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.
112 N Filmore St, Cuba, MO, US
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.
4872 N Farm Rd 125, Springfield, MO, US
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.
21118 Old 66, Ash Grove, MO, US
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.
119 N Main St, Galena, KS, US
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?
319 E Illinois Ave, Vinita, OK, US
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.
2680 N Highway 66, Catoosa, OK, US
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.
114 W Main St, Stroud, OK, US
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.
740 E 1st St, Chandler, OK, US
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.
660 W Hwy 66, Arcadia, OK, US
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.
Old Route 66, Hydro, OK, US
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.
I-40 Exit 62, Clinton, OK, US
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.
101 E. 12th Street, Shamrock, TX, US
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.
219 Gray St, McLean, TX, US
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!
11450 Park Road 5, Canyon, TX, US
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.
7701 E I-40, Amarillo, TX, US
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.
2906 SW 6th Ave, Amarillo, TX, US
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.
305 W Historic Rt 66, Adrian, TX, US
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.
1202 E Rt 66 Blvd, Tucumcari, NM, US
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.
924 E Tucumcari Blvd, Tucumcari, NM, US
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.