Location: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois
Distance: 3,945 kilometres
After more than 80 years, the 'Mother Road' continues to lure road-trippers keen on chasing down some good old-fashioned freewheelin’ fun. While the updated interstate system, known as the Will Rogers Highway, may have fundamentally changed the way people drive in these parts, there’s still enough rundown gas stations, homely diners, rib joints, dive bars and snap-worthy roadside oddities to keep the inimitable spirit of Route 66 alive. Experience rugged deserts, quiet cowboy towns to glitz and glamour in Las Vegas, to the wide open spaces of the Grand Canyon!
Go the whole distance: Choose to drive just a segment of the Mother Road, or double down and go the whole way for the road trip of a lifetime.
- Don’t miss the Cadillac Ranch sculpture in Amarillo.
- Get snap-happy on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.
- Visit Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield.
- Take in Acoma Sky City’s cultural centre and Haak’u Museum.
- Tip your hat at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
- Stop in at the Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari, and check out the city’s 17 life-size murals.
- Pull in for a meal at the Comet Drive-In, then admire the historic buildings in downtown Santa Rosa.
- Check out the best preserved section of the route in the Southwest in Arizona, including the main street of Kingman (the largest town on the route).
Day 1 & 2 – Chicago
Arrive at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and spend your first couple of days experiencing mile after magnificent mile of the 'Windy City’. From breakfast at Chicago institution, Lou Mitchells, to the architectural beauty of the Willis Tower, Chicago is a mecca for unique travel experiences. It also marks the start of historic Route 66 at the corner of Michigan and Adams.
Day 3 – Chicago to St Louis
Jump into life on the road with 330 miles (480kms) along Route 66. Showcasing pure Americana, early highlights include the green Gemini Giant and 19-foot Paul Bunyan statue. Grab a Cozy Dog corndog in Springfield, Illinois before rolling on to St Louis – home to the Gateway Arch.
Day 4 – St Louis to Springfield
Hit the road on day four to Springfield, Missouri, which happens to be the birthplace of Route 66. This 210 mile (340km) drive is also an opportunity to discover such gems as the Meramec Caverns – a collection of colourful formations and former hideout for the notorious Jesse James.
Day 5 – Springfield to Tulsa to Oklahoma City
Rack up another 310 miles (520kms) to Oklahoma City. Observe the rich history of Route 66 through Oklahoma as a main thoroughfare for migrating families in the 1930s. Stop for a photo at the Blue Whale in Catoosa and Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in Tulsa.
Day 6 – Oklahoma City to Amarillo
Head for Texas on a 260 mile (420km) trail through the Great Plains. Notable stops along the way include the Route 66 Museum, Shamrocks Tower Station and the leaning water tower of Groom. Once in Amarillo, the Big Texas Steak Ranch calls to hungry travellers with their famous 72 ounce steak.
Day 7 & 8 – Amarillo to Albuquerque
Before leaving Amarillo be sure to visit Cadillac Ranch – a unique homage to the Golden Age of the American auto industry. Continue on to Adrian for a slice of ugly crust pie at the Midpoint Cafe before heading to the ‘Land of Enchantment’. Day eight is yours to discover the Spanish Colonial and Native American history of Albuquerque. Old Town and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre are just two of the city’s highlights.
Day 9 – Side Trip to Santa Fe
Once part of historic Route 66, Sante Fe is a 116 mile (186km) side trip from Albuquerque. It is the oldest capital in the US and one of the most picturesque. Art galleries, markets and museums showcase local artists, including works by famed resident Georgia O'Keeffe.
Day 10 – Albuquerque to Holbrook
This 260 mile (420km) leg takes you on a journey through the striking desert landscapes of Arizona, from the brilliant red-rock mesas to the 13,000 years of history in the Petrified Forest National Park. Cap off the drive with a stop at the iconic Wigwam Motel, welcoming guests since the 1950s.
Day 11 – Holbrook to Grand Canyon National Park to Williams
Continue on to the vintage trading post of Meteor City whose distinctive dome can be seen for miles. Pass through Flagstaff and Williams en route to the Grand Canyon National Park – a 180 mile (290km) trip culminating in scenic vistas over the Southern Rim. Stop at one of the numerous overlooks, walk part of the Rim Trail or along historic Hermit Road. Climb to the top of the stone Watchtower for panoramic views that extend over 100 miles on a clear day.
Day 12 & 13 – Grand Canyon National Park to Las Vegas
Leaving Williams and the Grand Canyon behind, you will commence 300 miles (480kms) along the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66. Highlights along the way include the flourishing Route 66 motels of Kingman and the spectacular Hoover Dam. Continue to Las Vegas, Nevada where a full day is yours to indulge in ‘Sin City’. Walk the famous Las Vegas Strip lined with mega-resorts and flashing neon lights, place a bet at one of the many casinos, catch the latest must-see show, or simply lay by the pool.
Day 14 & 15 – Las Vegas to Santa Monica/Los Angeles
Set out through the Mojave Desert in the final stretch of your journey. This 290 mile (470km) drive passes through Calico Ghost Town before rejoining Route 66 in Barstow. Stop off at the Route 66 Mother Road Museum before hitting Pasadena, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. The last few yards are done on foot as you park and walk to the End of the Trail Sign on Santa Monica's Pier.
Day 16 – Los Angeles
Spend your last morning relaxing in the California sunshine and reflecting on your journey along one of the world's most iconic roads.