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, the route officially ends at the Santa Monica Pier. The road reached peak popularity in the late 1940s and early '50s before being officially removed from the U.S. Highway System in 1985. After a few years, travelers from around the country and beyond started feeling tinges of nostalgia, and by the end of the 1980s it was once again becoming one of the most popular road trip routes.
Looking for more tips for your Route 66 trip? We've got you covered.
Whether you call it the starting or ending point of the Mother Road, the Santa Monica Pier is the perfect spot to stretch your legs or snap photos of the ocean before embarking on a 2,000-mile trip east. Sure it’s touristy, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a ride on the 1922 carousel or grabbing something sweet from the soda fountain. From the roller coaster and Ferris wheel to the arcade and the sign noting that it is the official end of Route 66, there's tons of fun to be had here.
This is your last chance to sleep in an iconic Wigwam Village along Route 66, so don’t pass it up. Number 7 was built by Frank Redford, creator of the Wigwam Villages.
If Oatman and its wild burros were a bit too rowdy for your taste, Calico Ghost Town might be a better bet. It's a bit touristy and maintained by the regional park system, but it has a nice campground and several old buildings to explore, including museums, shops, and restaurants.
Roy's is located along a desolate stretch of the Mother Road in the tiny desert town of Amboy. The motel, cafe, and gas station has appeared in numerous movies and is one of the best photo ops along the entire route. The iconic neon sign has recently been restored so it looks great day or night.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a ghost town more real—or more alive—than Oatman. Located at the edge of Arizona on Route 66 and perched 2,700 feet above sea level in the Black Mountains, Oatman is a strange place run by wild burros.
In 1908, gold was discovered in the Black Mountains and many prospectors flocked to Oatman to stake their claims. For the remainder of the 19th century, mining in the area steadily decreased, and in 1921, a fire ripped through town, destroying most of the buildings. I-40 bypassed Oatman in the early 1950s, and nearly a decade later, it was a virtual ghost town.
But the people of Oatman fought to survive and now the town has more than 40 shops, eateries, and other attractions including Wild West reenactments, gunslinging shows, annual bed races, a sidewalk egg fry contest, Gold Camp Days, the International Burro Bisket Toss, and a yearly book fair and bake sale.
Another classic Arizona road food stop is Mr D'z Route 66 Diner. The retro diner prides itself on its home-cooked food and family-friendly vibe. Try the chicken fried steak and wash it down with a root beer float.
When Juan and Mary Delgadillo opened the Snow Cap Drive-In on Route 66 in Seligman in 1953, they probably didn’t anticipate it becoming a worldwide tourist attraction. More than 60 years later, Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In is one of the most sought-out Route 66 destinations. Built with scrap lumber from the Santa Fe railroad yard, the Delgadillo family constructed the drive-in on an absolute shoe-string budget.
To attract travelers, Delgadillo took a 1936 Chevy, cut the top off, and decorated it with every weird paint color and doodad he could find, including a Christmas tree in the back. The plan worked and it’s still one of the most photographed pieces of Route 66 Americana.
The drive-in isn’t the only iconic Route 66 location in the Delgadillo family. Juan’s brother, Angel, made his mark on the Mother Road with his barber shop (now a gift store). Angel, affectionately known as the “guardian angel” of Route 66, founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona in 1987, a move that would quickly be imitated in other states along the route.
Grab a bite to eat at Rod's Steak House, known for its homemade rolls, steaks, and desserts. Located about an hour from Grand Canyon National Park, Rod’s has been a Route 66 icon since 1946.
The resurgence of Winslow didn’t start entirely on the corner. During the town’s heyday as a stop for steam locomotives, Fred Harvey wanted to build a landmark hotel in Winslow. With a price tag that would equal nearly $40 million today, La Posada Hotel was completed just after the stock market crash. It would only be open for 27 years, eventually having most of its fine furnishings sold at auction, but efforts to save the Winslow icon were eventually successful.
Facing the threat of demolition for several decades, the La Posada Foundation and the new owners of the property finally restored La Posada Hotel to its former glory as the Jewel of the West. The foundation changed their name to the Standin’ On the Corner Foundation and took on their next project, helping to make the now-famous park a reality.
This classic Route 66 restaurant is best-known for its homemade red and green chile sauces. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth stopping for a photo in front of the building, which features a hand-painted map of Route 66.
The historic El Rancho Hotel in Gallup was built by Joe Massaglia in 1936 and has been featured in dozens of old 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 the epic hunting lodge-inspired lobby, which is full of antiques and Native American decor. The onsite restaurant makes a delicious green chile enchilada, a tasty margarita, and the crispiest pancakes you’ll find along the route.
1405 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM, US
For an authentic Route 66 meal, make a pit stop at the 66 Diner in Albuquerque, where you can load up on burgers, fries, strawberry shakes, and the biggest banana split you've ever seen. The 66 Diner doesn't just serve authentic 1950s-style food, but goes out of its way to look the part. Retro touches include chrome tables, a jukebox loaded with period-appropriate 45 records, and wait-staff in 1950s outfits. The sundaes here are comically giant—the banana split has eight scoops of ice cream, so get it to share.
Santa Rosa is probably best known for being home to the 80-foot-deep Blue Hole, a lush oasis in the middle of the desert. With crystal clear water that remains at a perfect 62 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, it’s a popular place to dive, or for Route 66 travelers to cool off with a dip.
The iconic Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari has been open since 1939. As far as vintage neon signage goes, it doesn't get much better than the Blue Swallow's classic sign. If you can, stick around until dusk, it’s worth the wait. And there’s a reason for the classic “Tucumcari Tonite!” campaign—there’s no better place to stop for the night. Many rooms at the Blue Swallow come with their own garage, so you can stow your car, grab a lawn chair, and sit outside to bask in the glow of the iconic neon.
One of the last remaining curio shops in Tucumcari, Tee Pee Curios is not only awesome from the outside, but the inside is packed with all the Route 66 souvenirs, pottery, shirts, and jewelry you could ever want. Stop by after dark to check out the beautiful neon sign, one of only a few along this stretch that still lights up at night.
If you find yourself in need of sustenance while exploring Tucumcari, there's no better place to get a good meal than Del's Restaurant. It's got history; a friendly, small-town atmosphere; classic, home-cooked specials; and the iconic retro signage you want from a joint in Tucumcari. If you're feeling hungry, try the chicken-fried steak or a ribeye. The enchiladas offer a real taste of New Mexico. Wash it all down with a prickly pear margarita.
Once you reach Adrian, pat yourself on the back: You've made it to the midpoint 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 (half of) the Mother Road. The restaurant and gift shop claims to be located at the geographic midpoint between Los Angeles and Chicago.
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 serving up burgers and beers.
7701 E I-40, Amarillo, TX, US
Everything is bigger in Texas, so you may as well try your luck with the 72-ounce steak challenge at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. Just a few years after owner Bob Lee opened his steakhouse, he noticed an influx of hungry cowboys on payday looking to down some hearty steaks. One Friday in 1962, Lee set up an eating contest to see who could eat the most one-pound steaks in an hour. After one cowboy downed 72 ounces of steak (along with a salad, a shrimp cocktail, a roll, and a baked potato), Lee declared that anyone who could eat that much steak in an hour should get it for free. The current record-holder is Molly Schuyler, who devoured three steaks (plus sides) in just 20 minutes in 2015. The restaurant also features a shooting gallery, arcade games, a huge gift shop, and a bull statue out front.
11450 Park Road 5, Canyon, TX, US
Get your nature kicks on Route 66 at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This is the second largest canyon in the U.S. and admission is only $8. You can easily drive the length of the park and pull over for the scenic overlooks. There's a sizable campground in the park (perfect for stargazing), and several trails that traverse the bottom of the canyon offer a beautiful place to stretch your legs.