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.
56 South Maranatha Avenue, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
As you drive through Missouri, there's a couple must-eat places once you hit St. Louis, including the classic 60-year old Eat-Rite Diner, which is like stepping back in time. Afterwards, polish off your meal with dessert at another Route 66 icon, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another New Mexico highlight along Route 66 is the small town of Santa Rosa, home to the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa. This deep azure-hued diving hole is a favorite local swimming spot, and it's absolutely worth a stop to take a dip, especially if you're braving the Mother Road in July or August. If you're a serious diver, this is one of America's most popular dive destinations. Then, once you've toweled off, visit the Silver Moon Cafe in town for some of the best pancakes of your life.
If you're still hungry, Route 66 takes you right through Albuquerque, so plan on a pitstop at the 66 Diner in the city.
The historic El Rancho Hotel and Motel in Gallup, built by Joe Massaglia in 1936 has been featured in loads of Hollywood movies. The Western-style hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and features wagon-wheel headboards and suites named after famous Hollywood Western stars. Even if you don't spend the night here, at least pull over to check out their epic lodge-inspired lobby, which has loads of antiques and Native American decorations. The onsite restaurant also makes a delicious enchilada and tasty margarita.
Your next major stop is Seligman. At just 6.4 square miles, and boasting a population of only a little over 450 people, 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. Many Route 66'ers claim Seligman is a major culinary highlight along the route as well. It's eclectic, quirky personality shines through from Delgadillos Snow Cap Drive-in to the Historic Route 66 General Store, and the ridiculously quirky Rusty Bolt store.
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.