Road trips offer the chance to visit parts of the country you’d never see via air travel. On the road, you can watch the landscape slowly transform again and again. You can smell it and taste it along the way. You can detour and discover the unexpected. And you can meet people that give these places their personality.
If you’re jonesing for some mileage, why not start with the most iconic? Route 66 is one of the original highways in America. The “Mother Road” was created in the 1930’s and 1940’s as a way to join Chicago and Los Angeles. You’ll love it for the thousands of kitschy rest stops, diners, motels, and attractions along the way.
7 Must-See Stops on a Route 66 Road Trip
Here are some beloved stops along the iconic Route 66. Fill up your tank and give yourself plenty of time for detours!
1. Milk Bottle Grocery – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
No road trip is complete without giant versions of everyday items. Here you’ll spot a massive milk bottle atop a tiny triangular building. At just 350-square feet, the Milk Bottle Grocery is on the National Register of Historic Places and was recently restored to its original look. Sadly, the tiny store is no longer a grocer, but the milk statue is still standing in all it’s dairy glory.
2. Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to appreciate this quirky art installation in Amarillo, Texas.
In 1974, a group of hippie artists from San Francisco called the Ant Farm created this tribute to the many ways Cadillacs have changed over the years. A local billionaire named Stanley Marsh lll wanted to stump area residents with a piece of art and this installation fit the bill, so he hired the group to make it happen. Today, passerbys bring spray paint to leave their mark on the iconic pieces. Bring a can if you want to partake in this unique piece of Route 66 history.
3. Cars on the Route – Galena, Kansas
While the highway only goes through a short 14 miles of Kansas, this tiny stretch houses one of the most beloved sights on the road: Cars on the Route. This old-timey gas station started as a Kan-O-Tex service station. It was briefly called “Four Women on the Route” when four local ladies took over and restored the repair shop to its former red and white glory.
Today, you’ll find the new owners honor “Cars” the movie with replica characters out front, including a mining boom truck that is said to have been an inspiration for the popular character “Tow Mater.” Stop here if you’re traveling with kids – they’ll love all the Cars memorabilia.
4. The Blue Swallow Motel – Tucumcari, New Mexico
Have you ever dreamt of staying in an iconic retro hotel from the 1930s? Make sure to plan a night’s rest in Tucumcari, New Mexico where The Blue Swallow Motel is a gathering place for fellow Route 66 road trippers. This classic landmark offers a pet-friendly place to lay your head after a long day of driving and checking out the awesome neon sign out front. It’s one of few original lodgings left along the highway. Make reservations ahead of time — the motel is popular and closes down between December and February.
5. Meramec Caverns – Stanton, Missouri
Meramec Caverns are made up of mineral formations that form unique stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is the largest in the state and is open year round with ranger-guided tours and nearby camping in LaJolla Natural Park. You can also ride a zipline, paddle a canoe, or raft for 6 to 11 miles down the Meramec River when the weather warms up — a perfect break from sitting in the car.
6. Standin on the Corner – Winslow, Arizona
Even if you’re not a fan of The Eagles you’ve likely heard their ‘72 hit, “Take it Easy.” The lyric, “Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see” has turned this spot into a haven for road tripping travelers. Here you’ll find a massive Route 66 sign embedded into the brick street. Take pictures with a classic flatbed truck like the one referenced in the song.
7. Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, California
No Route 66 road trip is complete without beginning or ending at the technical final mile marker on the highway at Santa Monica Pier in California. The official sign is at the end of the pier, and while you can only drive to Colorado Avenue, you can park your car and walk to the final couple hundred feet to reach the “end of trail” marker. On your stroll you’ll marvel at the gorgeous carousel and Ferris wheel as well as the many interesting people — a mix of Cali locals, entertaining street performers and tourists.