Established in 1926, Route 66 was one of the United States’ first national highways for motor vehicles. Running east to west from Illinois to California, the Mother Road ran through eight states and served as the main route for westward migration.
The highway soon became known as the “Main Street of America,” and its popularity skyrocketed when automobile traffic increased after World War II. Immortalized in the song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946, the road became part of popular culture.
The highway was formally decommissioned in 1985, but the culture of the road and those who traveled on it persists today, thanks in large part to preservation efforts and the appeal of mid-century nostalgia.
With 2,448 miles of road to explore, the highway offers countless interesting Route 66 stops to visit. Thanks to extensive research, we’ve managed to compile a list of our favorite things to see on Route 66 below. From museums to historic motels to kitschy attractions to natural wonders, read on to discover some of the best stops on Route 66.
Editor’s Note: All must-see attractions on Route 66 are marked with a star (★).
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Route 66 Attractions in Illinois
1. Begin sign ★
What better place to begin your epic journey than the sign that literally reads “Begin”? There is some debate about whether the placement of the sign in downtown Chicago is correct, but regardless, it’s definitely worth a photo op.
The sign is placed up high to deter thieves, and is located at the corner of Adams St. and Michigan Ave., across the road from The Art Institute of Chicago.
2. Lou Mitchell’s
Make sure your body is properly fueled up for your road trip by paying a visit to Lou Mitchell’s. Founded in 1923 as a family diner, this breakfast and lunch spot’s current location has preserved its neon sign from 1949, in addition to many original indoor fixtures.
Upon entering this iconic establishment, breakfast diners are offered donut holes and Milk Duds to munch on while they wait for a table. But remember to leave room for classic fare like skillet eggs, fluffy pancakes, and “the world’s finest coffee.”
3. Gemini Giant ★
In the 1960s, large fiberglass figures known as Muffler Men began to pop up outside of businesses as advertising tools. Many were modeled after Paul Bunyan, but the one outside of the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant was customized to resemble a spaceman.
Named after NASA’s Project Gemini, the 28-foot Gemini Giant is a fun photo op and a vestige of the U.S. during the Space Race. Inside the Launching Pad, you’ll find a gift shop, a mini museum dedicated to Americana, and a restaurant offering hot dogs, sandwiches, and more.
4. Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum
The first of several Route 66 museums on this list, the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac lays out the history of the Mother Road in the state of Illinois. Among the museum’s thousands of artifacts and memorabilia are a bus and van that belonged to Bob Waldmire, an artist and cartographer famous for his depictions of Route 66.
Don’t forget to head to the building’s outside back wall for a photo op with the largest Route 66 shield painted mural in the world.
5. Route 66 Hotel & Conference Center
Originally built in the 1950s as a Holiday Inn, the Route 66 Hotel & Conference Center has been remodeled to incorporate a mini museum with signs, vehicles, and other artifacts to help create an authentic historic experience for guests.
Amenities here include an outdoor pool, a gaming center, and coin-operated laundry machines. For an especially relaxing stay, consider booking one of the hotel’s Jacuzzi suites.
6. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch
Built in 1993 and inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2012, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch serves as a charming and eclectic visitor center. In addition to featuring real rabbits (some of which can do tricks for guests), the roadside attraction also has a row of half-buried Volkswagen Rabbits.
Route 66 enthusiasts will appreciate the site’s replica of a classic filling station as well as its emporium of trucking and highway memorabilia.
7. World’s Largest Catsup Bottle ★
Kitsch has become a key component of Route 66 culture, and Collinsville has a great example in the form of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, located just off the route’s 1954 alignment.
Built for a catsup bottling plant in 1949, the monument is a playfully painted, 170-foot-tall water tower. Though the icon’s fate was threatened in the 1990s, a preservation group saved it from demolition and had it restored to its former glory. The bottle was even added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002—that’s definitely worth a photo stop.
8. Chain of Rocks Bridge
Spanning the Mississippi River and linking Illinois and Missouri, the original Chain of Rocks bridge is remarkable for a number of reasons—the strangest of which is that it features a 30-degree bend. The bridge officially opened in 1929 and was incorporated into Route 66 when the highway was rerouted in 1936.
The old Chain of Rocks Bridge closed to vehicles in 1968 after its sturdier replacement opened 2,000 feet upstream. The bendy bridge reopened as a bikeway in 1999 after a thorough restoration. With great views of the river, this bridge is a great spot to stretch one’s legs during a road trip on Route 66.
Route 66 Attractions in Missouri
9. Gateway Arch ★
St. Louis, Missouri
Representing the gateway to the American West for pioneers, the 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch is a must-see for Route 66 travelers. For sprawling views of the area, book a tram tour to the top of the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere.
Back on ground level is an interactive museum with free admission. Six themed exhibit areas here trace 201 years of United States history.
10. Route 66 State Park
Missouri’s Route 66 State Park features a visitor center with information about the Mother Road, but the real attraction here lies in nature.
The park offers a variety of ways to soak in the outdoors after time on the road, including four hiking and biking trails, a playground for children, and fishing spots on the Meramec River. Picnic grounds among shady trees are the perfect spot for an al fresco snack.
11. Meramec Caverns ★
Once used by members of the Osage Nation as a refuge from severe weather, Meramec Caverns were mined for saltpeter—also known as potassium nitrate, an ingredient in gunpowder—for almost 150 years starting in the 18th century.
Today, the largest cave west of the Mississippi River is open to visitors. A guided tour covers about 1.25 miles round trip and includes an LED light show.
12. Wagon Wheel Motel ★
The Wagon Wheel Motel dates back to 1935, making it one of the oldest continuously operated motels on Route 66. With its original neon sign and inviting stone architecture, it’s no wonder that this tourist court’s charm endures to this day.
With conveniences like free Wi-Fi and guest laundry, the motel is prepared for the weary traveler. A patio, outdoor seating areas, and fire pits are sure to provide a relaxing atmosphere for roadtrippers who have put in the miles.
13. World’s Second Largest Rocking Chair
Though it technically has a Cuba address, this 42-foot-tall rocking chair belongs to the unincorporated community of Fanning, MO. Installed on April Fool’s Day in 2008, this towering piece of Americana was created to break the record for the world’s largest rocking chair, only to be forced to surrender the title to a 56-foot-tall chair in Casey, IL, seven years later.
Safety measures prevent the chair from rocking back and forth, but this larger-than-life, kitschy installment still makes for a fun photo subject and receives no shortage of visitors.
14. Route 66 Car Museum
This privately owned collection is a must-see for any gearhead. Comprising nearly 70 vehicles, the Route 66 Car Museum boasts several rare and historically significant models, as well as vehicles that guests might recognize from the silver screen, such as the truck from the 1940 film, The Grapes of Wrath.
The museum’s gift shop ties the establishment back to the Mother Road, with plenty of Route 66 memorabilia in addition to vintage items available for purchase.
15. 66 Drive-In Theatre
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this drive-in opened in 1949 and still has most of its original structural elements. Remodeling efforts have resulted in a wider screen and clearer sound quality, but these improvements don’t take away from the immersive experience of a showing at a historic drive-in.
The drive-in’s season typically runs from the first weekend in April until mid-September, so make sure to set aside an evening during your summer road trip for a movie under the stars.
16. Route 66 Mural Park
Joplin became a popular stop for Route 66 travelers in the highway’s heyday. The increased tourism brought plenty of business to the city’s Main Street, and that same street now celebrates the iconic road with two large murals.
Titled Cruisin’ into Joplin and The American Ribbon, these two pieces of tile wall art provide a charming photo op for travelers passing through the town.
Route 66 Attractions in Kansas
17. Cars on the Route ★
Don’t drive past this unassuming old Kan-O-Tex service station or you’ll miss out on some fascinating history and a familiar face from a wildly popular film franchise.
Originally restored by four women from Galena, the spot’s current name is a reference to the Pixar movie Cars, whose character Tow Mater was inspired by a 1950s tow truck that sits right outside the service station. Make sure to visit the inside of the station, too, for a selection of snacks, antiques, and souvenirs.
18. Galena Mining and Historical Museum
Delve into some local history at the Galena Mining and Historical Museum, housed in an old Missouri-Kansas-Texas train depot. Inside, you’ll find artifacts, photographs, paintings, and more telling the story of Galena’s origins as the oldest mining town in Kansas.
This unique museum is staffed by three volunteers who are passionate about the town’s history, so don’t hesitate to ask them questions while you’re there.
19. Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store
This shop was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, and has been continuously operating since it opened in 1925. Much of its architecture has remained the same, including the pressed tin ceiling.
Locals and travelers alike continue to flock here for groceries, produce, deli sandwiches, coffee, flowers, handicrafts, and, of course, Route 66 memorabilia.
20. Brush Creek Bridge
Baxter Springs, Kansas
Widely known as the Rainbow Bridge, this distinctive structure was built in 1923. The bridge’s designer, James Barney Marsh, put up around 70 of these bridges in total, but today only half remain.
This rainbow arch bridge in Baxter Springs is the only one of Marsh’s design left on old Route 66. A replacement bridge has been built nearby to accommodate wider lanes of traffic, but you can still cross the original bridge via a narrow one-way road.
21. Baxter Springs Heritage Center & Museum
Baxter Springs, Kansas
Learn about the town’s storied past at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center & Museum, where exhibit subjects include the area’s Native American population, the mining boom, popularity of Route 66, and more.
There are more than 20,000 square feet of exhibitions and artifacts to explore here, and admission is free of charge.
22. Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station
Baxter Springs, Kansas
This gas station was built in 1930 by the Independent Oil and Gas company, which merged with the Phillips Petroleum Company the following year.
This station is significant because it was built in the Tudor Revival style, whose cottage-like features helped the station blend in with the surrounding residential architecture. Today, the station houses the town’s Kansas Route 66 Visitor’s Center.
Route 66 Attractions in Oklahoma
23. Dairy King
This cottage-style former gas station, originally opened in 1927, is a great place to stop for a snack and a chat. Introduce yourself to the owners and they’ll tell you all you want to hear about the history of this Oklahoma town.
Menu items here include burgers, soft-serve ice cream, and famous handmade Route 66 shield cookies. Note: Dairy King is cash-only, so make sure you have a few bills in your wallet so you can snag a sweet treat.
24. Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park ★
Located a few miles off of Route 66 is Oklahoma’s largest and oldest folk art installation. Built by Ed Galloway from 1937 to 1961, the park features intricately painted totem poles made of stone and concrete.
After you’ve admired the towering poles adorned with Native American imagery, stop by the property’s Fiddle House museum for a look at Galloway’s fiddles and other woodworking projects.
25. Blue Whale of Catoosa ★
How often does a token of love become a roadside icon? Hugh S. Davis built this 20-foot-tall, 80-foot-long blue whale as an anniversary gift for his wife, but the grinning giant has attracted visitors from far and wide since its completion in 1972.
Today, the whale and surrounding property is owned and operated by Davis’s daughter. Although swimming is no longer allowed in the lake, visitors are welcome to fish the whale’s waters.
26. The Campbell Hotel
When travelers think of lodgings on Historic Route 66, they tend to picture retro motels with glowing neon signs. The Campbell Hotel in Tulsa offers a luxurious alternative.
Constructed in 1927, the hotel’s building eventually fell into disrepair before it was acquired and redeveloped by a property management company in 2009. The boutique hotel reopened in 2011 with 26 uniquely designed rooms and amenities that include a lounge and a spa.
27. Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum
There’s no danger of accidentally driving past the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum—it’s situated next to a towering structure called the World’s Tallest Gas Pump.
Inside the adjacent museum, you’ll find vintage vehicles on loan from their owners. Housed in a decommissioned armory, the collection spans 10,000 square feet and is sure to delight car enthusiasts everywhere.
28. Rock Café ★
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Rock Café is a must-visit for a number of reasons. Firstly, the café was built in 1939 with a sandstone exterior that sets it apart from other buildings in the area. Secondly, the café’s Spaetzle, buffalo burger, and other dishes were highlighted on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Thirdly, the eatery’s owner, Dawn Welch, inspired the character of Sally Carrera in Pixar’s film, Cars. Look out for a Cars poster and other memorabilia signed by the movie’s director, John Lasseter.
29. Arcadia Round Barn
Built in 1898 by a local farmer, this distinctively shaped barn is worth a stop on Route 66. Achieved by using soaked bur oak boards forcibly shaped into curves, the barn’s cylindrical shape was meant to protect it from tornadoes, though there is no scientific evidence to support that theory.
Nevertheless, the barn still stands and a restoration was completed in 1994. The barn’s gift shop offers a variety of round barn and Route 66 merchandise, as well as collectibles and antiques.
30. Pops ★
This restaurant, convenience store, and gas station may have been built in 2007 with a futuristic look, but it still embodies the spirit of Route 66 attractions. Between an impressive wall of glass bottles arranged by color and the 66-foot-tall soda bottle outdoor sculpture covered in LED lights, Pops has plenty to catch the eye.
The restaurant serves classic diner fare, but you may want to research the menu ahead of time—there are 700 different types of soda to choose from.
31. Milk Bottle Grocery
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
This tiny building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, is well-known not for its contents, but for its outward appearance and location. Built in 1930, this 350-square-foot structure looks like a triangle made of red brick, topped with a milk bottle, plopped in the middle of a busy roadway.
The milk bottle was added in the 1940s as an advertising tool for the dairy industry. And though the building itself has housed a variety of businesses since then, the bottle has remained, becoming a roadside icon.
32. Lucille’s Roadhouse
This ’50s-style diner is named after and inspired by a now-closed gas station a few miles away on Historic Route 66. Glass bricks, polished chrome, and colorful chairs and walls help achieve a retro vibe.
The menu offers the usual diner fare, but it also features a more upmarket steak menu in addition to a bar menu with signature cocktails and 18 beers on tap.
33. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
Operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society, the state’s Route 66 museum takes visitors on a journey through time to learn about the history of the Mother Road and the cultural context in which it was built, thrived, and declined.
You may recognize the voice of the museum’s audio narration—it’s Michael Wallis, award-winning author, historian, and the voice of the Sheriff character in Pixar’s Cars.
34. National Route 66 Museum ★
Elk City, Oklahoma
Unlike state-focused institutions, the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City traces the iconic roadway from start to finish, spanning all eight states.
Murals, historical documents, roadside attractions, and other memorabilia are on display, and audio tracks playing personal accounts of individuals’ interactions with Route 66 can be heard from above.
Route 66 Attractions in Texas
35. Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café ★
Constructed in 1936, this building exemplifies art deco design elements, and originally was meant to house a café, retail store, and the Tower Conoco Station.
The building eventually fell into disrepair, but a federal grant in 2003 allowed for an extensive refurbishment that restored the exterior to its former glory. Today, the station includes a visitor center and has added modern conveniences, like a charging station for electric cars.
36. Leaning Tower of Texas
This tilting tower initially was purchased by the small town of Groom in 1980 to hold its water supply, but it didn’t quite meet regulations. Instead of demolishing the structure, Groom sold it to Ralph Britten, the owner of a truck stop. Britten painted his name on the tower and had it partially buried so it would lean at a 10-degree angle.
The brilliant marketing ploy worked wonders for Britten’s business, until an electrical fire burned the truck stop down in the 1990s. The teetering tower, however, continues to be a popular tourist photo op.
37. Big Texan Steak Ranch
Comprising a restaurant, brewery, motel, horse hotel, RV ranch, music venue, and gift shop, the Big Texan Steak Ranch is aptly named. Opened in 1960, the ranch’s biggest claim to fame is the restaurant’s 72-oz. steak challenge.
If you can consume a 72-oz. steak, shrimp cocktail, a side salad, a buttered roll, and a baked potato all within an hour without getting sick or leaving your seat, you get the $72 meal for free.
38. Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum
Recreational vehicles and road trips go hand in hand, so why not check out the evolution of RVs through the years? Jack Sisemore and his son, Trent, have been collecting and restoring vintage and unusual RVs for more than 25 years, and the fruits of their labors are parked in the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum.
Among the RVs on display here are vehicles from the ’30s through the ’70s, as well as some famous favorites like the 1948 Flxible Clipper bus from the 2006 film RV.
39. U.S. Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District
Architecture buffs won’t want to skip the 13 blocks that make up this historic district. Originally paved with gravel in 1921, this road features commercial buildings that display several architectural styles, including Art Deco, Art Moderne, and Spanish Colonial Revival.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, this stretch of road is home to Amarillo’s most intact grouping of commercial structures that have a historic connection to Route 66.
40. Cadillac Ranch ★
Undoubtedly the most famous attraction on Route 66 in Texas, Cadillac Ranch is an art installation set up in 1974. Designed by Ant Farm, an avant-garde architecture group, the site contains 10 Cadillacs half-buried in the ground, their tail fins sticking up in the air.
The Cadillacs date from 1949 to 1963, but today they’re almost unrecognizable, battered and covered in spray paint. Their scrappy appearance hasn’t stemmed the flow of tourists, however. Just make sure to document any designs you paint with a quick photo, since they’re sure to be painted over by another visitor later on.
41. MidPoint Café
Take a load off—you’re halfway there! The MidPoint Café in Adrian claims to be at the geographical halfway point between Chicago and Santa Monica on Route 66. Opened in 1928, the restaurant’s identity has changed a few times over the years, but today it embraces the spirit of the iconic American road trip.
Guests with a sweet tooth will appreciate the café’s daily selection of at least six pies, and souvenir collectors should check out the gift shop’s exclusive MidPoint merchandise.
42. Glenrio Historic District
Deaf Smith County, Texas; Quay County, New Mexico
Straddling the border with New Mexico, Glenrio started out as a modest railroad stop but thrived when it adapted to the needs of highway-goers on Historic Route 66. Unfortunately, the town suffered the same fate as many others when Interstate 40 bypassed Glenrio in 1975.
Today, Glenrio appears eerie and abandoned, but it’s still worth a visit. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, Glenrio is one the best-preserved ghost towns of its kind in the U.S.
Route 66 Attractions in New Mexico
43. Tee Pee Curios
Tucumcari, New Mexico
What began as a gas station and grocery store in the 1940s is now one of the few remaining curio shops in the state. The store was forced to surrender its gas pumps to the widening of Route 66 lanes, but it has persisted as a purveyor of souvenirs, jewelry, pottery, and more.
Sporting classic neon signage and a concrete teepee for a doorway, this curio shop welcomes shutterbugs passing through the town.
44. Blue Swallow Motel ★
Tucumcari, New Mexico
The family-owned and -operated Blue Swallow Motel is one of the most iconic lodgings on Route 66. Built in 1939 and restored in the 1990s, the motel still draws crowds thanks to its pink stucco walls and magnificent neon sign.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, the Blue Swallow Motel survived the decommissioning of Route 66 and continues to be a popular spot for roadtrippers to stop for the night.
45. New Mexico Route 66 Museum
Tucumcari, New Mexico
Located inside the Tucumcari Convention Center, the New Mexico Route 66 Museum highlights the history of the road’s presence in The Land of Enchantment.
Rotating exhibits have included photograph collections, vintage signs and gas pumps, classic cars, and more.
46. Route 66 Auto Museum
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
James “Bozo” Cordova, the owner of the Route 66 Auto Museum, has been restoring vehicles for more than 40 years. Who better to run a business dedicated to sharing classic cars with the world?
This Santa Rosa museum boasts more than 30 privately owned cars on display. After you’ve taken in the variety of vintage vehicles, make sure to stop by the snack bar and gift shop for a souvenir of your visit.
47. Blue Hole ★
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
While this site isn’t technically a roadside attraction, it’s well worth a small detour. Like an oasis in the New Mexico desert, this natural pool is the perfect spot for cooling off, especially as the water maintains a constant temperature of 62 degrees.
In addition to swimming, activities here include cliff jumping and diving. A nearby pond provides fishing opportunities as well as an inflatable obstacle course for kids.
48. 66 Diner
Albuquerque, New Mexico
From the soda fountain to the neon signs to the jukebox, everything about the 66 Diner screams “America in the 1950s,” yet this restaurant opened in 1987.
The building housed a gas station and service garage while Route 66 was still a main roadway, but its conversion to a retro diner keeps the mid-century ambiance alive. The menu features some New Mexico favorites in addition to the classic burgers, shakes, and blue plate specials.
49. Enchanted Trails RV Park & Trading Post
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Travelers making their Route 66 journey in an RV can take advantage of 115 full hook up sites, laundry facilities, free wireless internet, and more. But there’s plenty to see here even if you’re not driving an RV.
The Trading Post, built in the 1940s, sells Southwestern foods and spices, Native American crafts, and jewelry among other fun gifts. A vintage trailer exhibit features campers from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.
50. Richardson Trading Post
Gallup, New Mexico
This iconic trading post moved into a building on Gallup’s main street in the 1930s, but the company has been around since 1913. Part trading post, part pawn shop, Richardson’s is bursting with merchandise, such as jewelry, firearms, pottery, dolls, and much more.
Don’t forget to peruse the shop’s rug room, which boasts thousands of Navajo rugs.
Route 66 Attractions in Arizona
51. Petrified Forest National Park ★
Apache and Navajo Counties, Arizona
Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona has the distinction of being the only national park in the United States to harbor a section of the old Route 66. There’s no more magnificent spot to stretch your legs on a detour from the interstate.
The petrified wood is the result of forests being covered in volcanic ash more than 200 million years ago. Crystallized logs, the Painted Desert, and more can be admired from a number of hiking trails.
52. Jack Rabbit Trading Post
Joseph City, Arizona
In 1949, Jim Taylor made the move to Joseph City after buying a building on Route 66. A large statue of a rabbit in his convertible car got a lot of attention on the drive over, so Taylor installed it outside his business. People have been photographing his statue, trading post, and famous “Here It Is” sign ever since.
A different family owns the business now, but they’re still dedicated to the upkeep of the souvenir shop and its jumpy mascot.
53. Standin’ on the Corner Park
In Route 66’s heyday, Winslow was a prominent town that hosted tourists and celebrities aplenty. When I-40 drew all the traffic away from the historic roadway, business took a major turn for the worse. A single line in a song by the Eagles would prove to be Winslow’s saving grace.
In 1999, the Standin’ on the Corner Park opened as an homage to the song Take it Easy, which includes a mention of Winslow. Thousands of visitors travel to Winslow every year to see the park’s mural and statues that celebrate Route 66 and the band that helped revive the town.
54. Meteor Crater ★
Consider a brief detour from old Route 66 to see one of the best-preserved meteorite impact sites in the world. Part of the Meteor Crater & Barringer Space Museum, the crater is 550 feet deep and nearly a mile wide, created by a 150-foot-wide meteorite hurtling to Earth more than 50,000 years ago.
The Meteor Crater Visitor Center provides the option of indoor and outdoor viewing as well as self-guided trails and guided tours. Both educational and exciting, this outing will appeal to the whole family.
55. Ash Fork Route 66 Museum
Ash Fork, Arizona
Managed by the Ash Fork Historical Society, the Ash Fork Route 66 Museum has a mom-and-pop feel and is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers who are happy to answer any questions they can.
In addition to Route 66 history, topics addressed in exhibits here include Ash Fork’s industries, such as ranching and flagstone cutting (look out for the town’s welcome sign as you drive in—it proclaims Ash Fork to be the flagstone capital of the U.S.).
56. Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In ★
In 1953, Juan Delgadillo and his family opened the Snow Cap Drive-In on Route 66 in Seligman. Built mostly out of scrap lumber, this restaurant and souvenir shop’s enduring quirks and kitsch continue to draw tourists.
Once you’ve perused a menu with cheeky items like “Dead Chicken” and “Cheeseburger with Cheese,” check out the walls covered in business cards, messages, foreign money, and other tokens from visitors around the world.
57. El Trovatore Motel
Opened in 1937 as a gas station, El Trovatore Motel joined the ranks of Route 66 accommodations when it added a tourist court to its property in 1939. Large neon signage and a majestic backdrop courtesy of the Hualapai Mountains add to the classic American motel experience.
Subjects of the themed rooms here include icons like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elvis Presley. And, as if it needed more personality, the motel has its own song, too.
58. Wild Burros
This tiny village in the Black Mountains of Arizona was a booming mining town in the late 19th and early 20th century. But after mining operations were shut down in World War II and a new Route 66 alignment bypassed the community in the 1950s, Oatman almost emptied out entirely.
Today, nearby casinos, Route 66 nostalgia, and Wild West lore bring in the tourists. The most popular attraction, however, is the wild burros that roam the area, hoping to charm some food off of visitors.
Route 66 Attractions in California
59. Roy’s Motel & Café ★
This postcard pitstop was in danger of being abandoned as Amboy inched closer and closer to becoming a ghost town. Fortunately, a private preservationist bought the whole town in 2005, and restoration efforts have been underway ever since.
The motel is still closed, but the gas station and coffee shop are open for business. The property’s biggest draw is its often-photographed signage, whose neon was recently repaired.
60. Amboy Crater
Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973, the Amboy Crater is 250 feet high and 1,500 feet in diameter. Formed of ash and cinders, this volcanic cone is particularly significant because of its symmetry.
Take advantage of the hiking trails here to stretch your legs in a majestic desert setting. But be warned: The trail up to the rim is a steep one.
61. Route 66 Mother Road Museum
This Route 66 museum is located inside the Barstow Harvey House, which was built in 1911 and originally served as a hotel and railroad depot.
Exhibits and displays track the development of railroads, pioneer trails, the automotive industry, and of course, Route 66 itself. Numerous artifacts and photographs help visitors grasp the history of the Mojave Desert communities.
62. Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch ★
Oro Grande, California
A forest in the Mojave Desert is unexpected, but even more unexpected is a forest made of glass. Elmer Long inherited an impressive collection of empty glass bottles from his father, and in 2000, he made his first bottle tree. Some 20 years later, his bottle ranch is around 200 trees strong.
Long passed away in 2019, and the future of the ranch currently hangs in the balance. Visitors, however, still can take photos from the forest’s perimeter and listen to the unique sound of wind blowing through the glass.
63. Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Café
This beloved eatery has been serving up homestyle cooking since it was established in 1947. Open for breakfast and lunch, the café has developed a loyal following despite its remote location.
As well as being profiled on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Emma Jean’s makes a brief appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s film, Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
64. California Route 66 Museum
Victorville’s take on a Route 66 museum presents an interactive approach. Settings include a Volkswagen bus and a ‘50s diner. Photo opportunities abound across the 4,500 square feet of floor space.
A selection of vintage cars is on display outside the museum, and, of course, a library and the ubiquitous gift shop are at the ready with Route 66 merchandise.
65. Wigwam Motel
San Bernardino, California
One of the most memorable Route 66 motels is, unsurprisingly, one of the kitschiest. Opened in 1949, the Wigwam Motel features 19 cabins shaped like concrete teepees (not wigwams). The man behind the hotel opened seven locations in his lifetime; the San Bernardino location is one of three remaining.
Guests enjoy refurbished interiors, free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool, and room-side parking. An on-site gift shop sells souvenirs.
66. End of the Trail ★
Santa Monica, California
Like the road’s beginning point, the location of Route 66’s official endpoint has been hotly debated. The original alignment’s endpoint was at 7th St. and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, and the highway’s subsequent expansion put the terminus at the intersection of Lincoln and Olympic boulevards in Santa Monica.
The Mother Road’s symbolic end, however, is much more scenic. An “End of the Trail” sign is situated on the bustling Santa Monica Pier. Many westward travelers who drove down this historic highway finished their trek with a visit to the coast, so though this sign is symbolic, it still embodies the spirit of the road.
Map of Route 66
FAQ – Route 66 Facts
1. What States Does Route 66 Go Through?
Route 66 goes through eight states and three time zones. The states that the Mother Road runs through are: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
2. How Long is Route 66?
Route 66 covers a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km).
3. When was Route 66 Established?
Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926 and was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System.
There you have it—66 of some of the best attractions on Route 66. Whether your interests lie in history, nature, or goofy roadside attractions, there’s something for everyone on this historic highway. No matter where you stop, you’ll be participating in the tradition of the American road trip.