Driving along what remains of the famous Route 66 is one of the most popular American road trip holidays among travellers – so what are the main things to see and do on this epic journey?
The highway was originally constructed in the 1920s and runs for over 2,400 miles between Illinois and California – passing through six other states with a host of attractions to choose from on its way from the heart of the USA towards the sun-drenched west coast.
If you opt for a fly drive USA holiday – where you hop on a plane to the country before taking to the roads in a hired car – you can easily begin your journey in Chicago. The city is renowned for sights such as the Willis Tower, which is a dizzying 1,450 feet high and is the western hemisphere’s tallest building.
You might also want to explore the fun-filled Navy Pier and its various rides and cruises across Lake Michigan before relaxing in one of Chicago’s many jazz clubs in the evening.
Next, begin your Route 66 journey proper by heading to Grant Park, which is where the road officially begins. The park is an attraction in itself and the area harbours several museums that are worth a visit before you drive off towards Springfield, the state capital of Illinois.
The city is best known for being Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and has plenty of related sights to take in as a result. Just a few of these include the Lincoln Tomb and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, along with other sites of interest such as the Old State Capitol.
Drive on along Route 66 and you’ll eventually enter Missouri, which is home to another city called Springfield. The destination is a great base from which to see the beautiful Missouri Ozark Mountains and find out more about Route 66’s history through the old shop fronts that have been preserved from the road’s golden era.
When you get to Oklahoma City, you’ll have the chance to delve into the USA’s Native American and cowboy culture, as well as local history. Top places to visit include the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, along with quirkier attractions such as the American Banjo Museum.
As you head towards Texas, you’ll be able to see more of the Old West. Stop off in Amarillo and visit a working ranch, or perhaps take in the amazing spectacle of a rodeo in full swing. You should also seize the opportunity to see the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which harbours one of America’s largest canyons and spans almost 30,000 acres of land.
For more spectacular scenery, make Tucumcari in New Mexico your next Route 66 stop. You can see some gorgeous sunsets here, as well as various monuments, murals and grand mesas. Don’t forget to head to the Tucumcari Convention Center, outside which you can find a huge sculpture designed by Tom Coffin to honour Route 66.
Pass through Santa Fe – the second oldest city in the US – and Albuquerque before driving into Arizona, where top sights include the eerie Petrified Forest National Park and the world-famous Grand Canyon.
The canyon’s huge scale means it encompasses a wide variety of wildlife and scenery, as well offering plenty of activities. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not go whitewater rafting for a few days, or perhaps take things slightly easier with some backcountry hiking?
After you’ve seen the Grand Canyon, your next stop is likely to be Nevada. Spend a couple of days in Las Vegas and get a taste of the glamorous lifestyle that you usually only see in films. While gambling is the main attraction of the city, you can have just as good a time watching musicals and concerts or simply admiring the surrounding desert scenery.
The final stretch of your road trip will take you into California. Don’t pass up the chance to spend some time in exciting Los Angeles before reaching the very end of Route 66. Once you’ve parked up in Santa Monica, take some time to relax and thoroughly enjoy the last day of your Route 66 holiday by visiting its 3.5 miles of beaches, going shopping and seeing attractions such as the city’s various farmers’ markets and Santa Monica Pier.