Today, the iconic Route 66 is just a shadow of what it once was; a nostalgic look back at the heyday of the American highway. But, even though the famed road was largely replaced by Interstate 44 through much of middle America, Route 66 still lives on if you know where to look for it.
If you're planning a road trip through the U.S. this summer, chances are the former Route 66 may be on your itinerary. And while it's true that the newer, wider I-44 may make for an easier (and quicker) drive, thereare a few Route 66 sites that you absolutely won't want to miss.
Where: Chicago, Illinois
This is where it all begins (or ends, depending on which direction you're traveling). Chicago's Grant Park, anchored by the huge Buckingham Fountain and towering views of the Windy City's skyline, is the end point of Historic Route 66. If you want to get a photo of the “End” sign, head to the corner of Jackson and Michigan.
The Blue Whale
Where: Catoosa, Oklahoma
Chances are you've never heard of Catoosa, Oklahoma. And yet you may have indeed seen pictures of one of its famous “residents” - the Blue Whale. Built in 1972, this whale of a roadside attraction is still a favorite among both locals and road trippers. You can dive off its tail or slide down its fins into a pond, or simply take photos of what has become a beloved icon of old Route 66.
Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan
Where: Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is one of my personal favorites when it comes to Route 66 stops. You can stay at a motel with a pool shaped like the state of Texas, eat at the incredibly kitschy Big Texan restaurant (which has a 72-ounce steak challenge), and drive a few minutes along the highway to the Cadillac Ranch. Here, a handful of old Cadillac cars have been buried nose-down in a field and people stop by daily to legally vandalize them with spray paint.
Where: Seligman, Arizona
If your Route 66 journey takes you through Arizona, be sure to stop off for a meal at the Roadkill Cafe in Seligman. Don't worry, however – even though the restaurant's tagline is “You kill it, we grill it,” you won't actually eat anything that's been scraped off the pavement. Very much like the Big Texan in Amarillo, it's all about kitsch here. Order up some “Fender Tenders,” or perhaps a “Splatter Platter.”
Where: Holbrook, Arizona and Rialto/San Bernadino, California
Along your Route 66 journey, consider staying the night in a wigwam motel. Yes, that means hotel rooms in the shape of Native American teepees. Sure there's kitsch (once again) involved, but also keep in mind that these motels are now on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States. There used to be seven such motels across the U.S., but the surviving number is now down to three, with two located along Route 66.
Santa Monica Pier
Where: Los Angeles, California
Since I began this list with Grant Park, it seems only fitting to end it at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, which marks the other end of Route 66. This is a great ending point for any road trip, since you have the attractions on the Pier, as well as Venice Beach and the Venice Beach Boardwalk nearby.
Are there any other kooky or fun Route 66 attractions you can add to this list?