It’s perhaps the most iconic road trip journey we have: the Main Street of America.
Ever-classic Route 66 is still today the most authentic way to experience the vast U.S. of A. Spanning 2400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, the Route is a well-worn symbol of Americana that conjures imagery of dusty amber canyons, fluorescent motel signs, linoleum diners, hot coffee, hamburgers and lonely gas stations illuminated against hot violet night skies.
The journey is the experience we’ve come to know and love through a rich cultural history in song, film and literature – windows down, vintage cars pushing on through the night. If you’re planning to get your kicks on Route 66, Travellers Choice can help guide the way with our comprehensive roadmap.
When should I go and how long will it take?
It can take as little as two weeks to traverse the entirety of Route 66, but most travellers chose to do it over at least a month. The best time to go is during the summer months, and generally on the shoulder season after American summer vacation peak times. You can travel Route 66 westward or eastward, but westward is the traditional way.
Although the road is now decommissioned, some helpful signposting and a bit of research will have you on the original route the whole way there.
Where do I go and what should I see?
Travel west from Chicago for two and a half hours over prairieland to reach Springfield, IL. Here you might visit the home of Abraham Lincoln. In Missouri, see the Route 66 Museum, the 66 Drive-In Theatre and the Meramec Caverns.
Missouri to Kansas is a short drive! Route 66 only traverses 14 miles through a distant corner of Kansas. Here you can take the time to visit the three small towns of Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs, including a few special spots like the restored Kan-O-Tex gas station in Galena.
From Oklahoma to Texas you’ve got 400 miles of Route to traverse through Tulsa and Oklahoma City. See the Blue Whale of Catoosa near Tulsa and then spend the night at Lincoln Motel that evening. Stop in at POPS Soda Ranch outside Oklahoma City and spend some time exploring there. When you depart, make sure to pull over at Lucille’s Famous Route 66 Gas Station.
Crossing into Texas, check out Phillips 66 on the Route for free before pulling into the town of Amarillo for a feast at The Big Texan Steak Ranch.
Detour off-route to see Cadillac Ranch before leaving Texas and entering New Mexico, where you’ll wonder at the preserved vintage beauty of the Blue Swallow Motel. This is the neon sign line of the route – plenty of photo opportunities will be presented! Be sure to stay a night or two at El Rancho, the temporary home for movie stars shooting Western films in the 1940s.
From New Mexico through Arizona you’ll fly through desert landscapes, stopping intermittently at rest and waterholes like Joe and Aggies Café or Rod’s Steakhouse. See Painted Desert Indian Center, the Wall Map of Route 66 and the Wigwam Village Motel No. 6 on the way. After Bullhead City, you’ll enter California.
Wind your way through the Mojave Wilderness for the final leg of the Route. Calico Ghost Town is a welcome attraction before you enter San Bernardino. Check out Wigwam Village No. 7 and the Bottle Tree Ranch, plus another Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow. After all those gas stations, motels and museums on the wide-open road, you’ll cruise into Los Angeles and catch up with the traffic! Head to Santa Monica, park up and stroll up onto the Santa Monica Pier.
You made it!