Route 66 is better known as the main street of America. In the late 1920's, this highway became the bridge connecting the east to the west. Nowadays, Route 66 has become almost a rite of passage for travelers road tripping around the USA.
Route 66 has become iconic for its small towns, quirky attractions, mom and pop motels and small diners. Driving the 2,400 miles across the third largest country in the world takes you through vast forests, grassy plains, snowy mountains and lonely deserts.
With so much ground to cover, it is easy to feel a little lost when planning your Route 66 adventure.
In this detailed guide, we will explore everything you need to know before driving Route 66.
Route 66 was one of the first highways in America. It starts in the windy city of Chicago, Illinois and ends at Santa Monica Pier, California. It covers eight states including, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
One of the first steps when planning a trip is deciding how long to spend on the road. The bare minimum to complete the entire journey is two weeks.
However, this time frame is considered rushed. In order to get the full experience, a driver should plan on three to four weeks.
Planning for any type of weather is an important factor to any successful trip. Luckily, Route 66 has a massive window of nice weather. Most people agree that May through October is the best time to hit the road. Just expect hot temperatures if planning a trip in the height of summer.
Because the trip covers a couple thousand miles and over varying climates, it is important to bring rain gear. No matter what time of year, there is a good chance that at some point bad weather will emerge.
Route 66 is all about the mom and pop motels whose primary method of advertising is still massive neon signs. These motels keep with the true spirit of the route, and anyone driving should stay at least a couple nights in these famed hotels.
Let's talk about a couple of the places to sleep along Route 66 that you simply cannot miss.
Wigwam Hotel - Holbrook, AZ
This hotel has become a hotspot along the route. Here each person stays in a room that is built inside an Indian Teepee. It is a classic example of the odd attractions found on Route 66 and the Wigwam Hotel in Arizona is one of the most popular places to stay on the entire drive.
The Blue Swallow Motel - Tucumcari, NM
This motel has become a famous landmark due to its vintage style and florescent blue neon sign. The Blue Swallow is also one of the oldest motels on the drive and has been welcoming guest since the late 30's. Even today people still love to return to this distinctive motel.
Of course, stopping and seeing the attractions is an important part of any road trip. Route 66 is full of strange Americana that cannot be found anywhere else in the country. Here are some of the highlights to see when traveling Route 66.
Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas
A prime example of the outlandish sights that Route 66 offers is Cadillac Ranch. This site is a bunch of vehicles stuck vertically in the ground in the middle of the Texas desert. One of the cool things about the ranch is that visitors are welcome to spray paint any of the cars. This allows people to leave a tiny mark commemorating their journey.
Painted Desert - Cameron, Arizona
The west holds some of the most stunning landscape in the country. The badlands and mesas in the Painted Desert of Arizona are striking. As the name implies, the region is extremely colorful due to the changes in the rock sediments. The area looks like a rainbow painted across the mountainsides.
Also, the road leading up to the Painted Desert is arguably one of the most beautiful stretches of road in America.
The Gemini Giant - Wilmington, Illinois
The main street of America is also well-known for its large statues that stand outside shops and diners to entice visitors inside. The most visited of these is the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois. This astronaut towers above the street practically daring you to eat at the Launch Pad Cafe.
Lou Mitchell’s – Chicago, Illinois
Arguably the most acclaimed cafe on the "Mother Road," another name for Route 66, is right at the start of the drive. Lou Mitchell's Cafe, near Union Station Chicago, is a famous setting off point. Don’t worry if there is a line, Lou Mitchell’s treats waiting customers with Milk Duds and doughnut holes.
Of course, these are only a few things to see. Route 66 is packed with tons of sights.
Driving Route 66 is to venture into America's iconic past. It takes you through the heartland of the country. From the major cities to dusty small towns, it encapsulates a fantastic period in history.
Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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