Seligman is the little town that could. At just 6.4 square miles, and boasting a population of only 456, it's become a legendary Route 66 town, welcoming multitudes of visitors from around the world every year. And, seriously, when you drive through the town it feels like you've been transported back in time. Seligman's Main Street is lined with historic locally-owned businesses that, against all odds, have withstood the test of time.
Located in the heart of the Northern Arizona high desert. Beautiful, but unforgiving. Seligman occupies a very cozy enclave surrounded by mountains in the east, desert in the west, and to the north, the Grand Canyon. Originally, the area was the homeland of the Havasupai peoples, and in fact Seligman was originally a Havasupai settlement. The town was located along the historic Beale's Wagon Road, and was a stage stop along the Mojave Road. You could say Seligman was always a popular travelers pitstop.
Seligman, Arizona was founded in 1895 when the Peavine Railroad rolled through the town, the commercial epicenter of Northern Yavapai County. During the early 20th century, the Old Trails Highway, arguably America's first transcontinental road, went right through Seligman. Then, with the establishment of Route 66 in 1926, Seligman became a very popular spot for cross-country roadtrippers. However, after 1933 Route 66 bypassed Main Street and the route was relegated to just Chino Street. It was recorded that over 500,000 out-of-state cars passed through the Arizona portion of Route 66 in 1937. World War II would disrupt road travel for a time, but only to see it come back with a vengeance after 1945, when returning servicemen and economic success drew more and more people to the Mother Road, with Route 66 being a premiere tourist destination. Neon signs, massive fiberglass roadside statues and exciting signage (Tucumcari Tonite!) lured road travelers to visiting towns along the route. Sadly, in 1978 I-40 opened up and towns like Seligman were bypassed in favor of faster interstate travel. Route 66's heyday was over.
But, the Seligman Commercial Historic District, refused to give up. Unlike some other towns along historic Route 66, which over the years have seen countless businesses shutter, Seligman fought back. The town retained its historic charm, maintaining the early 20th century buildings that line Main Street, Railroad Avenue and Chino Street. Visitors today can still experience what life at least looked like, back in the day, and enjoy roadside architectural style that's so unique to towns along Route 66. And throughout the town you'll see old-timey cars parked in front of businesses, these make for great photo ops.
In 1894 passenger trains stopped serving Seligman, and now only freight trains and nonstop Amtrak trains roll through the town. From 1926 through 1978, Seligman was a popular stop along Route 66, until, as mentioned, I-40 was constructed a mere two miles south. Some of the historic buildings that are still standing include the 1903 Post Office, Pioneer Hall and Theater, Pitts General Merchandise Store, the 1905 Seligman Garage, and the 1923 Seligman Pool Hall.
Local residents petitioned the State of Arizona to name Seligman the "Birthplace of Historic Route 66," arguing that the town is the first stop West along the "longest uninterrupted stretch of historic route 66." According to showrunner, John Lasseter, "Radiator Springs", the fictional key location in the hugely-successful Pixar animated film Cars, was "loosely base on Seligman."
Many Route 66'ers claim Seligman is a major highlight along the route. It's eclectic, quirky personality shines through from Delgadillos Snow Cap Drive-in to Historic Route 66 General Store and The Rusty Bolt. The Seligman Historic District also still retains a sizable collection of auto-related and railroad-related architecture.
Located directly along Route 66, Seligman is also a popular spot to take a detour to the Grand Canyon via I-40. Here's a trip along historic Route 66 from Williams, Arizona to Kingman, Arizona via Seligman.
Best time to visit
Every Spring Seligman starts to get pretty busy, from the annual 3-day Route 66 Fun Run, to the many, many other road rallies that motor through town from Spring through Fall. But, the Fun Run is legitimately a party that stretches 150-miles and boasts hundreds of classic cars and trucks. With that said, Seligman is pretty hot from July through August, and starts to get cooler in September. Also, it's very popular in the summer, so you'll definitely have crowds to contend with in the tiny town. April, May, beginning of June, and September and October are prime times to visit when the weather is great and the crowds aren't too bad.
What makes Seligman such a tough cookie of a town is that, unlike so many other railroad towns that were simply abandoned and forgotten with the rise of the interstate highway system and alternative transportation modes, Seligman, however, stayed alive. The locals heartily took advantage of having the Mother Road (aka Route 66) route directly through the town's Main Street, by setting up cafes, bars, and shops to entice road travelers to pull over and hang out for a while.
Read More: NPS.gov