U.S. Highway 66 – Will Rogers Highway – Main Street of America – Mother Road
Historic Route 66 has many names. It runs from downtown Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and ends at the Santa Monica Pier in California. Of course, travelers cannot drive the entire route uninterrupted nowadays. But what remains “holds a special place in American consciousness and evokes images of simpler times, mom and pop businesses, and the icons of a mobile nation on the road,” as the National Park Service so eloquently phrased it.
If you have not made the trip down Route 66, this spring or summer is as good as any time to do so. Grab the family and take off in the RV. There are several RV parks and campgrounds to rest at between sightseeing ventures along the route. Be sure to include these must-see stops on your Route 66 RV journey.
Ambler Texaco Gas Station
The first stop is Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, also known as Becker’s Marathon Gas Station, in Dwight, Illinois. This filling station turned visitor’s center was the longest operational station on the route from 1933 to 1999. Much of the establishment has been restored to its original luster, giving visitors a snapshot of what things looked like in the 1930s.
St. Louis, Missouri’s iconic Gateway Arch is another popular stop on Route 66. Dubbed the “Gateway to the West,” this impressive structure is over 600 feet tall. Visitors can travel up the legs of the arch via an egg-shaped tram that seats five. Once at the top of the arch, they can take in sweeping views of the surrounding areas. On particularly windy days, spectators at the top will feel the arch sway side to side.
There is plenty to see above ground along Route 66 and some pretty amazing sights below, like the Meramec Caverns in the Ozarks, near Stanton, Missouri. This 4.6 mile-long system of caves is a treasure trove of unique rock formations, and visitors can opt for a guided tour. Meramec Caverns also offers a slew of above-ground activities for families to enjoy, including zip-lining, wall climbing, boat tours along the Meramec River, and more. Plus, a restaurant, snack bar, and ice cream shop are located on-site.
Cars on the Route
A mere 13 miles of Route 66 traverses through Kansas, but the little town that folks first pass through boasts big pride for the Mother Road. The old mining town of Galena is full of Route 66 attractions, including Cars on the Route. This service station that dates back to 1934 was transformed into a roadside café and a souvenir shop with all things Route 66. Vehicles designed to look like characters from Pixar’s Cars movie (particularly Mater the Tow Truck) sit outside the restored station and make for whimsical photo ops.
Pops 66 Soda Ranch
All this exploring will probably make you thirsty. Simply head for the 66-foot-tall neon, bottle-shaped sign in Arcadia, Oklahoma. Established in 2007, Pops is a full-service restaurant, gas station, and convenience store wrapped up into one family-friendly environment. And let’s not forget the soda pop! Thirsty customers can choose between over 700 different kinds of sodas and drinks, from classic to whacky flavors.
Like Galena, Kansas, Amarillo, Texas offers a variety of Route 66 attractions to anyone traveling through. Fans of Route 66 can check out the RV museum, Historic District (named after the route), and the Cadillac Ranch art installation. An Insta-worthy photo op, Cadillac Ranch is a line of 10 spray-painted Cadillacs half-buried in the ground. Visitors sometimes bring their own spray can and mark a car or two.
You aren’t seeing a mirage when you pass through the desert of Santa Rosa, New Mexico. That’s the Blue Hole, a natural pool with hidden caves once used by cowboys and earlier Route 66 travelers as a place to cool off. Today people come to swim, dive, cliff jump, scuba dive, and snorkel in the crystal-blue water. The Blue Hole stays at a constant 62 °F and has a constant inflow of 3,000 gallons per minute, enough for the water to completely renew itself every six hours
You don’t have to travel to the Moon to see a crater, just travel a bit further down Route 66 and stop at the Meteor Crater in Winslow, Arizona. Created about 50,000 years ago, when a meteorite hit the Earth, the impact made a dent in the Earth’s surface, measuring about .7 miles in diameter and is 560 feet deep. Visitors can take a rim tour, peruse the Discovery Center, and more.
Calico Ghost Town
Route 66 passes through its fair share of ghost towns. Some are entirely abandoned, some have a few residents, and others are tourist attractions. Once a bustling silver mining town in California, Calico Ghost Town was abandoned in the late 1800s and later transformed into an old west tourist attraction. Throughout the year, folks can go on ghost and mining tours, pan for precious minerals, ride on a train, or attend special events.
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What are other Historic Route 66 attractions you would add to this list?
About The Author: Natalie Henley
Levi Henley and his wife, Natalie, have been full-time RVers for over 5 years. They have also been Coach-Net customers for the same amount of time. They travel and work camp around the U.S. in their 26-foot Itasca Sunstar motorhome with their two cats. They write for multiple RV-related publications and recently co-wrote “Seasonal Workamping for a Living: How We Did It.” You can follow their adventures on the road at henleyshappytrails.com
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