The History of Route 66
Route 66, also known as the “Mother Road,” was a highway that connected the Midwest to the West Coast of the United States. The route was established in 1926 and spanned over 2,400 miles, stretching from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California.
Originally, Route 66 was intended to connect rural and urban communities in the Midwest and provide a direct route for farmers to transport their goods to markets in larger cities. However, the highway quickly became a popular travel route for vacationers and adventurers seeking to explore the beauty and diversity of the American landscape.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many families migrated westward along Route 66 in search of work and opportunities. The highway also played a significant role in World War II, serving as a major transportation route for military personnel and supplies.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Route 66 became a symbol of American freedom and the open road. However, the construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1970s led to the decline of Route 66, and the highway was officially decommissioned in 1985.
Today, Route 66 remains a popular destination for travelers seeking to experience the nostalgia and Americana of the “Mother Road.” Many of the original landmarks and attractions along the route have been preserved or restored, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore the history of this iconic highway.
Route 66 Today: Where Does it Start and End?
Although Route 66 is no longer an official highway, much of the original route can still be driven and explored today. The route begins in Chicago, Illinois, and ends in Santa Monica, California, with many iconic landmarks and attractions along the way.
In Illinois, Route 66 begins at the Art Institute of Chicago and passes through the towns of Joliet, Pontiac, and Springfield, where visitors can explore the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. In Missouri, the highway passes through St. Louis and the Ozark Mountains, where visitors can enjoy stunning views and outdoor recreation.
In Oklahoma, Route 66 passes through Tulsa and Oklahoma City, where visitors can explore the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The route then continues through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally California, passing by iconic landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, and the Santa Monica Pier.
While many sections of Route 66 have been replaced by modern highways, visitors can still follow the historic route using a variety of maps and guidebooks. Some sections of the original road are also still drivable, allowing visitors to experience the nostalgia and history of the “Mother Road” firsthand.
Navigating Route 66: Tips and Tricks
Navigating Route 66 can be an adventure in itself, but it’s important to plan ahead to make the most of your trip. Here are some tips and tricks for driving Route 66:
Plan your route: While many sections of Route 66 are still drivable, some sections have been replaced by modern highways. Use a guidebook or online resource to plan your route in advance and ensure that you stay on the historic road as much as possible.
Take your time: Route 66 is about the journey, not just the destination. Allow plenty of time to explore the historic landmarks and attractions along the way, and be prepared for unexpected detours and delays.
Be flexible: Some of the best experiences on Route 66 happen by chance. Don’t be afraid to take a side trip or stop at a roadside attraction that catches your eye.
Pack essentials: Be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks, and other essentials for your trip, especially if you plan to drive through remote areas. It’s also a good idea to bring a map, GPS device, and extra phone charger.
Connect with locals: Route 66 is known for its friendly locals and small-town charm. Take the time to chat with locals and learn about the history and culture of the areas you’re passing through.
By following these tips and tricks, you can make the most of your Route 66 adventure and create memories that will last a lifetime.
The Best Stops Along Route 66
Route 66 is filled with iconic landmarks, quirky roadside attractions, and stunning natural scenery. Here are some of the best stops along the route:
Cadillac Ranch: Located in Amarillo, Texas, this unique art installation features a row of ten Cadillac cars buried nose-down in the ground. Visitors are encouraged to bring spray paint and leave their mark on the cars.
Petrified Forest National Park: Located in Arizona, this park features a stunning landscape of colorful petrified wood, ancient fossils, and desert scenery.
The Gateway Arch: Located in St. Louis, Missouri, this iconic landmark offers stunning views of the city and the Mississippi River.
The Wigwam Motel: Located in Holbrook, Arizona, this historic motel features 15 concrete teepees that guests can stay in for a unique Route 66 experience.
Santa Monica Pier: Located in Santa Monica, California, this historic pier features an amusement park, aquarium, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
The Blue Swallow Motel: Located in Tucumcari, New Mexico, this historic motel features 12 rooms that have been preserved in their original 1950s style.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge: Located in St. Louis, Missouri, this historic bridge spans the Mississippi River and features a unique bend in the middle.
These are just a few of the many incredible stops along Route 66. Be sure to do your research and plan your trip in advance to make the most of your journey.
Exploring the Culture and Attractions of Route 66
Route 66 is more than just a highway – it’s a cultural icon that has played a significant role in American history and popular culture. Here are some of the cultural attractions and experiences you can enjoy along Route 66:
Route 66 Museums: There are several museums along the route that showcase the history and culture of Route 66, including the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma, and the Illinois Route 66 Museum in Pontiac, Illinois.
Historic Landmarks: From the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, California, Route 66 is filled with historic landmarks that offer a glimpse into America’s past.
Music and Entertainment: Many famous musicians and entertainers have been inspired by Route 66, including Nat King Cole, Bobby Troup, and the Rolling Stones. Attend a concert or live performance along the route to experience the music and entertainment of Route 66.
Food and Dining: Route 66 is known for its classic diners and roadside eateries, serving up everything from burgers and fries to Tex-Mex and barbecue. Be sure to try some of the local cuisine along the route for a taste of classic Americana.
Outdoor Recreation: From hiking and camping in the Ozark Mountains to exploring the Grand Canyon, Route 66 offers a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
By exploring the culture and attractions of Route 66, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the history and significance of this iconic highway.