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Route 66 Guide 




Nothing says adventure like an American road trip, and the legendary Route 66 is the genuine article.

Travelling leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller - Ibn Battuta

Stretching some 2,500 miles, the ‘Mother Road’ kicks off (or ends) at gritty Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, guiding Route travellers to the ‘flip side’ - the warmth, glamour and golden sands of Santa Monica, Los Angeles. It crosses three time zones and eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. 

Technically, Route 66 no longer exists – the road was de-commissioned in 1985 when the new Interstate highways made it obsolete. Whilst, it's not actually possible to drive the entire road straight through today, much of it has been preserved as a National Scenic Byway. In many ways, this ‘archiving' makes the trip an even greater adventure – 85% is still classified as the original route.

Clearly Route 66 is a two-way street, so you can travel in either direction, but the rich history of America unfolds best when you head East to West, experiencing the road that ‘Okies’ took during The Great Depression to seek work and better lives in California and bears witness to the indelible draw of The West for almost two centuries.

So, where to start, where to stop, what to see and how best to maximize your precious time on this big American adventure?   Whilst it can be done in two weeks, you really need a full month to soak up the sights into truly memorable story-telling material!



Chicago, Illinois 

The exact starting point of Route 66 has changed over the years, but it was originally located at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue (mile zero). It's hard to miss the many markers ‘though, so if you have a couple of nights in hand, seize the opportunity to take in some of the notorious city's historic and cultural highlights. 

Whilst Chicago is rich with well-worn tourist attractions (The Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, Lincoln Park/Zoo, Wrigley Field Stadium, Garfield Park Conservatory, to name just a few). Do check out the vibrant sights and sounds of Wicker Park and Bucktown, beyond that we recommend a few quirky gems:


Kuma’s Corner  – heavy metal and hefty burgers!  Kuma’s is utterly unique in its menu, craft beers, and décor.  It’s renowned for its association with Chicago’s heavy metal music community. Be prepared to eat to the beat!

Ann Sather's  - Long established breakfast phenomenon on Belmont Ave, and the best place to bite into Chicago's world-famous cinnamon bun culture!


The Harold Washington Library – Impressive! The world's largest public library – make sure to visit the massive atrium winter gardens on ninth floor  

Myopic Books   - Milwaukee Ave.  Whilst it may seem a bit nuts going to a bookshop on a 2.5k journey, Chicago's oldest and largest used bookstore is worth the detour. It's charming and a little crazy; stack upon stack of books fill three floors.  Make time to take the time, if you can.


Palmer house – A touch of style can be found here, with an elegant blend of historic features mixed with modern amenities.



St Louis, Missouri 

Leaving Chicago in your wing mirrors, a mere 302 miles along the Illinois stretch of Route 66 (approx. 4.5 hrs drive) takes you to St Louis, Missouri. Quirky roadside diners and retail curios dot the journey, mostly reflecting the historic legacy of the Route, whilst providing some welcomed pauses along the way.

St Louis is recognized as the starting point for the settlement of the West, hence commonly referred to as the "Gateway to the West".  Reminiscent of French colonial New Orleans – it’s still home to one of America’s biggest Mardi Gras celebrations. The city maintains a distinctly ‘foreign’ flavour whilst the industrial and commercial boom of 19th Century America lends it a truly progressive US status with historically important and impressive architecture.

With its trademark 630-ft Gateway Arch, and as home to world-famous The Anheuser-Busch Brewery (the Budweiser empire), St Louis has a burgeoning nightlife, a vast raft of eateries, hotels, tourist attractions and ‘off-piste' points of interest, all providing for a stimulating stopover in the largest city along Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Some picks of St Louis southern hospitality:


1860 Saloon, Game Room & Hard Shell Cafe - St Louis’ top live blues music café, bar and restaurant nestling in the historic French neighbourhood of Soulard. Need we say more?  

4Hands Brewing Company 8th Street. A lively bar/brewery with a tasting room serving barrel-aged beers and abundance of tasty Southern 'pub' grub! 


Missouri Botanical Gardens Shaw Boulevard, St Louis – A curious preserved wooden Victorian home with a greenhouse dome and extensive gardens covering almost 80 acres, a butterfly house, and packed nature reserve.

The Beale on Broadway - S  Broadway. A unique hub of live soul, blues, R&B seven days a week, 'The Beale' delivers the essence of St Louis' very soul!




Best western route 66 rail haven – Top rated on TripAdvisor and the perfect stop to reflect on the route 66 historic memories.


Hyatt regency St Louis at the arch – The perfect place to experience high-end hospitality just steps away from the Gateway Arch.


Okay, now you’ve filled your boots with Southern hospitality, when you eventually extract yourself from the great city, rejoin Route 66 to continue westward through the stunning Ozark Mountains alongside I-44 all the way to the Springfield in South West Missouri, road signs point you toward stops from the historic to the kitsch.  If you can take the time, stop in at the Route 66 Museum and Research Centre in Lebanon to see artefacts from the heyday of the ‘Main Street of America'.  If you’re planning a night-stop, check out the quirky, award-winning Munger Moss Motel with its bonkers Route 66 themed rooms.



Oklahoma and Oklahoma City

As a Midwestern US state, Oklahoma boasts an inherent, diverse landscape featuring the Great Plains, hills, lakes and magnificent forests. The capital, Oklahoma City, is home to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, celebrating the State's pioneering history, and the Bricktown entertainment district, with a thriving dining and nightlife. 

You’ll surely pass the old round barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma, reportedly the most photographed building on Route 66 

Pick of the stops:


From Oklahoma City to Tulsa and everywhere in between, Oklahoma is an American dining paradise:

Burn Co BBQ, Boston Ave, Oklahoma City – BBQ’s what the Okies do best!

Packard’s New American Kitchen, NW 10th St, Oklahoma City - located in the original 1920’s Packard Automobile showroom on 10th and Robinson, serving an ‘infamous’ weekend brunch (including a Bloody Mary bar!) 


Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, Clinton – any questions left unasked about Route 66 will be answered right here, although this story’s been updated to the ‘new’ Wild West when the automobile was king of the road!

The Philbrook Museum of Art   Tulsa – A startling tribute to Italian Renaissance art and architecture. Set in 23 acres of beautifully maintained early Italian gardens, the villa-turned-art-museum begs to be explored

The Blue Whale of Catoosa – This one’s for the kids, or your inner kid! Constructed in 1972 by one Hugh S. Davis to encourage learning and experiencing nature “as God intended”. The big draw is Ol’ Blue, a massive, cartoon-like whale. A welcomed stop-off on a sizzling OK day 


Four Points by Sheraton Oklahoma City Quail Springs - – A lovely brand new looking hotel in the North Oklahoma district. 

Holiday INN Tulsa city center – Amazing views of Downtown Tulsa and very close to the big-name music and sporting events.




Buckle up for the next stretch! It’s almost a 200-miles from Oklahoma City, across the Texas Panhandle, to New Mexico. The Route crosses barren terrain,  devoid of trees; consisting mainly of vast, featureless expanses of flat plains.  The Panhandle was the southern extension of the buffalo-rich grasslands of the Great Plains sustaining the Kiowa and Comanche Indians until the population finally diminished by the early 1900s. 

Today oil and gas production, trucking, ranching and Route 66 tourism account for the region’s economic survival. Here most of the old Route 66 is replaced by I-40 in Texas.

Given it’s merely a ‘skip’ across the Panhandle, there’s little point overnighting it along the Route’s Texan path, so onwards into the scenic deserts of New Mexico. 

As you drive through unnerving ghost towns, like McLean, Shamrock, or Vega, and the sole city, Amarillo, the old US-66 somehow survives as the main business strip, but mostly lined by the empty remains of long-gone businesses. A select few are still open for a cup of coffee and flavours of the living past. You’ll get the best of the Panhandle hospitality in Amarillo, so worth making it your Texan stop-over.


The Big Texas Steak Ranch Amarillo – Hungry? Well then take on the 72-ounce steak challenge and get a “free meal” Thousands have tried (no record of how many survived!). Or indulge in a more modest piece of the world-famous Texan meat.


Palo Duro Canyon –  a rock-throw from Amarillo, this is the largest of the awe-inspiring Panhandle canyon range. Hike it, bike it or ride it (horses for hire), it's a helluva ‘must’ experience.

Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum – AKA PPHM.  While you’re in Canyon country, check out this massive museum and its jaw-dropping life-size Pioneer town model

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo – the sight of a dozen classic Cadillacs planted nose down in the ground will be one of your most memorable ones!


The Menger Hotel Enjoy a stay in a hotel with 150 years of history with modern amenities like the heated outdoor pool and spa.




New Mexico 

We recommend that you plan to spend 10 days to two weeks to travel through and explore the landscape, attractions, cuisine and rich culture of this vast stretch of Route 66.  From Glenrio on the Texas state line to Manuelito on the border of Arizona, the road runs right through the center of New Mexico.  Technically, you have to exit Amarillo on the I-40 then join 66 at Hereford.

Arguably, more than anywhere on the journey, New Mexico is reminiscent of ‘how the west was won’. Rich in Native American history and culture with a backdrop of famous mountain ranges; The Rockies and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of Santa Fe, and the Sandia and Zuni Mountains flanking Albuquerque on either side - not to mention the famed Rio Grande River flowing right past Albuquerque itself.

There’s a huge number of  ‘must sees' on this stretch of the Route, so arm yourself with local guidebooks to maximise what you can squeeze in.

Our pick of the stops:

Best get your shades at the ready as you hit Albuquerque – the neon glow is pretty startling! The town is a mass of iconic Route 66 memorabilia, quirky motels, hotels, and diners, making for a lively stop-over to experience the epitome of New Mexico hospitality.

Route 66 takes you right the way through Albuquerque, past the Rio Grande Botanical Garden and the Albuquerque Aquarium, through historic Old Town and the Downtown business district and on to the spectacular drama of the volcanoes on the city's far west side.



From the city’s famed green chilli cheeseburgers to authentic Mexican bakeries and true Southwestern cuisine, try some of our pick of the eats:

The Golden Crown Panaderia  Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque –  It’s a bakery, Jim, but not as we know it!

Sophia’s Place 4th Street, NW Albuquerque – truly authentic New Mexico food serving, arguably, the best breakfast burritos in Albuquerque.

Marble Brewery – There’s three of these in Albuquerque (not hard to find), specialising in hand-crafted ales and lagers produced exclusively for New Mexico. It’s a popular live music dive, and if you’re hungry, some of Albuquerque’s best food trucks are parked just outside.


Sandia Peak Tramway – get a bird’s


Los Poblano – an extraordinary hotel set in among 25 acres of lavender fields, enormous cottonwood trees, and lush formal gardens

Adobe Garden at Los Ranchos Chavez Road - Spanish style hacienda packed with strange and charming portals and courtyards 




At some 400 miles, Arizona makes up the longest stretch of the historic Route that’s still in use today. As you approach the end game, fight the urge to speed past the outstanding scenery with its multicoloured landscapes and tumbleweed-strewn ghost towns. 

The last 160 miles of the old road in Arizona take you through historic towns like Seligman, Kingman, and Oatman before opening out onto a startling stretch of open desert.

Be sure to swing through Kingman, the biggest city in North West Arizona. Still boasting a thriving community today, Kingman bursts with memorabilia of a pioneering ‘Wild West’ township. The historic city center is only about a mere mile across, enclosed on all sides by steep, scenic hills. 

Route 66 still forms most the main street and leads you out into the breath-taking countryside, home to the Black Mountains to the west and the Hualapai Indian Reservation and Peach Springs to the east. 

See and stay

Get yourself to Holbrook, home to the wild ‘n crazy Wigwam Motel (be sure and book ahead!) Quirky rock shops and cement dinosaurs decorate the main drag in town, and there are several great diners serving up tasty but messy Tex-Mex. Take time to visit Petrified Forest National Park for stunning views of the ‘Painted Desert’. 


Roadkill Cafe - “You kill it, we’ll grill it” runs this crazy joint’s slogan.  And they’re as good as their word, although these days you don’t have to bring your own carrion!





Welcome to the ‘Golden State’!  This last stretch of Route 66 crosses the southern part of California taking you through the magnificent Mojave Desert and the Cajon Pass (the last high peak of the Route) and past the Colorado River by Needles (the hottest town in the US; temperatures exceed 40°C in high summer). 

After more than 2,000 miles of virtually straight roadway, as your the markedly different curvy road, you'll experience a physical change in the journey and the overwhelming anticipation of your final destination - Los Angeles and Santa Monica!

Before you rush towards the bright beaches of the Pacific coast, be sure to explore the drama of the Mojave Desert: The ghost town of Calico, about 5 km off Route 66, The Amboy Crater, a dramatic volcanic crater in Amboy, and make your mark on the Graffiti Corridor around Chambless  where passers-by are invited to contribute to an eclectic art installation. Visitors hang shoes and tag their names or slogans along the corridor which stretches for several miles between Essex and Amboy.


McDonald's Route 66 Museum -the first McDonald’s restaurant was located on the Route in San Bernardino, California 1945; now home to the museum of the ‘Big Mac’!



Los Angeles

Happily, the Los Angeles section of Route 66 still exists almost intact. Stretching west from Pasadena deep into downtown L.A. For its last few miles, the Route follows Sunset Boulevard, then Santa Monica Boulevard all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where it ends at Santa Monica Pier.

Be prepared to slow down as the LA traffic is notorious and best keep your GPS to hand for any attempt to take a shortcut!

In stark contrast to much of the Route 66 to which you’ve become familiar by now, in ever-changing Los Angeles, there’s little sign of the ‘good ol’ days’. Aside from the obvious glitz of LA;  Hollywood Boulevard etc., as you head to the coast you'll pass a handful of 19th Century businesses, hotels, and landmarks of times past. Look out for Barney's Beanery, on Santa Monica Boulevard, The Peterson Automotive Museum on Wilshire Blvd and The Museum of Neon Art in Glendale.


Well if you’ve gotten this far, congratulations, you’ve done Route 66, and have some amazing stories to tell!


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