The Ultimate Route 66 Road Trip

The ultimate guide to seeing the best of Route 66 in one week.

  • 36
  • 54:02
  • 3,504 mi
  • $582
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Created by Cindy Granger - June 4th 2017

Route 66, and its 2,500 miles, is known affectionately as "The Mother Road." It's the quintessential cross-country road trip experience. From Chicago through the beating heart of America and down to Los Angeles, the route officially ends at the Santa Monica Pier. The road reached peak popularity in the late 40's and early 50's before being officially removed from the US Highway System in 1985. After a few years, travelers from America and beyond started feeling tinges of nostalgia, and by the end of the 1980's it was fast becoming one of the most popular road trip routes once more.

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1312mi 18h 23m
Photo of Murals of Cuba, MO
3.8

112 N Filmore St, Cuba, MO, US

Murals of Cuba, MO

1

Another Missouri town that will make you feel like you're traveling back in time is Cuba, and while there, you should tour the Murals of Cuba, which take you on an artistic journey through the rich history of the area.

2
137mi 02h 10m

4872 N Farm Rd 125, Springfield, MO, US

Fantastic Caverns

2

If you want a break from driving, pull over at the Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, and explore the world that exists underneath Route 66. It's North America's only completely ride-through cave tour, and it's absolutely worth the 55 minute tram ride.

3
23mi 00h 27m
Photo of Gary's Gay Parita
4.7

21118 Old 66, Ash Grove, MO, US

Gary's Gay Parita

3

Your last Missouri stop should be at Gary's Gay Parita in Ash Grove: it's a verifiable Route 66 icon. As Gary says, “Folks from all over the world say it’s the dream of their life to travel Historic Route 66. It’s the dream of my life to meet those folks.” Owner Gary Turner loves the Mother Road and the people on it so much that he recreated a little retro Sinclair gas station, and spends his days welcoming travelers with a soda and great conversation.

4
68mi 01h 08m

119 N Main St, Galena, KS, US

Cars on the Route

4

Next up: Kansas! The Kansas section of Route 66 isn't what you'd call "lengthy", by any means. In fact, it's just 14 miles, but it's absolutely worth a visit. If you're coming in from Joplin, MO heading west, your first stop should be Galena, at the restored Kan-O-Tex service station now called "Cars on the Route". There are little snacks and sandwiches for sale, as well as antiques and Route 66 memorabilia. As part of their vision to connect visitors with the town, many of the items for sale are made by local craftspeople and artists. And what Route 66 service station would be complete without an old truck made to look like “Tow Mater,” from the Disney/Pixar film Cars?

5
47mi 00h 48m

319 E Illinois Ave, Vinita, OK, US

Clanton's Cafe

5

When you're hungry, head to Clanton's Cafe in Vinita, OK. This retro Route 66 restaurant is best-known for its breakfast, local cuisine, which includes their world-famous chicken fried steak and calf fries.

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47mi 00h 47m
Photo of Blue Whale of Catoosa
4.1

2680 N Highway 66, Catoosa, OK, US

Blue Whale of Catoosa

6

One of the most popular roadside attractions along Route 66 is the Blue Whale of Catoosa, built by Hugh Davis in the early 1970s. He built the massive blue whale as a surprise anniversary gift for his wife Zelta, who loved whales and collected whale figurines. The whale has certainly seen better days, but it's a very cool stop. Take time to wander around the abandoned ruins of this famed roadside wonder, and have a picnic at one of the picnic tables. If you're lucky, the tamale wagon will be open and you can grab a tasty snack.

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65mi 01h 02m

114 W Main St, Stroud, OK, US

Rock Cafe

7

The historic Rock Cafe in Stroud is another iconic Route 66 stop. It also has a deep connection to the movie "Cars" and it was also featured on the show "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives." It's famous for its mouthwateringly golden-brown chicken-fried steak, and if you're in the mood for something sweet, try their Diet Doctor Pepper float.

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13mi 00h 16m
Photo of Lincoln Motel
3.0

740 E 1st St, Chandler, OK, US

Lincoln Motel

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8

Oklahoma also has its share of retro Route 66 hotels (notable today for their vintage signage). A few of the more famous ones along the route are the Desert Hills Motel in Tulsa, the Skyliner Motel in Stroud, and the Lincoln Motel in Chandler.

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28mi 00h 31m

660 W Hwy 66, Arcadia, OK, US

POPS Soda Ranch

9

After all that driving, you're probably thirsty. Head over to POPS Soda Ranch in Arcadia. This is a landmark gas station and diner, but the real draw here is the hundreds of sodas they offer. Plus, there's a massive 66-ft tall soda bottle out front for a great photo-op.

10
85mi 01h 20m
Photo of Lucille's Famous Rt. 66 Gas Station
3.6

Old Route 66, Hydro, OK, US

Lucille's Famous Rt. 66 Gas Station

10

Also, get a photo in front of Lucille's Famous Rt. 66 Gas Station in Hydro, OK. This historic two-story gas station was built by Carl Ditmore in 1929 in a very rural area... in fact the area is still very rural, but there's a nearby stream where locals go to find fossils and arrowheads.

11
18mi 00h 18m

I-40 Exit 62, Clinton, OK, US

Jiggs Smoke House

11

If you've had your fill of chicken-fried steak, and are in the mood for some good barbecue, head to Jiggs Smoke House in Clinton. It's a Route 66 road food icon, and one of the most famous BBQ joints on the Mother Road.

12
86mi 01h 18m

101 E. 12th Street, Shamrock, TX, US

Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café

12

On to Texas! The Lone Star state still has about 150 miles of Route 66 road still remaining, and it all closely parallels Interstate 40, so it's easy to hop on and off the patches of Mother Road. A few highlights include Shamrock, Texas, which is home to the Conoco Tower. This once-bustling stop along the route remains a great place to take pictures to this day. Of all the gas stations, open or closed, in America, this may be one of the most stunning. It’s just a hop, skip, and jump off I-40, so you really have no excuse not to stop and see this roadside classic. While you’re in Shamrock, also hit up their very own Blarney Stone.

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20mi 00h 20m
Photo of Phillips 66 on the Route
3.4

219 Gray St, McLean, TX, US

Phillips 66 on the Route

13

Another great little Texas town to visit is McLean. Here you can stop at the Phillips 66 on the Route, a vintage 1928 gas service station that was designed in what was known as "Cottage Fashion," because it resembled a little country cottage. Adorable!

14
96mi 01h 34m
Photo of Palo Duro Canyon State Park
4.5

11450 Park Road 5, Canyon, TX, US

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

14

Get your nature kicks on Route 66 at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This is America's second largest canyon, and it only costs $5 to enter. You can easily drive the length of the park and pull over for some scenic overlooks. There's also a sizeable campground in the park.

15
28mi 00h 34m

7701 E I-40, Amarillo, TX, US

The Big Texan Steak Ranch

15

No Route 66 trip through Texas would be complete without a big Texan-style meal. Do yourself a favor and head to The Big Texan Steak Ranch. It's a Route 66 legend with its 72oz steak challenge, which began way back in 1962. Just a couple years after owner Bob Lee opened the doors he noticed the influx of hungry cowboys on their paydays looking to down some hearty steaks. One Friday in 1962 he set up an eating contest to see who could eat the most one-pound steaks in an hour. After one cowboy downed 72oz worth of steak (along with a salad, a shrimp cocktail, and a baked potato) Lee declared that anyone who could eat that much steak in an hour gets it for free... and so a legend was born.

16
7mi 00h 10m

2906 SW 6th Ave, Amarillo, TX, US

Golden Light Cantina

16

When you're ready for a cold beer and some good tunes, visit the Golden Light Cantina in Amarillo. It's a fantastic little roadhouse that serves up burgers and beers, and also frequently has swinging live music.

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47mi 00h 46m

305 W Historic Rt 66, Adrian, TX, US

MidPoint Cafe

17

Once you reach Adrian, Texas, pat yourself on the back: you've made it to the middle of Route 66! You'll know you've arrived once you see the MidPoint Cafe, a vintage-style roadside diner, with lots of photo-ops to commemorate your journey down the Mother Road.

18
62mi 00h 58m

1202 E Rt 66 Blvd, Tucumcari, NM, US

Del's Restaurant

18

Next up is New Mexico! There are about 465 miles of historic Route 66 that run through the state, though in recent years a few of those miles have disappeared. However, there's still plenty of old-school road to drive along, and so many charming communities along the way to visit. There are tons of classic Route 66 places to see, including fully-functioning historic motels, diners and classic roadside attractions. A few of the notable Route 66 cities you'll pass through include Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Gallup. Enjoy a meal at historic 66 hotspot, Del's Restaurant in Tucumcari, where a cow gracefully adorns the sign above the diner.

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0mi 00h 00m

924 E Tucumcari Blvd, Tucumcari, NM, US

Tee Pee Curios

19

In fact, you should plan on spending at least a whole day in Tucumcari. The entire town feels like you've stepped back in time. The people are salt-of-the-earth, friendly and passionate. They believe in Tucumcari and are fighting for it, so this great Route 66 town doesn't go the way of so many others in the wake of the highway system. Tucumcari is also home to the Tee Pee Curios, a quirky little gift shop. Or you can hit up the Sand Hills Curiosity Shop for some great taxidermy and other antiques.

Best time of year to travel along Route 66: The best time to road trip down Route 66 is between late April and early July, as well as late August through late October. The worst times to visit would be July and August, this is when the temperature is sweltering and all the kids are out of school, which means you'll come across some crowds along the route. In addition, July and August is considered high season, so you're going to be paying higher rates for lodging.