Exploring the Iconic Route 66
Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, holds a special place in the hearts of many Americans and international travelers alike. Spanning over 2,400 miles across eight states from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, this historic highway offers a glimpse into the past and showcases some of the most iconic and diverse sights America has to offer. Let’s embark on a virtual journey and explore 1500 miles of roadside attractions, historical landmarks, charming towns, and natural wonders that adorn the legendary Route 66.
Chicago, Illinois (Mile 0)
Starting in the bustling metropolis of Chicago, you can visit the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and Navy Pier before hitting the road. Take a photo at the “Begin Route 66” sign at Adams Street and Michigan Avenue, marking the official start of your adventure.
Joliet, Illinois (Mile 35)
Joliet is famous for the Old Joliet Prison, a historic site known for housing infamous criminals like Al Capone. You can take a guided tour of the prison and learn about its rich history.
The Gemini Giant – Wilmington, Illinois (Mile 100)
A beloved roadside attraction, the Gemini Giant stands tall outside the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant. This towering figure is an iconic symbol of Route 66’s heyday and a great photo opportunity.
St. Louis, Missouri (Mile 215)
St. Louis offers several must-see attractions, including the Gateway Arch, an iconic symbol of American westward expansion. Visit the City Museum, a unique playground for all ages, and indulge in some delicious St. Louis-style barbecue.
Meramec Caverns – Stanton, Missouri (Mile 235)
Explore the fascinating underground wonderland of Meramec Caverns, where stalactites and stalagmites create a breathtaking natural spectacle.
Route 66 Drive-In Theater – Carthage, Missouri (Mile 320)
Experience a nostalgic movie night at the Route 66 Drive-In Theater in Carthage. Relive the golden era of cinema under the stars, just like travelers did back in the day.
The Blue Whale – Catoosa, Oklahoma (Mile 375)
A quirky roadside attraction, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, is a giant blue whale-shaped structure sitting next to a pond. This whimsical spot is perfect for a quick stop and photo opportunity.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Mile 420)
Discover the vibrant city of Oklahoma City, home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, a poignant tribute to the victims of the 1995 bombing. Don’t miss the historic Stockyards City, a taste of the Old West.
Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas (Mile 560)
One of the most iconic roadside art installations, Cadillac Ranch features ten half-buried, colorfully painted Cadillac cars. Bring a can of spray paint to leave your mark on this unique piece of Americana.
Tucumcari, New Mexico (Mile 650)
Tucumcari boasts an array of well-preserved neon signs and vintage motels, reminiscent of the Route 66’s glory days. Explore the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and the Tucumcari Historical Museum.
Santa Fe, New Mexico (Mile 755)
Known for its vibrant arts scene and adobe architecture, Santa Fe is a cultural oasis. Explore the historic Plaza, visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and indulge in the city’s delectable Southwestern cuisine.
Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona (Mile 800)
Journey through time at Petrified Forest National Park, where ancient petrified wood and vibrant geological formations paint an otherworldly landscape.
Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona (Mile 930)
While not directly on Route 66, the Grand Canyon is a short detour away. Witnessing this breathtaking natural wonder is an essential part of any American road trip.
Seligman, Arizona (Mile 1130)
Seligman is the epitome of a classic Route 66 town, brimming with neon signs, vintage motels, and quirky shops. Be sure to stop by the Snow Cap Drive-In for a fun and delicious experience.
Oatman, Arizona (Mile 1225)
Experience the wild west in Oatman, where wild burros roam the streets, and visitors can step back in time to the days of gold mining.
Joshua Tree National Park – California (Mile 1425)
Venture off the Route for a visit to Joshua Tree National Park, a unique desert landscape dotted with Joshua trees and fascinating rock formations.
Santa Monica, California (Mile 2448)
Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of Route 66! Enjoy the sandy shores of Santa Monica Beach, and dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean. Don’t forget to capture the iconic “End of the Trail” sign as a keepsake of your epic journey.
Traveling the historic Route 66 is not just a road trip; it’s a pilgrimage through American history, culture, and nostalgia. From the bustling streets of Chicago to the sunny shores of Santa Monica, this legendary highway weaves its way through diverse landscapes and unforgettable landmarks. Each stop along the route tells a story of a bygone era and celebrates the spirit of adventure that has captivated travelers for generations. Whether you embark on a physical journey or simply reminisce about this storied highway, Route 66 will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of all who have had the privilege of experiencing it.