The quintessential American road trip
Route 66, and its 2,500 miles, is known affectionately as “The Mother Road.” It’s the quintessential cross-country road trip experience. From Chicago through the beating heart of America and all the way to Los Angeles, the route officially ends at the Santa Monica Pier. The road reached peak popularity in the late ’40s and early ’50s before being officially removed from the U.S. Highway System in 1985. After a few years, travelers from America and beyond started feeling tinges of nostalgia, and by the end of the 1980s, it was fast becoming one of the most popular road trip routes once more.
Miles and miles of neon
When Route 66 was at its peak, it was lined with diners, motels, and curio shops, and each was vying to get your car in its parking lot. Giant dinosaurs and spacemen, like the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, IL, worked well in the daytime, but nothing caught the attention of nighttime travelers better than a big, beautiful neon sign. Here are some of our favorites from east to west along the Mother Road.
One of the best parts of traveling across the U.S. is the vast amount of kitschy roadside attractions you’ll find, and Route 66 is no exception. As the popularity of road trips skyrocketed, starting in the 1940s, so did the opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to catch the attention of people criss-crossing the United States. As more and more businesses were popping up along highways, the competition to lure travelers to a specific business became fierce, with all sorts of kitschy roadside icons being constructed.
Extraordinary Places along Route 66
Extraordinary Places are some of the most interesting and epic places around the world, handpicked by the Roadtrippers team. Route 66 features more than 20 Extraordinary Places. Here are four of our favorites.
Eccentric roadside attraction originally placed by the art collective Ant Farm on Route 66, but now relocated south of I-40. Ten old Cadillacs have been upended and half-buried in a cow pasture.
Blue Whale of Catoosa
The Blue Whale of Catoosa is a waterfront structure, located just east of the town of Catoosa, Oklahoma, and it has become one of the most recognizable attractions on old Route 66. Hugh Davis built the Blue Whale in the early 1970s as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife Zelta, who collected whale figurines. The Blue Whale and its pond became a favored swimming hole for both locals and travelers along Route 66.
Santa Monica Pier
It’s the official end of Route 66. The Santa Monica Pier is open 365 days a year and admission is free. The world-famous pier offers a variety of entertainment, dining, and shopping experiences, including the thrill rides of Pacific Park, a historic 1922 carousel, an old-fashioned soda fountain, and an interactive aquarium.
The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot (192 m) monument in St. Louis, Missouri. Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of a weighted catenary arch, it is the world’s tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest accessible building. Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, the arch is the centerpiece of the Gateway Arch National Park and has become an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis, as well as a popular tourist destination.
The stories of Route 66
Our editorial team has visited some of the best places along the route and told the stories of some of the people and places they've met along the way.
More than a roadside attraction, Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is a shrine to a father and son's relationship
Ready for liftoff: A resurrected Route 66 diner serves up hot fudge sundaes with a side of grief counseling
At the country's last remaining Woolworth's lunch counter, burgers are served with a side of Civil Rights history
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