there during the war.
- The Pink Elephant Antiques Mall in Livingston has a number of Route 66 era statues and signs inside and out which include a giant pink elephant and a UFO. You can also get ice cream and sandwiches at the adjacent Twistee Treat diner.
- In Edwardsville you can see and visit the 1836 Weir House which currently is home to the Madison County Historical Museum.
- Although not on Route 66, you may want to make a slight detour to visit the town of Collinsville which despite its title as the Horseradish Capital of the World is known for its giant 70 ft. tall ketchup bottle. Those interested in prehistoric sites may want to visit Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, a pre-Columbia settlement that has been inscribed by UNESCO.
- You can make a detour to stop to walk across the Chain of Rocks Bridge before crossing over the Mississippi River. The famous mile-long bridge was a Route 66 landmark for decades with its 22 degree turn as it carried traffic over the mighty Mississippi. It has long been closed to traffic but is now open to pedestrians and bikers. It can be accessed from the Illinois side during daylight hours. Just be sure to take heed of the posted signs about locking your doors and hiding any valuables if you plan to go out of sight of your car.
- After you cross the Mississippi River, one of the world’s most famous waterways, you’ll be in Missouri, the “Show Me” state. Missouri has been the source of many of the country’s most famous trails and westward expansion efforts which include the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and Route 66 (the route begins in Chicago but Springfield, MO is usually considered the birthplace of Route 66).
- St. Louis is a major city and has a number of tourist attractions. Route 66 crossed into and through St. Louis in a number of ways over the decades so I’d focus more on the attractions you want to visit rather than the route here as it can be difficult to follow. Probably the favorite Route 66 destination is Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand (seasonal) which is definitely worth a stop!
- The most famous attraction in St. Louis is the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial which includes the iconic 630-foot Gateway Arch (you can visit and take a tram ride to the top for a great view), the Museum of Westward Expansion, and the Old Courthouse. Other city attractions include the Missouri History Museum (a replica of the Spirt of St. Louis is here), Anheuser-Busch Brewery tours and beer tastings, riverboat cruises on the Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant Historic Home, and the St. Louis Car Museum.
- Just outside St. Louis in Kirkwood, you might want to visit the Museum of Transportation (includes a couple of Route 66 related displays) and/or the Magic House (well-rated children’s museum).
- As you leave St. Louis, you’ll need to choose an alignment at the junction of U.S. 67 and 366.
- Pre-1932 alignment (via Des Peres and Ellisville): The main Route 66 attraction along this section is the Big Chief Roadhouse in Wildwood. Dating from 1929, it started out as a cabin court hotel and is now a full service restaurant and bar.
- Post-1932 alignment (via Pacific and Eureka): The Missouri Route 66 State Park (hiking trails, picnic tables, exhibits) which sits on what was the town of Times Beach, the Black Madonna Shrine & Grottos created by a Franciscan monk in Eureka, Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, and former Red Cedar Inn (former 1932 restaurant that may be turned into a city visitor center) in Pacific. Choose this route if you want to make a small detour to visit the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park just outside Eureka (see Notable Detours section below).
- The Shaw Nature Reserve (visitor center, hiking trails, & historic home) and Purina Farms (visitor center, farm visit and canine training, seasonal) are in Gray Summit
- Some interesting old neon signs and billboards between Gray Summit and Stanton
- St. Clair Historical Museum, a local history museum in a former firehouse, is in St. Clair.
- Stanton benefited from its proximity to Meramec Caverns, and a number of tourist related shops, attractions, and services sprung up here during the Route 66 era. A few still remain like the Jesse James Wax Museum (interesting perspective on the death of Jesse James) and Riverside Wildlife Center.
- Today we recommend overnighting around Sullivan. Sullivan is home to Meramec Caverns, one of the most popular and well-known Route 66 related attractions. Although the cave has a number of interesting formations and a fascinating history, the cave was well-known because of its intense marketing efforts that included loads of billboards, advertisements painted on barns (you probably saw the restored one in Illinois on Day 1), and the early use of bumper signs (predecessor to bumper stickers). In addition to cavern tours, you can also go ziplining, camp, or rent a canoe here. Don’t worry if you don’t get here until the evening, as you can visit the cave on the following morning.
- Six Flags St. Louis – Although not a major detour in terms of distance, it will likely take up most of your day as you’ll want to arrive early and spend the full day to get the most out of the amusement park. Park offers thrill rides like roller coasters, a younger children’s area, and a water park. Arrive near opening to enjoy the least crowded time in the park. We recommend spending the night in Eureka and devoting a full day to get the most out of the park.
There are a few great Route 66 era eateries on today’s stretch, and it is a good day to do some ice cream and frozen custard tasting! If you need a break from fast food and diners, you can find fine dining options in St. Louis.
- Whirla-Whip (309 S. 3rd Street) in Girard, IL – This popular local ice cream spot opened in 1957 and sells loads of flavors of soft-serve ice cream and ice cream desserts. Seasonal.
- Doc’s Soda Fountain (133 S 2nd Street) in Girard, IL – The soda fountain was originally opened here in 1929 within Deck’s Drug Store. Today it offers sandwiches, pice, ice creams, and of course old fashioned soda. It has been rated as one of the country’s top soda fountains.
- Ariston’s Cafe (413 Old Rte 66 ) in Litchfield, IL – This cafe serves American favorites with Greek influences. This is a family-run Route 66 landmark that has been operated by the same family since 1924, and is one of the oldest still-operating restaurants along Route 66.
- Twistee Treat Diner (908 Veterans Memorial Drive) in Livingston, IL – A great spot to grab a quick sandwich or ice cream if you are visiting the adjacent Pink Elephant Antiques Mall.
- Weezy’s Route 66 Bar & Grill (108 S Old US Route 66) in Hamel, IL – This long-time roadhouse serves fried foods, sandwiches, salads, soups, and dinner plates. It has been serving food since the late 1930’s although has changed names and owners numerous times over the years. It has historic decor and old signs on the walls.
- Crown Candy Kitchen (1401 St. Louis Avenue) in St. Louis, MO – This has been a St. Louis staple since 1913, and this vintage eatery sells candy and serves sandwiches, meals, and ice cream sundaes. Probably best known for the “heart stopping BLT sandwich”.
- Eat-Rite Diner (622 Chouteau Ave) in St. Louis, MO – This inexpensive long-time diner is one of St. Louis’ most popular Route 66 era diners. Believed to have opened in the 1930’s. Serves simple grilled food and sandwiches from breakfast to late night, including the slinger. NOTE: The Eat-Rite has recently closed due to a broken exhaust fan and has changed owners, but it is hoped that it will re-open by Spring of 2018.
- Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (6726 Chippewa Street) in St. Louis, MO – This has been a popular ice cream stop since 1941 selling frozen custard, “concretes” (thick milkshakes), malts, sundaes, floats, and ice cream sodas. Highly recommended!
- Blueberry Hill Cafe (504 Delmar in The Loop) in St. Louis, MO – This popular place has been open since 1972 and is best known for its burgers, live music (Chuck Berry played here regularly), and its large collection of historic memorabilia. Our choice if you are looking for an upbeat place or a good late night option.
- Bogart’s Smokehouse (1627 S 9th Street) in St. Louis, MO – Not a Route 66 related spot but one of the top BBQ places in St. Louis. A great place to sample St. Louis style barbecue.
- Roberto’s (145 Concord Plaza) in St. Louis, MO – If you are looking for a more upscale fine dining experience for a night out, Roberto’s is one of the top-rated restaurants in the city serving Italian food, steaks, and seafood.
- Spencer’s Grill (223 S. Kirkwood Road) in Kirkwood, MO – A classic 1947 diner serving classic American comfort food. Serves breakfast and lunch.
- Big Chief Roadhouse (17352 Manchester Road) in Wildwood, MO – A former 1920’s era cabin style hotel turned restaurant and bar. Serves American classics and pizza with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.
- Lewis Cafe (145 S. Main Street) in St. Clair, MO – This family-run restaurant has been open since 1938 and serves American food for breakfast and lunch. They use their own farm-raised Angus beef.
- Imo’s Pizza (678 Sycamore Drive) in Sullivan, MO – Local pizza chain that serves St. Louis style pizzas as well as salads, pastas, and Italian sandwiches. Offers dine-in, take-out, and delivery options. Began in St. Louis in 1964.
- Du Kum Inn (101 Grande Drive) in Sullivan, MO – Local family-run American restaurant serving a wide variety of salads, sandwiches, and dinner items (pasta, steaks, chicken). Best known for breakfast, friend chicken, and bread pudding. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since 1961.
- Clark St Cafe & Bakery (11 N. Clark Street) in Sullivan, MO – Coffee house offers baked goods, soups, sandwiches, and wraps. Serves breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
- Cracker Barrel (701 W. Springfield Road) in Sullivan, MO – This Southern chain focuses on rustic country decor and classic American homestyle meals, including breakfasts, homestyle soups, chicken fried steak, and meat loaf. Open for breakfast to dinner. Gift store selling old-fashioned items, candies, and gifts.
Hotel Recommendations for St. Louis, MO and Sullivan, MO
Those wanting to explore St. Louis in more depth might want to overnight there instead of Sullivan tonight.
St. Louis Lodging Recommendations
- Holiday Inn St Louis SW Route 66 – A well-reviewed chain hotel with a free continental breakfast and Route 66 theme. A popular place for Route 66 travelers.
- Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch – This 3-star hotel was created by restoring 3 historic buildings. The hotel includes a terrace with a view of the Gateway Arch and stays include breakfast. Drury is a family owned chain headquartered in St. Louis so you’ll find a number of their hotels in and around the city.
- Four Seasons – If you are looking for a 5-star luxury stay in St. Louis, Four Seasons is your place.
- Hampton Inn St. Louis at the Arch – This is a good bet for a good-value hotel within walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions. View of the Gateway Arch from the hotel and breakfast included.
- If you are looking for a lower budget option I’d check Airbnb as you can find some good deals on rooms and apartments even in the downtown area.
- Camper Recs: St. Louis RV Park (downtown St. Louis), Trails End RV (just northeast of St. Louis), and KOA St. Louis West (southwest of the city)
Sullivan Lodging Recommendations
- Baymont Inn & Suites – A well-reviewed hotel with an indoor pool, hot tub, and included breakfast. Nicest option in town.
- Comfort Inn – A well-reviewed chain hotel with an indoor pool, hot tub, and breakfast.
- Meramac Caverns Motel – Seasonal motel (open April to October) located next to Meramac Caverns within the LaJolla Natural Park. Reservations are required, call +1 573-468-4215
- America’s Best Value Inn – Good value chain motel with included breakfast. A good budget option in Sullivan.
- Camper Recs: Meramac State Park, Meramec Caverns’ LaJolla Campgound, and Stanton / Meramac KOA (north of Sullivan in nearby Stanton)
Route 66 Itinerary Day 3: Sullivan, MO to Carthage, MO
Today you explore more of Missouri, and might want to start the day exploring one of Route 66’s most popular attractions Meramec Caverns. There are also opportunities to go hiking, canoeing, or bowling, do some wine tasting, visit museums, explore laid-back small towns, eat at some classic Route 66 eateries, and stay at some Route 66 era vintage motels. Those with an interest in country music or seeing more of the Ozarks might want to make a detour to Branson today. You might want to end the day seeing a film at the local drive-in movie theater.
Starting & Ending Point: Sullivan, Missouri to Carthage, Missouri
General Route: Sullivan –> Cuba –> Buckhorn –> Lebanon –.> Springfield –> Carthage
Mileage: ~ 208 miles (334 km)
Time Zone: Central Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities along the route today. Springfield does have over 160,000 people although we’d recommend exploring Springfield as it has a number of Route 66 era sites.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- This morning we recommend visiting Meramec Caverns in Sullivan (if you didn’t do so on the prior day). You can take Meramec Caverns tours (regular tours are about 1.5 hours) and there is also a gift shop, restaurant, motel, campground, zipline, and canoe rental and launch here. Touristy but definitely worth a visit for any Route 66 driver!
- The water tower with “Bourbon” written on it in Bourbon is a popular photo opp. The town was named after Bourbon whiskey.
- If you want to see more caves (Missouri is known as the “Cave State” and has over 6,000 of them!), you can stop at the Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg. Park also has camping, hiking trails, fishing, and other activities.
- Cuba has the famous Wagon Wheel Motel (great neon sign, still operating), lots of colorful city murals (good place to get out and stretch your feet), the 19 Drive-In Theatre (still operational, seasonal), and a restored 1932 Phillips 66 station.
- You’ll find the Fanning 66 Outpost and a giant rocking chair in Fanning
- In St. James you’ll find the St. James Winery (tours and tastings available) and the Vacuum Cleaner Museum.
- In Rolla, there are many places you might want to stop and explore: Route 66 Motors (antique cars and signs), Mule Trading Post (a popular Route 66 souvenir stop since 1957 with large hillbilly sign), scale model of Stonehenge at the University of Missouri campus, and the Totem Pole Trading Post (souvenir & snack place, open since 1933).
- Devil’s Elbow has an ominous name because of a bend in the river and the little town has an old 1923 bridge (Devil’s Elbow Bridge), BBQ restaurant, and little market.
- Waynesville offers Frog Rock (a frog-like rock outcropping), the Pulaski Country Courthouse Museum, and a number of historic buildings.
- Near Hazelgreen you can walk to the 1924 Gasconade River Bridge (currently closed to traffic) that spans the Gascondade River.
- Lebanon has the popular Munger Moss Motel (good neon sign), Wrinks Food Market (a longtime family-run grocery), and a small but informative Route 66 Museum (within the Lebanon-Laclede Country Library, free but donations appreciated). Just across from the Munger Moss Motel is Starlite Lanes, a popular local bowling alley.
- You can visit the Route 66 Antiques Mall in Phillipsburg. You’ll can also find two restored Meramec Caverns advertising barns outside town.
- The Route 66 Welcome Center outside of Conway has maps and information, exhibits, restrooms, a playground, a neon sign, and picnic area.
- Marshfield is best known as the hometown of Edwin Hubble, the creator of the Hubble Space Telescope. Here you’ll find a scale replica of the Hubble telescope outside of the country courthouse, several historical buildings, the Webster County Historical Museum (includes an exhibit on Hubble), and Hidden Waters Park (walking trails and gardens).
- Wild Animal Safari Park is a drive through animal park in Strafford
- Springfield is the largest city on today’s route, and there were multiple alignments that went through the city so you’ll find reminders of Route 66 here and there throughout, including billboards, old gas stations, Route 66 era motels, and neon signs. A few of the city’s attractions include the enormous Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World (this outdoor store is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the state!), Gray-Campbell Farmstead (historic home & farm), Askinosie Chocolate (tastings as well as tours on certain days of the week), 1926 Gilloz Theatre, Jefferson Avenue Footbridge (562-foot historic footbridge), Fantastic Caverns (a ride-through cavern tourist attraction), Route 66 Car Museum, and the Railway Historical Museum.
- Halltown has long been a popular stop for antiques, although many of the spots, like Whitehall Mercantile, have closed.
- You’ll find a replica circa-1930 Sinclair gas station, known as Gary’s Gay Parita in Paris Springs. It was built by Gary Turner who loved meeting Route 66 visitors but sadly Mr. Turner died in 2015.
- There are a couple of nice old 1920’s old truss bridges as you leave Paris Springs. The stretch between Spencer and Avilla has several now mostly closed old Route 66 spots and historical buildings.
- Red Oak II is a large artistic installation/community built by local resident and artist Lowell Davis that includes vintage buildings from the area that have been relocated (e.g., blacksmith shop, church, general store, homes) and art installations. It is located just outside of Carthage and we definitely recommend a visit. Note that people do still use and live in some of these buildings so be respectful while walking around. Some buildings are sometimes open so you can see the inside, and at times there have been food and drinks available for sale (don’t expect it though). Not far away at the Flying W Store, you can see one of Davis’ sculptures called “Crap Duster”.
- Carthage is a great small town. Attractions include the historic square area (the courthouse is beautiful!), Civil War Museum (the city was burned to the ground during the war), Precious Moments Park & Chapel (a popular local attraction and a must-visit for any Precious Moments figurine lovers), and the Route 66 Drive-In (operating, seasonal)
- After you have settled into your hotel for the night in Carthage, we highly recommend checking out a movie at the Route 66 Drive-in if they are showing films during your visit!
- Branson, Missouri – If you are a fan of country music or want to see more of the scenic Ozarks, you could make a detour to Branson from Springfield, MO. The town is famous for hosting country performers and for being a family friendly destination within the Ozark Mountains. One of the most classic attractions is the Branson Scenic Railway. It is less than an hour’s drive to Branson from Springfield.
There are several eateries along this stretch that date back to the Route 66 era.
- Circle Inn Malt Shop (171 N. Old Route 66) in Bourbon – An American diner dating back to 1955 best known for its ice cream and milkshakes, but also serves breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, and dinner plates. All meals.
- Skippy’s Route 66 Restaurant (247 Hyw H) in Leasburg – Originally opened as the Coachlight Inn in 1970, the place serves sandwiches, fried chicken, and pizza.
- Missouri Hick BBQ (913 E. Washington) in Cuba – This popular eatery opened well after Route 66 had been decommissioned but has become a popular Route 66 stop. Restaurant focuses on its signature smoked meats, including BBQ ribs, pulled pork, and chicken. Also serves beer and wine.
- Cuba Bakery & Deli (615 W Main Street) in Cuba – A modern deli serving high quality sandwiches and baked goods. Have gluten free items.
- Shelly’s Route 66 Cafe (402 E. Washington Street) in Cuba – Family run small restaurant serving inexpensive casual American diner fare with a Route 66 theme.
- Maid-Rite (1028 Kingshighway) in Rolla – Known for its “loose meat (ground beef) sandwiches” (called a Maid-Rite), this inexpensive fast food eatery is part of a Midwestern chain that began in the 1920’s.
- Rob & Kricket’s Tater Patch (103 Bridge School Road) in Rolla – This is a restaurant, bar, and live music venue that also has pool and karaoke nights. Best known for their pork tenderloin sandwiches, catfish, and smothered baked potatoes. First opened as Moutrays Tater Patch in 1965.
- Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ (21050 Teardrop Road) in Devil’s Elbow – This place specializes in American BBQ and has a casual bar atmosphere. Formerly the Munger Moss Sandwich Shop beginning in 1936 (family that own the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon), it is one of the oldest continually operating restaurants on Missouri’s stretch of Route 66
- Gary Dowd’s Catfish & BBQ (1760 W. Elm) in Lebanon – Serving American food, including seafood, BBQ, steaks, chicken, and burgers. Best known for their catfish dishes.
- Elm Street Eatery (135 W. Elm Street) in Lebanon – A popular well-rated local restaurant serving American classics all day. A good breakfast or lunch stop.
- Da Vinci’s (1683 S Jefferson Ave) in Lebanon – A local place for Italian food in Lebanon, serving pizza, pasta, seafood, veal, and salads. Lunch and dinner.
- The Cottage Cafe (201 West Pine Street) in Phillipsburg – A restaurant serving breakfast and lunch (sandwiches, soups, and salads). Opened in 2016 and some of the profits go to several charities.
- Joe’s Diner (201 E. Chestnut Street) in Strafford – Serves American diner food, known for burgers and onion rings. Recently changed ownership but still open.
- Cracker Barrel Country Store (2858 North Glenstone Avenue) in Springfield – This chain focuses on rustic country decor and classic American homestyle meals, including breakfasts, homestyle soups, chicken fried steak, and meat loaf. Gift store selling old-fashioned items, candies, and gifts.
- College Street Cafe (1622 W College Street) in Springfield – This cafe serves American style breakfasts, lunch plates, and sandwiches. Route 66 related decor.
- Steak ‘n Shake (1158 St. Louis Street) in Springfield – A hamburger fast food chain known for its steak burgers, milkshakes, and advertising slogan to “Take Home a Sack” (abbreviated to “TAKHOMASAK). Although this chain began in Normal, Illinois (you would have driven through this town on Day 1), this location built in 1962 is one of the best known along old Route 66 and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Bernie’s Route 66 Bar & Grill (175 Springfield Street) in Avilla – A down-to-earth bar and grill known for its burgers and beer. Occupying the building that used to be Flo’s Tavern.
- Whisler’s Drive Up (300 N. Garrison Avenue) in Carthage – A great old-fashioned hamburger place that has been around since 1953. Inexpensive, highly recommend if you like burgers.
- Pancake Hut (301 S. Garrison Avenue) in Carthage – A restaurant that has been around since 1979 serving American classics all day. A special feature is the coin-operated 1920’s “Chicago Band Box” inside.
- Mother Road Coffee in (325 Main Street) Carthage – A great place to stop if you are just looking for coffee or a snack, serving coffee, tea, and pastries. They even have a Mother Road Mocha drink.
- Lucky J Restaurant & Arena (11664 E. Fir Road) in Carthage – A local steakhouse outside of the town center best know for its steaks and burgers. Diners can also see horse events through glass into a rodeo area and there is also a Western wear and boots store here. Check event schedule if interested in rodeo events.
Hotel Recommendations for Carthage, MO
- Boots Court – This 1939 motor court was saved from demolition by 2 sisters and it has been restored to what it would have looked like in the 1940’s. This is a special Art Deco-Steamline Modern motel with a rich history, and even celebrities like Clark Gable once stayed here. The radios in the rooms are a nice touch to the 1940’s/1950’s theme. Good value. Book in advance.
- Shiloah Manor B&B – If you looking for a nice romantic B&B in Carthage, this is our choice.
- Grand Avenue Bed & Breakfast – Another great B&B option in Carthage in a historical home.
- Best Budget Inn – If you are looking for a budget stay, this well-reviewed no-frills motel is our choice. It is a restored 1955-era motel.
- Quality Inn & Suites – Another good budget option with an indoor pool, fitness center, and included breakfast.
- Camper Recs: Big Red Park RV Park and Coachlight RV Park
Route 66 Itinerary Day 4: Carthage, MO to Tulsa, OK
Today, you’ll drive through sections of 3 different states! Kansas has only 13 miles of Route 66 but it is worth taking the section at a leisurely pace to get the most out of your time in this friendly corner of this former mining region. Then you begin your exploration of Oklahoma, a state that straddles the Midwest and South. This is the home state of Cyrus Avery, the Father of Route 66, and a place that is very aware of its Route 66 heritage with lots of helpful signs and informative museums. Will Rogers fans will really enjoy today as there are a number of Rogers related sites along the route. After passing through a number of small towns, you’ll end the day in the big city of Tulsa which has a number of interesting attractions.
Starting & Ending Point: Carthage, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma
General Route: Carthage–> Joplin –> Galena –> Baxter Springs –> Catoosa –> Tulsa
Mileage: ~ 152 miles (245 km)
Time Zone: Central Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
Those wanting to avoid big cities may want to bypass downtown Tulsa by jumping on Interstate 44 . If you are wanting to overnight outside of Tulsa, you might try staying in Catoosa, OK (17 miles before Tulsa) or around Sapulpa, OK (16 miles past Tulsa).
Main Route 66 Attractions
- You can find Superman memorabilia (and ice cream!) at SuperTAM on 66 Ice Cream Parlor in Carterville
- King Jack Park in Webb City features a large kneeling miner sculpture, a trolley, walking paths, picnic tables, and a giant praying hands statue
- In Joplin, a former mining boom town, you’ll find lots of traces of Route 66 including gas stations, a giant Coke bottle, and a Route 66 Mural. Missouri-born muralist Thomas Hart Benson’s final work, Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906, is on display in the town’s city hall complex. You’ll also find several museums and attractions, including the Joplin History & Mineral Museum and nearby the scenic Grand Falls (a short detour).
- Soon you’ll cross into your third state, Kansas, the Sunflower State, with just 13 miles of Route 66. This part of Kansas is a former mining area and you’ll see signs of its mining history along the route. Although short, be sure to take some time to explore and meet some of the friendly people along this small stretch.
- Galena offers a few attractions include “CARS on The Route” (restored fuel station that offers sandwiches, gifts, and has a tow truck that inspired the Tow Mater character in the Cars films) and the Galena Mining & Historical Museum.
- In Riverton, we recommend stopping at Old Riverton Store, a 1925 general store and deli that serves sandwiches and drinks. A good place to get a sandwich and buy some supplies or souvenirs to support this long-time small town business.
- To get more of your time in Kansas, consider making some small detours such as to see Rainbow Bridge (a restored arch bridge) and Big Brutus in West Mineral (a GIANT mining machine with visitor center and museum).
- Baxter Springs is the biggest town (at a whopping 4,000 people) on Kansas’s Route 66 and has the most services. In Baxter Springs you’ll find a visitor center in a restored Phillips 66 Station (visitor center), the Baxter Springs Heritage Center & Museum, and the Fort Scott National Historic Site. There is a lovely local story behind the building of the “Field of Dreams” baseball field here.
- Soon you’ll enter the state of Oklahoma which has almost 400 miles of driveable Route 66!
- Quapaw has several murals showing off its town history.
- Baseball fans will want to pay homage to Mickey Mantle in his home town of Commerce. His childhood home is here as well as a large statute at Commerce High School’s baseball field.
- Miami has Coleman Theatre, a beautiful 1929 theater, that offers tours and performances, the Allen’s Conoco Fillin’ Station (a historic gas station turned gift shop, found on Main Street across from Dairy King) the Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum, and the Dobson Museum (local history museum).
- Afton is home to the Route 66 Motel, the Afton Station Route 66 Museum (vintage automobiles, informal exhibits, and souvenirs), and Darryl Starbird’s National Rod and Custom Car Museum.
- A small detour to nearby Grove allows you to visit Har-Ber Village (antique and history museum, and reconstructed pioneer era village) and take a paddlewheel riverboat ride. Both are seasonal.
- Vinita, hometown of “Dr. Phil” McGraw and home to the Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo, has a large number of historic homes, Route 66 era signs, and the Eastern Trails Museum (local history, including Route 66 exhibits).
- Chelsea is the home of Oklahoma’s first oil well and a 1912 Sears-Roebuck home known as Hogue Home (tours sometimes available by appointment).
- Foyil has a Andy Payne statue (winner of the 1928 International Trans-Continental Footrace) and the Totem Pole Park, a collection of giant concrete totem poles created by Ed Galloway. Totem Pole Park has been a Route 66 landmark since 1948 and is an important example of post-WW2 folk art.
- Claremore is a big draw for Will Rogers fans which has a large amount of Will Rogers related sites, including a museum, statues, and mausoleum. There is a historical downtown and the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum (displays an astonishing number of historical firearms and weapons!) and the Swan Brothers Dairy (farm shop and farm tours).
- Near Catoosa is the giant blue whale, often known as the Catoosa whale in a small park. This was once a popular tourist attraction which included the blue whale, a Noah’s Ark attraction, kiosks, and a swimming area. Now it is just a quick and pleasant photo stop. In Catoosa there is the Catoosa Historical Society Museum (local history museum housed in former railroad depot with a renovated caboose) and the D.W. Correll Museum (rare vehicles, minerals, and lots of other items).
- Tulsa is home to a lot of old Route 66 era motels, signs, eateries, and historical buildings, including many Art Deco buildings. Some Route 66 spots include the 1925 Blue Dome gas station, the 1916 Cyrus Avery Bridge, the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza (several Route 66 signs/statues), and the Route 66 Historical Village. Tulsa also has a number of newer spots along Route 66 including the Fuel Stop 66 food truck spot, 918 flea market (located in historic Rose Bowl bowling alley building, Sundays only) and the Market 66 (food hall in former 1930s grocery building, expected to open by end of 2018).
- Tulsa also a number of other attractions including the Philbrook Museum of Art (historical home and art collection), Gilcrease Museum (huge collection of Native American and Western art), the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium, and the “Center of the Universe” (an acoustic anomaly spot).
- There’s lots to do in Tulsa in the evenings. If you haven’t already visited a drive-in movie theater yet on your drive, you have another possible chance tonight at the Admiral Twin Drive-In Theater. Or if you like live music, you might want to check to see if there is anything going on at Cain’s Ballroom, which was originally built as a garage for the founder of Tulsa in 1924.
- No big notable detours today.
- SuperTAM on 66 (221 W Main) in Carterville, MO – An ice cream parlor that displays memorabilia related to both Route 66 and Superman. Fun atmosphere. Seasonal.
- Granny Shaffer’s (2728 N. Ranger Line Road) in Joplin, MO – Casual eatery serving inexpensive American comfort food included breakfast, fried chicken, spaghetti, and homemade pies. Also serves micro-roasted and fresh ground coffee.
- Instant Karma (527 S. Main Street) in Galena, KS – A casual spot known for their creative gourmet hot dogs, but also serve burgers, sandwiches, and vegetarian friendly options.
- Old Riverton Store (7109 SE Highway 66) in Riverton, KS – This general store has been operating here since 1925 and still has the original tin ceiling. Sells deli sandwiches, snacks, and fountain drinks. Great spot for a quick lunch or to pick up picnic supplies for later!
- Dallas’ Dairyette (103 N Main Street) in Quapaw, KS – Long-time fast-food burger place that also serves ice cream and frozen treats.
- Baxter Springs Smokehouse (2320 S. Military Avenue) in Baxter Springs, KS – A casual barbecue place known for their smoked meats and catfish.
- Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger (105 N. Main Steet) in Miami, OK – A traditional fast food burger place that also serves fries, tater tots, and ice cream. This restaurant opened in 1965 and is the last survivor of the cuckoo-clock themed Oklahoma-based Ku-Ku chain that once had about 200 eateries throughout the Midwest.
- Dairy King (100 N Main Street) in Commerce, OK – Great little local burger spot in a former 1920’s Marathon station. Also serve ice cream and homemade cookies.
- Clanton’s Cafe (319 E. Illinois) in Vinita, OK – Serves a variety of American classics from breakfast to burgers to pork chops, especially known for their fried chicken and chicken fried steak dishes. Owned by the Clanton family since 1927 and is believed to be the oldest continually owned family restaurant on Route 66 in Oklahoma.
- Ron’s Hamburgers and Chili (1220 South Lynn Riggs Blvd) in Claremore, OK – Offers burgers, chili, and other hot sandwiches. Part of a local Oklahoma-based chain that began in 1975 and also a number of locations in Tulsa and elsewhere.
- Molly’s Landing (3700 N Old Highway 66) in Catoosa, OK – A more upsacle restaurant known for its steak and seafood dishes. Wine menu includes local wines. Voted as one of the best steakhouses in the Tulsa area.
- Hank’s Hamburgers (8933 E Admiral Place) in Tulsa, OK – Old-fashioned hamburger place that has been serving burgers on toasted buns, fries, and malts since 1949.
- Tally’s Good Food Cafe (1102 S Yale Avenue) in Tulsa, OK – A popular local diner with a retro Route 66 theme that opened in 1987, serving American classic diner food. Not a Route 66 era diner (opened in 1987), but has won awards for its big breakfasts, chicken fried steak, and cinnamon rolls.
- 918 Coffee (2446 E. 11th Street) in Tulsa, OK – A good modern coffee spot occupying a former 1928 cottage-style gas station. Serving fair-trade and organic Coda coffee, teas, pastries, and sandwiches. Has board games and plays vinyl records in the evenings.
- Fuel 66 Tulsa (2439 East 11th Street)in Tulsa, OK – A changing schedule of food trucks stop here. Sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner, sometimes both. If interested, be sure to check the schedule to see what’s there and when.
- El Rancho Grande (1629 E 11th Street) in Tulsa, OK – A simple Mexican food eatery that has been serving Tex-Mex food since 1953. Has a vintage neon sign and has won awards for its enchiladas and margaritas.
- Ike’s Chili (1503 E. 11th Street) in Tulsa, OK – This simple eatery is best known for its chili, but also offers burgers, sandwiches & sides. This long-time local favorite was established in 1908, almost 20 years before Route 66 was even established!
- Andolini’s Pizzeria (1552 E. 15th St) in Tulsa, OK – If you are looking for pizza and a lively atmosphere, this is one of the city’s most popular pizzerias offering New York style pizzas and beers.
- Ollie’s Station Restaurant (4070 Southwest Blvd) in Tulsa, OK – Located in the Redfork area of Tulsa, this neighborhood restaurant serves breakfast and homestyle meals. Restaurant has a Route 66 and train theme, and there are model trains running inside the restaurant. Great stop for any train enthusiast.
Hotel Recommendations for Tulsa, OK
- The Campbell Hotel – This 4-star luxury boutique hotel was originally built in 1927 and then restored in 2011. Beautifully decorated themed rooms based on the city’s history, including a Route 66 themed suite.
- Mayo Hotel – Another beautiful 4-star historical luxury hotel. Built in 1925 and renovated in 2009. Well-appointed hotel with stylish and sophisticated decor.
- Aloft Tulsa – If you love modern hotels and decor, you can’t go wrong with the Aloft brand. Has a lounge and cocktail bar.
- Extended Stay America – Midtown Tulsa – One of many options for a good-value stay in Tulsa with breakfast.
- Quality Inn Tulsa – Another good value stay located in the western downtown area of Tulsa with breakfast.
- Rodeway Inn – Well-reviewed budget stay near the Interstate. Very good prices.
- Desert Hills Motel (5220 E 11th St, Tulsa, OK) – This vintage hotel dates from 1953 and still has a nice neon sign out front. It is budget-friendly no-frills place that has been getting mixed reviews in recent reviews. I’d check out a room first before deciding. No website so call +1 918-834-3311 or stop by to book.
- Camper Recs: Warrior RV Park (located in southeast Tulsa), Mingo RV Park (located in eastern part of Tulsa), and Tulsa NE / Will Roger Downs KOA (located in Claremore, OK)
Route 66 Itinerary Day 5: Tulsa, OK to Clinton, OK
Today you spend a full day exploring Oklahoma with some nicely preserved sections of Route 66 that lead through small towns and rural areas. But you also have Oklahoma City on today’s route that has some interesting big city attractions if you wish to explore them. You also have many opportunities today to taste one of Oklahoma’s favorite local specialties, the onion burger, and the choice of sampling from over 500 kinds of soda!
Starting & Ending Point: Tulsa, Oklahoma to Clinton, Oklahoma
General Route: Tulsa –> Sapulpa –> Chandler –> Oklahoma City –> Weatherford –> Clinton
Mileage: ~ 204 miles (328 km)
Time Zone: Central Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
Those wanting to avoid big cities may want to bypass downtown Oklahoma City and rejoin Route 66 in Yukon, OK. You can take I-35 to I-44 West or take the Kilpatrick Turnpike.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- Sapulpa is a town worth getting out of your car and exploring with its historical downtown and Route 66 related advertising murals. It is the home of Frankoma Pottery (been selling handmade pottery since 1933), the Sapulpa Historical Museum, and a giant Coke bottle. Outside of town is the Rock Creek Bridge (1925 bridge) and former Teepee Drive-In.
- A short detour (about 20 minutes) from Sapulpa is the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks
- In Bristow is a local history museum and Wake Island Memorial (only national memorial to the World War II Battle of Wake Island)
- Outside Stroud, you have The Shoe Tree Trading Post and Shoe Tree (original is gone, but people are still leaving shoes at a new one). In Stroud, you have the popular Rock Cafe restaurant (since 1939), some vintage neon signs, and the StableRidge Vineyards (with tasting room).
- In Chandler, you have the Route 66 Interpretive Center, Lincoln County Museum of Pioneer History, and McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery Jerry McClanahan is a local artist, Route 66 advocate, artist for the Here It Is maps, and writer of the EZ 66 Guide, definitely try to pay a visit especially if you are using his recommended guide or maps.
- There is a 1921 gas station turned motorcycle museum, the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum, in little Warwick.
- Outside Arcadia, there is the OK Route 66 artist display, also known as the Oklahoma County 66 Auto Trim and Mini Museum. Built by John Hargrove, this is an artistic collection of replicas of many Route 66 classic sites like the Wigwam Motel, Catoosa Blue Whale, and retro gas stations. Inside there is a collection of memorabilia. This is his private residence so only stop by if the gate is open, but he is often happy to have guests stop by and will often show you around.
- In Arcadia, you have the 1898 Round Barn (restored in 1992 this unusually shaped barn houses a small museum and gift shop, free but donations appreciated) and POPS. POPS has a giant 66 foot tall soda bottle (sometimes lit) out front and is one of the newer popular attractions along the route. Opened in 1997 (now has other locations), the eatery/store is a diner (offering breakfast, sandwiches, and dinners) and sells all kinds of sodas.
- Those who love historical buildings may want to make a detour off Route 66 (30 minutes north of Edmond) to explore Guthrie (former state capital) which has a large number of buildings in the Historical District, and some of the buildings are open as museums to tour. You’ll also find the Beacon Drive-In outside town, which is the oldest (since 1951) still operating drive-in movie theater in Oklahoma
- Edmond has the Edmond Historical Society Museum, the first schoolhouse built in the Oklahoma Territory (1889), a replica Statue of Liberty (donated by the Boy Scouts), and a teepee shaped church (Hopewell Baptist Church). You’ll also see a giant cross located within the Life.Church campus.
- Now you head into Oklahoma City (OKC), the capital and largest city in Oklahoma. There are a few routes you can take and trying to follow an exact route in a larger city can be difficult so I’d just focus on navigating to the attractions you want to visit.
- The oil and gas industry has long been important to OKC and the city is literally built on top of oil fields, and you’ll even find oil wells on the grounds of the State Capitol! The city has lots of attractions including historic buildings (e.g., Will Rogers Theater, Tower Theater), museums such as the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum (interactive museum about the 1995 OKC bombing and a memorial to the 168 victims) and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (a must-visit if you are interested in the American “Old West” & its history), and other attractions such as Myriad Botanical Gardens and Frontier City (a Western themed family amusement park).
- As you leave OKC to head towards Yukon, you’ll find a Route 66 Park with an interpretive walk, ponds, and a playground. Great place to stretch your legs and for kids to play.
- Yukon, once known for its flour milling industry, has some old Route 66 era signs and a small railroad museum. Country singer Garth Brooks grew up here.
- El Reno has a local history museum, Route 66 eateries, the Heritage Express Trolley (a restored 1924 rail based trolley that runs from the Heritage Park through downtown), and the remains of Historic Fort Reno. It is also believed to be the home of the onion burger, a fried onion burger born out of the Depression era, and there are several places still serving onion burgers in town with Robert’s Grill being the oldest (since 1926!).
- If you are interested in the Chisholm Trail (historic cattle trail), you can make a detour to visit one the two museums in the area (one in Duncan and one in Kingfisher). You’ll find the grave and monument to Jesse Chisholm (fur trader who the Chisholm Trail is named after) in Geary.
- Outside El Reno you’ll find the Cherokee Treading Post which started as a rug stand in the 1940’s.
- Hydro has a couple of Route 66 sites, the 1927 Lucille’s gas station and motor court run by Lucille and Carl Hamons (no longer operating) and Nutopia Nut ‘N More (began as the Johnson Peanut Company in 1962).
- Weatherford has some old Route 66 era businesses as well as the Stafford Air & Space Museum and Heartland of America Museum (displays includes a blacksmith’s shop, old cars, a school, and a diner that Elvis once patronized).
- Clinton has a number of Route 66 related attractions. The Mohawk Lodge Indian Store (history dating back to the late 1800’s, operating since 1940’s) is a great stop for authentic Native American goods and local Native American history. Also the Cheyenne Cultural Center nearby. The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is an excellent and modern Route 66 museum with lots of exhibits and there is a restored Valentine diner building. You might want to taste local wines at Yippe AY-O-K Winery tasting room. McLain Rogers Park is a large park containing historic buildings as well as a number of family-friendly facilities which include a playground and a Route 66 themed mini-golf course. There is also a family-friendly indoor water park near the Route 66 Museum.
- Hickory House BBQ (626 N. Mission Street) in Sapulpa – This place has been serving sandwiches, burgers & steaks, plus lunch & dinner buffets, since 1981.
- Happy Burger (215 N. Mission Street) in Sapulpa – This old-fashioned local hamburger joint has been serving burgers and fries since 1957.
- Anchor Inn (630 S. Roland Street) in Bristow – A small restaurant operating since the 1950’s, best known for its chicken fried steak and burgers.
- Rock Cafe (114 W. Main Street) in Stroud – Since 1939, this has been a popular restaurant stop along Route 66. The simple restaurant serves American and German American food, and is best known for its jagerschnitzle and chicken fried steak. The owner, Dawn Welch was the inspiration for Sally Carrera (the Porsche) in the Cars films.
- Tammy’s Round-up Cafe (1025 Broadway Avenue) in Davenport – A newer eatery focused on breakfast, sandwiches, and comfort food.
- Boom-a-rang Diner (912 Manvel Avenue) in Chandler – One of over 20 locations of this popular Oklahoma-based modern diner chain. Best known for its burgers and fries and has 1950’s and 1960’s retro decor.
- The Boundary Restaurant on Route 66 (16001 E. Highway 66) in Luther – Best known for their barbeque (ribs, brisket, and pulled pork), but also serve other sandwiches and chili.
- Josephine’s Cafe and Bakery (104 Main Street) in Luther – Small local cafe serving breakfast, fresh baked goods, and American classics.
- POPS (660 W. Highway 66) in Arcadia – This popular modern Route 66 stop has a diner selling sandwiches, American classics, and over 500 types of soda.
- Tucker’s Onion Burgers (324 NW 23rd Street) in Oklahoma City – A modern popular Oklahoma City based chain specializing in onion burgers, begun in 2011.
- Cheever’s Cafe (2409 N. Hudson Avenue) in Oklahoma City – A stylish restaurant serving American and Southwestern dishes in a historic building that was once a family-run flower shop. Serves weekend brunch as well as wine and beer.
- Big Truck Tacos (530 NW 23rd Street) in Oklahoma City – A popular food truck eatery serving all-day (breakfast to late night snacks) casual creative Mexican dishes like tortilla soup, tacos, and burritos. Brick-and-mortar restaurant plus food trucks.
- VZD’s Restaurant & Bar (4200 N. Western Avenue) in Oklahoma City – An American bar and grill that serves American and Southwestern food and includes vegetarian options. Has been popular for its burgers, live music, and full service bar since 1976. Located in the historical Crown Drug store building.
- Beverly’s Pancake House (3315 N.W. Expressway) in Oklahoma City – Long-time local restaurant known for its breakfast and chicken dishes. Serves all meals. This spot was the original place for the “chicken in the rough” that was the staple offering of the former Oklahoma-based Chicken in the Rough chain that began in 1936.
- Ann’s Chicken Fry House (4106 NW 39th Street) in Oklahoma City – A vintage Route 66-themed diner with lots of neon serving American diner food such as chicken-fried steak. Building was originally a 1948 Cities Service gas station, and has been Ann’s Chicken Fry House since 1971.
- Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in (1309 S. Agnew Avenue) in Oklahoma City – This historical steakhouse began as a cafe in 1910 near the OKC Stockyards, and today it is best known for its steaks. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is the longest continuously running restaurant in the city. This is not on or near Route 66 (so requires a bit of a detour to another part of city), but is a historical restaurant that deserves a mention and the place to go if you are looking for a steak.
- Johnnie’s Grill (301 S Rock Island Ave) in El Reno – A popular local eatery that has been serving traditional fried onion burgers and Coney dogs since 1946.
- Robert’s Grill (300 S. Bickford Avenue) in El Reno – A small classic old-fashioned 1926 diner known for its traditional fried onion burgers and Coney dogs. This was definitely one of the most classic still operating 1920’s diners we visited on the route.
- Sid’s Diner (300 S. Choctaw Avenue) in El Reno – Yet another popular place serving traditional onion burgers in a retro-themed diner since 1989.
- Lucille’s Roadhouse (1301 N. Airport Road) in Weatherford – A modern retro-themed diner that serves American classics, including breakfast, sandwiches, and steaks. The diner was named in honor of Lucille Hamons.
- Route 66 Cafe at the Market (301 W. Gary Boulevard) in Clinton – Locally owned diner serving breakfast, sandwiches, and homemade desserts. Known for their chicken fried steak.
- Adamo’s Route 66 Italian Villa (2132 W. Gary Boulevard) in Clinton – Restaurant serving American Italian foods, including pizza, pasta, and steaks. Located across from the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.
- White Dog Hill (22901 Route 66 North) in Clinton – Modern American restaurant (steaks, seafood, chicken dishes) in a historical building (1925 Clinton Country Club building). Full bar (Beanie Bar), dinner only, reservations recommended. Great place if you are looking for a nicer dinner out (casual dress is fine).
Hotel Recommendations for Clinton, OK
There are no “special” Route 66 lodging spots in Clinton (except Trade Winds Motel which has mixed reviews), but there are a number of 2- and 3-star chain hotels and motels to choose from in the town.
- La Quinta Inn & Suites Clinton Historic Route 66 – A well-rated 3-star chain property. Breakfast included.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Another well-reviewed 3-star property.
- Hampton Inn – A well-rated 3-star chain property. Breakfast included.
- Super 8 Motel – A well-rated budget option.
- Trade Winds Motel – A historical budget option with mixed reviews so recommend checking out a room here before staying. Elvis Presley is said to have stayed in Room 215 on several occasions.
- If you are looking for a house for the night, check out this Airbnb property calling itself The Route 66 House (sleeps up to 4 persons).
- Camper Recs: Hargus RV Park (in Clinton, Phone: +1 580-323-1664), Elk City / Clinton KOA (in Foss, OK), and Foss State Park (in Foss).
Route 66 Itinerary Day 6: Clinton, OK to Amarillo, TX
Today you leave behind Oklahoma to enter the big state of Texas. Despite the massive size of Texas, Route 66 only runs along the northern section of the Texan panhandle, making for under 200 miles of driving. While the scenery can be a bit dull at times, there is still much to see and do along this stretch. Some of today’s highlights include the National Route 66 Museum, the Devil’s Rope Museum, Cadillac Ranch, and the chance to eat a 72 oz. steak at the Big Texan Steak House!
Starting & Ending Point: Clinton, Oklahoma to Amarillo, Texas
General Route: Clinton –> Elk City –> Texola –> McLean –> Conway –> Amarillo
Mileage: ~ 176 miles (283 km)
Time Zone: Central Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities today, although some might want to bypass downtown Amarillo, which is the largest city (population close to 200,000) Route 66 passes through in Texas.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- Little Canute has some Route 66 signs and buildings and the Canute Heritage Center.
- Elk City is home to the National Route 66 Museum Complex.This is a must-visit for any Route 66 traveler and the museum covers the history of Route 66 and its route through all 8 states. The gift shop is a great place for Route 66 books and souvenirs. Admission also includes access to the other museums in the complex which include the Old Town Museum, Farm & Ranch Museum, and Blacksmith Museum. Elsewhere in town there is a giant oil derrick in front of the Anadarko Basin Museum of Nature History (historic building, museum currently closed), and Ackley Park has a hand carved wooden carousel, playground, mini-golf, picnic areas, and a miniature train.
- Sayre is worth taking some time to wander around as it has some nice murals, lots of historic buildings, old Route 66 era signs, a courthouse that was briefly shown in the 1940 Grapes of Wrath film, and the RS&K Railroad Museum (private collection of railroad memorabilia and hundreds of model trains).
- In Erick, there is the Sandhills Curiosity Shop, 100th Meridian Museum (about the long-disputed state boundary between OK and TX, open by appointment only), and Roger Miller Museum.
- After little Texola, which has become almost a ghost town, you pass into your fifth state, Texas. There is a Will Rogers Marker at the state line.
- Shamrock has the impressive Art Deco Tower Service Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe, built in 1936 which was a historic Route 66 icon. It fell into disrepair after the route was decommissioned but has since been restored and reopened as a visitor center and offices of the local chamber of commerce. The town also has the Pioneer West Museum, a restored Magnolia gas station, and a piece of the Irish Blarney Stone (in Elmore Park).
- In McLean, you’ll find the combined Texas Route 66 Museum and Devil’s Rope Museum (a museum dedicated to barbed wire as well as Route 66 exhibits), a restored Phillips 66 Station, and the McLean-Alanreed Area Museum (local history, especially pertaining to a former WW2 prisoner-of-war camp that was located in the area).
- Alanreed has a restored 1930’s 66 Super Service Station. Outside town on I-40 eastbound is a Route 66 themed rest area with a neon sign, a few exhibits, and a playground.
- Groom has a leaning water tower (purposely leaning), some Route 66 ruins, and a giant cross (197 feet and 2.5 million pounds!). The giant cross is part of the Cross Ministries, a non-profit non-denominational religious site, that also has impressive bronze statues representing the Stations of the Cross and a gift shop. Future plans here include a chapel and museum.
- Conway has some Route 66 ruins and out by the interstate in Panhandle you can find the “VW Slug Bug Ranch” where you’ll find several Volkswagen Beetles buried nose down in the dirt. An art installation satire of the more famous Cadillac Ranch. Not from the Route 66 era or even on Route 66 (neither is Cadillac Ranch for that matter) but worth a stop if you enjoy this kind of art.
- Amarillo is your only taste of a larger city in the Texas Panhandle, and a quirky place worth exploring. It is best known for being home to the over-the-top Big Texan Steak Ranch restaurant and motel (started along on Route 66 in 1960 but relocated to I-40 in early 1970’s) and Cadillac Ranch, an art installation of uptuned buried Cadillacs. The public art piece was created by art group Ant Farm and commissioned by eccentric Texan millionaire and convicted sex abuser Stanley March 3. Cadillac Ranch was installed in 1974 and then relocated in 1997, but neither location was actually along Route 66.
- However, Amarillo offers much more than 72 oz steak dinners and quirky art, and you’ll find historic buildings (especially in the Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District and Polk Street Historic District), art galleries, shopping and nightlife opportunities (check out the San Jacinto neighborhood), and museums such as the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum. Families (and the young at heart) may want to visit the Wonderland Amusement Park (seasonal), a traditional family-run amusement park since 1951. Includes rides, water slides, games, and a mini-golf course.
- For evening nightlife, there is often live music and dancing to be found in downtown Amarillo. Some places to try are the GoldenLight Cafe & Cantina (since 1946, food, drinks, and live music), Hoots Pub (dive bar with live music), Starlight Ranch Event Center (live music and dancing), and Guitars & Cadillacs (country music and dancing). Sadly the giant long-time dance venue Midnight Rodeo closed in September 2017.
- The Country Dove Gift & Tea Room (610 W. 3rd Street) in Elk City, OK – A lunchtime eatery in a historic home known for their creamy potato soup, chicken avocado croissant sandwiches, and French Silk Pie. Also a Christian gift store.
- Lupe’s Cocino and Cantina (905 N. Main Street) in Elk City, OK – This Mexican American restaurant is your best bet for Mexican food in the area.
- Tumbleweeds Grill & Country Store (5th Street) in Texola, OK – The building was once a 1930’s bar (Waterhole #2), and this simple place serves breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, and has lunch and dinner plate specials. Art for sale on the walls, and also has snacks and supplies for sale in its general store section.
- Hasty’s (203 E.18th Street) in Shamrock, TX – This hamburger spot closed and reopened recently with new owners, serving American classics like hamburgers, pulled pork, chicken strips, and catfish.
- Big Vern’s Steakhouse (200 E. 12th Street) in Shamrock, TX – Country-style restaurant serving American food, best known for its steaks and beer bread.
- The Roost (117 Railroad Avenue) in Shamrock, TX – Southern and Southwestern sandwiches, best known for their fish tacos and Reuben sandwiches. Also serve homemade desserts and fresh baked goods.
- Red River Steak House (101 W. Highway 101) in McLean, TX – A locally owned steakhouse known for their steaks, fried catfish, and fruit cobbler. Next door to the well-rated Route 66 era Cactus Inn motel. Opened in 1997 and another location opened in 2015 in Amarillo.
- The Grill (407 Front Street) in Groom, TX – Small local place serving homemade breakfasts, sandwiches, and American classics dishes. Known for their homemade fried stuffed biscuits.
- Gram Gram’s (9696 E. 40) in Conway, TX – Simple no-frills American diner place sitting next door to the Conway Inn (no frills motel since 1978).
- Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery (701 Interstate 40 Access Rd) in Amarillo, TX – This Route 66 classic started life in 1960 alongside Route 66 but was then moved to sit along I-40 in the 1970s. Large menu of American homestyle classics but best known for its steaks. If you eat the 72 oz. steak dinner in under 1 hour, you get it for free. Laurence and I ordered it and couldn’t even finish it together! Full service bar, brewery, breakfast buffet, homemade candy, and ice cream.
- Stockyards Cafe (101 S Manhattan Street) in Amarillo, TX – Located in the Amarillo Stockyards livestock sale barn, this simple cafe is known for its breakfast, chicken fried steak, burgers, and chicken fried steak.
- Smokey Joe’s Texas Cafe (2903 SW 6th Avenue) in Amarillo, TX – An American cafe with retro decor, serving American road food such as burgers, blackened catfish, and chicken fried steak. Also serves alcohol and have live music on some evenings.
- The Golden Light Cantina (2908 SW 6th Avenue) in Amarillo, TX – A Route 66 era (since 1946) American diner serving burgers and sandwiches. Also serve beer and wine. Live music on some nights.
- Wild Bill’s (3811 SW 6th Ave) in Amarillo, TX – American place serving burgers, sandwiches, salads, nachos, Frito pie, etc. Also serve beer and wine and have a game area (pool, darts).
- Beef Burger Barrel (3102 Plains Blvd) in Amarillo, TX – An American walk-up burger place serving burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, and sodas out of a former 1937 A&W Root Beer barrel-shaped stand.
Hotel Recommendations for Amarillo, TX
- The Big Texan Motel – Next door to the Big Texan Steak Ranch, this quirky and kitschy motel is designed to resemble an old west town, and has Old West and Texan themed decor throughout. There are Cadillac limos that can escort guests, and in the warmer months, you can even swim in the giant Texas-shaped swimming pool! Note that noise can be an issue here.
- Drury Inn & Suites Amarillo – A solid 3-star hotel with indoor pool and included breakfast.
- My Place Hotel – A well-reviewed 3-star hotel that offers kitchenettes in every room.
- Extended Stay America – Amarillo West – A good value budget option that includes breakfast.
- Camper recs: Amarillo Ranch RV Park (owned by the Big Texan folks), Oasis RV Resort, and Amarillo KOA
Route 66 Itinerary Day 7: Amarillo, TX to Tucumcari, NM
Already one week into our Route 66 itinerary! Today you say goodbye to Texas and cross into New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment which has about 400 miles of Route 66. This morning or afternoon you’ll cross the halfway marker of the route in little Adrian, TX (or Vega depending on who you ask!), so woo-hoo you are halfway done and making good time. The route today passes through many ghost towns that did not survive the demise of Route 66 and ends in a town that screams Route 66 like no other town on the route, Tucumcari, NM. The driving time is fairly short today giving you plenty of time to do any extra exploring in Amarillo, make small detours, travel at a leisurely pace, and explore Tucumcari.
Starting & Ending Point: Amarillo, Texas to Tucumcari, New Mexico
General Route: Amarillo –> Vega –> Adrian –> Glenrio –> San Jon –> Tucumcari
Mileage: ~ 109 miles (175 km)
Time Zone: 1 hour time zone change today! You’ll want to set your watches and car clocks back an hour as you head from the Central Time Zone to Mountain Time Zone as you leave Texas and enter New Mexico. Keep the time change in mind if you have any appointments or tours scheduled today.
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities today.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- Visit anything in Amarillo you didn’t get to see yesterday.
- Those looking for some hiking and nice scenery may want to make a detour (about 30 miles south) to visit the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
- You may notice some crazy signs along the road after you leave Amarillo evoking the signage of the Route 66 era, some with references to the Bates Motel from Psycho. These are more of Stanley Marsh 3’s commissions. There are several art commissions in West Texas from him, which include the series of signs all over Amarillo (known collectively as The Dynamite Museum), Floating Mesa (north of Bushland) and the Ozymadias sculpture (south of Amarillo). Those interested can take some short detours and hunt these down.
- Vega is home to a restored 1920’s Magnolia gasoline station and Dot’s Mini Museum which is two small buildings that hold personal collection of artifacts of Dot Leavitt that she started collecting in 1944. It is not so much of a museum as a cluttered personal collection of objects, but great to see for those who like things from the Route 66 era. Dot and her husband (both deceased) once ran a store called Vega Zero Lockers which provided ice and other services to passing Route 66 travelers. Her family has continued to keep the mini-museum open in their mother’s memory. Some people say Vega is the midpoint for Route 66.
- The most touted candidate for the midpoint for Route 66 is Adrian. It has sort of self-proclaimed itself as such with a sign, paintings on the road, and the Midpoint Cafe and Gift Shop. It is impossible to determine an exact midpoint due to all the changes and different alignments of Route 66 but most Route 66 experts agree it is somewhere around Vega or Adrian. There is also the Sunflower Station (selling gifts and antiques next door to the cafe run by former Midpoint Cafe owner Fran Houser) and The Bent Door, which is a recently restored 1947 cafe that is planned to reopen as a diner soon.
- Glenrio has only a few Route 66 era ruins, and is the last town in Texas along the route.
- Now you’ll cross the border into state number six, New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.
- Between Glenrio and San Jon, you have the option to take a dirt and gravel section of Route 66 (pre-1950’s) or the post-1950’s paved section which runs along the 1-40. I’d opt for the dirt and gravel section towards Endee which is more scenic. Although I’d avoid this route if it is muddy and during bad weather. If you have the time, you can drive both routes as it is only about 18 miles. In San Jon the two routes converge.
- Most of the towns through this stretch have few residents and most have become ghost towns.
- Tucumcari remains a true Route 66 town. It once promoted itself as a great place to overnight along the route with signs along the route in Texas and New Mexico proclaiming “Tucumcari Tonite—2,000 Motel Rooms”. Today there are still several historic Route 66 motels like the Blue Swallow, Motel Safari, and Pow Wow Inn and a few really nice neon signs. There is also Tee Pee Curios, a former 1940’s gas station and grocery store, that has been a popular curio and souvenir shop for a long time now. It is a great place to stop for souvenirs and gifts, and you’ll also find gifts and western wear at Tucumcari Ranch Supply.
- Other things to do in Tucumcari include towns murals, the beautiful 1930’s Art Deco theater The Odeon (still operational), Mesalands Community College’s Dinosaur Museum, Tucumcari’s Historical Museum (local history, housed in a 1903 schoolhouse), and the Route 66 Museum (located in part of the Convention Center). You can also get vintage looking photos taken at Mother Road Old Time Photos.
- If you looking for things to do in the evening in Tucumcari, I’d recommend checking out the glowing neon signs once they are lit up after dark, sipping a drink at one of the town’s lounges or bars, or check to see if the Odeon Theater is playing a movie.
Note that there are limited options for dining spots between Amarillo and Tucumcari, especially ones that are open in the evening. So just keep that in mind today.
- Hickory Inn Cafe (1300 Vega Blvd) in Vega, TX – A casual family-owned restaurant serving breakfast, burgers, salads, and sandwiches.
- Roosters (1300 Vega Boulevard) in Vega, TX – A well-rated casual Mexican restaurant with rustic decor, serving Mexican favorites like burritos, tacos, and enchiladas.
- Midpoint Cafe and Gift Shop (305 West Historic Route 66) in Adrian, TX – A Route 66 era diner (established in 1928) that has changed names and owners several times. It is currently the Mid Point Cafe its name since 1995) with a retro theme serving basic diner food. Best known for its pies, especially the Ugly Crust pie. Also sell gifts and souvenirs.
- Russel’s Route 66 Cafe (1583 Frontage Road) in Glenrio, TX – Eatery serves breakfast and American classic road food like burgers, burritos, catfish, and fried chicken. Located within a modern family-owned travel center and truck stop that also offers a fuel station, antique car museum, small grocery store, and other travel services.
- Watson’s BBQ (502 S. Lake Street) in Tucumcari, NM – A small much-loved barbecue lunch spot that serves sandwiches and family-style BBQ and sides. Also has donuts and bakery goods. Located within the Tucumcari Ranch Supply. Dine in or carry out. Best place for BBQ in town.
- Del’s Restaurant (1202 E. Route 66 Boulevard) in Tucumcari, NM – This restaurant has been on Route 66 since 1956, and serves homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, and a large variety of American and Mexican dishes. Has a salad bar and vegetarian options. If you are looking for a family-friendly sit down place with lots of options in Tucumcari for lunch or dinner, this is our pick
- Kix on 66 (1102 E. Route 66 Boulevard) in Tucumcari, NM – A modern retro-themed diner serving American classics and Mexican food for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, several salads, and fruit smoothies. They have a doggie menu for those who want to sit outside with their dogs! Our recommendation for a breakfast spot.
- Cornerstone First Edition (711 E. Route 66) in Tucumcari, NM – A no-frills eatery serving deli sandwiches, subs, burgers, pizzas, and malts. Popular with locals, and a great spot for those looking for a quick sandwich or pizza.
- La Cita (820 S. 1st Street) in Tucumcari, NM – Inexpensive no-frills place serving Mexican food in an iconic building with a nice neon sign and a giant sombrero over the entrance. Building dates back to 1940, although has moved from its original location a time or two.
- Pow Wow Restaurant & Lounge (801 W Route 66) in Tucumcari, NM – Next door to the Pow Wow Inn, the restaurant services American and Mexican food and has a full-service bar. Good place for drinks and sometimes has live entertainment or karaoke. One of the more lively places in town.
Hotel Recommendations for Tucumcari, NM
Tucumcari is an epicenter for Route 66 era motels with signs along Route 66 in Texas and New Mexico saying “Tucumcari Tonite—2,000 Motel Rooms”. This was a very popular Route 66 overnight stop and is still a great place to stop and sleep. There are no longer 2,000 motel rooms but there are still over 1,000 in the town. Several of the Route 66 era motels are still operational, so there is no reason to have to stay in a chain hotel here.
- Blue Swallow Motel – This Route 66 classic motel has one of the most recognizable neon signs along Route 66. It opened in 1939 and is family-owned and offers vintage 1940’s/1950’s themed rooms.
- Motel Safari – Another Route 66 era motor court with a classic neon sign. Built in 1959, the motel offers retro decor with modern furnishings.
- Historic Route 66 Motel – This 1963 Route 66 motor court motel offers aviation themed decor, and there is a coffee shop on site.
- Desert Inn – This more modern well-reviewed 3 star motel features a hot tub, fitness center, and free continental breakfast.
- Pow Wow Inn (801 W. Route 66 Blvd.) – This historic Route 66 motel (started life as Lin’s Motor Lodge in the 1940’s) offers basic amenities and a seasonal pool. The motel is adjacent to the popular Pow Wow Restaurant & Lizard Lounge. Motel has received some mixed reviews in recent years. To book, call +1 575-461-0500 or stop by.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites – If you are looking for a familiar chain, I’d recommend this one which comes with breakfast.
- Camper Recs – Tucumcari KOA Journey and Cactus RV Park
Route 66 Itinerary Day 8: Tucumcari, NM to Albuquerque, NM
Today you really get to see the heart of New Mexico, with a chance to explore one or both of its main cities, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The route diverges today after Santa Rosa and you can decide to take the older and slower route through Santa Fe or the main Route 66 route used after 1937 which bypasses Santa Fe and cuts across downtown Albuquerque.
Albuquerque has the longest stretch of Route 66 of any city and has retained a number of Route 66 era buildings, signs, and restaurants. Whichever route you choose, both of these main cities are filled with worthwhile attractions. Today is also a good day to sample New Mexican dishes, basically any dish smothered in chile sauce, as you have loads of great options along the route today!
Starting & Ending Point: Tucumcari, New Mexico to Albuquerque, New Mexico
The route splits into two alignments today west of Santa Rosa. An older loop goes to Santa Fe and the post 1937 route goes through downtown Albuquerque. The pre-1937 route splits off west of Santa Rosa and doesn’t rejoin the post-1937 until Correo (or you can also rejoin in Albuquerque at Central Avenue).
General post-1937 Route: Tucumcari –> Montoya –> Santa Rosa –> Clines Corner –> Moriarty –> Albuquerque
Alternative pre-1937 Santa Fe Route to Santa Fe: Tucumcari –> Montoya –> Santa Rosa –> Glorieta –> Romeroville –> Santa Fe
Alternative pre-1937 Santa Fe Route to Albuquerque: Tucumcari –> Montoya –> Santa Rosa –> Glorieta –> Romeroville –> Santa Fe –> Bernalillo –> Albuquerque
Mileage: ~ 171 miles (275 km). Alternatively, it is ~ 181 miles (291 km) to do the first part of the Santa Fe loop and overnight in Santa Fe, or 240 miles (386 km) to do the Santa Fe loop and end in Albuquerque.
Note: The Albuquerque and Santa Fe route are similar in terms of miles if you overnight in Santa Fe (171 versus 181) but the drive takes longer as the road requires slower driving. Also note that the Santa Fe route will obviously add additional miles and time to your trip as you still have to loop back to return to Route 66.
Time Zone: Mountain Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
Those who want to avoid big cities will likely want to avoid downtown Albuquerque (population over 500,000). You can take the alternative route to Santa Fe or jump on I-40 after Tijeras to pass through both cities. Santa Fe is not a large city but the one-way narrow streets, crowds, and limited downtown parking can make it a bit trying for those trying to navigate by car. You are better off parking and walking around in the central downtown area rather than trying to drive.
If you are want to overnight outside downtown Albuquerque or Santa Fe, consider Las Vegas (Santa Fe route), Bernalillo (Albuquerque route), Los Lunas, or the Route 66 Casino Hotel & RV Park (located just west of Albuquerque), depending on the route you are taking and how far you want to drive today.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- Most of the towns from Tucumcari to Santa Rosa are essentially ghost towns now with lots of abandoned buildings, many dating from the Route 66 era.
- Little Cuervo has a pretty red brick Catholic Church dating from 1915.
- Santa Rosa has the Route 66 Auto Museum run by a local couple, and a great stop for auto enthusiasts. There are also a few Route 66 era businesses still open here and some nice signs. Also just outside downtown Santa Rosa is the Blue Hole, which is a deep water hole that was once used as a fishery. You can swim here at your own risk and it is a popular spot for divers.
- Those with an interest in Billy the Kid, Native American history, and/or 19th century military history, may want to make a detour to visit Fort Sumner. It is about a 45 mile detour south of Santa Rosa. The town is best known for being the town where Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid and the historic site of Fort Sumner. Here you’ll find the Billy the Kid Museum (Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett here) and Bosque Redondo Memorial (informative and touching memorial and museum about the fort and the forced marches and confinement of thousands of Navajo and Apache people).
- Routes split west of Santa Rosa and you can take US 84 E (at exit 256) to follow the pre-1937 Route 66 Santa Fe Loop or keep going towards Milagro and Moriarty for the post-1937 route through Albuquerque. We’ll describe highlights on both routes that one could take today until Albuquerque.
- Pre-1937 Route 66 Option through Santa Fe to Albuquerque:
- It is a scenic drive north to Romeroville as you leave behind the Interstate.
- If you have time, Las Vegas is worth making a detour (about 6 miles from Romeroville) to visit. This is the “Other Las Vegas”, not the glittering one in Nevada. This one has many wonderful historic buildings, good places to eat, and an interesting downtown.
- Tecolote has a restored 19th century adobe church, Santa Fe Trail marker, and a ruined 1920’s bridge.
- Pecos is home to the Pecos National Historical Park which has the ruins of two Spanish colonial missions and a Pueblo community and is worth stopping to explore. You can also walk the Glorieta Battlefield hiking trail (which leads to a Civil War battlefield) which is over 2 miles long, ask at the Visitor Center for information and a guide.
- Glorieta was where the Battle of Glorieta Pass occurred which was a decisive battle in the New Mexico Campaign during the American Civil War. There is a memorial near the road.
- Santa Fe is the state capital and the oldest capital in the United States. Santa Fe is best known for art (which is in great abundance in museums, galleries, and along the sidewalks), history (you’ll find some of the country’s oldest buildings here), and high prices (it is by far the most expensive city in New Mexico and also home to some of the most upscale hotels, galleries, restaurants, & spas in the state). Route 66 did not run here as long as most cities but there are still some Route 66 era motels (e.g., El Rey Inn), hotels, and signs to be found here. There are so many worthy attractions in Santa Fe but some highlights include the Plaza area (check out the historic La Fonda Hotel), New Mexico History Museum & Palace of the Governors, Museum Hill (a collection of several museums), churches (e.g., Loretto Chapel, Chapel of San Miguel), art galleries along Canyon Road, and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. For more ideas for Santa Fe, see our guide to what to do in Santa Fe.
- You’ll find the Coronardo Historic Site (about both explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and the Kuana Pueblo ruins) in Bernalillo. Canoeing and kayaking tours and rentals are also possible here on the Rio Grande with Quiet Waters Paddling.
- Corrales has a historic 19th century church Old San Ysidro Church and a restored Spanish colonial ranch house known as both Casa San Ysidro and the Gutiérrez-Minge House (now operated as a house museum, can be toured).
- You’ll find the family-run J&R Vintage Auto Museum in Rio Rancho which has a large collection of vintage automobiles and die-cast toys as well as a book store.
- Soon you’ll be in Albuquerque. Skip below to the information on Albuquerque.
- Post-1937 Route 66 Option to downtown Albuquerque:
- The Flying C Ranch has been around for a long time and is owned by the Bowlin Family who have run trading posts in New Mexico for the past 100 years. Once a giant tourist complex, it still offers gifts, fuel, and a Dairy Queen.
- Clines Corners began here when Roy Cline built a rest stop here in 1937. Today there is still a large store and gift shop called Clines Corners Retail Center. There is also food, gas, and an information center here.
- West of Clines Corners at Exit 203 there are the remains of Longhorn Ranch which was a tourist compound with a motel, gas station, museum, restaurant, etc. in buildings that looked like they were in the Old West.
- In Moriarty, you’ll find more signs of Route 66, including the remains of the last operating Whiting Bros station, some nice signs, Moriarty Historical Society & Museum (local history, in town’s old fire station), Lewis Antique Auto & Toy Museum (large private collection of automobiles and toys of Archie Lewis), and the U.S. Southwest Soaring Museum (museum dedicated to gliding and motorless flight).
- In Edgewood is the Wild West Nature Park, a 122 acre non-profit wildlife park that is home to animals that have been rescued, which include a number of birds, deer, foxes, wolves, bobcats, and deer.
- If you have time a great detour drive is to join the Turqouise Trail from Tijeras. There is a day’s worth of things to see and do along the 50 mile trail but if you have time (or an extra day, it’s a great drive between Albuquerque and Santa Fe) you might want to drive a section of it.
- Soon you’ll reach the outskirts of Albuquerque.
- Albuquerque has not only the longest stretch of Route 66, but it is also the only place where Route 66 crosses itself as both the pre-1937 and post-1937 routes cross in downtown. The more interesting section is the post-1937 that is now Central Avenue but the older alignment is also worth exploring. If you are doing the pre-1937 Santa Fe loop, you may want to also check out Central Avenue, but those who dislike busy downtowns, may want to avoid it.
- The city has a number of Route 66 era signs, eateries, old buildings, and theaters. It has some fantastic Route 66 neon signs, several of which are still operating. See our guide to Albuquerque’s Route 66 attractions (I used to live here) that gives detailed history of the sites in order as there are a lot of them. It includes both the pre-1937 and post-1937 sites as well as more dining and lodging recommendations that we could fit into this itinerary.
- In terms of other things to see and do, some of the highlights of Albuquerque include the historic Old Town (including a church dating to the Spanish colonial period), Sandia Peak Tramway, Albuquerque Museum (local history, includes some Route 66 info), the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, the historic Kimo Theatear (Art Deco-Pueblo Revival Style, still operating), National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque BioPark (botanic garden, zoo, Tingley Beach, and aquarium), and the many craft breweries (there are about a dozen!) throughout the city.
- Fort Sumner – The town has Billy the Kid history, military, and Native American history. The Navajo and Apache were confined here by the U.S. military in the 1860’s. It’s about a 45 minute detour south of Santa Rosa from the route. Although not a huge detour, this will take at least a few hours, so be sure to account for this. This detour is not recommended for those trying to visit both Santa Fe and Albuquerque today, unless you have an extra day in the area.
- Exploring both Albuquerque and Santa Fe – If you want to visit both of these great New Mexican cities and explore them more in-depth, I’d add an extra day or two to the itinerary here. Our suggestion would be to drive the route to Albuquerque and then overnight in Albuquerque for 2 nights, exploring Albuquerque one day and then head to Santa Fe on a day trip on the second day. Santa Fe is best explored on foot so you might consider taking a day trip via the Rail Runner train and then get around Santa Fe on foot and by bus (there is a great free tourist shuttle).
Although yesterday there weren’t many dining options along the route, today you will be overwhelmed with options, no matter which of the Route 66 alignments you choose to drive. Santa Rosa, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque have tons of popular and well-reviewed eateries. A number of them, especially in Santa Rosa and Albuquerque, have been operating since the Route 66 era. Be sure to try the green and red chile – they love to smother it on just about anything in New Mexico!
- Silver Moon Cafe (2545 Historic Route 66) in Santa Rosa – Simple diner serving Mexican and classic American food since 1959. Serves alcohol.
- Route 66 Restaurant (2295 Historic Route 66) in Santa Rosa – Modern diner with vintage Route 66 theme serving Mexican and American food. Known for its green chile burgers and tacos. This restaurant has been around since the Route 66 era under different names and owners, once as Lettie’s Restaurant.
- Sun & Sand Restaurant (1124 Historic Route 66) in Santa Rosa – Old-fashioned eatery serving homestyle New Mexican and American dishes. Been around since 1950’s, sits next to old Sun n’ Sand Motel (currently closed) known for its bright neon sign with a Zia symbol.
- Joseph’s Bar and Grill (1775 Historic Route 66) in Santa Rosa – Restaurant with vintage and Americana decor serving Mexican and American dishes. Serves all meals and also has a bar. Been around since 1956. Has the “fat man” logo out front that once was part of the Club Cafe.
- Comet II Restaurant (1257 Historic Route 66) in Santa Rosa – Simple family run place serving Mexican and New Mexican food like enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and green chile stew. Been in the Martinez family since 1927.
- Route 66 Restaurant (2295 Historic Route 66) in Santa Rosa – Mexican/American known for its green chile burgers and tacos.
- Harry’s Roadhouse (96 B Las Vegas Highway) in Santa Fe – Contemporary eatery serving healthy and contemporary eclectic menu with American, Tex-Mex, and European inspired dishes. Serve sandwiches, salads, steaks, pizza, tacos, stews, etc. Very vegetarian friendly!
- Pink Adobe (406 Old Santa Fe Trail) in Santa Fe – Located in a pink adobe building, this restaurant serves upscale Mexican, Creole, and European inspired dishes. Popular dishes include clams lucifer, gypsy stew, French Onion Soup, Steak Dunigan, and enchiladas. Lovely Southwestern decor. Drinks and partial menu available in the Dragon Room Bar. Been around since 1944, and original owner is known for The Pink Adobe Cookbook. Dinner only, reservations recommended.
- Santa Fe Bite (311 Old Santa Fe Trail) in Santa Fe – Contemporary casual eatery serving American and New Mexican burgers, sandwiches, salads, steaks and milkshakes. Best known for their green chile cheeseburgers. Located inside the Garrett’s Dessert Inn. Opened in 2013, owners previously ran the popular Bob Cat Bite. Serves lunch and dinner.
- La Plazuela in Santa Fe (100 E. San Francisco Street) – A New Mexican restaurant within the La Fonda Hotel serving more upscale New Mexican and European food. The restaurant resembles a modern winter garden with Southwestern accents. The space was once the hotel’s 1920’s era patio and courtyard.
- Five & Dime General Store (58 E. San Francisco Street) in Santa Fe – The small snack bar at the back of the souvenir store serves sandwiches and snacks, and is best known for their “Frito pies”. A Fritos pie is Fritos corn chips topped with red chile sauce, shredded cheese, and toppings and served in the Frito bag. The building has been a souvenir and general store since the 1990’s but was originally a Woolworth’s store started in 1937. The claim that this is the “original” place for the Fritos pie is debated (evidence suggest the first Fritos pie originated in Texas in the 1940’s), but Woolworth’s was a popular destination for them starting in the 1960s as they began being served at their lunch counter.
- Plaza Cafe (54 Lincoln Avenue) in Santa Fe – A historic eatery serving New Mexican, American, and Greek favorites in an Art Deco style diner. Food includes sandwiches, enchiladas, tacos, chicken fried steak, gyros, and moussaka. Believed to be the oldest still operating restaurant in Santa Fe, opened in 1905 and has been owned by the Razatos family since 1947.
- Cafe Pasqual’s (121 Don Gaspar Avenue) in Santa Fe – Popular Mexican restaurant focused on using local and organic ingredients. The restaurant has been here since 1979, but the Pueblo style adobe building started life as Texaco station and car dealership back in the 1920’s.
- Cowgirl BBQ (319 S. Guadalupe Street) in Santa Fe – A cowgirl themed restaurant serving American and Southwestern favorites, such as chicken wings, burgers, barbecue, steaks, and catfish. Best known for their barbecue, “Mother” burger, and live music. Have an outdoor patio area, bar, and nightly live music. Been around since 1993.
- The Pantry (1820 Cerrillos Road) in Santa Fe – Classic eatery serving American and New Mexican favorites like nachos, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, hot turkey sandwiches, and burgers. Popular breakfast and meeting spot. If you are staying at the El Rey Inn, it is a convenient 2 minute walk away. Been around since 1948.
- Range Cafe (925 Camino Del Pueblo) in Bernalillo – A locally owned restaurant serving New Mexican, Mexican, and American dishes. Best known for its eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, blue corn enchiladas, and desserts. Full bar and live music nightly in the Lizard Rodeo Lounge. Good selection of local wines and beers. Originally opened in Bernalillo in 1992 in a restored former gas station but this burned down in 1995, and the restaurant reopened in its current location in 1996.
- Silva’s Saloon (955 S. Camino del Pueblo) in Bernalillo – No food, just drinks. This bar opened in 1933 by former bootlegger Felix Silva and is one of the oldest still operating bars in New Mexico. Walls are covered with memorabilia from the past 80 years. A good stop if you are looking for a dive bar in the area with a lot of history, but not a place to bring your kids. Attracts a mixed clientele of locals, bikers, and tourists.
- El Camino Dining Room (6800 4th Street NW) in Los Ranchos De Albuquerque – This local restaurant has a broad menu of American classics and New Mexican dishes and is best known for its huevos rancheros. Right across from the El Camino Motel.
- Garcia’s Kitchen (1113 4th Street NW) in Albuquerque – A local Albuquerque chain of family-run restaurants that offers authentic New Mexican food. There are several locations in the city (including another on 4th Street at 4917 4th Street NW) but this is the original that opened in 1975.
- Sadie’s (6230 4th Street NW) in Albuquerque – This restaurant focuses on simple New Mexican food, known for its hearty portions, good salsa, and margaritas. Started out as a tiny eatery in the 1950’s and has expanded to three locations. It is very popular with both locals and tourists.
- Clines Corners (One Yacht Club Drive) in Clines Corner – Clines Corner is a huge gift shop and travel center. It has been around since 1937. There is a restaurant here serving American and Southwestern food and a Subway. The food and service get mixed reviews.
- Shorty’s 66 BBQ (1204 W. Historic Route 66) in Moriarty – A family-run American restaurant serving BBQ, pasta, chicken, and pizza dishes. Popular with locals and best known for its barbecue and broasted chicken. Opened in 1997.
- 66 Diner (1405 Central Ave NE) in Albuquerque – A modern diner with 1950’s retro decor serving up American and local diner favorites like burgers, chicken fried steak, fruit pies, and milkshakes. The diner started in 1987 in a former 1940’s Phillips 66 gas station although the original building was later largely destroyed by fire.
- The Dog House Drive-In (1216 Central Ave SW) in Albuquerque – A no-frills American road food drive-in spot serving burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Best known for its foot-long chili hot dogs. Cash only.
- Duran Central Pharmacy (1815 Central Avenue NW) in Albuquerque – A great place for authentic New Mexican food served in a local hangout reminiscent of the Route 66 era. This pharmacy has included a restaurant since 1975.
- Kelly’s Brew Pub (3222 Central Avenue SE) in Albuquerque – A popular brew pub in Nob Hill serving sandwiches, salads, and classic American and New Mexican dishes. Popular for its green chile chicken stew and beer. It opened in 1993 but is housed in a 1939 Jones Motor Company building. Has a large outdoor seating area.
- Lindy’s (500 Central Avenue SW) in Albuquerque – This unpretentious 1929 eatery may be the oldest continuously operating Route 66 eatery in New Mexico and it is located in a 1906 building. Serves a casual mix of American, Mexican, and Greek diner food.
- Loyola’s Family Restaurant (4500 Central Avenue SE) in Albuquerque – This local family restaurant has been serving American and New Mexican classics since the 1950’s.
- Mac’s La Sierra Family Restaurant (6217 Central Avenue NW) in Albuquerque – Family owned casual restaurant since 1952. Serves American and New Mexican classics, and known for its original “steaks in the rough”.
- Standard Diner (320 Central Avenue SE) in Albuquerque – A great place for those looking for a more modern and upscale diner. Opened in 2006 in a converted 1938 Carothers & Maudlin service station, the menu features upscale twists on diner classics.
- Western View Diner & Steakhouse (6411 Central Avenue NW) in Albuquerque – This long-time restaurant has been serving travelers since 1941. Homemade American classics and steaks with generous portions and friendly service
Hotel Recommendations for Albuquerque, NM and Santa Fe, NM
We provide lodging suggestions for both Albuquerque and Santa Fe so you can choose what fits best with the route you’ve chosen and the distance you want to drive today.
Lodging Recommendations for Albuquerque, NM
Having lived in Albuquerque, I have dozens of lodging recommendations (feel free to ask if you want something specific) and you can find more Route 66 Albuquerque motels and hotels in my prior post. But here are several options:
- Monterey Non-Smokers Motel – This Route 66 era motel opened in 1946 and continues to offer good value lodging in a central location that is within walking distance of Old Town attractions. Great neon sign out front. A top recommendation for a Route 66 era motel in Albuquerque.
- Hiway House Motel – This 1958 Hiway House Motel was once one of many of the Hiway chain motels and now one of only a handful. It has a neon sign and colonial-style architecture.
- El Vado Motel – This classic court motel was built in the Spanish Pueblo Revival style in 1937 and is probably Albuquerque’s most famous surviving Route 66 era motel. Has a beautiful classic neon sign out front. It was just recently restored and reopened in 2018!
- The Hotel Blue – This 3-star 140-room hotel started out as the Downtowner Motor Inn in 1965 and has been almost completely remodeled into its current more modern form.
- Bottger Mansion – If you are looking for a historic and romantic B&B, we’d recommend this one. The house was built around 1912 and later become a popular boarding house, even Elvis Presley slept here. One of the rooms has a Route 66 theme.
- Hotel Parq Central – This modern 4-star hotel opened in 2010 in a historic 1926 building that was originally a Santa Fe Railroad hospital for railway workers and later a psychiatric ward! The decor is a mix of modern and vintage and its Apothecary Lounge rooftop bar is a popular place for cocktails for locals and visitors alike.
- Hotel Chaco – One of the city’s newest 4-star hotels, this hotel is best known for its architecture which is influenced by the ancient pueblo culture and Chaco Canyon. Includes an on-site restaurant, café, bar, and fitness center.
- Route 66 Hostel – A no-frills hostel offering dorm rooms and private double rooms. The dorm beds are some of the cheapest options on Route 66 for those on a tight budget. Read reviews first before booking.
- Enchanted Trails RV Park & Trading Post – Located just outside central Albuquerque, this Route 66 era trading post offers the chance for visitors to stay overnight in a 1950’s or 1960’s vintage travel trailer. It is also a RV park and campground.
- Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm – This is a beautiful 4-star historic boutique inn offering guest rooms in both the main hacienda and elsewhere on the farm. Many rooms have patios. The inn sits on a historic farm and has a great restaurant and farm shop. Located about 2 miles from the pre-1937 Route 66 alignment in a peaceful spot just outside central Albuquerque in Los Ranchos.
- Camper Recs: Enchanted Trails RV Park (see description above), Route 66 RV Resort (located about 20 minutes west of Albuquerque, next door to the Route 66 Casino & Hotel) and Albuquerque KOA
Hotel Recommendations for Santa Fe, NM
- El Rey Inn – This is a much loved Route 66 era motor court, and some of the rooms date back to 1936. Includes nice gardens, Southwestern decor, whirlpool, sauna, and fitness center. This is a good value stay in pricey Santa Fe and includes continental breakfast.
- La Fonda Hotel – This is the most well-known hotel in Santa Fe and is a historic landmark hotel that dates back to 1922. Located centrally right on the Plaza, this hotel has beautiful architectural details and a rich history. Includes 3 restaurants, bars, fitness center, spa, pool, gift shops, and business center.
- Silver Saddle Motel – This 1958 vintage motor court motel offers basic Route 66 and Western themed rooms, and room rates include continental breakfast. Great Route 66 era budget spot!
- Garrett’s Desert Inn – This 1957 Route 66 3-star motel offers good value spot with a pool. Within walking distance of the Plaza.
- The Inn of the Five Graces – This 4-star luxury boutique hotel has regularly been named as one of the top small hotels in the country! Centrally located, the hotel is decorated with east Indian and Tibetan furnishings and each room comes with a fireplace and kitchenette. On site dining and spa services available. In busy times, 2 day or longer stays are required.
- Camper Recs: Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe KOA, and Trailer Ranch RV Resort
Route 66 Itinerary Day 9: Albuquerque, NM to Gallup, NM
Today you have another full day to explore New Mexico. The route goes through small towns, Native American reservation lands, and crosses the Continental Divide. There are a lot of ghost towns along the route that were once popular Route 66 stops. Acoma Pueblo is a short detour worth taking if you have not visited a Pueblo before. Gallup offers lots of historical buildings, a couple of museums, hiking opportunities, and even a bit of nightlife. Note that many parts of today’s route run through various federal tribal lands, be respectful and don’t trespass as you need a permit to hike or take photographs in certain areas.
Starting & Ending Point: Albuquerque, New Mexico to Gallup, New Mexico
General Route: Albuquerque –> Mesita –> Grants –> Gallup
Mileage: ~ 139 miles (224 km) Alternatively, it is ~ 165 miles (265 km) following the pre-1937 alignment from Albuquerque or it is ~ 224 miles (360 km) if you are coming from Santa Fe following the pre-1937 alignment (join regular route at Correo).
Time Zone: Mountain Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities along the route today.
Main Route 66 Attractions
Pre-1937 Route 66 Route from Albuquerque to Mesita
- If you are starting in Santa Fe, see Day 9 itinerary for attractions, food, and lodging recommendations along the stretch from Santa Fe to Albuquerque.
- After leaving Albuquerque, you’ll pass through the Isleta Pueblo land. In the village is an old square area and a Roman Catholic mission church that was established in 1619 and has been restored and is in active use. The main visitor attraction here is the Isleta Resort & Casino complex which includes a casino, arcade, billiards, bowling alley, hotel, restaurants, golf course, and spa.
- In Los Lunas, you have a historic 1879 Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF) depot and the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts.
- At Correo, rejoin the main Route 66 route and head to Mesita.
Post-1937 Route 66 Route from Albuquerque to Mesita
- At Rio Puerco is a preserved 1933 bridge. You can’t drive across it but you can get out and walk across it.
- Not far from the bridge, you’ll see the Route 66 Casino run by the Laguna Pueblo. This modern Route 66 themed casino has all kinds of slots and gaming tables, entertainment shows, diners, bars, restaurants, a hotel, and an RV park. If you are looking for a casino stop along Route 66, this would probably be our first choice.
- Follow route along to Mesita.
Route 66 Route from Mesita to Gallup
- As you drive around Mesita, you’ll pass “Owl Rock”, a large rock formation the road curves around that sort of looks like an owl. Then there is a tight loop known as “Dead Man’s Curve”.
- In Laguna, you can see and visit the well-maintained San Jose Mission church dedicated to Saint Joseph that was built in 1699.
- In Paraje, there is another mission church, this one is St. Margaret Mary Mission Chapel that was built in 1935.
- A short detour from Paraje Acoma Pueblo. It is about a 15 mile detour and you can take a guided tour of “Sky City” on top of Acoma mesa which is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the country. The most significant building is the San Esteban Del Rey Mission church built between 1629 and 1641. There is also a museum and cultural center at the visitor center and local pottery and handicrafts are available for purchase. An interesting place to visit and especially atmospheric on public feasts days! Note that on the mesa you can’t take photographs without a photography permit (available at the visitor center) and photography is not permitted (even with a permit) in the religious buildings or cemetery, or anywhere on feast days. Must be dressed modestly. Be sure to check visitor hours before heading here as the Pueblo is closed to visitor on certain days and period fo the year.
- In Budville is the remains of the Budville Trading Company. It was opened by H.N. “Bud” Rice and his wife Flossie in 1928 as a gas station, grocery, and trading post. It was also the scene of the murder of Bud Rice and a female customer in 1967. Flossie Rice continued to run it until 1979. It has opened and closed since, but mostly been closed. Across the street is the old Dixie Bar from 1936.
- Cubero had been bypassed with the post-1937 alignment but it is worth a visit to stop at the Villa de Cubero Trading Post. The trading post is a family-run general store and gas station that sells groceries, fresh pizza, beer, souvenirs, and some general supplies. The tourist complex once also included a cafe and motor court, and celebrities like Lucy Arnez and Ernest Hemingway are said to have stayed the night here (Hemingway may have written part of The Old Man and the Sea here).
- In San Fiedel, there is St. Joseph’s Church (built in 1920) and some remains of Route 66 era service stations.
- In McCarty’s is a 1933 church called Santa Maria de Acoma which is a smaller version of the Acoma Pueblo church. From McCarty’s you can also detour to Acoma Pubelo “Sky City” (described above) if you wish.
- A short detour from McCarty’s is El Malpais National Monument which has 400,000 acres of lava flow and has some interesting geological features and trails. It is about 5 miles west of Route 66 to reach the edge of the large park. Note that there is little shade so you’ll want sun protection, water, and durable shoes to explore the park.
- The first town of any size today is Grants. The town has an interesting history involving Native Americans, Wild West characters, carrots, and uranium mining. It also has several Route 66 era vintage motels, signs, theaters (the 1959 West Theatre is still showing films!), and buildings. The main attraction here is the New Mexico Mining Museum which includes lots of exhibits plus the chance to go underground to learn what it was like to mine uranium!
- In Milan, you’ll see some Route 66 remnants along the road and you can visit the small Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum. It has an inside exhibit area, a recreated 1929 airway beacon site, and a 1950s Flight Service station.
- In Bluewater, you’ll see the remains of Bowlins Old Crater Trading Post, a once very popular general and curio store along Route 66. Built in 1954 (on the site of an even older trading post built by Claude Bowlin in 1936), the business operated until 1979. The business was known for the painted murals depicting Native Americans and its logo of a running Indian holding a tomahawk and wearing a headband and feather.
- From Prewitt to Thoreau, you’ll see some more Route 66 era remains include closed trading posts and bars. There is the Roy T. Herman’s Garage and Service Station in Thoreau which is still operating as an auto repair shop. It started as a Standard Oil Company Station gas station in 1937 and was purchased by Roy T. Herman in 1950 and he and his son have operated it since then. It is now an auto repair station only (does not sell gas or other items).
- Now you’ll cross the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide is the hydrological divide of the Americas which extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean (including the Gulf of Mexico). This is one of the highest points along Route 66 at about 7,275 feet in elevation. You’ll find signs, an official marker, and the Continental Divide Indian Market which has a lot of souvenirs as well as Native American handicrafts such blankets, jewelry, and kachina dolls.
- You’ll start noticing the colorful red hills and rocks as you get closer to Gallup and this red landscape will continue into Arizona.
- Our final suggested stop for the day is Gallup. The downtown area includes a number of historical buildings which include the Rex Museum (built in 1900, formerly a hotel, brothel and grocery store, now a local history museum), the El Rancho Hotel and Motel, the El Morro Theater (opened in 1928, still operating), the old McKinley County Courthouse built in 1938 (contains a number of New Deal era murals), and the Santa Fe Depot (now the Gallup Cultural Center).
- Another popular attraction in Gallup is the small Navajo Code Talker’s Room within the Gallup-McKinley Chamber of Commerce building which tells the story of how the Navajo language was used to beat the Japanese code breakers during World War II. There is also a giant yellow Kachina doll which is a copy of the one that was well-known during the Route 66 era and often appeared on postcards.
- Just outside Gallup is Red Rock Park and Museum. The park is surrounded by red cliffs, has a campground and hiking trails to places like Church Rock, a small museum, and is where a lot of local events take place.
- If you are looking for things to do at night in Gallup, there are often things going on at the local pubs and bars. The historical El Morro Theater shows films most evenings, and there are other more modern cinemas in town. The Gal-A-Bowl has been a family-run bowling alley since 1959, and also offers snacks, pizza, and sandwiches. The town often has events such as Native American dances, rodeos, concerts, hot air balloon rallys, and other events, especially in the summer months.
Today the two towns with the most options for dining are Grants and Gallup with a few located in smaller towns along the route.
Pre-1937 Route 66 route to Mesita
- The Luna Mansion (101 Main Street) in Los Lunas – A 1881 mansion turned upscale restaurant serving American food, including steaks, seafood, and pasta. Open for drinks, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended.
Post-1937 Route 66 route to Mesita
- The 66 Pit Stop (14311 Central Avenue NW) in Albuquerque – Just as you leave the city, you’ll come across this travel center which offers fuel, food, and supplies. The diner serves simple American food like burgers, chicken fingers, hot dogs, and fries. It is best known for its tasty 1/2 lb. Laguna burger. Owned by the Laguna Pueblo.
- Route 66 Casino & Hotel (14500 Central Avenue SW) in Albuquerque – The Route 66 Casino complex has a number of food spots within, many with retro, Western, and/or Route 66 themes. These include a buffet, a steakhouse and bar, a diner, and a cocktail lounge.
Route 66 Mesita to Gallup
- The 66 Pit Stop (1-40 Exit 140) in Laguna – Another location of this service station eatery known for the 1/2 lb Laguna burger. Travel center also offers fuel, snacks, and supplies.
- Route 66 Junkyard Brewery (1634 E. Route 66) in Grants – A former auto junkyard turned into a brewery and pub with car parts here and there throughout for an interesting decor! The focus is on local beer (their own plus other ones from New Mexico). Sometimes have food on offer. Has comedy and live music on some nights.
- El Cafecito (820 E. Santa Fe Avenue) in Grants – Simple and clean eatery serving New Mexican and American dishes like enchiladas, tostadas, stuffed sopapilllas, chimichangas, burgers, and taco salads. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- First Street Cafe (1600 W. Santa Fe Avenue) in Grants – A family-owned cafe known for its breakfast, deli sandwiches, and homemade pies. Open for breakfast and lunch. Since 1996.
- El Ranchero Cafe (705 W. Highway 66) in Milan – A simple family-run restaurant serving inexpensive authentic New Mexican and Mexican dishes. Inexpensive, popular with locals, and serves breakfast to dinner.
- Wow Diner (1300 Motel Drive) in Milan – A retro-themed diner serving American and New Mexican food. Food includes breakfast, sandwiches, pasta, tacos, steak, trout, and pizza. Opened in 2006.
- Lil’s Restaurant (100 NM-371) in Thoreau – A simple local restaurant serving New Mexican and American classics. Serves breakfast to dinner. Previously the Wagonwheel Cafe.
- Earl’s Family Restaurant (1400 E. Highway 66) in Gallup – This casual restaurant serves American and Mexican food including breakfast, soup, burgers, enchiladas, meat loaf, and tacos. Local Native American artisans (mostly Navajo) offer crafts and jewelry to customers (or you can put a sign at your table saying you are not interested). Around since 1947 when it started as a small hamburger diner and has since greatly expanded. Popular with locals and visitors.
- El Rancho Hotel Restaurant & Lounge (1000 E. Highway 66) in Gallup – The restaurant serves American and Mexican food like steaks, fajitas, tacos, tamales, and burgers. The lounge offers a full bar with a focus on margaritas and beer. Located within the historic El Rancho Hotel.
- Angela’s Cafe (201 E. Highway 66) in Gallup – Serves light American dishes like artisan deli sandwiches, soups, pasta, salads, and desserts in a casual and contemporary cafe setting. Also serve beer, wine, and of course lots of coffee and tea drinks. Open for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Located within the Gallup Cultural Center (old train station).
- Jerry’s Cafe (406 W. Coal Avenue) in Gallup – A cozy casual diner serving New Mexican food like breakfast burritos, enchiladas, stuffed sopapillas, chile rellenos, pork chops, and green chile turkey melts. Serves breakfast to dinner. Family owned and operated since 1976. Neon sign out front.
- Badlands Grill (2201 W. Highway 66) in Gallup – Historic locally owned restaurant with a Southwestern decor serving upscale seafood and steak dishes. Dishes include steaks, burger, pasta, seafood, ribs, and chicken dishes. Wine list which includes local wines.This is the place to go in Gallup if you want a nicer dinner out. The building has been owned by the same family since 1969. Reservations recommended.
Hotel Recommendations for Gallup, NM
Note that most of Gallup’s motels and hotels are located near the railway so there may be train noise. Ask for a quiet room and bring ear plugs just in case.
- El Rancho Hotel & Motel – This historical hotel dates back to 1937 and is a Route 66 landmark, known for its beautiful lobby. It was a popular hotel for celebrities in the 1930s to 1950s, which included John Wayne, Lucille Ball, and Katherine Hepburn. Note that there is both the historic hotel building plus the more simple El Rancho Motel with less expensive rates next door.
- Hilton Garden Inn Gallup – If you are looking for a nicer property, this well-rated hotel is a good bet in Gallup. Property includes a restaurant, indoor heated pool, and fitness center.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites East – A well-rated chain hotel with included breakfast and a pool.
- Hampton Inn Gallup West – Another well-rated chain hotel with included breakfast and pool.
- Econo Lodge Gallup – A well rated budget motel with all the basic amenities. A good choice for those on a tight budget.
- Camper Recs: USA RV Park and Red Rock Park (located east of Gallup in Churchrock, NM)
Route 66 Itinerary Day 10: Gallup, NM to Flagstaff, AZ
You’ll say goodbye to the Land of Enchantment this morning and head into Arizona. Arizona is probably the state that is most associated with both the Old West and Route 66 in people’s minds, and therefore gets a lot more visitors driving Route 66 than most of the other states. Today, you pass through cities, towns, abandoned tourist attractions, and scenic landscapes as you head towards Williams. Stops along the way include a petrified forest, a giant meteor crater, trading posts, and state parks.
Starting & Ending Point: Gallup, New Mexico to Flagstaff, Arizona
General Route: Gallup –> Lupton –> Holbrook –> Winslow –> Flagstaff
Mileage: ~ 181 miles (291 km)
Time Zone: Mountain Time Zone – no changes in time zone today although confusingly most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time (New Mexico does), with the exception of the Navajo Nation. So be sure to check the local time once in Arizona, and note that it will actually change as you drive in and out of Navajo land!
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities along the route today. Flagstaff is the largest city today with a population around 75,000 which you can take the Interstate through if you wish to skip exploring it. Big city avoiders may want to overnight in Winona instead.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- If you are wanting to explore the Four Corners area, which includes a number of ancient Native American and archaeological sites, you’ll want to detour there before leaving Gallup. Most sites are within 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours away from Gallup. See Big Detours section below for more information.
- After leaving Gallup, you have just a short stretch left in New Mexico. You’ll pass through Manuelito and past more scenic cliffs and former trading posts.
- Soon you’ll see the sign showing you’ve crossed into Arizona, your seventh state along Route 66! Arizona is probably best known for being home to the Grand Canyon and lots of Old West associated scenery. It also has the longest stretch of continuous old Route 66 and the last decommissioned stretch of Route 66. It has lots of little towns that fit visitors idea of Route 66 and are not surprisingly some of the most touristy. We generally find this to be one of the most crowded stretches of Route 66 (especially between Williams and Toprock) but go slow and take the time to explore as there are still a lot of gems here.
- You’ll soon reach Lupton, where you’ll find some trading posts and souvenir shops, and colorful signs about cave dwellings, teepees, and Navajo rugs. Currently there is the Yellowhorse Trading Post which is named after the Yellowhorse family, a Navajo family who runs the shop. The Yellowhorse started selling rugs from alongside Route 66 to passing tourists in the 1950’s. This remains a popular souvenir stop. You’ll also see a geodesic-domed building which once was the Ortega’s Indian Market, but is now closed.
- In Houck, there is an abandoned tourist travel center called Fort Courage that includes a replica of the fort used in the 1960’s TV series F Troop. The center once had a coffee shop, trading post, and gas station.
- Little Sanders has another closed trading post, the 66 diner (a Valentine building which is now closed, there were plans to reopen in 2017 but it is still closed as far as we know), and a 1923 Pratt pony truss bridge over the Rio Puerco that once was part of the Route 66 route (closed to traffic but you can still see it on foot).
- You can take a detour from Chambers to visit the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, which has a 19th century Navajo house and the oldest continuously operating Navajo trading post from the 1870’s. It is now operated by the National Park Service and guided tours are available. It is about 40 miles north of Chambers.
- Between Chambers and Holbrook, you can visit the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. An old section of Route 66 (no longer driveable) used to run though a section of the park and visits to this park were popular for drivers of historic Route 66. A recommended stop if you have time. The park includes a visitor center, remains of petrified trees, colorful mineral deposits in the hills, petroglyphs, Native American ruins, and a 1920’s hotel called the Painted Desert Inn (no longer offers accommodation). Most can be seen from the car if you are short on time. Hiking opportunities, from short walks to backcountry treks possible here. Note, it is illegal to damage or try to take any petrified wood from the park, but you can buy legal petrified wood from rock shop and gift shop vendors all around Holbrook collected from private property.
- In and around Holbrook, you’ll find a bunch of giant statues, mannequins, and dinosaurs with most being concentrated at the gift shops and rock shops. Two popular quirky souvenir stops are Stewart’s Petrified Wood Shop and Rainbow Rock Stop. Holbrook has several historic buildings including the now ruined Bucket of Blood Saloon (so named after some murders here in the 1880’s), a restored 1880’s train depot, and the former Navajo Country Courthouse which was built in 1898 and is now the town visitor center and museum. It displays original items from the courthouse and local history information, and you can see the former sheriff’s office, courtroom, and jail. The towns also has a few Route 66 era signs, cafes, and motels, including the famous Wigwam Motel where guests have been able to sleep in a concrete teepee since 1950.
- Between Holbrook and Joseph City is the Geronimo Trading Post which is another quirky gift shop which is said to have the largest petrified wood log in the world (the thing is huge!). This place has been around in one form or another since around 1950.
- Just west of Joseph City, you’ll find another popular Route 66 era gift shop, the Jackrabbit Trading Post which is believed to have first opened in 1949. The Jackrabbit Trading Post was well-known because it used to have dozens of giant billboards along the highway and its famous “Here it is” sign greeted you once you approached. There are still a few signs remaining and you can see a giant jackrabbit here and of course visit the store. If you already have all the souvenirs you can handle, they also sell snacks, drinks, Route 66 maps and books, and antique items.
- Between Joseph City and Winslow, just off Route 66, is the entrance to the Rock Art Ranch which is a private working ranch that has a museum with a collection of cars and farm equipment, cowboy artifacts, Native American pottery and artifacts (mostly Anasazi), and there are Native America ruins as well as thousands of petroglyphs within the property. Guided tours are possible with a reservation. If you want to visit the Rock Art Ranch, you must call in advance to make reservations (+1 928-386-5047).
- Winslow Arizona is probably best known to the world through the lyrics of a 1972 Eagles song “Take it Easy” which goes “Well, I’m a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona / Such a fine sight to see / It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford / Slowin’ down to take a look at me”. There a statue, mural, and sign at Kinsley & Second Streets as well as numerous souvenirs and references throughout the city. The town has more to offer though which includes Route 66 era gas stations, neon signs, motels, and cafes. It also has the “Tiny Church of the Mother Road” on 2nd Street which is just an open-air “church” building. Two of the most treasured buildings are the La Posada Hotel, which is a beautiful 1928 former Harvey House hotel which is still operating, and the Lorenzo Hubbell Trading Post and Warehouse. The Navajo trading post was built in 1917 and is now the town’s visitor center. There is also the Old Trails Museum (local history museum house in a 1920’s bank building with info on trails, railroad, and Route 66) and the Remembrance Garden (a simple and stark memorial to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks),
- About 3 miles northwest of Winslow is the Homolovi State Park which offers Hopi Pueblo archaeological ruins, petroglyphs, a visitor center, and hiking trails.
- Meteor City is not really a city or even a community but the name for the geodesic dome shaped gift shop, Meteor City Trading Post, here that closed in 2012. Meteor City first began as a service station in 1938, and became a trading post in 1941. Next to the dome were once the “world’s largest dreamcatcher” and “world’s longest map of Route 66” (original version was painted by Bob Waldmire). The domed gift shop is private property and under new ownership with plans to restore it to its former glory in the near future.
- A short detour from Meteor City is the actual meteor crater, which has long been a popular Route 66 attraction. The crater is a the result of an asteroid that is believed to have hit about 50,000 years ago. It is about 1 mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference, and 550 feet deep. You can visit the museum and visitor center and take a guided walk around the rim. It is on private property and there is a fee to visit. Both the trading post and meteor crater were featured in the 1984 science fiction film Starman.
- As you drive along, you’ll see the remains of Two Guns and then later Twin Arrows, both once thriving tourist centers with attention grabbing names. Both were iconic tourist traps along Route 66, and places kids couldn’t wait to visit. Both had all kinds of attractions such as roadside zoos, service stations, motels, an “Apache death cave” tour, curio shops, a campsite, and diners. Now everything is long closed, but nearby the Twin Arrows Casino Resort is very much alive.
- A short detour will take you to the Raymond Wildlife Area which is a former ranch turned into a protected wildlife area located just south in between Two Guns and Twin Arrows. The wildlife area headquarters is 10 miles south of I-40 along a mostly dirt road (Buffalo Range Road). Here there is a herd of bison as well as elk, deer, prairie dogs, rabbits, birds, etc. This is a wildlife viewing area, not a zoo, so you may or may not see animals as you drive or hike here. There is a loop hiking trail with interpretive signs and basic facilities. The dirt road is not recommended in rainy or winter conditions.
- The little town of Winona has an old iron bridge (closed to traffic but viewable/walkable) and some Route 66 era remains. Bobby Troup’s song “Route 66” tells us “Don’t forget Winona” but sadly there is not much left to see here today as the main thing here was the Winona Trading Post which his now a modern gas station and travel service stop.
- Now you come into Flagstaff, the biggest city along Arizona’s section of Route 66. It sits near both mountains and forests and at an elevation of 6,910 ft (much higher than Denver, Colorado!). The city has more than one Route 66 alignment and has a number of Route 66 era motels, neon signs, and cafés. The city has a downtown historic district that has 19th century buildings as well as Route 66 era ones, one favorite is the Weatherford Hotel (building dates from 1897 and then opened as a hotel in 1900) and still operating.
- Some of Flagstaff’s main attractions include Lowell Observatory (famous observatory built in 1894, has the Pluto Discovery telescope that discovered the dwarf planet Pluto), Riordan Mansion State Historic Park (1904 American Art and Crafts style house museum offering tours), Museum of North Arizona (history, art, botany, culture, etc. from the Colorado Plateau), and the Pioneer Museum (former 1908 hospital now a museum of local history and pioneer life). Surrounding the city are a number of forests, parks, monuments, and nature spots including Walnut Canyon National Monument, Coconino National Forest, and Sunset Crater Volcano National Museum that offer interpretive and hiking trails, ranger talks and guided hikes, birdwatching, camping, and other activities.
- Four Corners area – From Gallup you can detour north to explore northern New Mexico and the Four Corners area which contains a number of ancient Native American ruins, archaeological sites, and monuments. These include Chaco Culture Canyon National Historical Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Monument Valley, and Four Corners Monument. These places are scattered around the area but it is about a 2 hour and 30 minute detour to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, 2 hours and 30 minute detour to Four Corners Monument, and a little over 3 hours to Monument Valley. I would add 1 day to your itinerary if you want to visit some of these sites. If you want to visit a few of them, I’d add 2 days.
Today you have a lot of dining choices along the route, especially in Winslow and Flagstaff.
- Mesa Italiana Restaurant (2318 E. Navajo Boulevard) in Holbrook, AZ – If you are looking for Italian food in Holbrook, this is your best bet. Serves Italian American for lunch and dinner. Full bar. The attached sports bar next door often has live music on weekends.
- Joe & Aggie’s Cafe (120 W. Hopi Drive) in Holbrook, AZ – This place has been serving Mexican, American, and Native American classics since 1943. They serve all day, breakfast to dinner.
- Romo’s Restaurant (121 W. Hopi Drive) in Holbrook, AZ – Next door you’ll find a well-rated brightly colored restaurant serving Mexican and Southwestern classics. Best known for their Mexican dishes. Breakfast to dinner. Also serve wine, beer, and margaritas.
- Casa Blanca Cafe (1201 E. 2nd Street) in Winslow, AZ – Simple restaurant serving Mexican food. Big portions. Also serve beer and wine. It has been family owned and operated since 1971.
- Turquoise Room (303 E. 2nd Street) in Winslow, AZ – Restaurant within the historic La Posada Hotel with Southwestern decor serving American Southwestern food. Lunch and dinner. Beautiful restaurant. Has full bar and a Martini Lounge.
- Falcon Restaurant & Lounge (1113 E. 3rd Street) in Winslow, AZ – This old-fashioned diner serves American classics in a Route 66 era roadside diner that opened in 1955. Open for breakfast to dinner, full bar, lounge attached.
- Miz Zip’s (2924 E. Route 66) in Flagstaff, AZ – A classic roadside diner offering up classic American roadside favorites like burgers, sandwiches, steaks, and ice cream. Best known for their breakfast, burgers, and homemade fruit pies. Been operating since 1952! Cash only.
- Simply Delicious (408 E. Route 66) in Flagstaff, AZ – This eatery serves up an eclectic menu with dishes such as blackberry duck tacos and Brazilian fish stew. Also serves simple soups, salads, and sandwiches. Vegetarian friendly. Located in an old Foundry building and also does local catering.
- Grand Canyon Cafe (10 E. Route 66) in Flagstaff, AZ – A Route 66 era cafe serving an eclectic menu of American and Chinese food such as American breakfasts, chop suey, chicken fried steak, hot sandwiches, and chow mein. Serves alcohol. Been open since 1942.
- Alpine Pizza (7 North Leroux Street) in Flagstaff, AZ – Popular long-time inexpensive local pizza place which also serves calzones, salads, sandwiches, and pasta. Lunch and dinner.
- Charly’s Pub and Grill (23 North Leroux) in Flagstaff, AZ – Eatery serving American and Southwestern classics including soups, sandwiches, salads, tacos, burgers, and burritos. Full bar. Best known for their Navajo tacos. Restaurant is located within the historic Weatherford Hotel.
- Beaver Street Brewery and Whistle Stop Cafe (11 S. Beaver Street) in Flagstaff, AZ – A micro-brewery (first in Flagstaff) and cafe offering sandwiches, salads, burgers, wood-fired pizzas, and their own craft beer. Lively atmosphere, railway deco, pool tables, and a seasonal beer garden. Opened in 1994, located in a former 1930’s food market building near the old train station.
- Macy’s European Coffeehouse & Bakery (14. S. Beaver Street) in Flagstaff, AZ – A popular local coffee spot and bakery serving American vegetarian food such as breakfast sandwiches, pastries, salads, and sandwiches. Vegan friendly. Been serving baked goods since 1980.
- Galaxy Diner (931 W. Route 66) in Flagstaff, AZ – This 1950’s themed diner serves classic American and Southwestern diner food such as burgers, hoagies, meatloaf, turkey platters, splits, malts, & milkshakes. Serves breakfast through dinner. Dates back to 1952 although under new management. Has Route 66 Cruisers meetings and swing dance evenings.
Hotel Recommendations for Flagstaff, AZ
- Little America Hotel Flagstaff – A 4-star hotel located within a pine forest offering modern rooms, outdoor pool, fitness center, and on-site bar and restaurant.
- Drury Inn & Suites – A 4-star hotel with indoor pool, hot tub, fitness center, and included breakfast.
- Weatherford Hotel – A beautiful historical hotel build in 1897 with wraparound balconies. Hotel has on-site dining and bars and the bars can be noisy until midnight.
- Hotel Monte Vista – A quirky historical 3-star hotel dating back to 1926. Includes on-site bar and restaurant. The bar and lounge area are open late and has a lively atmosphere but some guests have complained of noise when trying to sleep.
- Hampton Inn & Suites – A great mid-range chain hotel offering a swimming pool, fitness center, and included breakfast.
- Motel 6 – A good budget chain motel option with swimming pool
- Grand Canyon International Hostel – A well-reviewed centrally located hostel offering both dormitory and private room accommodation in a renovated 1933 building. Sinks and fridges in each room. Great budget option.
- Camper Recs: J & H RV Park, Flagstaff KOA, and Canyon Vista Campground
Route 66 Itinerary Day 11: Flagstaff, AZ to Seligman, AZ
Today you explore more of Arizona. The route takes you to the last city with a strip of Route 66 before it was fully decommissioned and also the town known as the “birthplace of historic Route 66”. You also begin driving the longest intact section of Route 66. Today is purposely a short drive to allow time to detour to the Grand Canyon for those who wish to do so. If you are not visiting the Grand Canyon, this is a great day to relax and take it slow!
Starting & Ending Point: Flagstaff, Arizona to Seligman, Arizona
General Route: Flagstaff–> Bellemont –> Williams –> Ash Fork –> Seligman
Mileage: ~ 74 miles (119 km)
Time Zone: Mountain Time Zone – no changes in time zone today
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities along the route today.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- Take the time to explore anything you missed yesterday in Flagstaff.
- In Bellemont, there are some remains of the Pine Breeze Inn tourist center which was used in the film Easy Rider. The site is now the Pine Breeze Inn RV Park Campground.
- In Parks you have the Parks in the Pines General Store which opened in 1921. Today it offers general supplies and snacks plus fresh deli sandwiches, burgers, and pizza.
- Between Parks and Williams is the Grand Canyon Deer Farm which is a family-friendly petting zoo plus gift shop. It has been operating since 1969. There is also the Bearizona wildlife park and zoo outside Williams.
- The town of William is a popular place from which you can detour to the famous Grand Canyon National Park (which is not on Route 66). The south entrance of the park is about a 1 hour and 10 minute drive north from Williams. You can also visit by train from Williams or taken an earlier detour from Flagstaff. The Grand Canyon Railway offers scenic trips to the Grand Canyon in vintage train cars. See Notable Detours section below for more information and Grand Canyon trip ideas.
- However, Williams offers more than a gateway to the Grand Canyon. It was the very last town bypassed by the Interstate and had the last stretch of official Route 66 before it was decommissioned in 1984. There are a few Route 66 era businesses here and you can also visit Pete’s Route 66 Gas Station Museum which is a beautifully restored 1949 gas station turned small museum. Williams has a lot of historical buildings and I’d recommend visiting the visitor center near the rail station to get a walking map that will point out some of the buildings within the historical district like the former Frey Marcos Hotel, an old bank, a former 1897 bordello (now the Red Garter B&B), and Sultana Theatre (opened in 1912, no longer operating, most recently the building has been used as a bar). A more recent addition to the town (since 2013) is the Route 66 Zipline.
- Just outside of Williams are some sections of old alignments of Route 66 that have been incorporated into mountain bike paths within the Kaibab National Forest, such as the Devil Dog Loop. Check the forest website for access information and maps.
- In Ash Fork, there are some old gas stations, a few cafes, a couple of nice signs, and the Ash Fork Route 66 Museum. Outside of town, you can hike and find petroglyphs along Partridge Creek.
- Starting at I-40 exit 139, you begin the longest intact section of Route 66 that stretches from here to Topock, AZ. It is about 159 miles long with no need to rejoin the interstate although you do cross it a few times. Each year (typically in late April or May) the Fun Run happens which is a 3 day driving rally and car show from Seligman to Topock. Note that if you are visiting during the Fun Run expect slow traffic, extra festivities, and lots of people between Williams and Topock.
- Seligman is sometimes referred to as the “birthplace of Historic Route 66”, but more accurately it is the birthplace of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. It is home to the Route 66 Gift Shop which also functions as the unofficial visitor center. It was started by Angel & Juan Delgadillo, who also built the popular quirky Snow Cap eatery in town, and has been welcoming visitors since 1987. There are a few Route 66 era eateries and motels in this little town, and lots of little gift stores to explore. Other historical buildings include the former Cottage Hotel which was built in 1912, and is expected to re-open as a town museum.
- Most places close by 9pm in Seligman, but if you are looking for late night entertainment try the Black Cat Bar which is open late.
- Grand Canyon – If you are wanting to visit the Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll want to detour from either Flagstaff or Williams. It is a 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hour drive to the south entrance of the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff and about a 1 hour and 10 minute drive from Williams. You can also take a scenic train ride to the Grand Canyon from Williams or a normal train to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff with Amtrak. If you are wanting to see the Grand Canyon in a day trip from Williams I’d consider booking a guided train experience like this one. If you want to explore both the South Rim and North Rim and/or do some hiking, I would add at least 1 day (ideally 2 days) to your itinerary. Be sure to book a hotel or campsite well in advance if you want to stay overnight as they can be booked up weeks in advance. See our photography guide to the Grand Canyon for more inspiration for your visit.
Today you have a lot of dining choices along the route, especially in Williams and Seligman.
- Route 66 Roadhouse Bar & Grill (11840 W Route 66) in Bellemont, AZ – A unique Route 66 themed bar and grill where you cook your own meat (burgers, steaks) on an open grill yourself. They provide a buffet with all the toppings and fixings, and you grill the meat how you like it. Full bar. Popular with bikers.
- South Rims Wine & Beer Garage (514 E. Route 66) in Williams, AZ – This popular tasting room and lounge offers a short food menu for lunch and dinner with American food such as salads, chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, steaks, and ribs. Large selection of local wines and beers, plus international options.
- Twister’s 50’s Soda Fountain (417 E. Route 66) in Williams, AZ – A 1950’s themed American diner serving burgers, hot dogs, steaks, catfish, ribs, ice cream sodas, and flavored Coke. Also have a full service bar. Open for lunch and dinner.
- Rod’s Steak House (301 E. Route 66) in Williams, AZ – A Route 66 classic steakhouse dating back to 1946 serving steaks, seafood, and chicken entrees. Best known for their steaks and the neon cow sign out front. Full bar.
- Station 66 Italian Bistro (144 W. Historic Route 66) in Williams, AZ – American Italian eatery serving pizza, pasta, salads, and sandwiches. Best known for their pizza. Open for Lunch and dinner, and have patio dining area. Serve local beer and wine.
- Pine Country Restaurant (107 N. Grand Canyon Boulevard) in Williams, AZ – A causal restaurant serving homestyle cooking and American favorites like burgers, melts, shrimp, and roast beef. Serve breakfast to dinner. Best know for their large selection of homemade pies.
- Cruisers Cafe 66 (233 W. Route 66) in Williams, AZ – A 1950’s and car themed cafe serving American classics such as burgers, salads, steaks, barbecue, and chicken. Located in a converted 1930’s gas station. Offers a full bar and sometimes has live music in the evenings.
- Ranch House Cafe (111 Park Avenue) in Ash Fork, AZ – A simple casual American restaurant serving breakfast and American and Southwestern favorites.
- Oasis Route 66 Cafe (346 Park Avenue) in Ash Fork, AZ – A Mexican restaurant with a full bar.
- Delgadillo’s Snow Cap (301 E. Chino Avenue) in Seligman, AZ – A former drive-in eatery dating back to 1953 that serves American classics like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, burritos, shakes, and ice cream. Opened and built by Juan Delgadillo. This quirky place is a Route 66 classic and best visited on a warm day since seating is covered but outside.
- Road Runner Cafe (22330 W. Old Highway Route 66) in Seligman, AZ – This cafe serves American food like BBQ, paninis, hot dogs, salads, pizza, sandwiches, and ice cream. Also has a bar area which serves alcohol and a large gift shop area. Opened in 2010 in a 1936 former garage and car dealership building.
- Westside Lilo’s Cafe (415 Chino Street) in Seligman, AZ – An American/German restaurant serving food from breakfast to dinner. Serves American food with some German favorites like bratwursts, schnitzel, and sauerkraut. The building has been a restaurant since the 1950’s. The current incarnation dates back to 1996 when opened by a German immigrant and her husband. Lively atmosphere, Route 66 decorations, patio in summer, serves alcohol, and sometimes has entertainment. Best know for its German dishes and desserts (carrot cake and pies).
- Roadkill 66 Cafe & OK Saloon (22830 W. Route 66) in Seligman, AZ – An American restaurant and cafe with an unusual roadkill theme, menu focuses on burgers, steaks, buffalo chicken sandwiches, and game. Serves breakfast to dinner, and has a bar and a gift shop area.
Hotel Recommendations for Seligman, AZ
Seligman offers several small good-value Route 66 era motels dating to the 1950’s and 1960’s. If you are looking for something more upscale or modern, I’d consider overnighting in Williams instead.
- Stagecoach 66 Motel – Basic vintage motel located next door to a pizza place (owned by the motel owner). Has themed rooms (e.g., Elvis, Cars, John Wayne). Built in the 1960’s as the Bill Mar Den Motel.
- Supai Motel – Well-reviewed vintage Route 66 era motel with continental breakfast included. Since 1952.
- Deluxe Inn – Clean, well-rated, good-value motor court motel. Next door to Roadkill Cafe. Vintage 1930’s Route 66 motel that began life as the Court Deluxe.
- Historic Route 66 Motel – Vintage motel with themed rooms located next to the Roadkill Cafe. A 1950’s motel previously known as the Navajo Motel. Call +1 928-422-3204 for reservations.
- Canyon Lodge – A 1960’s Route 66 era vintage motel with themed rooms. Continental breakfast included.
- Camper Recs: Seligman KOA, Grand Canyon Caverns Campground (in Peach Springs, about 25 miles west of Seligman), or Interstate 40 Grand Canyon RV Park & Campground (in Ash Fork, about 24 miles east of Seligman)
Route 66 Itinerary Day 12: Seligman, AZ to Needles, CA
Today you spend most of the day exploring the longest intact section of Route 66. The highway goes through a number of old mining and Route 66 era tourist towns. Although most of these communities became ghost towns, many have again become Route 66 tourist towns and this is one of the more popular stretches of Route 66. Take the time to enjoy your drive, the towns, and your final taste of Arizona. Drive slowly as you navigate some switchbacks and watch out for wild burros! You’ll end the day entering the Mojave Desert and crossing the state border into the fabled state of California.
Starting & Ending Point: Seligman, Arizona to Needles, California
General Route: Seligman –> Hackberry –> Kingman –> Topock –> Needles
Mileage: ~ 154 miles (247 km)
Time Zone: Today as you cross the state line into California, the time zones changes to the Pacific Time Zone. Be sure to check your watches and clocks. This is your final time zone change along Route 66.
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities along the route today.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- Between Seligman and Peach Springs, you might want to make a stop at the Grand Canyon Caverns. Note this is not THE Grand Canyon, but is a large cave you can tour and there is also a restaurant and motel here as well as some huge dinosaurs out front! Rafting, helicopter tours, hiking trips, and horseback riding can be arranged here as well. The cave has an interesting modern history dating back to 1927 and is a classic Route 66 attraction.
- Peach Springs is where the tribal headquarters for the Hualapai people is located, and also has a former 1920’s gas station.
- In Truxton, you have some Route 66 era buildings, such as an old gas station and the former Frontier Motel and Restaurant.
- In Valentine is the Keepers of the Wild sanctuary which is a non-profit sanctuary for mistreated and abandoned exotic and indigenous wild animals. Guided tours are given in safari vehicles about 3 times per day.
- The Hackberry General Store in Hackberry is a great stop for souvenirs, snacks, and to see all the cool cars and vintage decorations here.
- Kingman is the largest city on the uninterrupted stretch of Route 66 and is home to a number of historical buildings and several small museums. The Beale Hotel dates back to 1899 and was the former home of actor Andy Devine (sadly it closed in 2012). The old power station building built between 1907 and 1911, has been repurposed into the Arizona Route 66 Museum (a.k.a. “The Powerhouse”). There is also the Mohave Museum of History and Arts, Kingman Railroad Museum, and Locomotive Park (you’ll find a steam engine, caboose, and a monument to Beale’s wagon trail here). The city also has interesting history related to military aviation and it was here that Clark Gable married Carole Lombard in 1939.
- Just outside Kingston near McConnico, you may want to stop at Cool Springs Camp. Opened in the 1920’s and burned around 1966. However, a new one was built by Ned Leutchner and it reopened in 2004. Today it is a vintage looking tourist stop, small museum, and gift shop.
- As you continue on to Oatman, the road gets more steep and twisty so be careful on the turns and switchbacks. You’ll pass through Sitgreaves Pass (a steep and troublesome climb for early Route 66 drivers) and drive through an old mining area (was still partially active when we were last there).
- Oatman is a former gold mining town that was a bustling place back in the 1920’s to 1940’s. It later became a ghost town with the closure of most of the mines and the building of the Interstate. It now stays alive as a tourist town. Although most of the tourist business here are post-Route 66, this one street town would fit right in as an old-fashioned Route 66 town attraction. There are regular live Old West shows (these short shows take place in the middle of the street and do stop traffic), live burros wandering the streets (these burros used to be used in the mines), and lots of gift shops. Be prepared for loud noises (Old West Show) and watch where you step (burros) as you wander the street. The Oatman Hotel (formerly the Durlin Hotel) is a 2-storey historic hotel worth stopping in for a look and perhaps a bite to eat.
- Those who like strange roadside attractions and have the time, may want to make a detour to see the 1831 London Bridge sitting in Lake Hasavu City. The bridge was purchased by millionaire Robert P McCulloch from the City of London and rebuilt piece by piece in Arizona in 1971. This is about a 35 mile detour south on Highway 95 between Oatman and Topock.
- After Oatman, you continue to Topock. There is an arched bridge here called the Old Trails Bridge which once carried traffic over the Colorado River from around 1916 to 1947, but today there is a newer bridge that you can use. Topock is the last community you’ll see before you cross over the Colorado River into California, your 8th and final state in your Route 66 journey!
- Needles is your first city in California and our recommended resting spot for the night. The thing most people remember most about Needles (especially if visiting in summer) is how hot it gets here. It was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there in August! So this is a good place to make sure you choose a hotel with A/C. Also just a reminder to make sure pets and children are not left for any length of time in the heat, especially along this part of the route. Be sure to always have water with you and sun protection.
- Needles has a number of historical buildings, including a number of Route 66 era businesses such as vintage motels, a 1950’s hamburger place (The Burger Hut which is currently closed), a few neon signs (Route 66 Motel is a good example), former service stations, a train depot, a giant Borax wagon, and El Garces, a former Harvey House hotel dating back to 1908. It is hoped that El Garces will eventually reopen and tours are sometimes possible as a visitor. Museums include the Needles Regional Museum. The Moabi Regional Park and the Colorado River offers a number of water and recreational activities such as canoeing, kayaking, swimming fishing, and camping. In terms of nightlife, there are several bars & grills and lounges open late and you can often find karaoke or live music, especially on weekends.
- If you are planning to visit the Supai village (capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation) and hike into the Hualapai Canyon and to Havasu Falls, you can detour from Peach Springs. It is a difficult hike of 8 miles to the village and another 2 miles to the waterfall. Advance reservations and fees are necessary to enter tribal land and do the hike, try to book 9 months to a year in advance. Information can be found here.
- You can detour to Las Vegas, Nevada from Kingman by heading north on Highway 93 (about 110 miles, ~ 2 hours drive). However, we’d recommend if you want to make this detour to wait and do it from Needles, CA the following day.
Today you’ll find a number of casual roadside options along the route with the most dining options in Kingman and Needles.
- Grand Canyon Caverns Restaurant (115 Mile Marker AZ-66) in Peach Springs, AZ – American restaurant located at the Grand Canyon Caverns with retro decor. Best known for its homemade pies.
- Diamond Creek Restaurant (900 Route 66) in Peach Springs, AZ – A restaurant serving American diner food and traditional Hualapia food such as breakfast burritos, tacos, chicken fried steak, fry bread, and Hualapai stew. Located within the Hualapai Lodge.
- Rutherford’s 66 Family Diner (2011 E. Andy Devine Avenue) in Kingman, AZ – A retro-style American diner serving American and local classics like cheeseburgers, sandwiches, chicken, Navajo tacos, prime rib, and chicken fried steaks. Located in a former 1960’s Denny’s restaurant building.
- Ma and Pa’s Hot Rod Cafe (2215 Hualapai Mountain Road) in Kingman, AZ – A family-owned car-themed cafe serving American road food like cheeseburgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs as well as soups and salads. Also partially seems to be a car museum.
- Floyd and Company Real Pit BBQ (420 E. Beale Street) in Kingman, AZ – A relatively new BBQ place (since 2016, formerly Redneck’s Southern Pit Barbecue) serving Southern style BBQ and wood-fired pizzas.
- Mattina’s Ristorante Italiano (318 E. Oak Street) in Kingman, AZ – A nicer restaurant serving Italian food such as pasta, steaks, and seafood. Wine menu. Located in a historical home that has been converted into a restaurant. Dinner only. Nice place for an evening out.
- Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner (105 E. Andy Devine Avenue) in Kingman, AZ – A casual American spot with 1950’s retro theme serving hamburgers, hot dogs, shakes, and Mr. D’s root beer. Well-known for its kitschy retro decor and root beer. Originally a 1938 cafe and gas station, the current family has run it since 2000.
- Oatman Hotel Restaurant & Saloon (181 Main Street) in Oatman, AZ – A once historic hotel that catered to miners, it is now a restaurant, bar, and gift shop. Restaurant serves American food and ice cream, such as burgers, chili, sandwiches, and salads. The bar is papered in dollar bills left by tourists. The Durlin Hotel was built in 1902 and rebuilt in 1924 after a fire. This was where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon in 1939 and fans can still see the room upstairs.
- Olive Oatman Restaurant & Saloon (171 Main Street) in Oatman, AZ – An Old West themed restaurant serving American Southwestern food such as breakfast plates, burgers, sandwiches, Navajo tacos, fry bread, and ice cream. Named after the woman whom the town was named after, Olive Oatman, who was captured and kidnapped by Native Americans at age 14.
- Silver Dollar Chuck Wagon (12907 S. Oatman Highway) in Topock, AZ – An American restaurant serving breakfast, burgers, steaks, and broasted chicken. Full bar. Opened in 2010, probably best known for their broasted chicken.
- Topock66 Spa & Restaurant (14999 Route 66) in Topock, AZ – A modern restaurant and bar serving American comfort foods like burgers, steaks, shrimp, grilled cheese, and patty melts. Open for breakfast to dinner. Located next to the Colorado River, and complex also has a bar, store, marina, and large swimming pool.
- Lucy’s Mexican Restaurant (811 Front Street) in Needles, CA – A simple Mexican restaurant serving tacos, burritos, chile rellenos, etc. near the train station.
- Munchy’s Mexican Restaurant (829 Front Street) in Needles, CA – A small well-rated local restaurant serving inexpensive Mexican and Tex-Mex food next to the train station.
- River City Pizza Co. (1901 Needles Highway) in Needles, CA – A casual pizza place that also serves chicken wings, subs, and salads. Serves beer and wine.
- Giggling Cactus (2411 W Broadway Street) in Needles, CA – A casual American restaurant serving burgers, salads, chicken, breakfast, and fish & chips. Formerly the popular Juicy’s River Cafe.
- Wagon Wheel Restaurant (2420 Needles Highway) in Needles, CA – A local favorite with an Old West theme serving American comfort food like chicken fried steak, pot roast, burgers, melts, and meatloaf. Serve an all day breakfast, and opens early and closes late. Building was originally Lynn’s Broiler, a restaurant that opened in the early 1950’s, and became the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in 1978.
Hotel Recommendations for Needles, CA
Needles offers a mix of riverside resorts and chain motels. Campers have a lot of options here. If you are traveling in summer, we’d definitely recommend making sure you get a room with air-conditioning as temperatures can be sweltering in the desert heat.
- Best Western Colorado River Inn – Well-reviewed chain hotel with included breakfast and a pool and hot tub.
- Pirate Cove Resort & Marina – This pirate-themed riverfront property offers cabins with kitchens, a kitchen, playground, restaurant, bar, marina, and boat rentals. Great place for families as well as those wanting to spend some time on the water.
- Fender’s River Road Resort Motel – This riverfront motel along the Colorado river offers rooms with kitchens, boat launching service, campground, and a fishing & beach area. Fewer amenities than Pirate Cove but at a much lower price.
- Quality Inn – A well-rated chain motel with swimming pool and hot tub.
- Imperial 400 Motor Inn – A classic Route 66 era no-frills 1960’s motor court motel that was once part of a former motel chain. Low rates make it a good option for those on a tight budget.
- Budget Inn – A basic motel with good reviews – another good budget option in Needles.
- Camper Recs: Pirate Cove Resort RV Park, Fender’s River Road Resort RV Park & Campground, Needles KOA, and Desert View RV Resort
Route 66 Itinerary Day 13: Needles, CA to San Bernardino, CA
Today you begin your exploration of California and your drive takes you through the hottest and most desolate landscape along Route 66 through the Mojave Desert. Be sure to stock up on water and snacks, and fill up on fuel before leaving Needles. Today you can get a real feel for the “California or Bust” saying and perhaps get a sense of how potentially hazardous this drive would have been in the 1920’s and 1930’s with poor roads, early automobiles, and no air conditioning. Some travelers and migrants would drive through the desert overnight to avoid the heat. Savor today as after San Bernardino, the historic Route 66 feel starts to disappear as you enter the Greater Los Angeles area and a long stretch of concrete jungle.
If you are detouring to Las Vegas, Nevada or Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll want to head off there along today’s route.
Starting & Ending Point: Needles, California to San Bernardino, California
General Route: Needles –> Essex –> Amboy –> Barstow –> Victorville –> San Bernardino
Mileage: ~ 233 miles (375 km) For those wanting a shorter and more relaxed drive, you can stop in Barstow, California for the night. Mileage ~ 159 miles (255 km).
Time Zone: Pacific Time Zone – no changes.
Big City Avoider Tips
No big cities along the route today, although San Bernardino has a population of over 200,000 people. If you’d like to overnight elsewhere, you might consider Barstow. Basically once you get to San Bernardino you just outside the suburban and urban sprawl of Los Angeles and there are no more small towns.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- If Las Vegas, Nevada is on your vacation itinerary, you’ll probably want to leave Route 66 after Needles and head north to Las Vegas. The famous gambling town is a significant detour from Route 66 of about 110 miles (2 hours). I’d recommend adding a couple of days to your itinerary if you want to explore Las Vegas.
- Past Needles, there are two Route 66 alignments for a 11 mile stretch. One follows the pre-1931 route and one the post-1931 route. Both routes rejoin in Essex. I’d recommend taking the pre-1931 route to avoid driving 1-40.
- In Goffs you can see an old 1914 mission-style schoolhouse and a small collection of other historical buildings maintained by the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association. There is also a small local history museum exhibition (call ahead to arrange a visit as no regular hours). An interesting place to get the chance to learn what it was and is like to grow up in the desert.
- Little communities like Fenner are almost ghost towns now. Fenner has a gas station and limited tourist services.
- Essex was once a place with a public well that thirsty tourists would stop to drink and fill up their cars. Today there is not much left. But nearby is Mitchell Caverns, within the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, that offers guided cave tours and there are also hiking trails within the park.
- After a stretch passing some former tourist complexes, graffitid buildings, and old billboards, you’ll come to Amboy. The only business still open here is Roy’s Cafe and Motel, originally opened back in 1938 by Roy Crowl and it served Route 66 drivers for decades as a motel, cafe, gas station and auto repair shop. The sign has become an iconic Route 66 image. Roy’s Cafe currently still has an operating gas station, a small gift shop, toilets, and snacks. There is no hot food served here but you can usually buy snacks, canned drinks, and coffee.
- A couple of miles from Amboy, you can visit the Amboy Crater which is an extinct cinder cone volcano which is now a National Natural Landmark. You can do day hikes here but just be prepared with water, sun protection, and watch for rattlesnakes.
- At Amboy you can detour southwest if you want to visit Joshua Tree National Park, a park know for its desert landscapes and hiking trails. It is about a 1 hour and 10 minute detour to reach the park, or you can wait and make the detour at Barstow (takes about 20 minutes longer but better roads from Barstow).
- After Amboy, you’ll drive through what once was Bagdad where today nothing of the town reamins. There is nothing to see here but it is notable for being where the original Bagdad Cafe once stood (opened in the 1940’s, closed in 1968) and it is from where the current one in Newberry Springs got it name.
- Among some derelict former buildings, you’ll find a cafe, motel, and gas station still operating in Ludlow. If you want to see another volcano cinder cone, nearby is Pisgah Crater just south of Route 66.
- Little Newberry Springs has a few Route 66 era relics like a former Whiting Bros. gas station. However, it is a popular stopping spot, especially for Europeans, because of it’s still operating Bagdad Cafe. It was here that 1987 German film Bagdad Cafe (also known as Out of Rosenheim in Europe) was filmed. If you haven’t seen it, we’d recommend watching it before driving Route 66 as it one of a handful of films fully shot along Route 66. The film was shot in Sidewinder Cafe (opened in the late 1940’s) as the actual Bagdad Cafe was long gone by then. The Sidewinder Cafe later changed its name to Bagdad Cafe to match the name used in the film. The film actually spawned a short-lived 1990 American TV series starring Whoopi Goldberg and Jean Stapleton.
- In Dagget, you’ll find some historical buildings like the old Stone Hotel built in 1883 (now the town history museum), the Desert Market built in 1908 (still operating!), former Ma Millet’s Cafe, and Alf’s Blacksmith Shop (not open to public) which dates back to 1890. The town’s local history museum is located within the former Stone Hotel and is generally only open on Saturdays. If you are interested in visiting, I’d call or email ahead for hours.
- Just a short detour north of Dagget, is the Calico Ghost Town in Yermo. It is a former silver mining town that became a ghost town and is now a tourist attraction. Several structures date back to the late 19th century alongside a few modern replica ones built to look old. There are restaurants, shops, gunfight stunt shows, mine tours, and a campsite within the park. Admission fee required to visit.
- Barstow is the first town today that has a range of services and dining options. It is also a town worth taking the time to explore. You’ll find a number of Route 66 era businesses here (some operating, some not), vintage neon signs, and a number of street murals. If you like auto signs, there is a huge collection at Tom’s Certified Welding and Machine Shop. The Casa del Desierto building is a former Harvey House hotel and rail depot built in 1911, and it now houses the Barstow Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, the Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum, and the Western America Railroad Museum. Two other museums are the Mojave River Valley Museum (collection is focused on the heritage of the Mojave Desert) and the Desert Discovery Center (promotes awareness of desert life and houses the 2nd largest meteorite in the USA). Just outside of town you can catch a drive-in movie at Skyline Drive-In.
- In Lenwood, just outside Barstow, you can find a couple more Route 66 era businesses.
- Helendale used to be the home of “Sagebrush Annie” who ran tourist complex featuring a gas station, cafe, and dance club and possibly also a brothel in the 1920’s to 1940’s. Today what remains of the stone Sage Brush Inn is a private residence. A couple of miles outside of Helendale is Elmer Long’s interesting collection of bottle tree folk art, which you’ll see along the road. This is private property but usually open to visit, just be respectful.
- Between Helendale and Oro Grande is the Iron Hog Saloon, a historic biker bar and restaurant (age 21 and over only) in a building that was once an 1890’s trading post, the Butterfield Stage Stop. It served as a filming location for a few movies, including Easy Rider. However, the restaurant is currently closed although there are reported plans to reopen.
- In Oro Grande, there are a number of Route 66 era buildings, although most of the businesses are now closed. There is an interesting antique store along the road here called Route 66 Antique Station that was still operating last we checked.
- Victorville is home to a number of Route 66 era businesses as well as the California Route 66 Museum. This place was vandalized and robbed in January 2018, so please stop by to show support of this great museum.
- As you continue on you’ll drive over the Cajon Pass, a mountain pass between the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel mountains. You’ll also cross the Pacific Crest Trail, a long-distance hiking trail from Mexico to Canada, and pass by what was once the Summit Inn, a 1950’s roadhouse that was a popular Route 66 stop until it sadly burned down in August 2016. You’ll also find markers here for the Mormon pioneers who passed through this area along the Mormon Trail.
- San Bernardino is a larger city and the beginning of “Greater L.A.”, the area that is a series of cities and suburbs clustered around Los Angeles. You’ll find a number of vintage Route 66 spots, especially along and around Mt. Vernon Avenue, although many are no longer operating. The city was the site of the world’s first McDonald’s store begun by the McDonald brothers, and you can visit the Original McDonald’s Museum where that store once stood. The museum also has some Route 66 related items. Other sites of interest include the beautiful 1928 California Theatre (still operating, hosting regular musicals, opera, and theater performances), Fullerton Museum of Art, Norton Air Force Base Museum, and the Inland Empire Military Museum (small museum run by Vietnam era veteran). Located just east of the San Bernardino in Rialto is the Wigwam Motel, one of two places along Route 66 that you can sleep in a teepee!
- There are a number of parks, forest areas, and lakes in and around San Bernardino if you are looking for picnic spots, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, or camping. These include Perris Hill Park (park within the city), Glen Helen Region Park (county park within city with playgrounds, swimming complex, and picnic tables), Silverwood Lake (about 15 miles from the city, lots of outdoor recreational activities like fishing, hiking, boating, and camping), and Big Bear Lake (about 40 miles away, popular mountain retreat with hiking trails, fishing, biking, and winter sports like skiing).
- Near San Bernardino, just south in the city of Redlands, is the family-friendly Splash Kingdom Waterpark (waterpark and trampoline park), the San Bernardino County Museum, Historical Glass Museum, and San Bernardino de Sena Estancia, a 19th century ranch outpost of historic Roman Catholic Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.
- For the evening, consider attending a performance at the beautiful California Theatre, heading out to one of the city’s many bars or nightclubs such as the Brandin’ Iron Saloon which also offers live entertainment and country dancing (complimentary dance lessons on certain nights), seeing a movie at the local cinema, or going out bowling. Note that Splash Kingdom in Redlands often has late night hours and evening events as well. You might also want to check to see if there are any events are taking place at the National Orange Show Events Center.
- Las Vegas, Nevada – Las Vegas is known as “the entertainment capital of the world” and offers lots of gambling opportunities, world-class entertainment, shopping, and dining, over-the-top resorts, and the Hoover Dam. Although not on Route 66, Route 66 fans will appreciate the huge amount of neon lighting the famous Strip which is one of the brightest spots on earth. Just after Needles, you can leave Route 66 to head north on Highway 95 to reach Las Vegas. Las Vegas is about 110 miles from Needles and about a 2 hour drive. I’d recommend adding a couple of days to your itinerary if you want to explore Las Vegas.
- Joshua Tree National Park – This is a protected area of the Mohave Desert and Colorado Desert known for its rugged rocks, Joshua tress, and stark desert landscapes. Lots of hiking trails. It is about a 1 hour and 10 minute drive from Amboy or a 1.5 hour drive from Barstow. I’d recommend adding at least 1 day to your itinerary if you plan to spend a day hiking and exploring Joshua Tree.
Today you might want to think ahead about when you want to stop for meals (particularly breakfast and lunch) and bring along some snacks as there are few places along certain stretches of the highway today between Needles and Barstow. But we recommend supporting those businesses operating in isolated areas like Ludlow, Amboy, & Newberry Springs if you can! But there are several dining options in Barstow, Victorville, and San Bernardino.
- Ludlow Cafe (6835 Ludlow Road) in Ludlow – A no-frills cafe with Western decor serving simple roadside food for breakfast and lunch including burgers, sandwiches, and homemade pies. The original Ludlow Cafe opened back in the 1930’s in a streamline modern building, but it closed in the 1960’s and the building is now a ruin. This cafe building dates back to the 1970’s and has been a coffee shop or restaurant off and on over the years.
- Bagdad Cafe (46548 National Trails Highway) in Newberry Springs – A simple Route 66 era cafe serving classic American road food. Best known for being the place where the movie Bagdad Cafe was filmed and is very popular with Western European visitors, especially French tourists. The cafe dates back to the 1940’s and was originally called Sidewinder Cafe.
- DiNapoli’s Fire House (1358 E. Main Street) in Barstow – A restaurant serving Italian food, including pizza, pastas, and seafood. Fire station theme and memorabilia. Serves lunch and dinner, and has wine and beer. Family owned and operated since 1994.
- Lola’s Kitchen (1244 E Main Street) in Barstow – Simple Mexican eatery in a local strip mall serving Mexican favorites. A popular local spot for breakfast and lunch.
- Roy’s Cafe (413 E. Main Street) in Barstow – A casual retro-style American cafe serving American food and a few Mexican dishes like burgers, fries, salads, burritos, and milkshakes. Serve breakfast to dinner. Inspired by the 1930’s Roy’s Cafe in Amboy, CA and they even have a similar sign out front. Opened in 2017.
- Rosita’s (540 W. Main Street) in Barstow – Mexican/American – A family-run restaurant serving casual Mexican and American food. Best known for their Mexican dishes. The restaurant’s history dates back to 1954 and it has been in its current location (a former grocery store) since 1976.
- Route 66 Pizza Place (2046 W. Main Street) in Barstow – A casual pizzeria with Route 66 decor. Best known for pizzas and its salad bar. Open for lunch and dinner. Take out, delivery, or dine in.
- Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe (17143 D Street) in Victorville – An old-fashioned Route 66 era family-run diner serving up class American classics. Best known for its breakfast and burgers. Been around and run by the Holland family since 1947!
- Richie’s Real American Diner (14236 Valley Center Drive) in Victorville – A modern retro-style diner serving American comfort food and a few Mexican dishes with 1950’s decor. Best known for their breakfasts and smoked meat and BBQ dishes.
- Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers (2032 Amargosa Road) in Victorville – A modern retro-style fast-casual chain (founded in Wichita in 2002) focused on steakburgers, shoestring fries, and frozen custard. Also serve chicken sandwiches, patty melts, hot dogs, and various frozen custard treats.
- Paulina’s Mexican Grill (4845 Monarch Boulevard, Suite G) in Victorville – A more upscale but still casual eatery serving American and Mexican fusion dishes, including seafood, fajitas, steaks, and burritos. Vegetarian friendly. Lunch and dinner.
- Outpost Cafe (8685 US Highway 395) in Oak Hills – A long-time casual diner serving salads, sandwiches, burgers, and Southern American comfort food in large portions. Open breakfast to dinner. Located within a truck stop plaza.
- Rosa Maria’s (4202 N Sierra Way) in San Bernardino – A family owned Mexican take-out spot which is well-rated for its authentic Mexican food. Take out only. First opened in 1975, and now have 4 locations in the Inland Empire area.
- Amapola Rico Taco (1279 W. Base Line Street) in San Bernardino – No frills fast-casual Mexican food eatery. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Drive thru or eat in. Been around since 1975 and now have several locations.
- Mitla Cafe (602 N. Mount Vernon Avenue) in San Bernardino – This long-time Route 66 era classic serves traditional Mexican food with a few American favorites in an old-fashioned setting. Serves brunch, lunch, and dinner. This spot started as a simple lunch counter, and has been family owned and operated since 1937!
- Alfredo’s Pizza & Pasta (251 W. Base Line Street) in San Bernardino – Traditional casual family-oriented Italian eatery serving pizza and other Italian foods like pasta, sausage, veal, and salads. Serve homemade bread and offer beer and wine. A local favorite, open since 1979.
- Miyagi Sushi (2580 Fair Oaks Boulevard, Suite 26) in San Bernardino – Japanese restaurant serving popular Japanese favorites like katsu chicken, vegetable tempura, sashimi, a wide range of sushi rolls, noodles, and teriyaki chicken. Also have a full bar and a popular place for happy hour drinks. Serve lunch and dinner.
- McDonald’s (699 W 2nd Street) in San Bernardino – If there is one place we’d recommend eating at a McDonald’s it is here (as well as Downey, CA where you’ll find the oldest still operating McDonald’s). This McDonald’s is located about 4 blocks from where the original McDonald’s once stood.
Lodging Recommendations for Barstow, CA to San Bernardino, CA
Today we recommend overnighting in San Bernardino but those wanting a shorter driving day, or those planning to make some detours, may want to overnight in Barstow.
Hotel Recommendation for Barstow, CA
Note that you’ll likely notice that there are several additional Route 66 era motels in Barstow we’ve not included on this list. We’d recommend checking reviews or asking to see a room before committing as many along this stretch get mixed reviews.
- Route 66 Motel – This Route 66 era motel dates back to 1922 and has retro decor in rooms and classic cars out front. Some rooms come with fun round beds. This vintage motel is also a good budget option.
- Ayres Hotel Barstow – This well-reviewed 3-star hotel includes breakfast, indoor pool, hot tub, and mini-fridges and microwaves in the rooms.
- Best West Desert Villa Inn – A well rated chain motel with continental breakfast and outdoor swimming pool.
- Econo Lodge – A basic Route 66 era motel with outdoor pool and offers breakfast. The motel was formerly called the Town and Country Motel.
- Stardust Inn – A no-frills basic motel that is a good budget option.
- Camper Recs: Shady Lane RV Park, Barstow/Calico KOA (located in Yermo, about 10 mile east of Barstow), and Owl Canyon Campground (no hookups)
Lodging Recommendations for San Bernardino, CA
- Wigwam Motel – Opened in 1949, this is one of only 2 remaining Wigman Motels still operating along Route 66. Basic but clean and comfortable rooms in individual concrete teepee structures with private bathrooms. Swimming pool.
- Homewood Suites – If you are looking for something a little nicer, we’d recommend this hotel. Comfortable rooms, breakfast included, and outdoor swimming pool. Most rooms have kitchens and sitting areas.
- Hampton Inn & Suites – Well-rated chain hotel with comfortable rooms, included breakfast, and pool. Some rooms have refrigerators and microwaves.
- Econo Lodge – A well-rated basic motel. Our choice for a budget option in San Bernardino.
- Camper Recs: San Bernardino RV Park, San Bernardino National Forest campgrounds (various locations within San Bernardino forest), and Yucaipa Regional Park campground (a few miles east of the city)
Route 66 Itinerary Day 14: San Bernardino, CA to Santa Monica, CA
Woo-hoo you’ve reached the end of Route 66! The real end is very unexciting, so most people drive on to the Santa Monica pier for a much more fitting end to this epic road trip adventure. We’d recommend trying to time your arrival at the pier for late morning or early afternoon, and avoid rush hour traffic if at all possible. Along the way to the pier you pass through iconic places like Hollywood and Beverly Hills. At the end, say hello to the Pacific Ocean and after 2 weeks of dusty roads you may be feeling like a swim!
I recommend a shorter driving day here so that you can have extra time for the traffic (traffic will increase steadily as you get closer to Los Angeles), explore the Santa Monica/Los Angeles area if you wish, and also leave you time if you need to return your car or catch a flight out. If you have the full day, a relaxing day at the beach is an excellent way to spend your final day and a pleasant reprieve after driving over 2,000 miles across 8 states! There is plenty to keep you busy in the Los Angeles area for several days if you have more time or you can start a new journey and explore further afield in California.
Starting & Ending Point: San Bernardino, California to Santa Monica, California
General Route: San Bernardino –> Rancho Cucamonga –> Pasadena –> Los Angeles –> Santa Monica
Mileage: ~ 79 miles (or ~ 153 if coming from Barstow)
Time Zone: Pacific Time Zone – no changes today.
Big City Avoider Tips
There is nothing quite like the asphalt jungle of Los Angeles and its suburbs, and if you are wanting to avoid the traffic and city, you might want to end your Route 66 journey in San Bernardino or Pasadena. Or head in for the finish line and then retreat back to Pasadena or San Bernardino if you are looking to stay outside of LA. If staying in San Bernardino, you may want to stay in the same place for 2 nights (see lodging recommendation above in Day 13 of itinerary). In Pasadena, the Saga Motor Hotel is a great 1950’s Route 66 motel and you can find more Pasadena lodging options here.
Main Route 66 Attractions
- In Rialto, you’ll find a few Route 66 era businesses including the iconic Wigwam Motel (since 1949) and Rialto Historical Society museum (local history) which is located within a picturesque 1907 former church school.
- Fontana was once part of the large citrus growing area of California and during the Route 66 era there were loads of orange stands. Some of these stands have been repurposed into eateries or drink stands such as Bono’s Historic Orange (opened in 1936), currently closed but still standing last time we were there. There are also some other historical buildings such as the 1937 Art Deco style Fontana Theater (now the Center Stage and still operating with regular theater performances and shows).
- You’ll find lots of Route 66 era business and signs in Rancho Cucamonga. The Cucamonga Service Station dating from 1915 has been restored as a Route 66 and local history museum. One of the oldest eateries along Route 66 is the Sycamore Inn here which dates back to 1848. You’ll see lots of references to wine here as this area was once covered in vineyards. If you are interested in walking or biking here, there are 18 miles of trails as part of the Pacific Electric Trail, and one is the Route 66 Trailhead (8500 Foothill Boulevard) which has some Route 66 information and a bit of preserved historic Route 66 pavement.
- In Upland, you’ll find the Cooper Regional History Museum (museum in a 1930’s former fruit exchange building) and another Madonna of the Trail Monument (you may have seen earlier in Albuquerque), this one denotes the end of the National Old Trails Highway.
- Claremont is home to some historical buildings, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and a number of small museums, including the Folk Music Center Museum, Claremont Museum of Art, Claremont Heritage center (local history and tours), and the Alf Museum of Paleontology.
- You’ll find an interesting small historical district areas in both Laverne and San Dimas as well as a few still operating Route 66 era businesses. You start seeing a lot of palm trees here that will continue through most of the rest of your drive towards the coast.
- Glendora has two main Route 66 alignments, so you can choose one or drive both if you have time. You’ll find some still running Route 66 era businesses plus some neon signs such as the big boot at the Golden Spur restaurant.
- In the city of Azusa, you’ll find more palm trees and you can see the marquee of the former Foothill Drive-In Theater.
- Durante is home to the Justice Private Automotive Collection (a museum dedicated to the Justice Brothers and the world of auto racing) and the Durante Historical Society and Museum. The city also hosts an annual Route 66 parade (usually in September).
- In Monrovia, you’ll find a pleasant historic downtown area, the Monrovia Historical Museum, and some great historical spots such as a former vintage service station (originally a fruit stand from 1921) and the 1925 Mayan Revival Aztec Hotel (closed, but there are some hopes it will reopen).
- Arcadia is best known as the home of the Santa Anita Park and its horse races. Near the racetrack is a Denny’s that occupies a former Van de Kamp’s chain restaurant building with a windmill tower. You can can also visit the Gib Museum of Arcadia Heritage (local history).
- Beginning in Pasadena, the traffic really starts to pick up and also there becomes a tangle of former Route 66 alignments so it becomes more difficult to faithfully follow the Route 66 route. We recommend just navigating to spots you want to visit from here to Santa Monica based on your interests and traffic conditions.
- Pasadena is probably best known as the home of the Tournament of Roses which includes the Rose Bowl (college football game) and the Rose Parade, an annual parade on New Year’s Day. It is also believed to be where cheeseburgers were first invented! There are a number of historical sites and buildings such as the Colorado Street Bridge (concrete arch bridge built in 1912), the 19th century Old Mill (gardens open to public and tours available of the 1816 adobe building), and the Gamble House (Arts and Crafts style house built for the wealthy Gamble family in 1908, tours available) if you have the time to explore. Pasadena also has several museums, including the Pasadena Museum of History, Bunny Museum (dedicated to everything rabbit related), and Tournament House (Rose Tournaments headquarters at Wrigley Mansion, seasonal house tours possible).
- Depending on your chosen route, you’ll enter Los Angeles and pass through a number of cities and Los Angeles neighborhoods such as Highland Park, Echo Park, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. Some Route 66 things you might spot are the 1924 Highland Theater, the popular Chicken Boy fiberglass statue, views of the Hollywood sign, and loads of vintage restaurants and signs.
- Now head to the End of Route 66. The western terminus of Route 66, like the eastern beginning, is not a clear single spot, as it differed across alignments over the years. The original 1926 terminus was at 7th Street and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles and was later moved to the intersection of Lincoln Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard in Santa Monica. There was no sign at either when we were last there so not much to actually see.
- Within Pacific Palisades Park in Santa Monica, there is a monument dedicated to Will Rogers which reads: “The Main Street of America Route 66 was the first road he traveled in a career that led him straight to the hearts of his countrymen.” Those interested in Will Rogers may want to later visit Will Rogers State Historic Park which includes his former estate and final home before his death.
- Now you can head a little further west to the modern and commercial end to Route 66. Since there is not much to see at the “official” ending point intersections, most drivers continue on to the modern end of Route 66 which is the Santa Monica Pier. The pier opened in 1909 and here you’ll find a family amusement park, a carousel, shops, an arcade, pubs, and restaurants. Park the car and explore the pier (entrance at Colorado and Ocean Avenue) where you’ll find an End of the Trail sign and shops selling Route 66 merchandise. Stop at the 66 to Cali shop for any final Route 66 souvenirs. You’ve done it, you have driven historic Route 66 (or started your Route 66 road trip adventure if headed east)!
- After completing your epic road trip, you might want to relax at the beach (the Santa Monica State Beach is convenient next to the pier as one option), enjoy a celebratory lunch or dinner, explore the many attractions in and around Santa Monica and Los Angeles, or head to the airport or train station to head back home.
- The Los Angeles area has so many attractions! Los Angeles has dozens of cultural attractions such as the Getty Museum (world-class art museum), California Science Center, Griffith Observatory, and Petersen Automotive Museum. In Hollywood you can visit movie studios such as Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, visit the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, marvel at the Hollywood sign, stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame, and visit the Hollywood Museum. There are also tons of beaches along the coast, culinary spots (the city is home to about every type of world cuisine), shopping opportunities, sporting events (the city is home to several prominent sports teams such as the Dodgers, Lakers, and Galaxy), and of course Disneyland is not far away. If you have more than a day to explore LA, we highly recommend picking up a good local guidebook to help you make the most of your time here. To save money on sightseeing you may want to check out the GoCard.
- If your travels are taking you further afield in California, see the next section for some ideas of where to head next.
Notable Detours / Next Stops
- No notable detours today although we do have suggestions for a number of potential places you might want to explore in California after your Route 66 trip (or before if you are driving it west to east). See below suggestions.
- San Diego and Southern California – San Diego is known as one of the sunniest and happiest cities and is known for its sandy beaches, world-class museums, association with the US Navy, parks like Balboa Park, being home to the first Sea World and San Diego Zoo, one of the world’s top-rated zoos. Those planning to do a lot of sightseeing in this area may want to check out the GoCard and Southern California CityPass to save money on attractions. You can reach San Diego in about 2.5 hours by car or you can also reach the city by train or bus.
- Pacific Coast Highway – If you feel you still are up for another road trip after Route 66, consider driving the Pacific Coast Highway which heads north from Los Angeles through the scenic Central Coast and up to the San Francisco Bay area. Or if you are tired of driving and want to see more, consider a fun guided camping trip along the Pacific Coast. Lots of great scenery, coastal towns, wineries, hiking opportunities, and historical sites along this route. You can read our Pacific Coast Highway guide here to help plan your trip.
- Yosemite National Park – This was one of the country’s (and the world’s) first national parks and protects a vast area of the Sierra Nevada that contains granite cliffs, waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, wilderness area, and giant sequoias groves. It is a popular destination for hiking, climbing, and scenery. To get started check out our Yosemite Valley planning post, Yosemite photography guide, and southern Yosemite National Park highlights article.
- San Francisco – This hilly northern California city is known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf area, cable cars, vast Golden Gate Park, liberalizing attitudes, and interesting cultural attractions like Alcatraz prison and the California Academy of Sciences. We can personally recommend checking out this discount city pass (there is also a GoCard discount card option) for San Francisco as it can help you save money on attraction entrance fees. You can reach San Francisco by plane, driving, Amtrak train service, or a bus. It is a quick 1 hour 30 minute flight from Los Angeles, or it can be reached by car in about 6 hours and 30 minutes depending on traffic and route. If you have more than a day in San Francisco, we recommend considering getting a city guidebook to make the most of your visit.
Today there is no shortage of places to eat and there are more options than on any other day along Route 66 as Los Angeles and the surrounding area has a plethora of options. There is everything from historical Route 66 eateries (and ones that predate Route 66) to modern fine dining spots to restaurants representing about every type of cuisine in the world from Vietnamese to Nigerian. Below is only a short list of options!
- Brother’s Pizza (142 E. Foothill Boulevard) in Rialto – Well-loved local pizza place that also serves pasta, sandwiches, chicken wings, and soups. Lunch and dinner. Been around since 1984.
- Red Hills Coffee Shop (16757 E. Foothill Boulevard) in Fontana – Classic no-frills American diner that serves inexpensive American breakfast and lunch with large portions. Breakfast and lunch. Building dates back to 1943 but has been the Red Hill Coffee Shop since the 1970’s.
- The Deli (9671 Foothill Boulevard) in Rancho Cucamonga – A simple American sandwich shop serving deli sandwiches and hot sandwiches. Indoor and outdoor patio seating. Since 1968.
- Sycamore Inn (8318 Foothill Boulevard) in Rancho Cucamonga – A beautiful lodge-like historical fine dining restaurant serving American and European cuisine like crab cakes, steaks, and lamb. Wine menu. Building was once a stagecoach stop dating back to 1848. Reservations recommended. Dinner only.
- Magic Lamp Inn (8189 Foothill Boulevard) in Rancho Cucamonga – A classic California steakhouse dating back to 1955 with Old World decor with wood paneling and stained glass. Known for their steaks but also serve a number of chicken and seafood dishes as well as sandwiches, salads, and soups for lunch. Serve lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended, especially for dinner.
- El Tarasco Meat Market (8161 E. Foothill Boulevard) in Rancho Cucamonga – A no-frills Mexican counter serving simple Mexican items like tacos and burritos with freshly butchered meats. Located within a grocery store and butcher shop.
- Old World Deli (281 S. Mountain Avenue) in Upland – An international delicatessen featuring Italian, American, German, and Jewish offerings such as sandwiches, salads, meatballs, soups, and pasta. Dine-in or take out. Initially began as a meat market in Downey California in 1969. Located within a shopping center.
- Wolfe’s Kitchen & Deli (160 W. Foothill Boulevard) in Claremont – A gourmet market, deli, and grill focused on deli sandwiches, grilled sandwiches, baked goods, and milkshakes. Breakfast to early dinner. Opened in 1917 as Wolfe’s Market
- La Paloma Cafe (321 Hobsonway) in Blythe – A no-frills inexpensive eatery serving authentic Mexican food including burritos, tacos, and menudo. Building dates to 1928, restaurant to 1966.
- Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse (269 W. Foothill Boulevard) in San Dimas – A casual steakhouse focused on serving working men good value meals with large portions. Known for its open flame grilled steaks, prime rib, and BBQ ribs. Been around since 1967, and there is an old wagon out front. Lunch and dinner.
- The Golden Spur (1223 E. Route 66) in Glendora – A Route 66 era casual steakhouse serving American food like steaks, seafood, and prime rib. Has live entertainment on some evenings. The Golden Spur is said to have started life as a ride-up hamburger stand back in 1918 for customers on horseback and became a steakhouse in 1954. Great Route 66 era cowboy boot neon sign out front. Lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended for dinner.
- The Hat (611 W. Route 66) in Glendora – A Route 66 era fast-food chain known for its pastrami sandwiches, onion rings, and fries. Lunch and dinner. Since 1951.
- Flappy Jack’s Pancake House (640 W. Route 66) in Glendora – An American breakfast and lunch spot with Route 66 decor serving large portions. Since 2002.
- Cabrera’s (1856 E. Huntington Drive) in Duarte – A Mexican restaurant serving Mexican food like soups, tamales, tortas, enchiladas, burritos, and chicken with mole. Open for all meals. Since 1985.
- Denny’s (7 E. Huntington Drive) in Arcadia – A casual modern diner-style chain serving classic American food. Open 24 hours a day and serves breakfast all day. The Googie style building is the last of the Van de Kamp’s drive-in Dutch Holland Dutch Bakery restaurants along Route 66 and still has the old windmill. The Denny’s chain originally began life as Danny’s Donuts in Lakewood, CA in 1953.
- Matt Denny’s (145 E. Huntington Drive) in Arcadia – A family style restaurant and pub serving salads, sandwiches, burgers, steaks, pasta, and seafood located near the Santa Anita racetrack. Large range of beers and sports normally on the TVs. Lunch and dinner.
- Lucky Baldwin’s (17 S. Raymond Avenue) in Pasadena – A restaurant and bar serving British pub food and some American classics like fish and chips, burgers, chicken curry, pasties, and cottage pie. Lots of beer options. Opened in 1966, located in a historical building in Pasadena’s Old Town.
- Euro Pane (950 Colorado Boulevard) in Pasadena – A European style bakery serving sandwiches, quiche, fresh baked goods, and coffee. Breakfast and lunch.
- The Raymond (1250 S. Fair Oaks) in Pasadena – An upscale New American and European restaurant focused on using locally grown seasonal food and has a changing menu. The Bar 1886 is well-known fo its cocktails. Located in a historic building. Reservations recommended.
- Fair Oaks Pharmacy (1526 Mission Street) in South Pasadena – This long-time pharmacy (since 1915) also serves breakfast, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, Italian sodas, phosphates, and loads of ice cream drinks and desserts. Great old soda fountain feel.
- Señor Fish (618 Mission Street) in South Pasadena – A no frills inexpensive cantina-style Mexican restaurant chain focused on seafood, known for its fish tacos.
- Mom’s Tamales (3328 Pasadena Avenue) in Los Angeles – A family-run Mexican restaurant best known for their homemade tamales. Breakfast and lunch.
- Philippe The Original (1001 N. Alameda Street) in Los Angeles – This long-time eatery serves breakfast, sandwiches, soups, and baked goods. Best known for their French dip sandwiches, and it is believed that the very first French dip sandwich was invented here in 1918. Original store opened in 1908 but moved to this location in 1951.
- Cielito Lindo (E-23 Olvera Street) – A simple Mexican food stand serving Mexican food since 1934! Best known for their taquitos served in avocado sauce. Also serve burritos, chile rellenos, and a few other favorites.
- Cole’s (118 E. 6th Street) – A classic historic bar and restaurant serving salads and sandwiches along with a full bar menu. Founded by Henry Cole in 1908 in the Pacific Electric Building. Claims to be the oldest public house in Los Angeles and where the French dip sandwich was invented (however many believe this was actually done so at Philippe’s). Lunch, dinner, and late night drinks. Two blocks from the 7th Street and Broadway terminus.
- Clifton’s (648 S. Broadway) in Los Angeles – Clifton’s is a long-time Los Angeles landmark serving cafeteria style American food on a pay-per-item basis. Common dishes are meatloaf, hot turkey, fried chicken, green beans, masked potatoes, and desserts. Also has full bar and event space. The current restaurant dates back to 1935 although the chain begun in 1931. Clifford Clinton was the owner and a strongly Christian and charitable man and the restaurant often offered food at the price people could pay or even gave it away for free. The restaurants also served African-Americans and other minorities at a time (it was promoted as a safe place for Blacks to eat in The Negro Motorist Green Book) when this was unusual for a White-owned business. This place is huge and is the oldest cafeteria style eatery in Los Angeles. Serves lunch and dinner. Sits right next to the 7th Street and Broadway Route 66 terminus.
- Taix French Restaurant (1911 Sunset Boulevard) in Los Angeles – A long-time family owned- traditional French restaurant serving French classics like pâté, coq au vin, quiche, steak frites, cassoulet, and frog legs. Has a more formal restaurant dining area and more casual bar dining area. The restaurant history dates back to 1927 and the present location in Echo Park dates to 1962.
- Millie’s Cafe (3524 Sunset Boulevard) in Los Angeles – This long time old-fashioned American coffee shop and eatery in the Silver Lake neighborhood dates back to 1926. It serves classic American food using high quality ingredients. Has a huge menu, best known for its breakfasts which are served all day. Very popular local restaurant. Breakfast and lunch.
- Formosa Cafe (7156 Santa Monica Boulevard) in West Hollywood – This long-time West Hollywood restaurant serves an eclectic mix of Asian inspired dishes such as hot and sour soup, pork buns, pad thai, Mongolian Chicken, and Beijing Chicken. Has a full bar. The restaurant was opened by prize fighter Jimmy Bernstein in a trolley car in 1925 and has been in its current form since 1939. It sits next door to what was the United Artists lot and later the old Warner Bros. Studio, so was a long-time popular spot for movie stars. Dinner only (except on Sundays).
- Barney’s Beanery (8447 Santa Monica Boulevard) in West Hollywood – This long-time American restaurant serves a large selection of Mexican and American dishes, including an all-day breakfast. Restaurant first opened in 1920 and is believed to be Los Angeles’ third oldest existing eatery. Quirky place with a huge menu. Also has several other locations in Southern California. All meals, including late night eats.
- Solidarity Restaurant (1414 Lincoln Boulevard) in Santa Monica – Popular Polish restaurant and bar serving hearty Polish dishes like pierogies, potato placki, kielbasa, golabki, and stews. Located in a craftsman style house with an outdoor patio. Full drink menu and sometimes has live music. Been here since 1979, previously called Warszawa Restaurant. Located 2 blocks from the Lincoln & Olympic Route 66 terminus.
- Ye Olde King’s Head (116 Santa Monica Boulevard) in Santa Monica – A popular British pub serving dishes like full English breakfasts, meat pies, fish and chips, bangers and mash, curries, fish cakes, and Sunday roasts. Also has a full bar and serve traditional afternoon teas. Since 1974. Located a couple of blocks from the Santa Monica Pier.
- The Lobster (1602 Ocean Avenue) in Santa Monica – A seafood restaurant with ocean views, serving fresh and seasonal seafood such as oysters, scallops, lobster, and local fish. Full bar. The Lobster has changed hands and been extensively renovated but has a history dating back to 1923. Sits at the corner of Ocean Avenue next to the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.
Lodging Recommendations for Santa Monica, CA
You have a lot of options in Santa Monica or Los Angeles but we’ve focused on those options close to the Santa Monica Pier. Note that parking space is limited and parking fees normally range between $25 to $45 per night at most hotels and parking structures in this area. Los Angeles is not the most RV friendly place but you can find RV spots with hook-ups in Malibu and even in Hollywood!
- The Georgian – A historical luxury ocean front 4-star hotel from 1933 that has Art Deco details and an on-site restaurant, bar and fitness center. Conveniently located just a 10 minute walk from the Santa Monica pier and many rooms have ocean views. Private parking on-site but there is an extra fee. A great end of the trip splurge.
- Casa del Mar – A 5-star luxury beachfront hotel that features 2 restaurants, a spa, a pool, and a hot tub. Some rooms have ocean views. It is a 5 minute walk to the Santa Monica Pier. Private parking available on-site but there is an extra fee. Another great end of the trip splurge.
- Gateway Hotel Santa Monica – A well-reviewed 3-star hotel with comfortable rooms and a fitness center. Parking is normally free but must be booked in advance. About 2 miles from the pier. A very good value stay for this area!
- Ocean View Hotel – A well-rated 3-star hotel near the ocean. Some rooms feature private balconies and ocean views. A few minute walk from the beach and Santa Monica Pier. Private parking available at an extra fee.
- Ocean Park Hotel – A basic well-reviewed hotel that offers budget priced rooms. Some rooms have shared bathrooms. Rates includes free on-site parking. Located about 3 miles from Santa Monica Pier. A great option for those on a tight budget.
- Hostelling International – Santa Monica Hostel – A well-reviewed hostel offering dormitory style accommodation with included continental breakfast. Well located with a short walk from beach and pier. No parking available on site. Another good option for those on a tight budget.
- Camper Recs: Malibu Beach RV Park (about 15 miles west in Malibu), Dockweiler RV Park (about 15 miles southeast in Playa Del Rey), and Hollywood RV Park (about 20 miles north in Van Nuys).
So that is the end of our Route 66 itinerary! We hope that you have found this helpful in planning your own Route 66 road trip.
Are you interested in driving Route 66? Which spots on the Route 66 itinerary are most interesting to you? If you have driven Route 66 or some section of it, we’d love to hear about your own experience and any favorite spots along the route. If you are planning your own Route 66 trip and have questions about Route 66 or traveling within the USA, we’re happy to try to help. Just leave any questions or comments in the Comments section below!