One could argue that of all the historic American highways and byways, there’s none more iconic and more abundant in history as Route 66. Let’s profile the celebrated Route 66 including a brief history, a few must-see destinations along the route and a few of the best places to stay so we can get our kicks on Route 66.
A Brief History of Route 66
The Route 66 you travel today can vary from the original or historic 66. The original Route 66, also known as America’s Main Street, was one of the first highways built in the United States in 1926, originating in Chicago, Illinois and running southwest until its terminus in Santa Monica, California. The original 66 was 2451 miles long and became a popular road for those traveling west and remained popular until the Interstate Highway System replaced it.
In 1986, Route 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway system. The route continues to this day as National Scenic Byways designated Historical Route 66, and some states have designated certain highways as State Route 66. Whatever it is designated as the importance and impact of Route 66 remain to this day.
What to Do on Route 66
Of course, with so much history, there are bound to be some can’t miss destinations along the route. Here are some of my favorites. Don’t miss the little stops along the way – you never know what you might stumble on that piques your interest on Route 66.
The Santa Monica Pier: Santa Monica, California
The Santa Monica Pier was the traditional western terminus of Route 66, and the pier still is outfitted with End of the Trail, 66 marker. The Santa Monica Pier in California is still as lively as it was fifty years ago. With plenty of boardwalk games, rides, and beautiful views of the Pacific to capture the spirit of Route 66. Make sure you take a ride on the famous ferris wheel.
Cadillac Ranch: Amarillo, Texas
This is a classic tourist trap, but considering it is free then who cares? Cadillac Ranch is a sculpture created in 1974 by artists Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels. The sculpture is ten Cadillacs buried halfway into the ground at an angle that corresponds to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Bring a can of spray paint because the sculpture is open to modification by all. Spray your name, a caricature or anything else that strikes you at this Texas destination.
National Route 66 Museum: Elk City, Oklahoma
The fascinating National Route 66 Museum will take you through all eight states that the historic 66 ran through. You start the tour in Illinois and travel to the museum until you reach California. The museum includes historic photographs, points of interest, and different eras of the road. Overhead speakers play historic accounts of travel down 66, so you can get a feel of the experience at this Oklahoma pit stop.
Where to Stay on Route 66
If you want to stay in the middle of the action you need to pick an RV park that is close or right on Route 66, here are three of my favorites. There are RV parks, campgrounds, and dry camping options scattered on or near Route 66. Plan your trip well in advance to book what you want if the three below don’t tickle your road trip fancy.
St. Louis West/Historic Route 66 KOA: Eureka, Missouri
The St. Louis West/Historic Route 66 KOA is the perfect location to get your start on traversing parts of the historic Route 66. The park is a Missouri-based KOA, so you know you have full utility hookups, large and clean shower, and laundry facilities and plenty of activities in the park including gem panning, rocket launches, and an outdoor movie screening area.
This KOA is also located just one mile from Six Flags St. Louis for plenty of family-friendly fun. There is all the fun provided by St. Louis as well. If you’re looking for more of an outdoors activity, the park is located close to kayaking, rafting, or canoeing on the Meramec River.
Route 66 RV Park: Elk City, Oklahoma
Route 66 RV Park is one of the oldest continuously running RV parks in Oklahoma, and they do things right. You have full utility hookups as well as a trash pickup service, all on extra wide concrete pads. Many of the sites are shaded to provide a little refuge from the hot Oklahoma sun.
The town of Elk City is a loving testament to the importance of Route 66 and houses the Route 66 Museum. There’s also Elk City’s Ackley Park with plenty of walking trails and even a lake to fish on. Other Ackley Park activities include mini golf, train rides, swimming, a large playground, and more.
The Canyon Motel & RV Park: Williams, Arizona
The quaint little town of Williams, Arizona is 13 acres of a simpler time and located right off the historic Route 66. The park itself is feature rich with full hookups, clean showers, and laundry facilities and a general store where you can stock up on supplies. The park also has grilling areas, an indoor pool, business center and a large fire ring for nightly get-togethers.
The Canyon Motel & RV Park is just an hour from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim as well as close to ski and winter activities, the Grand Canyon Railway, Kaibab National Forest, and the drive-through wildlife park Bearizona.
When planning an RV destination trip, consider Route 66! Load up your RV and head west, see the United States as so many have before you on historic Route 66.