Everyone around the world has heard of it, but few really know what it is and what it offers to its traveler: Route 66. Everything stated in the early years of the twentieth century. The development of the automobile initiated the demand of Americans for more and better roads. Constructions began, and in 1926 the highway system was launched. The route between Chicago and Los Angeles was designated U.S. 66, which then slowly began to find it's way into America's culture.
Today, the highway that crosses almost the entire country from east to west achieved American icon status. Reason for that is the remarkable historical, cultural and natural attractions, which can be found all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica. Although a lot of them serve as symbols of the nation's past, people argue that the road is definitely also very much part of the present as well as of the future.
Undeniably, Route 66 is a highway that inspires its traveler. Here are 11 best things and cities to see on your Route 66 trip!
Originally, Route 66 began in Chicago, Illinois, right at the edge of Lake Michigan. Before you head the road, the city itself is a must-see for any visitor. Utterly destroyed by the famous Chicago fire of 1871, the city made a conscious effort to rebuild using more durable materials. Today, it continues to take pride in its architecture, which you should definitely check out!
2. Original gas stations
One of my favorite attractions along Route 66 are those little gas stations, Originally constructed in the 1920s, they are restored jewels which invite you to make a stop and jump out of the car.
3. Gigantic sculptures
Route 66 offers many sculptures, monuments and statues. One of the most impressive is probably the Golden Driller, a seventy-six-foot-tall oil worker sculpture, standing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, – a city, which owes much to the oil industry.
4. The Big Texan
Once you are in Texas, you see the landscape changing drastically. Cornfields transform into cotton fields and black cattle chew grass next to the road. If you're lucky, you'll even see wild buffalos!
Finally, you have to visit "The Big Texan" – a famous steakhouse. Great décor, traditional live music, friendly people and fantastic food make that place to an amazing stop for any traveler. Also, if you're hungry enough: the place offers a competition for eating 72 oz. of steaks in less than an hour.
5. Pieces of art
The Mother Road offers a great selection of art works. One of them surprised me in Amarillo, Texas: the Cadillac Ranch. Imagine a vast, empty field – and in the middle of it ten Cadillacs half-buried in the earth, nose-down, and sprayed over and over again by thousands of people. A truly confusing and mysterious piece of public art.
Along Route 66 you encounter little towns that simply enchant you and won't let you go. One of those places is Tucumcari, New Mexico, where a souvenir stand in the shape of an American Indian teepee awaits you, as well as a restaurant shaped like a Mexican sombrero, and a gas station that gathers historic Route 66 artefacts. Time seems to stand still in places like that and make you feel like in a whole different world.
7. The Grand Canyon
Sure, Route 66 does not exactly run through Grand Canyon National Park, but if you're so close to that magnificent place you simply have to get out of the car and admire that incredible place on earth. 277 river miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon is the result of constant erosion by the Colorado River over millions of years.
8. Navajo Nation Reservation
Navajo Nation covers about 27,000 square miles of unparalleled beauty and is the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe, with a population of roughly 300,000. In order to achieve a viable economy, a tribal government was established in 1923 to help meet the increasing desires of American oil companies to lease Navajoland for exploration.
9. Natural wonders
The beauty of Route 66 is the fact that it's objective is not about getting to a particular location, it's the road itself that is the destination. And it has so much to offer. Use the opportunity to be so close and make a stop in Death Valley National Park or at the Canyon de Chelly.
If you're a fan of murals, which make as a perfect picture background, Route 66 has a lot to offer. Everywhere on the route those painted walls can be found and admired.
11. Los Angeles
It's been some time that you left Chicago to head west. By now, you've experienced so much, you ate in so many diverse diners, you changed as much as the landscape changed passing by. But here you are on a final stop before heading to Santa Monica Pier: Los Angeles. Cruise through the Hollywood hills, stroll over the Walk of Fame and enjoy the sun on your face.
So what about you? Are you ready to experience what Route 66 has to offer you? Ready, go!