The American Highway 66, also known as the “Mother Road,” or just Route 66, is a highway from Chicago to LA.
It existed for around 50 years before it was decommissioned in 1985.
This blog post will highlight some of the most scenic spots you should visit when driving on Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Along this route are many gems: ghost towns, old mining towns, and even a few ghost mines!
The Mother Road has something for everyone; its beauty lies in its natural wonders and rich history and culture. Read the full article to learn more about what you can see along Route 66!
Travel on Route 66, Best Stops
US ROUTE 66 MAP
20 Must-Visit Places on Route 66
1. Lou Mitchell’s Café (Take breakfast there before starting Route 66)
The starting point for Route 66 is at the “Buckingham Fountain” in Chicago, built in 1927.
It’s tradition to have breakfast or lunch at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant before starting route 66.
This restaurant is on Jackson Street and was built in 1923, and has been serving travelers who venture west on Route 66 for more than 85 years.
Check Out: Best things to do in Chicago.
2. Wilmington Gemini Giant (and take a photo next to its feet)
The “Gemini Giant” is one of the giant classics placed along many routes in the United States, including Route 66.
They are about 20 feet high (7 meters approx.) and usually have one hand with the palm up and the other with the palm down to hold some kind of tool or element.
They are known as the “Muffler Man” because they were usually placed in front of car shops and usually held the muffler of a car in their palm.
In the case of the Gemini Giant, he’s got a rocket in his hands, and he carries a scabbard as well.
It was redesigned to advertise the café, “Launching Pad,” next to the figure.
The redesign was to turn it into a kind of astronaut with a rocket in his hands.
3. Visit Pontiac, Illinois
Pontiac, Illinois, stands as a quintessential stop along the iconic Route 66, offering travelers an authentic slice of Americana and a glimpse into the golden age of American road trips.
With its rich history, vibrant murals, and dedicated Route 66 attractions like the Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum, Pontiac is a must-visit destination for roadtrippers traversing the Mother Road.
Immerse yourself in the nostalgia of classic cars, explore the town’s charming downtown, and experience the warmth of Midwestern hospitality.
Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply seeking adventure on the open road, Pontiac promises an unforgettable journey filled with endless discoveries and cherished memories along Route 66.
4. Mustang Corral from Edwardsville (and wander through the old and dusty Mustangs that are for sale)
It is a repair center for Mustangs where they also have them exposed, both old and new if you want any.
If you enter the store, you will see that they also have all the spare parts for all versions of Mustang.
I was like a fool walking next to the Mustangs in that kind of abandoned state but still retaining that dignity of such a beautiful classic car model.
5. Cuba (and observe its murals on Route 66)
It was named in honor of the island. This city was founded in 1857, and most of its inhabitants were engaged in mining or farming. At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was known as “The Land of the Big Red Apple.” In 1931 Route 66 arrived, and business grew.
The walls of Route 66 are beautifully preserved and restored in this city, so Missouri’s chamber and senate have named it “Route 66 Mural City.” It is highly recommended to take a walk around the city to see them.
6. Devil’s Elbow (and take a picture of the view and the river)
It is called the devil’s elbow because it is a closed meander where the lumber boats were jammed along the river.
It is exceptional because it is the only stretch modified to have four lanes, 2 for each direction.
7. Bonnie & Clyde’s Hideout (and walk Joplin by the way)
Famous bank robbers Bonnie & Clyde toured much of Route 66. In Joplin, they rented an apartment with a garage at 34 st, two blocks west of Main St.
The police found out and went looking for them. The result was a shootout between the gang and the police. Two policemen were killed, and the gang escaped.
In their escape, they left a camera containing the famous photos of Bonnie & Clyde playing with their weapons, which seemed more typical of a comic than real life. Unfortunately, Bonnie also lost a necklace that’s on display at the Joplin Museum.
Joplin is a typical town on Route 66, and we recommend you visit it quietly. Strolling through the historic center will allow you to see many examples of traditional buildings that symbolize this mythical American Route.
8. Banks Converted into Baxter Springs cafes
Baxter Springs is another one of the towns that fell victim to Bonnie & Clyde. Its name comes from the Reverend Baxter, who bought land and erected his house here.
In this town, they transformed old banks into restaurants and cafes in which some of the facades were later turned into murals.
They also have badges with the dates that they were stolen!
9. Catoosa Blue Whale (and lie on the lawn for a while – if you can-)
In Catoosa, you’ll see one of the icons on Route 66, and it’s a completely obligatory stop, “The Blue Whale.”
The blue whale was part of a small water park on Route 66 in the 1970s. It is in a pond and quiet environment, with some tables and benches to sit on.
It was typical for bikers to take a dip in the pond by throwing themselves from the whale. In 1980 the park was closed and left in a state of abandonment until, in 2002, it was restored by volunteers.
9. Center of the Universe in Tulsa (and listening to yourself when you speak)
Tulsa is a big city, always related to Route 66. The Center of the Universe is a very curious attraction in this city.
Its pedestrian access is a classic tourist stop and one of the “mystery points” of Route 66. However, what is especially important are the acoustic properties of the environment.
There is a point at which you stand and speak in a normal tone, not too high, and you will hear how the echo of your voice makes you sound much stronger and bulkier than the one you spoke to create the echo.
Furthermore, the people outside the circle hear nothing at all, only you hear it.
10. Bridgeport (to travel the longest stretch of Route 66)
The Bridgeport to Hydro stretch is one of the longest original stretches of Route 66 with 19 miles of concrete with its characteristic junctions that generate the typical sound of Route 66.
This segment begins just west of the Pony Bridge over the Canada River and heads west to Hydro. This section was paved with concrete from Portland in 1931, ’33, and ’34.
There are some asphalt patches, but otherwise, it’s intact. It has the original ditches and drains to help discharge rainwater.
11. Lucille Hamons Gas Station (and take a photo of your car with the gas station in the background)
It was built by Carl Ditmore in 1929, three years after Route 66 was built, half a mile south of Hydro. It had two floors; on the top floor lived the Ditmore family, and customers were served on the lower floor.
As in other bungalow designs, the upper floor covered the porch at the bottom where the pumps were. In 1934 it was acquired by W.O Waldrup and his wife, and they added 5 motel rooms. In 1941 it was traded again to Carl and Lucille Hamons.
Lucille Hamons was born in 1915 and died in 2000. She owned this service station and ran it for almost 60 years. The establishment became so well known on Route 66 that it became known directly as Lucille’s.
She became well known for her kindness and good treatment to tourists, so much so that they ended up calling her “The mother of the mother road.”
In 1997 it was registered as a national historic site, and in 1999 it received the Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame Awards.
12. Big Texas Ranch in Amarillo (and take a 72-ounce steak with everything so you don’t have to pay)
This restaurant is famous all over America because everything is huge. However, the most famous thing is the 72 Ounce Steak.
The restaurant bets you that you do not have to pay for it if you eat the entire steak with all its sides and finish it. Otherwise, it was 72 dollars, at least when I was, now it could be more.
Needless to say, finishing it is almost impossible. See, it became so famous even was featured in an episode on the Simpsons.
It used to be on Route 66 but was moved when the interstate arrived.
Mandatory stop when you travel on Route 66!
13. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo (and paint a car with colored spray)
Cadillac Ranch is an urban work of art commissioned by local representative Stanley Marsh to a group of artists who called themselves “the Ant Farm.”
Two architects founded this group in the 1960s and involved numerous artists.
Cadillac Ranch consists of 10 Cadillacs partially buried in the ground at an angle, pointing their trunks towards the sky.
The tradition is to go with a spray can and graffiti the cars. But don’t worry; it’s part of the artwork.
They are periodically repainted in base color so that they can be re-graffitied. Its current location is not the original, as it was moved when Route 66 was removed from its original route.
Some authors say it was never on Route 66, but it is a must-stop for all travelers who travel on 66.
14. Midpoint Café (and take a photo under the Midpoint sign)
It’s just the midpoint between Chicago and Los Angeles and is a popular stop for travelers on Route 66, telling you you’re halfway there.
You’re precisely halfway there. You leave behind 1139 miles (roughly 1830 km), and you have another 1139 miles left to travel ahead. So it’s a good time to stop and have a coffee or soda.
Here you have to try the famous “the ugly crust pie”! You can also buy some souvenirs from your time here.
15. Santa Fe (and tour the Turquoise Trail)
Turquoise Trail is a beautiful road that joins Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The U.S. government considers it as a National Scenic Byway. Or in other words, a tour with great views and fascinating points to see.
It is a tour with a lot of history, where you will go back in time. You will see unique towns and encounter many attractions, recreational activities, an excellent gastronomic offer, and museums, among others. There’s room for everyone.
16. Petrified Forest (and traversing fossilized logs)
It’s a visit you can’t miss: The Petrified Forest National Park. Its name suggests a national park, petrified, and stone forest.
Fossilized trees are millions of years old, which are really awesome and worth visiting.
The visit can be done in one to two hours. Once you paid the entrance fee, when we went, it was $10 per car (regardless of the number of occupants); you can enter and visit the forest in your vehicle. It’s an enjoyable visit when you travel route 66.
17. Meteor Crater (and see one of the best-preserved craters in the world)
Meteor Crater is a huge crater left by an asteroid that traveled more than 26,000 miles per hour about 50,000 years ago.
During the golden age of Route 66, an observatory was built to observe the crater from a telescope for 25 cents; today, only the ruins remain. To see the crater, you have to go to the visitor center and pay the entrance fee of $18 per adult.
You have to go south by a small road for about 20 to 25 km to get there.
18. Oatman (and wandering among donkeys as if it were the old American West)
Oatman is a mining town that has been preserved since the American West’s times. It’s a rather curious little town where donkeys roam the street without problems. You’ll see many, and they’ll come up to you to feed them something.
You have to keep an eye on what time you arrive at Oatman because from three o’clock in the afternoon and on, everything is closed.
In Oatman, you’re going to find people who emulate characters from the American West and even fictional shootings and a saloon that’s wallpapered with American dollar bills.
19. Bagdad Café (and have a coffee there)
It is one of those places with history, and it reminds you of those images that one has of Route 66 or the typically lost cafes in the middle of nowhere.
So it’s an important point to stop, eat, and take a break. It’s full of images and references to route 66.
20. Santa Monica (and take a photo under the sign of the end of Route 66)
The last point is the Santa Monica Pier and its famous arcade, symbolizing the end of Route 66. It is not the original sign, as it had to be moved with changes in the route. You can visit the Santa Monica Pier and take a dip in the Pacific waters!
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Have you traveled Route 66? What are your favorite places?
Last Updated on 15 February, 2024 by Veronica
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