If you mention Route 66, for most, it conjures up some sort of pleasant memory. Route 66 has a colorful reputation and a poignant history for most Americans. You will find that exploring the original Route 66 is well worth your time and effort. Here are eight sights you must see on your journey down Route 66.
A Brief History
Route 66, the” Mother Road,” began in the minds of entrepreneurs John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri and Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1920s. These men, in addition to the U.S. Legislature’s newly formed highway commission recognized the importance of creating highways to support the demands of the growing automobile population. The new highway was dubbed Route 66 in 1926 and its purpose was to connect Chicago with Los Angeles. Oddly enough, the route’s meandering path took it through hundreds of rural communities, thus providing farmers with a reliable means for moving their crops to market. For more historical information, click here.
Route 66’s Location
Route 66 begins or ends in Los Angeles or Chicago, depending on where you start. It meanders through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and either ends or begins in Los Angeles, California or vice versa. For a visual reference map, click here.
First Top Sight to See
If your Route 66 journey starts in Chicago, be sure not to miss the Charles F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Chicago’s park district. The Buckingham Fountain is one of the world’s largest fountains and was dedicated in 1927, not long after Route 66 opened. The architectural marvel was created in memory of Kate Sturgis Buckingham’s brother, Clarence. It is best to visit the fountain after dark because there is a magnificent light show that consists of a 820 lights with accompanying music. The fountain is open from April until October from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. with 20 minute shows on the hour, depending on the weather.
Second Top Sight to See
As Route 66 weaves its way through Missouri, you must make a stop in Lebanon and visit the Route 66 Museum and Research Center. It is located at 915 S. Jefferson Ave. The museum offers Route 66 fans a classic diner, along with antique car displays, an example of a 1950s gas station, and Route 66 books, videos, and magazines to peruse or purchase. This museum affords tourist with a factual history of Route 66.
Third through Sixth Top Sights to See
Traveling the “Mother Road” through Oklahoma takes some time for two reasons: You are not traveling on an interstate, and Oklahoma takes great pride in owning the longest stretch of the famed Route 66. The state is home to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in his hometown of Claremore. The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is located in Clinton and gives you a wonderful history of Route 66. If you want to see an authentic 1930s D-X gas station, stop by Afton Station.
Seventh and Eighth Top Sights to See
The Texas Panhandle offers the tourist 150 original miles of the “Mother Road.” This gives Texas some bragging rights, to be sure. Amarillo is the only large city along the 170 mile stretch, and it is the home of Ranchotel . This ‘tourist court’ is one of the best preserved examples of what pre-war travel was like. When entering New Mexico, plan to spend some time visiting the Santa Domingo Pueblo. It is situated between Albuquerque and Santa Fe near the banks of the Rio Grande River. This pueblo is an excellent example of time “standing still.” The natives live much as they did before Coronado explored the area, and the natives perform their famous Corn Dance every August 4.
Ninth and Tenth Top Sights to See
Arizona also boasts of having the longest stretch of Route 66. While you are traveling the “other” longest stretch, be sure to visit Lake Havasu City. Lake Havasu City earned its bragging rights, thanks in part to Robert P. McCulloch, the founder of Lake Havasu City. He purchased the famed London Bridge in the 1970s and transported the entire bridge to Arizona’s Lake Havasu for re-construction. The bridge is right off Route 66 and is worth a visit. For more information, click here. Once through Arizona, your last stop is California, and you simply must stay at the Wigwam Village #7. It is located between Rialto and San Bernardino and has recently been restored, in addition to being entered in the National Register of Historic Places. For the scoop on the Wigwam, click here.