Route 66 is a legendary road dubbed as Main Street of America. Highway 66 starts in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, on the Pacific Ocean, crossing eight states and covering a total of 3940 kilometers.
Opened in 1926, it served as a primary route for those who migrated west, creating thriving communities and supporting many local businesses along the way – gas stations, motels, hotels, shops, repair shops, and restaurants.
Everything changed when the new Interstate Highway replaced the old Route 66, and in 1985 Highway 66 was removed from the United States Highway System. The new route bypassed many cities, slowly changing thriving communities into desolate areas.
Nowadays, what is left of the old highway, has been renamed to Historic Route 66, and a few towns that survived have become tourist attractions for those nostalgic for America from the 50′ and 60′.
Around 80% of the route is still passable, with some fragments refurbished with newer, wider roads and with some short sections where Route 66 is still a gravel road. If you have enough time, you can travel from one end to another or, like us, choose a couple of segments and check them out. Each state through which Route 66 runs has something interesting to offer – an interesting town, location, trail, or viewpoint. However, you can find most of the attractions along the longest and best-preserved stretch of Route 66, which runs through Arizona and California.
For inspiration, install the “Route 66 Ultimate Guide” app to show you interesting POIs and vistas.
Our first stop was a small town called Seligman, a Historic Town on Route 66 in Arizona that Inspired Disney-Pixar’s movie “Cars”. Located a stone’s throw away from Grad Canyon, Seligman is also known as the birthplace of Historic Route 66, thanks to residents who petitioned and persuaded the State of Arizona to list Route 66 as a Historic Highway.
The most interesting place is the historic part of the town – Seligman Historic District, where you can go back in time to the old Route 66. Numerous cafes, souvenir shops, motels, and abandoned gas stations are beautiful backgrounds for photos and snaps. Walk along the road, grab a meal and enjoy the city’s vibe and all references to the “Car” movie.
Just before entering Seligman (at this point), you will find one of the many Route 66 shields printed on the asphalt. We missed it, but Google told me so 🙂
Oatman, a small gold mining town built in the early 1900s on “Bloody 66,” the most dangerous and rugged stretch of the Mother Road winding through the Black Mountains, is now a cozy little tourist town dominated by donkeys or burros, as the locals call them. Burros are the feral descendants of donkeys used years ago in nearby mines to transport the product. Nowadays, they walk the streets, trying to get food from tourists, who can buy snacks for them in shops in the area.
After several dozen years, the gold deposits in the vicinity of the settlement ended, closing the mines. Interstate bypassing the town was the last blow, and the city was completely depopulated by 1960.
In 1962 the famous film “How the West Was Won” was shot in the town, restoring the memory of this place, and the interest in Route 66 slowly transformed the old mining town into a tourist town.
Oatman attractions include old wooden huts along the street, remains of mines, and souvenir shops. Interestingly, on March 18, 1939, the famous Hollywood couple Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their wedding night here.
In Oatman, we finally spotted the “Route 66” sign on the road, and I finally snapped a picture with it!
While we were walking down the street, we saw a small shop offering to take “Wild West” stylized pictures. Our tradition is to take themed photos, and we had yet to find a place or time to do that during our trip. Without much thinking, we entered it, chose from a gazillion dresses and outfits, and snapped a couple of pictures.
It wasn’t the fanciest place, with good quality printouts, but the lady was lovely; she even burned the pictures on the CD for us so we could take the digital version. There were many clothes to choose from, and we could stylize the scene any way we wanted with an abundance of props.
A couple of other locations were recommended on different blogs on the internet; however, we yet again ran out of time and didn’t manage to check them out.
- Twin Arrows – a dilapidated ghost city that was used as a location of a scene in the movie Forrest Gump.
- Wigwam Village Motel – famous for Indian tents made of concrete and steel that you can sleep in.
- Williams– the last city bypassed by the construction of Interstate in 1984
- Grand Canyon Caverns – giant tyrannosaurus rex and caverns
- Kingman – a local museum dedicated to Route 66
- Hackberry – an almost abandoned old silver mining town known for Hackberry General Store.
- Amboy – another ghost town, almost demolished except for the former Amboy School and an abandoned church.