The Ultimate Route 66 Road Trip

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Route 66 Printed on Road / Image Credit: Pixabay

Route 66, also known as the “Main Street of America,” is one of the most iconic and historic highways in the United States. Running from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, it spans over 2,400 miles. It offers a journey through America’s heartland, showcasing the country’s beauty, diversity, and culture. A road trip on Route 66 is a bucket-list adventure that offers a mix of nostalgia, natural beauty, and unique experiences. Here are some of the top destinations to visit on a Route 66 road trip.

Chicago, Illinois

The starting point of Route 66, Chicago offers a plethora of attractions, including the Navy Pier, Willis Tower, and Millennium Park. Visit the iconic “Route 66 Begin” sign located at Adams Street and Michigan Avenue before heading out on your adventure.

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri, USA downtown cityscape on the Mississippi River at twilight. / Image Credit: Sean Pavone/Getty Images

This midwestern city is home to the famous Gateway Arch, a 630-foot monument symbolizing the westward expansion of the United States. Other notable attractions include the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and the City Museum, a unique art museum and playground for all ages.

Springfield, Illinois

Looking for something more “presidential”? Springfield is where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked before becoming President of the United States. Visitors can tour the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City offers a mix of urban and natural attractions. Visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, which commemorates the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and explore the city’s thriving arts and culinary scene.

Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch  / Image Credit: Pixabay

Known for its famous Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo is a gateway to the Texas Panhandle. Visit the Big Texan Steak Ranch for a famous 72-ounce steak challenge or explore the city’s historic downtown district. No matter what you choose, Amarillo has something for everyone.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Located in the heart of New Mexico, Albuquerque offers a unique blend of Native American, Spanish, and Mexican cultures. Visitors can explore the Old Town district, ride the Sandia Peak Tramway for stunning views of the surrounding mountains, or visit the International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot air balloon festival in the world!

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Brown Valley / Image Credit: Josh Sorenson

Although not directly on Route 66, a detour to the Grand Canyon is a must-see for any road trip in the Southwest. One of the world’s most breathtaking natural wonders, the Grand Canyon offers stunning views, hiking trails, and outdoor activities.

Flagstaff, Arizona

This mountain town is home to Northern Arizona University and the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was first discovered. Visitors can also explore the historic downtown district and nearby national parks, including the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is known for its adobe architecture, vibrant arts scene, and Native American history. Visit the Santa Fe Plaza, the Palace of the Governors, and the Museum of International Folk Art. If you love art and culture, Santa Fe is for you!

Santa Monica, California

White Wooden Lifeguard Stand / Image Credit: Wolfram K

At the end of the Route 66 journey, we come to Santa Monica. Santa Monica is a vibrant beach city located just west of Los Angeles. Visitors can stroll the iconic Santa Monica Pier, explore the beach boardwalk, or relax on the beach and soak up the California sun. Who doesn’t want to end a road trip at the beach?

Roadside Attractions

In addition to these top destinations, Route 66 also offers a range of unique roadside attractions and historic landmarks. From the “World’s Largest Rocking Chair” in Fanning, Missouri to the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma, there are countless opportunities to snap a photo and make memories along the way.

Route 66 also offers a glimpse into the history of the United States. Roadtrippers can find Route 66 signs, old motels, and diners that have been around for decades, as well as preserved gas stations and auto-repair shops that harken back to the early days of automobile travel.

One of the joys of a Route 66 road trip is the freedom to explore at your own pace. Take the time to stop and chat with locals, sample the regional cuisine, and soak up the unique sights and sounds of each town and city along the way. You may even stumble upon hidden gems that aren’t listed in the guidebooks.

When planning your Route 66 road trip, it’s important to keep in mind that the highway has undergone many changes over the years. Some stretches of the road have been replaced by newer highways, and some towns and attractions have closed or moved. However, the enduring spirit of Route 66 lives on, and with a bit of planning and flexibility, you can create an unforgettable journey that captures the essence of America’s heartland.