10 Best Route 66 Towns And Cities To Explore
Route 66 is a legendary road that every RVer should experience at least once. Along the way, there are towns and cities of all sizes with various attractions, landmarks, restaurants, hotels, campgrounds and more to stop and explore. These are 10 of the best Route 66 towns and cities to visit on your memorable trip down this iconic road.
1. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s Grant Park is the easternmost point of legendary US Route 66. The Art Institute of Chicago, one of the country’s largest art museums, is a must-see while in Chicago and is just steps away from the park. There are only a few vintage buildings left to explore along Route 66.
While downtown, be sure to visit Berghoff Restaurant and Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant. Check out Castle Car Wash and vintage service stations such as the former Mercury Oil gas station. A couple of hotels are also still standing: Hotel Chicago and Midland Hotel.
Before leaving Chicago, get incredible views of the city from 360 Chicago. It has an observatory on the 94th floor and the truly brave can experience TILT, which leans you forward for a thrilling downward view.
2. St Louis, Missouri
St Louis has lots of places to explore while touring US 66. The Maplewood Memories neighborhood is particularly proud of their association with Route 66 and have placed several memorial plaques commemorating that history.
The Museum of Transportation and the Route 66 State Park offer a glimpse into the past and lots of memorabilia. Feeling hungry? Stop by Big Chief Road House (built in 1929 and has sixty-two cabins) or the Crown Candy Kitchen, which has been in business for over one hundred years.
No trip to St Louis is complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch, one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
3. Joplin, Missouri
Joplin has a thriving downtown community that heavily showcases its association with Route 66. Explore numerous shops, art galleries, and restaurants that line the former highway. A mural called Route 66 (inspired by Thomas Hart Benton’s rough sketches and completed by his grandson) can be found at city hall.
Be sure to check out the town’s Route 66 Mural Park, which features two tile murals (“Cruisin into Joplin” and “The American Ribbon”) and a mock 1964 Corvette that makes an excellent backdrop for photos. The Joplin History and Mineral Museum features an exhibit about the historic road.
4. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa has a wide variety of attractions on Route 66. Looking for a great cheeseburger? Freddie’s Hamburgers, a favorite with locals and tourists alike, has been serving travelers since 1954, and Bill’s Jumbo Burgers has been serving fried onion burgers to packed lunch crowds since 1960.
Cain’s Ballroom, the home of the Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys’ radio broadcast, has been a part of downtown Tulsa since 1924. Thousands of musical acts have entertained crowds at the venue.
If you decide to stay overnight, the historic Campbell Hotel, built in 1927, is located in the heart of the city and features 26 themed rooms. There are also several RV parks and campgrounds near Tulsa including Expo Square RV Park and Warrior RV Park.
5. Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo was built around Route 66; it was one of the first residential and commercial areas in the town. Now known as Sixth Avenue, the street is lined with dozens of restaurants, retail stores, art galleries and bars, and a visitor center.
From April to October, the street is home to a car cruise every Saturday night. While in the Amarillo area, be sure and visit the Cadillac Ranch, the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and go horseback riding at Palo Duro State Park.
6. Adrian, Texas
Adrian is a tiny rural community in West Texas that just happens to have a giant claim to fame. It is the halfway point of US 66. It is 1,139 miles west of Chicago and 1,139 miles east of Santa Monica. The community is home to three vintage service stations, one of which has been restored to its former glory.
The Midpoint Café is a great place to grab a bite to eat and get a souvenir. It has been continually open since 1928, which is the record for restaurants along Route 66 between Amarillo, Texas and Tucumcari, New Mexico.
7. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and boasts over 18 miles worth of diners and motels along Route 66, which is also known locally as Central Avenue. The jewel of the city is Old Town, which is home to a church two centuries old (San Felipe de Neri). There is no shortage of diners and shops, complete with neon signs, on Central Avenue.
Take some time to peruse the American International Rattlesnake Museum and see 50 snakes ranging from newly hatched babies to fully grown adults, as well as other indigenous species such as tarantulas. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center shines a light on the city’s strong Native American cultures and is home to ceremonial dancing most weekends.
8. Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff has no shortage of Route 66 photo ops; there are numerous signs dotting the road. Downtown, the Amtrak Station is home to the Route 66 logo mural.
While cruising on 66, you will see the neon lights of some historic hotels of yesteryear. The Museum Club is now home to live music and line dancing but was a former roadhouse and taxidermy shop.
The town has an audio tour, Walk This Talk, for those choosing to walk the famous highway. Signs along the route provide a phone number that will give callers the history of the location they have reached. The walking tour starts at the Visitor Center and ends at Milton Road and Mikes Pike.
9. Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles has numerous classic hotels along US 66, such as the Lincoln Park Motel, the Rose Bowl Motel, and the Hollywood La Brea Hotel. In addition to providing a good night’s sleep, the neon signs remind visitors of the glitz of a bygone era.
While in the City of Angels, be sure and visit the Griffith Observatory, Chinatown and the world-famous Hollywood Sign. Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre and the Historic Broadway Theater are must-see landmarks as well.
10. Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica is literally the end of the road, where the route meets the Pacific Ocean. The pier at Santa Monica features an “End of the Trail” sign designating its status as the westernmost point of Route 66.
While renamed Mel’s Drive-in, the former Penguin Café located on Lincoln Boulevard still features the neon penguin on its sign. Historic hotels, such as The Hotel California, the former Dawn Motel (now known as Chez Jay), and the Santa Monica Motel still open their doors to weary travelers.
Plan your Route 66 road trip
The historic Route 66 offers no shortage of ‘kitch’ and Americana. The neon signs and quirky roadside attractions make the drive truly unlike any other road trip.
Take all the guesswork out of finding campgrounds along the way by planning your travels with RV Trip Wizard. This online planning tool makes it easy to plan an RV-safe route. It can also locate interesting sites along the way, all according to your travel preferences. Get RV Trip Wizard with its accompanying RV LIFE App, and start planning your adventure today!
- The Best Route 66 Campgrounds & RV Parks
- Best Route 66 Landmarks And Tourist Destinations
- Route 66: The History and Adventures of the Mother Road
- The Best State Parks & National Parks Off Route 66
Tammy Grey has been a freelancer writer for just over ten years. She has been published in regional and national publications, such as USA Today and Silver Sage Magazine. While her main focus is writing travel-related articles, she also writes human interest pieces.
Tammy is a Marine Corps brat from Parris Island, South Carolina. After many years spent in the Midwest, she currently resides in southeast Georgia, in a small Navy town just north of Jacksonville, Florida.