Spanning 2,448 miles, traversing through 3 time zones and 8 states, America’s Mother Road makes for one epic journey. Established in 1926, the historic highway evokes nostalgic images of the past and pride in seeing how far the nation has come.
Ready to Cruise America? The best way to experience it all is through an RV trip. So clear your schedule, rent an RV, prepare the itinerary, and get ready to have a real blast from the past on the historic Route 66.
Route 66 is one of the world’s most famous classic road journeys and runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. If there was one “must do” classic journey for RV travelers, Route 66 would be top of the list. It’s not just a journey across America; there are so many interesting places and encounters along the way. It’s also an authentic insight into the history and culture of the USA. Check out some of these hidden gems that you can visit on Route 66 in an RV rental.
To help you get moving, here are some stopovers you wouldn’t want to miss while you Cruise America.
Kick-Off in Chicago
Your monumental road trip on Route 66 could start or end in Chi-Town. If you want to start right where Route 66 begins, head on over to the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. Against the bustle of city life, there’s an inconspicuous starting point marker of the historic highway.
Grant Park could be your official first stop. This is the official eastern terminus of the historic road so vintage icons from Route 66 heyday are still very much preserved here. Other notable attractions worth checking out are the Cloud Gate, Pullman Historic District, Chicago History Museum, and Lincoln Heritage Museum.
There are lots of Route 66 notable attractions along the way. Be on the lookout for a giant covered wagon, Muffler Men, old gas station, and lots of Route 66-themed eateries to wet your appetite for the journey.
Visit the “Birthplace of Route 66” — Springfield, MO
Before an inch of asphalt materialized in this highway, the then-ambitious plan first took form when businessmen John T. Woodruff and Cy Avery proposed the idea via a telegram at the Colonial Hotel.
When you get to Springfield, Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center makes for an excellent first stop as you Cruise America. You’ll find mementos, kindred spirits, and lots of inspiration here. If you’re a car enthusiast you must stop by at Route 66 Car Museum, which showcases vintage cars with some dating back to the early 1900s.
Other points of interest include History Museum on the Square, Gillioz Theatre, and Gary’s Gay Parita. Have a taste of the yesteryears at Queen City Soda and Sweets with its giant lollipops and vintage candy bars.
And if you’re thirsting for the outdoors, Springfield is also home to numerous parks, a great zoo, and a wildlife sanctuary.
A great place to start your journey is Route History in Springfield Illinois where you can learn about black travelers and their connections to the road. You’ll discover some interesting cultural history, from the Route 66 Black Business Operators who worked to keep people safe in the segregation era to where Barack Obama began his political career. There’s an RV Park near Route 66 at the Double J Campground.
Enter the “Gateway to the West” in St. Louis
You know you’re about to enter the “Gateway to the West” when you cross the Mississippi River. Aside from the extensive river, there’s the iconic Gateway Arch to remind you. Be sure to grab a ticket for a tram ride up to the top of the arch to enjoy a stunning 360-degree view of the city.
A few blocks away from Route 66, you can visit the St. Louis Union Train Station. Once the busiest and largest train station in America, this used to be the gateway to all of the country. Today, you can schedule a visit to admire its exquisite architecture and the St. Louis Aquarium within its premises.
Other attractions within the city include the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, the original Route 66 Mississippi River crossing, the Museum of Transportation, and MotoMuseum, which stood as a testament to the nation’s passion for the fast lane.
Time Travel in Joplin
Between Jackson and Byers Avenue, there’s a designated part of town that looks straight out of pages from a history book. Murphysburg Historic District features 40 homes that were constructed as far back as the late 19th century.
And since time travel seems to be the agenda in Joplin, visit Red Oak where time seems stuck in the 1930s. The town features an Old Phillips 66 Station, a Feed and Seed Store, a General Store, and Grandpa Weber’s Blacksmith Shop. Visiting this part of Carthage is like getting into a time travel machine.
Collecting mementos of the trip? The Route 66 Mural Park makes an excellent backdrop for the photos. Featuring two large murals, there’s even a mock 1964 red Corvette to make things even more interesting. To cap off the tour in this city, shop, wine, and dine in Downtown Joplin. It’s along Route 66 anyway and littered with many shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
Meramec Caverns - Stanton, Missouri
The Meramec Caves are a step into history and were first used as a shelter by Native Americans. The 4.6-mile trail goes further back in time thousands of years ago to expose spectacular geological formations. The caves are a definite pit stop when driving on Route 66, but you’ll find camping on-site if you plan a longer stay.
With 400 miles of Route 66 to Cruise America, Oklahoma City has no shortage of roadside attractions and other Mother Road icons. For starters, there’s the National Route 66 Museum, which offers you a journey through all eight states without leaving the building. Lots of artifacts, old signs, antique cars, and memorabilia will do the storytelling for you.
Then there’s the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, which features the humongous “East Meets West” sculpture of the Avery family going west in a Model T Ford car facing a hand-drawn horse carriage going east.
Other roadside attractions that are worth stopping over include The Round Barn, The Blue Whale, Totem Pole Park, and Lucille’s Service Station. Once you’re in Miami, be sure to grab something to eat at Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger. This food joint has been serving hungry travelers since the 1960s.
Pops - Arcadia, Oklahoma
Neon-lit diners are a big feature on Route 66. Pops on Route 66 at Arcadia is one of the best. Here, you can find all kinds of burgers, sandwiches, and breakfast foods. As a stop-off, it works well and is just one of many great diners you’ll find on your travels.
Discover the “Yellow Rose of Texas” — Amarillo
Once you get to the Texan stretch of Route 66, Amarillo’s 6th Street Historic District will greet you with its 13 blocks of cafes, boutiques, antique shops, and restaurants. You can marvel at the eclectic mix of Art Deco, Spanish Revival, and Art Modern building designs.
Another stopover for car enthusiasts is the Cadillac Ranch. It’ll be hard to miss this colorful roadside attraction, which features 10 Cadillacs buried nose-down in the ground. If you like art installations, you’ll love the stop-off on Route 66. In 1974, someone half-buried 10 Cadillacs in the ground. As people stopped by, they added their own graffiti, and the art installation is now a famous photo stop. The cars have starred in movies and songs and are a quirky must-see on Route 66.
While you’re exploring this historic stretch, check out notable sites and buildings in the area, which include Martin’s Phillips 66 station, Bussey Building, The Natatorium, and San Jacinto Methodist Church.
If you love traveling in an RV, visit Jack Sisemore Traveland and RV Museum. Having traveled all this way in an RV, it’ll be such a treat checking out RVs of yester years.
To complete your jaunt in this city, you can try the 72oz.-challenge at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. Finish your meal in under an hour and it’s free. Failure to do so and you have to pay up. The Ranch also has an RV campsite so you don’t have an excuse to pass up on the challenge.
Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe - Shamrock, Texas
For a perfect example of art deco architecture on Route 66, the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn at Shamrock is worth a stop. It was built in 1936 and was used as Ramone’s Body Art in the movie Cars. Today the building is now a visitor center.
In the City of Different, art takes the center stage. This UNESCO-designated Creative City has a job market wherein 1 in 10 jobs is connected to the arts. You only have to head over to Canyon Road and explore the hundreds of art galleries within this stretch of road.
Aside from the vibrant art scene, Santa Fe takes pride in its history and heritage with attractions like The Palace of Governors, the oldest government building that’s still in use, as well as downtown Plaza.
Craving for a good meal? Food is also serious business in this city and there are lots of diners that have been serving meals to travelers since the Mother Road era. Some places to check out include La Fonda, The Pink Adobe, Hotel St. Francis, and The Plaza Cafe, the oldest restaurant in town.
Tour the Heart of Indian Country in Gallup
When you come across glaring neon signs in the middle of nowhere unlike anything else you’ve seen since you hit the road on Route 66, you know Gallup is near. Situated near Native American reservations, this small city has lots to offer when it comes to history and culture.
Smack dab in the middle of downtown Gallup are historic attractions like the Gallup Cultural Center, Richardson’s Trading Co., and an old but functional Santa Fe Railway depot.
And since you’re in Indian country, you might as well camp out in Red Rocks Park, the home of rodeo competitions and the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, the largest gathering of Native Americans in the country.
When you arrive in Seligman, it seems like a quiet town with an Old West-feel. In fact, there’s a street that looks like a movie set for a Western. You’ll find an interesting 1950s museum, a roadkill cafe (yes, really), and you can see the historic stretch of Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman. It looks like cowboy country, and there are lots of cattle ranches in the area. Seligman is widely considered the birthplace of Route 66 after residents asked a stretch of road to be given the name. Park your RV at Seligman’s KOA campground for a longer stay.
Cruise America Makes Port In Flagstaff
It’s a little-known fact that before man landed on the moon, they first trained and landed in Flagstaff with its surreal and extraterrestrial-like topography. Visit the Meteor Crater and imagine going on a lunar walk just like the astronauts did.
If you can’t get enough of astronomy and moon-like settings, visit the Cinder Lake Crater Field, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, USGS Astrogeology Science Center, and Lowell Observatory, where an astronomer first discovered Pluto.
Route 66 also traverses downtown Flagstaff where an old train station was converted into a Visitor Center. You will discover antique shops and almost block-sized beautiful murals. In an inconspicuous portion of the original Route 66 lies the Mother Road Brewing Company, where you can enjoy the taste of local craft beer.
And if you can afford a day more, don’t miss the chance to make a little side trip to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. You can drive up to the Desert View and enjoy the stunning sight of canyon geology and the grand Colorado River.
Petrified Forest - Arizona
The Petrified Forest National Park is full of amazing geological features, from fossils to colored rocks. It is the only national park on Route 66. You’ll find intriguing shaped petrified wood, hiking trails and incredible scenery. You can hike to the Painted Desert or simply stop over and watch the sun go down. RV and camping sites are not permitted in the petrified Forest, but you can find a campground nearby at Navajo Lake.
Meander through Laughlin
You can’t Cruise America in your RV Rental without a stop in Laughlin Nevada. Located in the southernmost tip of Nevada, at a juncture where Arizona, Nevada, and California meet, Laughlin has its fair share of interesting spots within its stretch of the Mother Road.
When you arrive in Kingman, make a stop at Andy Devine Avenue where you can spend an entire day just being with the locals in one of the bars and cowboy-themed eateries. A photo-op with antique cars and other kitschy stuff is the main activity of the day.
Then, drive further down to Oatman, an old mining town that’s run over with donkeys. You can feed donkeys here if they’re in the mood for entertaining tourists. Visit an old gas station along the way and you might just find fitting mementos for your trip.
If you wish to try your luck, Laughlin has a few casinos too. Give the city center a visit and hope lady luck’s on your side for the night.
Experience the High Desert in Victorville
Known for its moderate weather, Victorville is an excellent place to camp in an RV. Plus, there’s no shortage of great camping grounds within the area so you can spend a few days exploring the gems of this town. An old bridge between Barstow and Victorville would be the first to welcome you to town. Then, there’s the California Route 66 Museum where surviving items from an outdoor sculpture park and some kooky pieces from different backgrounds are on display.
Feeling famished? Stop by at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe. Join the crowd of hungry locals, truckers, and tourists that they’ve been serving since 1947.
Calico Ghost Town - California
Once a busy mining town in the nineteenth century, Calico is a shadow of its former self. This ghost town in California is worth a stop. The silver miners left in the 1890s, but the town has been re-imagined as an 1880s open museum. Explore this place and you’ll get an insight into what it was like for people looking to make a fortune. RV parking is close by in Calico.
Wind down in the City of Angels — Los Angeles
The original western terminus of Route 66 was in Los Angeles. It was only in 1936 that America’s Main Street extended to Santa Monica. And fortunately for you, most of the original Route 66 roads remain intact and navigable in this city.
Traditionally, Santa Monica Pier is the end of the road for Route 66. You can walk along the pier, enjoy a beer or two and admire the view of the ocean after your long but classic journey across the USA.
As you can see, there are so many incredible things to see on Route 66. If you plan to cruise America, be sure to reserve an RV to suit your requirements for the journey. There are several types from a basic Campervan or towable or a midsize Class C model to a luxury Class A RV. Reach out to RVnGO today to make your reservation for the journey of a lifetime.
If you’re bent on ending this epic trip with a bang, Los Angeles will not disappoint. As expected, this bustling city has a treasure trove of Mother Road icons and attractions like Sunset Boulevard, Olivera St., and Hollywood Forever.
Even downtown LA has several iconic Route 66 era buildings. Check out LA City Hall and Broadway Theater and Commercial District with its many building that dates back to the early 1900s.
And finally, on the corner of Ezat Delijani Square, there’s an unimposing sign to indicate the original western terminus of the long stretch of a road that is America’s Main Street. This was the heart of Los Angeles. And this is a great part of America’s history.
PS – Pumped up and ready to plan your RV Road Trip Cruising America? Book an RV first. Visit RVnGO.com and search for RVs for rent near you.
PPS – Whatever type of RV you need — ADA compliant, pet-friendly, wheelchair accessible, even One Way RV Rentals, RVnGO has all those options and more.