Summertime offers the opportunity for travel and exploration, and is the perfect time for a road trip. Route 66 is one of the most popular – and photographed – cross-country road trip destinations in the United States.
This iconic roadway spans 2,400 miles and eight states, and was the first all-weather highway in the United States. As John Steinbeck wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” Route 66 was “the mother road” in the 1900s and played a significant role in the transportation of hundreds of thousands of Dust Bowl Migrants.
After 59 years of operation, the Federal-Aid Highway Act instituted America’s 47,800-mile Interstate Highway System, leading to the decommissioning of Route 66. Although the iconic highway was officially shut down in 1985, travelers from all over the world continue to set out on the original highway route, exploring some of the most unique attractions in the nation.
If you ever plan to motor out west, consider stopping at these favorite highlights on the ultimate Americana road trip. As Dinah Shore belted out in a television commercial for Chevrolet, “See the U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet” (or your vehicle of preference).
Following are four “can’t miss” stops along the famed route.
The World’s (Second) Largest Rocking Chair in Fanning, Missouri
It all started on April Fools’ Day in 2008 when a local general store owner, in an effort to increase traffic to his archery and feed store, erected an oversized rocking chair. At 42 feet, 4 inches high and weighing an impressive 27,500 pounds, this Paul Bunyan-sized rocker set a new Guinness World Record for the largest rocking chair in the nation. The behemoth rocker was knocked out of its No. 1 spot on August 25, 2015 by a 56.5-foot-high version in Illinois. Soon thereafter, the rocker was painted red and is now known as “The Route 66 Red Rocker.”
Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma
This stop may not have existed until after the highway was decommissioned, but it is considered one of the best ways to experience the culture and unique offerings of Route 66. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum takes visitors on a nostalgic journey that explores the history of the nation’s most beloved highway. From learning about the Dust Bowl to enjoying sounds of the Big Band era to enjoying a meal at the 1950s-style diner, the museum has something for everyone. And, make sure to check out the “world’s largest curio cabinet” full of items ranging from original road signs to full-sized gasoline pumps.
Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Designed as a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin, Cadillac Ranch was created and built by a group of artist hippies from San Francisco, who called themselves The Ant Farm. Ten Cadillacs – from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville – were half-buried, nose down in the dirt facing west in a line, leaving their tail fins proudly on display. The creators wanted the art installation to be an interactive monument that let people express themselves. Over the years, visitors have been encouraged to use the cars as a graffiti canvas, and today, all that remains are their time-worn frames, splattered in bright paint.
Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, Arizona
Located in Seligman, Arizona, along one of the most extended stretches along Route 66, sits an eccentric diner owned and operated by the Delgadillo family. In 1953, Juan Delgadillo, with the help of his father and brothers, built the Snow Cap out of scrap lumber that Juan had collected when he worked for the railroad. To create more interest in the restaurant, Delgadillo sliced the roof off of a 1936 Chevrolet, and then adorned the car with paint, horns and automotive emblems. A visit to Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive delivers a hefty dose of Americana, including the vibes of a retro diner that serves up menu items such as “cheeseburger with cheese” and the “dead chicken.”
Fun Fact: When the idea for the Cars movie first came up, filmmaker and animator John Lasseter drove the route and learned as much as he could about its history. Inspired by his trip, Lasseter ended up incorporating a number of the locations in the movie!
So, if you’re looking for the quintessential cross-country road trip experience, look no further than Route 66. Sit back, buckle up and enjoy an adventurous ride!
To echo Nat King Cole’s popular song, aptly titled Route 66:
If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.