Route 66 attractions and roadside stops are one part of what made the historic road special over the years. Especially in the heyday of road trips for leisure purposes, in the 50s and 60s, the roadside attractions really made the journey.
When planning a Route 66 trip it’s often hard to know where to start so I always suggest checking out what there is to see on the way. With so many must see roadside attractions on route 66 it’s easy to feel lost and overhwelmed!
There are so many iconic things to see on Route 66. All along the road, through all of the 8 states, small businesses would try and catch the attention of passers by to their establishments.
They’d build giant, quirky landmarks that you could see as you were driving, or they would have constant advertisements saying how far you were from ‘it’ so that eventually you were excited to see what ‘it’ was!
While driving Route 66 you’ll see murals, giant statues, museums, natural attractions, shops, motels and diners on the historic mother road. Sometimes you’ll see all of that in one stop!
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A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a Route 66 enthusiast – I first became obsessed almost 20 years ago and then first visited in 2014. I’ve recently just come back from my last trip too! Comment below if you have any questions about your road trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP – or join me in my free FB group here.
I love seeing all the roadside stops on our Route 66 trips, I love a good photo opportunity and there are plenty of them on the road!
There’s always more to see as well. Even though we researched our trip as well as we could, we still missed a lot and you likely will too, so a return journey will always sound like a good idea. Don’t worry if you miss spots or if you don’t have time – always be open to more exploration at a later date!
Route 66 Attractions by type
Now, this post is by no means a definitive guide to the Route 66 icons and attractions that you will see on the entire road from beginning to end. There really are a LOT to try and include!
I’ve listed the attractions by type so I suggest using the buttons below to jump to where you might be interested or just grab a drink and enjoy perusing them all!
It’s purpose is to hopefully give you a good overview of what you can see, prepare you for the rabbit hole of research and get you interested in planning your Route 66 trip along the road without overwhelm.
Giants on Route 66
Route 66 is home to many giants from the huge muffler men to world record breaking crosses and animals! Designed to make people stop, stare and maybe even visit and spend some money in the adjoining businesses these are classic roadside attractions on Route 66.
Let’s take a look at a few of the giants on the road that you’ll see:
1. Gemini Giant Muffler Man
Location: Wilmington, Illinois
Wilmington, Illinois is home to one of the most recognizable Route 66 icons on the road – the Gemini Giant. He was a muffler man, a statue that was seen a lot outside ‘muffler garages’ in the 50s. Many of the statues were personalised and moved to different locations over the years like this one that got a space theme.
2. Paul Bunyan
Location: Atlanta, Illinois
This small town in Illinois is well worth a stop if you love the giants on the road. The main attraction is Paul Bunyan who stands in the center of town holding a giant hot dog!
Just across the road is a new attraction too though – a museum all about the giants on the road and they have plans to bring more in. I wonder if the giants will take over in Atlanta??
3. Buck Atom
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
This muffler man in Oklahoma is attached to a gift shop where you can pick up some unique, vintage goods. With neon lighting up at night and the giant offering a perfect photo opportunity, this is a great stop in the city of Tulsa.
4. Jack Rabbit Trading Post
Location: Joseph City, Arizona
Like the Meramac Caves in Missouri, the Jack Rabbit Trading post advertises for miles on Route 66. So much so that you really want to know what ‘It’ is that is finally here! In fact it’s a shop, large jack rabbit for photo opps and a nice rest spot!
5. Giant cross
Location: Groom, Texas
The Giant Cross is another example of things that are supersized on Route 66. This is supposedly the largest cross in the western hemisphere, but seems to have been superseded now. It is really impressive when you get up close to it.
6. World’s largest rocker
Location: Fanning, Missouri
I think we’re seeing a pattern developing here of people making these attractions and stops so big that they end up in the Guinness book of records!
This one is a large rocking chair in Fanning, Missouri. (It’s no longer the largest but still worth a stop all the same!)
7. Blue whale
Location: Catoosa, Oklahoma
A classic Route 66 roadside attraction. Stop for a while here and let your kids run around and have a play. The Blue Whale used to be a swimming hole for locals and travellers until the site closed in the late 80s. Like many sites along route 66, locals raised money to restore it as an historic landmark.
There are loads of small towns across the breadth of Route 66 that are well worth taking time out to explore. Here are just a few of the well known and interesting stops (that aren’t mentioned in other areas)
Location: Oatman, Arizona
Oatman is an old ghost town that’s seen somewhat of a revival in a tourist way. You can visit and it’s full of shops and bars but with that old time feeling to it. In some ways it feels like a theme park but this was actually a wild west town.
There are wild burros (donkeys) roaming to add to the ambience and there are also staged gun fights each day too. You’ll either love it or hate it there!
Location: Seligman, Arizona
Seligman is one of those towns where the revival of Route 66 is really felt. That’s because some of the inhabitants, such as Angel Delgadillo, were the ones to fight for the survival and resurgence of the road.
We were lucky to have a quick chat with Angel while he was doing what he does best, cutting people’s hair when passing through!
There are a lot of shops, retro food options and plenty of photo opps here too.
Location: Cuba, Missouri
Cuba is a fun town that is very proud of its Route 66 heritage. There are a number of murals around Cuba depicting historical scenes from the area from the introduction of banks to battles with Native Americans and civil war history.
Some of my favourite sights on the road are the historic motels that are dotted along the way. There are some amazing examples of establishments that have been running since almost the very beginning and have either been kept going throughout or have been restored to their past glory.
Many have wonderful neon at night and are worth staying for that reason alone!
11. Blue Swallow Motel
Location: Tucumcari, New Mexico
The Blue Swallow Motel is one of many retro motels in the small town of Tucumcari which lights up at night time and is a joy to wander around. It’s probably one of the most photographed spots along Route 66 today.
In the day, check out many murals on the walls of Tucumcari too.
12. Wagon Wheel Motel
Location: Cuba, Missouri
Dating back to the 1930s and being in constant use since then is this gorgeous motel. Looking like small stone built cottages, the motel rooms are simple but all you need for a good nights sleep after a day on the road.
13. Boots Court
Location: Carthage, Missouri
This is one of the classic motels that fell into disrepair over the years. With an art deco style of building, car ports to shelter your car for the night and even some history with Hollywood actors coming to stay (Clark Gable stayed there!).
Thankfully it’s been taken on as a project to restore to its original look. That means neon, ‘radios in every room’, and plenty of original features. No tv though! (But does have wifi!)
It was one of our top stops on our most recent trip and I’m so glad it is being taken care of.
14. El Rancho Hotel
Location: Gallup, New Mexico
In the town of Gallup you’ll find another iconic historic Route 66 hotel and this one has history that includes some of the silver screen legends. Names such as Clark Gable and John Wayne have stayed here and the hotel is very proud of this and displays photographs of past visitors on the walls.
15. Wigwam Motel
Location: Holbrook, Arizona
A retro motel where you can spend a night in a (concrete) teepee. Whether you choose to stay or just pass by there’s a lot of photo opportunities here with old cars outside and of course the wonderful neon in the evening.
16. Munger Moss Motel
A gorgeous example of a retro and historic motel on Route 66 is the Munger Moss just outside the town of Lebanon. Neon signs were again such a classic way that businesses would attract customers to their place and this one doesn’t disappoint. Even if you don’t stop the night it’s a must see photo opportunity.
While I touched on the neon being a big part of the historic motels above, there are a few other places that love a bit of lighting up on an evening along the Mother Road! Here are a couple of spots, that aren’t motels, to see on the road.
17. U drop Inn
Location: Shamrock, Texas
The U Drop Inn in Shamrock was my top place to see on Route 66 when I was planning our trip. We’d seen the Disney Cars film and I was surprised that Ramone’s garage actually existed! I had to see it and the beautiful art deco architecture.
I wasn’t disappointed and you won’t be either. If you can, stay in the town and see it lit up at night.
18. Pops 66
Location: Arcadia, Oklahoma
This is a relatively modern roadside attraction on 66 having only been built in 2007 but the giant pop bottle outside that lights up at night makes it a must see.
Inside they do a lot of soda drink options and it’s a great place to get a bite to eat!
You can’t have a historic road without having some historic gas stations on the way and these Route 66 gas stations are well worth taking time to stop at.
19. Dwight restored gas station
Location: Dwight, Illinois
You’ll see a lot of restored retro gas stations along route 66 and this one in Dwight, Illinois is a nice example of one. It dates all the way back to 1933 and has a cottage style which was due to oil companies not wanting to intrude on local life.
20. Gay Parita Filling Station
Location: Paris Springs, Missouri
This retro and 1930s style filling station is just classic Route 66 and what everyone imagines they’ll see on the road. It’s a restored gas station surrounded by classic cars, a shop with a tonne of vintage things to see and buy and often hosts classic car shows too.
21. Baxter Springs Visitor Centre
Location: Baxter Springs, Kansas
Baxter Springs Visitor Centre used to be a gas station and repair garage in the days when Route 66 was thriving. It’s since been restored to a tourist attraction and information centre.
It’s situated in the centre of the town which means you get to explore all the shops and cafes nearby in this really quaint, historic place.
It’s not all businesses and retro Americana on Route 66 – some of the most beautiful natural sights are seen on or very close to the road too!
22. Petrified Forest National Park
The only National Park that Route 66 drives straight through the middle of is the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. It’s easily explore with a car or you can go for a walk along some of the trails as well.
23. Grand Canyon
Location: Near Williams, Arizona
While not exactly on the road itself, it’s so close that it makes sense to add it in as one of your Route 66 side trips if you’ve never been.
The Grand Canyon hardly needs introducing – it was one of the major attractions that would inspire people to drive the road when it was used by people as part of a vacation.
Take the train from Williams, AZ for a memorable trip.
24. Continental divide
Location: Continental Divide, New Mexico
Located in a community of the same name is the natural landmark of the Continental Divide. At this spot any rain that falls to the west will flow to the Pacific and any to the East toward the atlantic.
There’s a sign to take photos and a shop for souvenirs and snacks.
25. Meteor Crater
Location: near Winslow, Arizona
If you’ve ever wondered what a huge meteor crater looks like then you’re in luck because just a little off the road there’s a huge example of that very thing.
It’s hard to convey in images quite the size of this thing so I recommend heading there in real life. There’s a museum there too to learn more about space and meteorites.
26. Meramec Caverns
Location: Stanton, Missouri
One of those attractions that you see signposted for miles, in what is quite a good martketing technique, is Meramec Caverns. Lots of history is told about the caves, but much of it could well be elaborated on to entice people to visit, such as the tale about outlaw Jesse James hiding out there.
Fans of architecture and building of the 20th century will be excited to stop and check out these bridges on the road:
27. Chain of Rocks Bridge
Location: North of St Louis between Illinois and Missouri
Crossing the Mississippi River and over into Missouri is the Chain of Rocks Bridge. One of the interesting bits about this bridge is the angle in the middle of it – it’s not a straight bridge!
It’s no longer in use as a vehicle bridge but you can visit and walk and cycle over it. There are some photo opportunities and retro signs up on the bridge too.
28. Devil’s Elbow
A small town that got bypassed quite quickly by a new alignment of Route 66 is Devil’s Elbow. A nice place to stretch your legs and take a look at the bridge and the river that flows beneath.
It’s so called because it would be a place where logs would jam on the river from upstream because of the bends.
29. Rainbow Bridge
Location: outside Riverton, Kansas
This small bridge is the only one of its kind left on Route 66. Its architectural style is called a Marsh Arch Bridge and it was built in 1923, just a few years before Route 66 was actually made into an official highway.
Keeping travelers full was the business of so many along the road – people always need fed! Some of these have been feeding Route 66 road trippers for years!
30. The Rock Cafe
Location: Stroud, Oklahoma
The Rock cafe in Stroud is almost as old as the road itself and dates all the way back to the 1930s. It’s a proper retro diner serving good, local food. The restaurant has had tough times after the town was devastated by a tornado in the 90s and a fire destroyed it in 2008. It was restored in 2009 and now is a must see stop in Oklahoma.
The current owner is also the inspiration for the Cars character Sally!
31. Mid-Point cafe
Location: Adrian, Texas
The cafe at the midpoint of the route seems like a great place to stop right? I mean after over 1000 miles it would be rude not to! There’s been a cafe here since 1928 but it’s been through various changes in the time the road has been alive.
This is the home of ‘Ugly Crust Pies’ and was also, like the Rock Cafe above, one of the inspirations for Pixar when they visited. Apparently it’s what Flo’s cafe was based on!
32. Big Texan
Location: Amarillo, Texas
The Big Texan is a must see restaurant on the road where hungry and competitive travelers see if they can win the 72oz steak for free by eating it in under an hour!
Even if you don’t want to eat there it’s worth a stop off to look around their gift shop and take photos outside.
33. Ted Drew’s Frozen Custard
Location: St Louis, Missouri
Home of the most delicious frozen custard and a place that’s been serving them since the 1930s.
You can get all sorts of flavors and sizes depending on how hungry you are. They’ll even check to see that it’s solid enough by turning it over before serving it to you!
All along the road you’ll see a huge number of museums. Some are dedicated to the local history of the area, some are just about Route 66 and some focus on specific areas such as historic cars.
34. Pontiac museums
Location: Pontiac, Illinois
Home to the car brand and a number of museums about various topics, Pontiac is a great place to stop in Illinois on Route 66.
You’ll find murals, a car museum and also a Route 66 museum.
35. National Route 66 Museum
Location: Elk City, Oklahoma
This Route 66 museum doesn’t just focus on the place where it’s located but covers all 8 of the states and explores the history of the road as a whole.
As well as the inside you can also see recreations of how an old town would have looked in the heyday of the road.
36. Original McDonalds Museum
Location: San Bernardino, California
The site of the very first McDonalds Restaurant is in California and it’s now a museum where you can learn all about the rise of the food giant. Even if you’re not a fan of their food you’ll love the history, quirky items on display and the nostalgia!
Of course, the fun of route 66 is the breadth of fun and quirky sights to see along the way. Here are some other interesting Route 66 attractions to add to your itinerary:
37. Route 66 begin and end sign
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Where most people begin their trip along the Mother Road, but many others end is the ultimate Route 66 landmark. The Begin sign is at the corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue and the End sign is on the corner of Jackson and Michigan, one block south. The roads were made one way in the 50s which is why the begin and end signs are on different streets.
38. Riverton store
Location: Riverton, Kansas
Another classic old world store where you can buy just about anything and everything. Slow down, get yourself a bite to eat and enjoy the blast from the past in Riverton.
39. The original Tow-mater from Disney’s Cars
Location: Galena, Kansas
In the town of Galena there is a must see Route 66 stop for any fans of the Disney Cars film. It has the original inspiration for the character Mater who was the tow truck in the film!
And if you haven’t seen Cars, even adults love it so I highly recommend it and then you can look out for real life Radiator Springs locations along the road!
40. Cadillac Ranch
Location: Amarillo, Texas
Any book about Route 66 rightly has an image of the Cadillacs that are nose down in the ground and at an angle. It’s called the Cadillac ranch and is an art installation just out of Amarillo. You can make your mark on the cars with spray paint if you like!
41. Route 66 mid-point
Location: Adrian, Texas
If you started your road trip in either Chicago or Santa Monica then when you get to Texas you’re half way through the journey! This is celebrated at the Mid Point in Adrian where there’s a photo spot and also a cafe, mentioned above.
42. Standing on a Corner
Location: Winslow, Arizona
The Eagles song ‘Taking It Easy’ inspired this attraction in Winslow. The song speaks of the man standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona and you can do that here too! There’s a statue and mural of the flat bed ford as well.
43. Santa Monica pier
The end of the trail and the final attraction on Route 66 is the end sign situated on Santa Monica pier. Seeing the Pacific Ocean stretch out in front on you after such a long ribbon of tarmac through the US is quite something.
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🇺🇸 Route 66 FAQ 🇺🇸
Do I need insurance for traveling Route 66?
YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance even when travelling domestically! If you have booked something non refundable it might be the only way you’ll get money back if your plans change.
Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.
Who is the best car rental company for Route 66?
Where to book Hotels for Route 66?
For hotels I recommend Booking.com as they tend to have good cancellation policies so you can keep flexible on the road.
Often some historic Route 66 hotels will need to be booked direct.
What to pack for Route 66?
Keeping yourself cool and comfortable is a must for any road trip.
See my post about what to pack for a Route 66 road trip
What’s the best guidebook for Route 66 ?
Where to get flights for Route 66?
Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to start your road trip.