There is perhaps no more iconic highway in America than Route 66. A Route 66 trip is the stuff dreams are made of. When Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones both cover a song about something ("Get Your Kicks on Route 66"), you know it's really special. What was once the first main road from the Midwest to California is now a testament to American ingenuity and adventure. It spans 2,451 miles across eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. There are plenty of amazing places to visit along your road trip.
A grand tour of Route 66 typically begins in Chicago. One of the first destinations is a visit to Lou Mitchell's Restaurant in Chicago. Lou's has been a destination for presidents and prominent politicians on the campaign trail. It's also got some classic dishes, including meltaway pancakes, the skirt steak sandwich, and "the world's finest coffee."
The Chain of Rocks Bridge once served as the way to cross the Mississippi River. It was an engineering marvel in its day. Thanks to a 22-degree bend midway across, it was just as interesting to look at as it was to navigate. Though it's been closed to auto traffic since 1970, it is presently open to foot and bike traffic. Another interesting Route 66 landmark in Missouri is the 400 million-year-old Meramec Caverns, a destination that attracts more than 150,000 Route 66 trip visitors annually.
Only 13 miles of Route 66 pass through the state of Kansas, but what it lacks in miles, it makes up for in nostalgia. The best known Kansas Route 66 destination is the 4 Women on the Route diner in Galena. Built from a classic service station, the sandwich and gift shop is a step back in time and a classic slice of Americana, with all the amenities you would have seen along the route 60 years ago.
There are some iconic sights along the stretch of Route 66 in Oklahoma, like the Blue Whale and the World's Largest Totem Pole. But the best place to experience the road is the Route 66 Museum. The museum features exhibits on how the route became a liberator of those suffering from the effects of the dust bowl and how it became a part of American history. It's an excellent place to gain a greater perspective on the profound effects of American mobility and the freedom of the road.
"Everything's bigger in Texas." It's no wonder then that a must-visit place along Route 66 in Texas is The Big Texan steakhouse. The restaurant has all the Western design cues of the classic Southwest to entertain you and a 72-ounce steak as the marquee dish on the menu.
The El Rancho Hotel is a classic abode that once hosted many Hollywood stars, such as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood in the heyday of Western films, and the hotel has been preserved to retain its classic Southwestern charm. It's another destination that has great history and reflects the original spirit of Route 66.
Arizona is home to some of the most memorable Route 66 trip destinations, including the 225 million-year-old Petrified Forest, the stunning Painted Desert, and the 37 mile-wide Meteor Crater. All three picturesque sites look more like they belong in a painting or a postcard than in reality.
California: the destination of Route 66. The long journey on Route 66 ends in Santa Monica. Most people who follow the route to the end make a beeline for the Santa Monica pier. You can just imagine road-weary travelers setting sight on the Pacific Ocean for the first time, their eyes filling with tears. It's an amazing place to experience the energy of Southern California and a beautiful place to end your Route 66 journey.