From diner's, drive-ins to cafes and steak restaurants, check out ROUTE Magazine's Best Places to Eat (2023) when on your Route 66 road trip.
From vintage motels, to historic hotels to respected chain brands, check out ROUTE Magazine's Best places to stay (2023) when on your Route 66 road trip.
You’re sitting at a cowhide table on a raised platform in front of two hundred other diners. In front of you is a perfectly grilled, sizzling 72-ounce steak, shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, salad, and a bread roll. A musician strums a guitar in the background, while a live rattlesnake and a 12-foot bear statue look on disinterestedly; they’ve seen this almost 100,000 times before. The clock begins to count down, and you have an hour to eat what is on the table.
Dodge City, Kansas, best known for its history as a wild frontier cowtown dating back to the 19th Century, is once again in the spotlight, as history hunters flock to the welcoming area to take in some of the Old Western culture and heritage that still color this Kansas gem. Even the name is romantic. Dodge City.
When you have a restaurant with a name like The Roadkill Cafe, you might expect most people to appreciate the quirky slogan for what it is; but some people may just take you seriously.
Serendipity never fails to reach its hand into the countless tales of wackiness and happenstance that define Route 66. There’s something about the magnetism of the Mother Road that reels in folks from the most arbitrary of circumstances, blends them together, and produces some of the most random yet awe-inspiring creations this country has ever seen. Every so often there comes a story with a perfect medley of redemption, camaraderie, and, of course, a healthy dose of American kitsch. Among this tapestry of triumphs and losses looms a surreal figure who has watched over the Route and all its sagas for nearly half a century.
Marketers have long tried to raise their voices above the din. From the smallest mom-and-pops to the biggest corporate conglomerates, it has always been about cutting through the clutter and being heard or seen. From the retina-burning neon, swooping arrows, and flashing chaser bulbs that reached their zenith in the 1950s, to television ads that make us laugh or pull at our heartstrings in the 21st Century, the message is implicitly the same: “Look at me! Look at me!”
Route 66 basks in the brightness of summertime; it savors the brilliance cast by summer sunshine that washes its historic pavement in an almost holy radiance. Within its elongated days, summer offers road trippers extended light, intensified warmth, and a deepened desire to experience a world outside the generic drone of everyday life. Travelers feel compelled to hop on America’s Main Street, to embrace the thrill of the open road, to search for adventure and an experience that will live long in their memories.
Famously upbeat and funny, iconic actor Michael J. Fox spends some time with ROUTE and takes us through his journey from Canada to Hollywood, his leap from Family Ties to the Big Screen, and his true passion: his role as a husband and father. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at a young age, Michael has refused to let it define his life, and has authored his fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality. Undeniably, Michael’s journey is both inspiring and an encouragement to us all.
“The London Bridge is a testament to the indomitable American spirit of innovation,” Terence Concannon, President/CEO of Go Lake Havasu said of Lake Havasu City’s oldest antique. “We are proud to have this iconic landmark in our city. The London Bridge not only honors the American spirit of innovation and creativity, but also the historic relationship between the United States and Great Britain.”
Nelson King may never have opened his wildly popular restaurant White Dog Hill in Clinton, Oklahoma, if he had ignored the ghostly messages coming from the glove box of his sister’s car. He might have named the Route 66 establishment something boring if he didn’t adopt that white dog that he didn’t really want. He may have hired less talented chefs if Jacqueline Davies-Thunderbull didn’t have a wild vision one night that led her from Bond Street in London to Cheyenne, Oklahoma, (although, looking back, the vision might have intended her to go to Cheyenne, Wyoming).
Behind every threat lies a golden opportunity for those willing to look beyond the obvious problems. When cars replaced horses and bicycles as the preferred form of transportation early in the 20th Century, it spelled doom for farriers and vendors of two- wheeled conveyance. Suddenly, people could travel great distances in a short period of time. But shiny new cars also spelled opportunity for others. Gasoline stations, the first of which had sprouted in 1907, quickly popped up across the country, allowing motorists to travel without carrying a jerry can full of fuel. Cafes opened, feeding hungry tourists along the way.
In the midst of some truly amazing stops and attractions along the 2,448 miles of highway, one slightly unusual landmark is located in the heart of the Mojave Desert—in the dusty-desert, albeit, pretty-sounding town of Newberry Springs. Enveloped by the yawning desert, but sitting only 130 miles east of Los Angeles, Bagdad Cafe has become a sort of pilgrimage for Route 66 enthusiasts and foreigners obsessed with a 1980s cult film that shares the same name. And if that is not interesting enough, 79-year-old owner, Andrea Pruett, is just as colorful as this little café’s history.
Tulsa is a Route 66 town with a storied past and a vibrant future. From oil boom to music mecca, the town has ridden multiple crests of popularity and remained rock solid through it all. Never mind that the Father of Route 66, Cyrus Avery was from Tulsa, which he insisted wind right through the friendly city.
“Miniature Golf Capital of the World” is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach but prepare to be amazed at the sheer number and diversity of mini golf options available; it really is impressive. And if the sound of the surf and calls of seagulls are already filling your post-winter dreams, it might be time to plan a visit.
New Mexico is a state unto itself — built upon the bones of ancient mythology, deep-rooted history and utterly breathtaking scenery. Poets, painters, and writers have continuously been inspired by its mythical aura, which is reflected within every inch of its curving, twisting landscape. The colors that sweep across its mountainous ridges and curved desert plains are astounding.
No American road is as iconic as Route 66. Starting in Chicago, Illinois, and snaking cross-country to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 originally consisted of 2,448 miles of highway, rich with neon-lit motels, quirky roadside attractions, and stretches of deserted landscape. With such a wealth of inspiration, it's no surprise that so many filmmakers have used Route 66 as a backdrop for their films. One of the pivotal scenes in the 1988 film Rain Man takes place at Route 66's Big 8 Motel in El Reno, Oklahoma. Rain Man went on to win numerous accolades and prizes, including four Academy Awards. While not every movie filmed on Route 66 goes home with an Oscar, there are many that are worth a watch. So pop some corn, get yourself comfy, and binge watch these eleven must-see movies on our list.
Often equated to America’s Historic Route 66, the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) threads across the south of the vast country, through all ten provinces, connecting communities from the east to the west coast. Every year, countless people travel this great transcontinental road. Those who trace the footprint of this great national highway as an attraction, rather than a long, boring stretch to be crossed in a hurry, are rewarded with small-town charm, fascinating history, and one-of-a kind roadside attractions.
The saga of the mom-and-pop motor court, designed and located strategically to lure in the motorist of yesteryear, is truly an American story. Some courts have survived, evolving from a handful of simple cabins, to quaint cottages joined by garages, to multi-unit motels kissed with neon. Many courts have perished, perhaps to a fire, or simply abandoned to time and entropy after being bypassed by a newer, faster highway.
What does it take to be a Route 66 Extraordinary Woman, you ask? Well, it takes compassion, enthusiasm, and generosity. Route 66 Extraordinary Women are joining together to help support the businesses and attractions along America’s Highway that are owned and/or operated by special women.
The road trip spirit has always been one of freedom, spontaneity, and whimsy, and nothing demonstrates this better than the shoe tree. No, this is not a device to preserve your shoe’s shape or store them in your house - it is a living tree adorned with the cast-off footwear of intrepid travelers. It begins with a dreamer and multiplies into a blooming facade of rubber soles and knotted laces.
From the deep woods of Wisconsin to the rolling hills of South Dakota, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life defined the frontier experience. Meet the extraordinary women behind one of the world’s most beloved book series and discover the indelible mark that she made upon the American imagination.
Found in a lonely area of eastern Arizona is Stewart’s Petrified Wood Trading Post – an oddity in an otherwise barren-desert- that is comprised of unique trinkets, human-eating dinosaur replicas and live ostriches. Nick Gerlich traces the story of the strangest place on 66, the people who run it, and finds there is much more to it than meets the eye.
Today, the Burma-Shave Company may be mostly known for its catchy roadside jingles, but the story behind this Minneapolis-born brand and its quirky advertising campaigns is as interesting as its catchy signs. Discover the inspirational, witty family behind Burma-Shave and the struggles that they faced on their path to success.
Following in the footsteps of a famous father, especially one with as legendary of a Hollywood career as Clint Eastwood, can be daunting. And for Scott Eastwood, who is a spitting image of his father; with the same striking good looks and gunslinger eyes, that journey can be wrought with constant comparisons. However, make no mistake, Scott Eastwood is forging his own path in Hollywood.
Matt Pinnell serves as Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma as well as the state’s first Secretary of Tourism and Branding. He has publicly expressed enormous support for the conservation and promotion of Route 66 as a fundamental part of Oklahoma’s tourism industry.
There is perhaps no better, no more powerful metaphor of human progress than that of the windshield. That wide piece of glass is our eyes not only to what lays ahead, but also what lays within. It took a harried Pixar executive loading up his family for a cross-country road trip to figure this out and share the undeniable truth with the rest of us: life is a highway. Hot on the heels of blockbuster hits like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2, Director John Lasseter found himself in need of a new tale to tell. It took the stress of overlapping release and production schedules to cause his wife, Nancy, to insist that John slow down and enjoy his kids, before he woke-up one day and found them all grown.
The first thing you see when driving down a special section of Route 66 in Oklahoma is hints of blue through the trees. When you get a little closer, an image begins to take shape: the sharp lines of a whale's tail, a large gregarious smile, and a bright-blue rounded body topped with an adorable little hat. You are looking at one of Route 66's most famous attractions, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, a Mother Road icon that evokes childhood nostalgia and was born out of one man's love for his wife and his community.
From the day construction was completed until the day the wrecking ball cast it asunder fifty- four years later, the Coral Court Motel stood as both an architectural masterpiece and a place of mystery and nefarious activities. Its reputation was brought to bear by the shadowy John Carr, who owned and operated it for forty-three of those years.
Mother Road enthusiasts fondly think of 1926 as the golden year that birthed the legendary Route 66. The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926, and the US Highway 66 was established later that year on November 11th. But what else was happening in 1926? This series takes a look at the cultural and social milieu from which Route 66 emerged - the famous, the infamous, the inventions, and the scandals that marked 1926 as a pivotal year. In this issue, we bring you the story of the notorious gangsters, Bonnie and Clyde.
The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926, and US Highway 66 was established later that year on November 11th. But what else was happening in 1926? This series takes a look at the cultural and social milieu from which Route 66 emerged - the famous, the infamous, the inventions and the scandals that marked 1926 as a pivotal year. In this article, we bring you the beginnings of the National Broadcasting Company.
Before The Simpsons became the longest-running primetime animated TV series in history, this proud title belonged to The Flintstones. The Flintstones originally aired on ABC on September 30, 1960 with an episode titled “The Flintstone Flyer,” in which Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble fool their wives, Wilma and Betty, to avoid spending a night at the opera in favor of a trip to the bowling alley. And thus, America was introduced to the peculiar antics and never-ending sarcasm that defined one of the most successful animated series in television history.
The annals of business history are filled with many names still known today, the visionaries who shaped the world of commerce in which we find ourselves. Names like Penney, Sears, Roebuck, and Walton are frequently found beside American streets and thoroughfares, while Marriott and Hilton are commonplace both downtown and in the suburbs. But there was one man more than 140 years ago who quietly set the stage in both hospitality and retailing, and wound up with a ringside seat along Route 66 when its time came. His name, though, is long forgotten by many, prompting his one-day biographer, Stephen Fried, to candidly ask, “Who the hell is Fred Harvey?”
Early in the morning, as the sun begins to rise over the vast central plains of Kansas, Scott Nelson approaches the airy porch of a small red brick building. The first rays of light dance across the petunias and geraniums, spilling over onto an old flatbed cart by the entrance. Nelson unlocks the front door and sets about opening up the shop in the auburn glow, preparing for the morning rush.
Wallace Rider Farrington, editor of The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin and governor of Hawaii from 1921 to 1929, wrote that “Lives that live forever are lives of self-sacrifice.” What does a Hawaiian have to do with a sculptor from northeastern Oklahoma? Nathan “Ed” Galloway — the man behind the ninety-foot totem pole and the surrounding park — is one of those rare, selfless characters that Farrington was alluding to. He may have been a poor Oklahoman, but Ed Galloway had a rich vision to create something spectacular that would bring happiness to others and spent eleven years and countless hours to make it a reality.
As Route 66’s establishment in 1926 would come to pave the way for cars to carry passengers from the Midwest to the Pacific coast via asphalt, the air, without any highways, had been — for over twenty years — a prime and novel location for traveling, fighting and performing tricks via airplane. Yet, from amongst the growing number of aviators to populate the sky, one pilot stood out from amongst her peers. 1926 would see the tragic accidental death—caused by an unfastened seat-belt—of nationally celebrated pilot, Bessie Coleman.
I first created my pop can pinhole cameras in 1998 while visiting my mother’s fifth grade class in southern California. A pinhole camera uses a tiny round hole – literally a pinhole – to act as a lens to create an image on a piece of film. Each of my cameras consists of two soda cans, with one sliding over the other to form a light-tight container. The pinhole is on one side of the can with the film curving around the opposite inside of the can. A paper flap slides over the hole to keep out the light until I am ready to make an image. I then hit the road to Chicago and used the cans to take photographs along the way.
More than perhaps any other highway in the US, Route 66 has always been a road of opportunity. Whether they were escaping drought or boredom, the Mother Road has always fostered an “anything is possible” mentality amongst its pilgrims. Maybe it is the dramatic and diverse geography that paints the eight states that make up this iconic highway, or perhaps the mystery or opportunity that waits just around the next bend.
Assigned by The New York Times Magazine to photograph Route 66 in May 2000, I continued on the project after the piece was published for another eleven years, documenting the road’s demise and the social conditions of those who were living out their lives on the lost highway. Contrary to the myth of Route 66 being a place of postcard fun and adventure, what I found on my trips across the ‘Mother Road’ was a road and a culture in distress.
“In 1962 my father got an old Willys Jeep. That was our ticket to going far out into the desert. We started collecting quickly on these camping trips. It was just an accident. We started bringing stuff home. One day he found a bottle, and that was it.” Most serious collectors have a genesis story like this. Hobbies seldom start out of volition. They just happen. Elmer Long, 72, is no exception. He did not find a hobby; it found him.
Elvis Presley is arguably the most “American” icon of all time. The classic rags to riches story of a poor country boy from Tennessee who became one of the biggest stars on the planet resonates with so many as the embodiment of the American dream.
The state of Arizona is packed with picturesque places to stop and stretch your legs while on a road trip or a longer visit. ROUTE offers some suggestions on a few of our favorite.
A former band member of a garage punk band called The Scarred, now turned YouTube Vlogger, Justin Scarred has amassed over 100,000 subscribers with his highly entertaining videos of his trips to Disneyland, the Old West, and more recently Route 66, where he traveled the entire Route, documenting his travels on his channel. His boisterous, goofy and witty nature infused with informative narrative, has captured and brought a whole new audience of road warriors, of all ages, to Route 66. In this interview, Scarred talks about his approach to his positive YouTube videos, his experiences filming on the Mother Road, and his adventures along Route 66.
Many significant historical events have occurred along Route 66 over its long history, and the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics is particularly noteworthy: although the Games were put on during the Great Depression of the ‘30s, they functioned as a beacon, highlighting Route 66 in America and placing Los Angeles on the global map.
On a lonely stretch of Route 95, cast haphazardly against the sagebrush of Central Nevada, is the tiny ghost town of Goldfield. Home to only 268 people, its main industries are tourism and gold. To the south of town the “International Car Forest” is the main draw for travelers. But this is a recent attraction, for most of the town’s history, its showpiece was the legendary Goldfield Hotel. A four-story classical revival building built in 1908. The yawning façade still dominates the town’s main square. It caused a sensation upon its opening, as it was one of the first hotels in the west to use electric lights and supply running water to every room.
With its subtle color palette of soft, natural grays, black, white and Ganado red, and featuring traditional Navajo symbols and patterns, the Hubbell Rug is remarkable to behold. At 22 feet by 32 feet in size, and weighing in excess of 250 pounds, this gigantic specimen of the 1930s gives a rare glimpse into authentic Native American weaving. The Hubbell Rug is the world’s largest single loom Navajo textile in existence.
Around the time that Christopher Columbus made his famous arrival in the West Indies, an estimated 30 to 60 million bison roamed the vast plains of North America. During this time, Plains Indians, including the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and Sioux tribes, made use of temporary teepees as they followed bison herds during their seasonal migrations. For these Native Americans, bison were an important resource. While bison meat was used for food, bison skins were used for clothing and teepees, while their sinew or muscle was used to make bowstrings and moccasins.
Route 66 has many supporters, or “boosters”, as proactive, dedicated individuals are lovingly referred to by passionate ‘road warriors’. It is exciting to witness all of the amazingly talented people who have devoted their lives and abilities to protecting, preserving and promoting the Mother Road. It is a cause that ROUTE stands firmly behind. And from amongst this eclectic group, it is quite common to hear one name referred to time and again: Jerry McClanahan. An artist and author whose work has aided many travelers in both their experience on the Main Street of America and in falling in love with Route 66, McClanahan has developed a strong following and a respected voice.
ROUTE Magazine caught up with bestselling author and Route 66 ambassador, Michael Wallis, who shared on his enviable career as a writer, his famous book Route 66: The Mother Road, and his favorite places and people along the iconic highway. A well-respected and known persona on the Route, Wallis reveals some things that even those who know him best may be surprised to learn.
The journey begins in the Windy City of Chicago, and ends 2,400 miles away in the Golden State of California. Known as the Main Street of America, Route 66 crosses the grand open landscapes of the United States. Broken and disconnected in some stretches, Route 66 remains the most enigmatic route accessible to curious road travelers in search of the unique as they seek the freedom of the open road.
In today’s hectic, busy world, where we are inundated with emails and phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages, FaceTime requests and a myriad of other stimuli, it is hard to take a break and simply check out, even on a road trip. But when life has worn you down and you decide to hit the open road, especially when that road is Route 66 and you are on your way, heading west to the Windy City, where The Mother Road traditionally begins, there is a gem of a stopover that welcomes everyone.
For a growing number of savvy travelers looking for a more authentic hotel experience, a restored historic hotel may be just the answer. And the restoration of La Castañeda — the Queen of Las Vegas — is poised to be just that. The venue’s restoration by the Winslow Arts Trust is set to put the classic venue back on top.
One of the things that makes Route 66 so special is its uniqueness: there’s nothing else quite like it in the world, and its magic cannot be replicated. One of the key driving factors that formed the persona of the Mother Road was, as Oklahoma Route 66 Association member Rhys Martin put it, “the advent of station-wagon tourism.” The creation of the route coincided with the new wave of automobile culture. With the development of more affordable cars, beginning with Ford’s Model T in 1908, and the rise of expendable income after WWII, family road trips became the norm, and every business along the route was vying for these potential customers’ attention.
You might not believe Joy’s full name the first time she tells it to you. When you initially ask her, she’ll say something like, “If I told you my name, you’d just die laughing.” You’ll probably think she’s making it up, but honestly, her full name is Joy A. Weed.
While skilled in many disciplines, from painting to sculpture to metal work, artist Lowell Davis is perhaps best known for his farm animal figurines, distributed to thousands of gift shops across North America. His collectors and fans regularly make the trip to visit the “Norman Rockwell of Rural Art” at his home in Red Oak II, just outside of Carthage, Missouri.
The humidity hangs thin over southwest Missouri, near where the land starts to open up to the west, and things begin to dry out. It is lush and green most years, and always hot in the summer. It is the place of small quaint towns every few miles, with buildings constructed in the vernacular style of native stone and rocks. Families sit on front porches after supper, swatting flies and reflecting on the day’s events.
Anyone who recalls traveling on Route 66 in the 50s will fondly reminisce that one of the highlights that they remember the most were the mysterious Jack Rabbit signs that dotted the old road — huge billboards strategically placed all along the route that featured a black, almost sinister, jackrabbit silhouette over a bright yellow background, with the remaining mileage to the advertised ‘destination’. Travelers were intrigued. The destination was the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, an iconic stop on Route 66 in Arizona, that has become a living part of Route 66 history, and one that continues to capture the imagination and instill the thrill of traveling the Main Street of America.
The history of the Mother Road can, ironically, often seem to be dominated by male protagonists and male storytellers. However, while less prominent in literature, women have certainly played an integral and fascinating role in the life and development of Route 66.
Tonopah's Clown Motel sits midway between Las Vegas and Reno, eerily cheerful against its muted desert backdrop. Clowns wave and smile strangely from the road; they line the lobby walls; they hang above the beds. An elephantine Ronald McDonald welcomes you at the check-in desk. Oh, and there's a cemetery next door that's home to 300 long-deceased miners.
Few towns along Route 66 represent the Mother Road more magically that Pontiac, Illinois. Located in the lovely county of Livingston, the small town paints the perfect picture of middle America with its idyllic parks and swinging bridges that cross the Vermilion River. The town was even honored to be the chosen location for the 1984 film, Grandview, USA.
Even in its heyday, Route 66 was not the continuous benign bright ribbon that some might imagine. Almost without exception, life was as hard as anywhere else – sometimes harder – and highway traffic was comprised not only of the military, the commercial traveller and the tourist, but of darker elements. Some places seemed to attract sadness and tragedy more than others, and one such place was Toonerville in Arizona.
Cuba, Missouri, is one of those Route 66 towns that no matter how many times I’ve been, it makes me want to spend even more time there. Recently, I spent two and a half weeks in the town on assignment, exploring Cuba and getting to know the friendly local folks, and of course creating photographs. Cuba has quite a bit to offer the roadtripper. From one of the top stays on the road, to an extensive collection of murals, a winery on top of a hill, with a fantastic view, tasty treats from a sweet retired lady, living her dream of owning a pie shop, to the delightful culinary experience that is set in an old Phillips Cottage style gas station right on old 66, and much more.
California’s 314 mile section of Route 66 is home to some of the old road’s most vivid scenery and unique attractions. There is something about the moody desert atmosphere, with its numerous fading ghost towns and lost in time venues, that leaves a deep etch in the heart of intrepid travelers. Every dilapidated structure seems to have its own story, and it is not difficult if one closes their eyes and listens carefully, to hear the ghosts of yesterday. The desert has a way of opening the mind and nudging the spirit. Yet, perhaps even more memorable and captivating are the people of California’s Route 66. In many cases, true to Old West stereotypes, these are pioneers and dreamers, each with a destiny to fulfill and a heavy helping of true grit.