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Get your kicks on Route 66!

The 11th November 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of the legendary Route 66, the ultimate American road trip. Whilst other roads throughout the U.S have come before it, covered more land and experienced more traffic, there is no road more recognised, than Route 66. No other route has managed to capture the spirit of the American dream quite so well, and 90 years on, the traditional service stations and kitsch landmarks which once dominated the highway, have now become deep-rooted in today’s culture. So in honour of the 90th anniversary of ‘The Mother Road’, we have decided to dedicate this blog post to the one and only, Route 66…

Gemma Written by: Gemma Walsh / 11 November 2016

The History

Opened in 1926, Route 66 connected Chicago with the West Coast with 2,448 miles of tarmac spanning across eight states and three time zones. Route 66 was the first highway of its kind, acting as an ‘artery’ connecting rural America to the big city lights. Route 66 became popular during the Great Depression, providing an escape route for thousands of Dust Bowl migrants who were forced to flee their homes and set off in their old jalopies in hope of seeking out a better life in California. Route 66 symbolises the quintessential American dream, a pathway to better times and the freedom of the open the road, which are just some of the reasons that make this ‘road of dreams’ such a sought after fly-drive adventure.

Even though Route 66 was eventually decommissioned in 1985, its spirit has always lived on with many of the towns along the way preserving their Route 66 heritage. Today the route has never been more alive with people coming from all over the world to get their ‘kicks’. Route 66 is certainly a nostalgic ride with old-fashioned motels, gas stations and diners around every corner, all still frozen in time with their original neon signs and kitsch décor, giving you a feel of what life on the open road was like in the 1930s. So whether you’re climbing in your Mustang, hopping on your Harley Davidson or riding in the cab of your motorhome, expect a hefty dose of pure Americana wherever you go.

Things To Look Out For

The USA is known for its wide assortment of wacky roadside attractions and Route 66 is home to some of the oldest and undoubtedly some of the most bizarre of them all, here’s a selection of some of the most weird and wonderful…

Grant Park

Route 66 officially starts at the edge of Grant Park, Chicago which makes it a great first stop on your Route 66 voyage. Chicago is about as quintessentially American as it gets and sits on the beautiful Lake Michigan which is also well worth a visit.
Muffler Men

Muffler Men

On your Route 66 travels, you’ll probably pass by numerous giant fiberglass statues. These statues were created to draw in passers-by in the 1960s. Many stood outside service stations and held various car parts such as mufflers which is where they got their name - ‘Muffler Men’.
Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch

Of all the weird and wonderful attractions along the Mother Road this is one of the most famous. Found in Amarillo, Texas, this is Americana kitsch at its finest! Originally set up as an art installation in 1974, this is an attraction which continues to draw in hundreds of visitors daily - all encouraged to leave their mark on the spray painted Cadillacs.
World’s Largest Rocking Chair

World’s Largest Rocking Chair

Missouri is home to one of the strangest Route 66 attractions – a 13-metre-tall giant rocking chair. Why some might ask? We’re not entirely sure, but we can tell you that the structure was completed on April Fools 2008 and has been awarded the title of ‘World’s Largest Rocking Chair’ by the Guinness book of world records!
Shea Gas Station

Shea's Gas Station Museum

This family owned business started off as a Texaco gas station 64 years ago! Since then it’s been transformed into a museum full of Route 66 memorabilia and the family are now lifetime members of the Route 66 Association & Hall of Fame.
Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier

When you reach the pier it means you have reached the end of the road - Santa Monica pier officially marks the end of Route 66! And what better place to end up than a classic American boardwalk along the Californian coast.
Route 66 Diner

Where to Eat

Some of the eateries along Route 66 have been there since the very beginning and some have hardly changed at all, keeping all of their original Route 66 memorabilia, kitsch interiors and family recipes which have been passed down for generations. Here’s a selection of Route 66’s most iconic dining options…
Lou Mitchell

Lou Mitchell’s

Aptly named ‘the First Stop on the Mother Road’, Lou Mitchell’s has been around since 1923 and provides tourists with a tasty send off on their Route 66 adventures. Today Lou Mitchell’s is not only a Chicago institution, but also recognised nationally and internationally with countless awards – perfect start to any trip!
Snow Cap

Snow Cap Drive In

Kitschy American Diners are scattered all the way along Route 66 but it doesn’t get much more authentic than Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In. The Snow Cap is probably one of the wackiest, off-the-wall burger joints there is with regular visitors claiming that it’s still exactly the same as when they were kids!
Big Texan

Big Texan Steak Ranch

The phrase ‘Everything’s Bigger in Texas’ is definitely apparent in the Big Texan Steak Ranch! Serving steak dinners in an Old Western atmosphere has appealed to travellers with big appetites and a big love of beef since the 1960s. A special table in the middle is reserved for those bold enough to take on the famous 2kg steak challenge – if you eat the whole thing in under an hour you get it for free! Worth a go right?
Crown Candy

Crown Candy Kitchen

This family-run soda shop opened over 100 years ago and has been serving Route 66 travellers from the start! You can find Crown Candy Kitchen in St. Louis, Missouri which offers delicious candies, malts and meals to hungry passers-by! Sometimes you'll have to wait for a table, but luckily there’s free entertainment outside in the form of Jamaica Ray, a local artist who creates unusual sculptures and plays the steal drums.
Blue Swallow

Where to Stay - Blue Swallow Motel

Lets start with Route 66's most famous motel, the Blue Swallow Motel. Some of the most cherished attractions on Route 66 are the old-fashioned motels with their flashing neon lights and kitsch vintage décor. You can still stay the night at the Blue Swallow and it remains one of the most renowned motels on route and also one of the most predominant symbols of the great American Road Trip.
Route 66 Motel

Route 66 Motel

If you’re looking for traditional, it doesn’t get much more authentic than the Route 66 Motel in the heart of Barstow, California. Stay here and take a step back in time and enjoy the sights and sounds of Route 66, dating all the way back to 1922! Expect kitsch flashing motel signs and classic Americana décor at its finest!
El Rancho

El Rancho

The El Rancho Motel provides the perfect southwest experience in the midst of America’s Wild West. The New Mexico location was a popular place to shoot old Western movies throughout the 1930s - 1940s and El Rancho provided the perfect base for Hollywood movie stars to lay there heads down between filming!
Wigwam Motel

Wigwam Motel

Route 66 is renowned for its kooky accommodation and The Wigwam Village in Holbrooke, Arizona is a prime example of that! Wigwam Villages are motels which were built throughout the USA in the early 1930s and were designed to look like traditional Native American homes. Each room is a separate cone shaped building which provide an extremely popular overnight stay on Route 66.
Route 66

    Final Thoughts

    Start your Route 66 journey in Illinois and take in the skyscrapers and rivers of Chicago before heading west to Missouri, the birthplace of Route 66. From Missouri head south-west to Oklahoma via Kansas where you will discover some of Route 66’s most famous landmarks along the way. Head onwards to Texas where you can kick your boots up and release your inner cowboy (yeehah!), continue on to Arizona where you can witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the magnificent Grand Canyon. After you’ve finished taking in the sights, journey on to Las Vegas and experience the entertainment capital of the world! You’re now at the final leg of your journey, set out through the Mojave Desert for Calico Ghost Town, California’s silver mining town, re-join Route 66 and continue through to Los Angeles where you will end up at Santa Monica pier, the official end of the road for Route 66! It really is the drive of a lifetime…

    A full Route 66 journey will take you across 2,448 miles, eight states and three time zones! We recommend around 3 weeks to complete the entire route, but remember we can tailor-make your itinerary to suit your individual needs. Check out our Historic Route 66 Fly Drive Holiday for some inspiration for your very own Route 66 voyage.

    Gemma Walsh

    Blogger Profile - Gemma Walsh

    Gemma joined My America Holiday in February 2016 after taking a a year out to travel the world. Music is a huge passion of hers and you can often find her following different music events across the globe. Her American dream would be to hire a motorhome and drive to the Black Rock Desert of Nevada to attend Burning Man festival.

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