Roadside Attractions along Historic Route 66

Head out on the all-American road trip along historic Route 66 and you'll see some unusual sights including oddly-shaped buildings and neon signs.
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Head out on the all-American road trip along historic Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica and you'll see some unusual sights. The attractions include oddly-shaped buildings, neon signs, retro diners, restored pumped gas stations, and places to stay reminiscent of the mid-1900s. Here is a listing of some of our favorites.

Illinois Attractions on Route 66

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant

Fuel up for your drive in downtown Chicago, just a few blocks from the eastern terminus of Route 66. Open since 1949, it beckons locals and travelers alike. You can’t miss the “Lou Mitchell’s: Serving the World’s Best Coffee” outdoor neon sign from 1949. 565 W. Jackson Blvd.; loumitchellsrestaurant.com

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Jeff Stvan via Flickr

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Jeff Stvan via Flickr

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station

Ambler's Texaco Gas Station, also known as Becker's Marathon Gas Station, is a historic filling station located at the intersection of Old U.S. Route 66 and Illinois Route 17 in the village of Dwight, Illinois.

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, Illinois. Photo by Marcin Wichary via Wikimedia Commons

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, Illinois. Photo by Marcin Wichary via Wikimedia Commons

Gemini Giant

Driving into Wilmington, Illinois from the east, you’ll spot a 30-foot tall statue that looks like a green spaceman. Appropriately outside of the Launching Pad drive-in restaurant (currently closed), the Gemini Giant is one of many advertising props for Muffler Man, this one named after the Gemini space program. 810 E Baltimore St; Wilmington, Illinois 60481

Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois. Photo by Studio Fox, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois. Photo by Studio Fox, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Missouri Attractions on Route 66

St. Louis Gateway Arch

Cross the Missouri River into St. Louis and a bright, shiny, stainless arch greets you. The Gateway Arch is the world's tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri's tallest accessible building. Visit this Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park during the daytime and you can ride up the elevator and ascend 96 steps to a viewing room at the top of the arch. At night, view the lit arch from the park below. 11. North 4th Street, St. Louis, MO 63102 www.nps.gov/jeff/

The Gateway Arch at St. Louis, Missouri's Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park

The Gateway Arch at St. Louis, Missouri's Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park

World’s 2nd Largest Rocking Chair

It used to be the world’s largest but that kind of record doesn’t hold for long. The 42-foot tall steel sculpture west of Fanning, Missouri was built on April Fool’s Day in 2008 by a welder. It stands outside of the U.S. 66 Outpost and General Store (now closed) and debuted only two months after the store opened. On opening day, it stood nine-feet taller than the previous tallest “chair.” In 2015, the 56.5-foot tall rocking chair in Casey, Illinois knocked it out of the tallest position. The first Saturday in August is Picture on Rocker Day, the only day you can actually sit on the chair. 5957 Hwy ZZ, Fanning, MO

World’s 2nd Largest Rocking Chair west of Fanning, Missouri. Photo by Abe Ezekowitz via Wikimedia Commons

World’s 2nd Largest Rocking Chair west of Fanning, Missouri. Photo by Abe Ezekowitz via Wikimedia Commons

Jesse James Hideout in Meramec Caverns

The Ozarks in Missouri hold Meramec Caverns, considered one of the primary attractions along former U.S. Highway 66. It is the most-visited cave in Missouri with some 150,000 visitors annually. The Jesse used the caverns as a hideout between bank robberies. 1135 MO-W, Sullivan, MO 63080 www.americascave.com

Jesse James Hideout in Meramec Caverns near Sullivan, Missouri. Photo by Tydence via Wikimedia Commons

Jesse James Hideout in Meramec Caverns near Sullivan, Missouri. Photo by Tydence via Wikimedia Commons

Kansas Attraction on Route 66

Little Brick Inn – Cafe on the Route

Mike’s Cafe on the Route was formerly Crowell Bank, which Jesse James robbed in 1876. Although the restaurant currently stands empty, it’s worth a photo stop to pose as a criminal as you cruise through the tiny corner of Kansas. 1101 Military Ave, Baxter Springs, Kansas 66713 www.kansastravel.org/cafeontheroute.htm

Mural on the side of the Cafe on the Route aka Little Brick Inn in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Photo by Abe Ezekowitz via Wikimedia Commons

Mural on the side of the Cafe on the Route aka Little Brick Inn in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Photo by Abe Ezekowitz via Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma Attractions on Route 66

Big Blue Whale

The Blue Whale of Catoosa is a waterfront structure, located just east of the town of Catoosa, Oklahoma, and it has become one of the most recognizable attractions on old Route 66. Hugh Davis built the Blue Whale in the early 1970s as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife Zelta, who collected whale figurines. The Blue Whale and its pond became a favorite swimming hole for both locals and travelers along Route 66 alike. 2600 OK-66, Catoosa, OK 74015 bluewhaleroute66.com

Big Blue Whale in Catoosa, Okla. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress, Public Domain

Big Blue Whale in Catoosa, Okla. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress, Public Domain

Milk Bottle Grocery

It’s hard to miss this 350-square-foot building with an enormous milk bottle attached to the top of its roof. While the business inside this tiny space never was milk-related, the bottle was rented as an advertising spot for a parade of milk-related products. 2426 North Classen Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/milk_bottle_grocery_oklahoma_city.html

Milk Bottle Grocery in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Aaron Hall via Flickr

Milk Bottle Grocery in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Aaron Hall via Flickr

Arcadia Round Barn

Since 1898, this 60-foot diameter and 43-feet-high barn built by “Big Bill” Odor has been a community gathering place and popular roadside rest stop. The barn is open 7 days a week 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. Turn east off I-35 at Route 66 and drive 6 miles. 405-396-0824; arcadiaroundbarn.com

Round Barn in Arcadia, Okla. Photo by Robby Robinette via Wikimedia Commons

Round Barn in Arcadia, Okla. Photo by Robby Robinette via Wikimedia Commons

Pops Restaurant

Where else can you quench your road-weary thirst with 700 kinds of soda under a giant neon bottle? This Route 66 stop at Arcadia, is the original Pops restaurant (now up to 3 locations). The 66-foot tall sign outside is a hint of what’s to come. Inside, the glass walls of the restaurant are decorated with soda bottles arranged by beverage color. 660 W. Highway 66, Arcadia, OK 73007 www.pops66.com

The 66 foot neon sign on the roadside outside Pops restaurant on Route 66 in Arcadia OK. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Public Domain via Library of Congress

The 66 foot neon sign on the roadside outside Pops restaurant on Route 66 in Arcadia OK. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Public Domain via Library of Congress

Texas Attractions on Route 66

U Drop Inn Cafe and Tower Station

Built in 1936 just east of Amarillo, Texas, this art deco style landmark’s design was inspired by a nail stuck in the ground. The building started life as a gas station (Tower Station) and restaurant (U Drop Inn). Now owned by the city of Shamrock, the building houses a museum, visitors center, gift shop and chamber of commerce offices. In the 2006 animated film Cars, the building appears as Ramone’s automotive body and paint shop. 101 East 12th St., Shamrock, TX shamrockedc.org/u-drop-inn

U Drop Inn Cafe and Tower Station in Shamrock, Texas Also Photo by Jerry Huddleston via Flickr

U Drop Inn Cafe and Tower Station in Shamrock, Texas Also Photo by Jerry Huddleston via Flickr

Magnolia Fuel Station

Another filling station in Shamrock was loving restored including it three gravity-fed gas pumps. In 1959, the Magnolia Fuel Station sold Mobil gasoline when Mobil still sold to independent stations. Note Mobil’s Pegasus logo on the building. 204 N Madden Street, Shamrock, Texas

Magnolia Fuel Station in Shamrock, Texas Photo by Barbara Brannon via Flickr

Magnolia Fuel Station in Shamrock, Texas Photo by Barbara Brannon via Flickr

Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch is public art in Amarillo, Texas. Created in 1974, the sculpture used old Cadillacs, half-buried front-first in the ground in order of the car models. The angle that the cars are buried matches the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. People started writing their names on the cars so the owner went along and invited the public to do so, occasionally repainting the vehicles to make room for more names. I-40 Frontage Rd, Amarillo, TX 79124

Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo, Texas Photo by John Fowler via Flickr

Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo, Texas Photo by John Fowler via Flickr

New Mexico Attractions on Route 66

Blue Swallow Motel

Opening in 1940, this iconic pink-stuccoed motel has weathered the up and downs of the road and is still open for travelers. Serving the traveler looking for inexpensive rooms, historic rumors tell that when guests didn’t have enough money for a room, the owners accepted personal belongings in trade. Today credit cards are the normal payment method. 815 East Route 66 Blvd., Tucumcari, N.M. www.blueswallowmotel.com

Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, NM

Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, NM

Arizona Attractions on Route 66

Wigwam Motel

The slogan says, “Sleep in a Wigwam,” but the freestanding motel-room buildings shaped like tipis are made out of concrete, not fabric or hides. Number six in a chain of wigwam villages, the 15 structures in Holbrooke, Ariz. were built 1950. Each has one or two beds, a full bathroom, cable TV, heat and air conditioning. Today, you can still stay in the wigwams and part of the office has been converted into a museum open to the public. 811 West Hopi Dr. in Holbrook, AZ www.galerie-kokopelli.com/wigwam

Wigwam Motel in Holbrooke, Ariz. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Public Domain via Library of Congress

Wigwam Motel in Holbrooke, Ariz. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Public Domain via Library of Congress

Delgadillo's Snow Cap

This restored drive-in restaurant is home of the “Cheeseburger with Cheese” and “Dead Chicken.” Located on historic Route 66, Delgadillo’s was originally built out of scrap lumber the owner collected while working for the railroad. Juan Delgadillo was a constant prankster and was always pulling antics on his customers who were usually tickled by the attention. Today the restaurant is run by Juan’s children and other family members. 22235 Historic Route 66, Seligman, Az. 86337 delgadillosnowcap66.com

Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In on former US Highway 66, Seligman, Ariz. Photo by PMDrive1061 via Wikimedia Commons

Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In on former US Highway 66, Seligman, Ariz. Photo by PMDrive1061 via Wikimedia Commons

Also See:
Williams, Ariz. Food and Drink on Route 66
Kingman, Ariz., the King of Route 66

California Attractions on Route 66

Route 66 Roy's

Roy's Motel and Cafe and the town Amboy are icons for a lonely desert town because they have been used as a backdrop in many a movie and TV show. The town of Amboy has an airport, service station, cafe, school, church, graveyard, and a volcanic crater. Unfortunately, Amboy is now a ghost town and beyond movie sets, businesses are not open. But don’t worry, the owner Albert Okura is dedicating to preserving the town as he has with another icon he owns – the first McDonald’s restaurant in Sand Bernardino.

Route 66 Roy’s in Amboy, Calif. Photo by Photographers Nature via Wikimedia Commons

Route 66 Roy’s in Amboy, Calif. Photo by Photographers Nature via Wikimedia Commons

Bagdad Cafe

Originally established as Sidewinder Cafe, the restaurant changed its name after the motion picture Bagdad Cafe was filmed here.

The Bagdad Cafe. Photo by Vicente Villam via Wikimedia Commons

The Bagdad Cafe. Photo by Vicente Villam via Wikimedia Commons

First McDonald's Restaurant

The McDonald brothers opened their first restaurant adjacent to the Monrovia Airport in 1937. It was a tiny octagonal building informally called The Airdrome. That octagonal building was later moved to1398 North E Street in San Bernardino, California, in 1940. It’s now an unofficial museum.

The first McDonald’s Restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif. Photo by Cogart Strangehill via Wikimedia Commons

The first McDonald’s Restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif. Photo by Cogart Strangehill via Wikimedia Commons

Bono's Orange Stand

In 1926, merchant Frank E. Pohl started his chain of "Giant Orange" stands along California highways. At that time, cars did not have air conditioning so hot drivers would stop for a cool glass of orange juice, and it was cheap. Ten cents would get you all the orange juice you could drink. The tiny building is now owned by the Fontana Historical Society and is located along the San Bernardino business loop portion of Route 66. 15395 Foothill Blvd, Fontana, CA

Bono's Orange Stand in Fontana, California. Photo by Uzma Gamal, Public Domain

Bono's Orange Stand in Fontana, California. Photo by Uzma Gamal, Public Domain

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