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Route 66 Vacation Ideas

Updated on May 10, 2014

Route 66 may no longer be the Mother Road, but there are still plenty of attractions that can make a fun vacation. Route 66 stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica, and there are still many historical sites and attractions popular with tourists. America’s Main Street has long offered travelers a variety of attractions and places to rest while journeying across the country. In this article, I am focusing on some places that might not be as well known, but certainly offer a fun adventure.

· Meramec Caverns

· Galena, KS

· Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK

· Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX

· Tucumcari Tonight! Tucumcari, NM

· Santa Rosa, NM

Meramec Caverns in Stanton, MO

Meramec Caverns and Meramec State Park are my favorite outdoor attractions on Historic Route 66. It's located about an hour west of St. Louis on Interstate 44. This is a pretty spectacular system of caves; the tour is definitely one of the best I’ve been on. Meramec State Park sits on the Meramec River at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The park offers visitors fun activities as well as beautiful views of the Ozarks. If you'd like to get out on the river, the park offers boat tours and canoe rentals.

Cave Tours
Fireside Store and Grill
Meramec River Boat Tours
Float Trips
Hickory Ridge Motel

Galena, KS

Galena, KS is a small town that most people probably haven’t heard of. Galena, however, was a major inspiration for Radiator Springs in the hit movie, Cars. The town has worked hard to restore many of their downtown buildings to look like they would have years ago. It's just a short drive west of Joplin, MO on Historic 66.

Galena Mining & Historical Museum
Streetcar Station Coffee Shop
Cars on the Route
Four Women on the Route
Old Riverton Store

Route 66 in Northeast Oklahoma

Miami, OK contains some of the original sections of Route 66. The downtown area is being revitalized to pay homage to the mother road. There is a Route 66 Motorcycle Museum in town. My favorite attraction is the Coleman Theater. The Coleman Theater was constructed in 1929 as a great movie palace. Many of Vaudeville's greatest starts performed their. The theater has been restored and throughout the year they have classic movies as well as live performances. The theater contains an antique organ used during the silent movie era.

About an hour west of Miami, there is another popular attraction called the Blue Whale in Catoosa. The Blue Whale is exactly what it sounds like, a giant Blue Whale on the side of the highway. It's a popular site for visitors to take pictures.

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is one of the best I’ve been to that chronicles the experiences many travelers had on the Mother Road. The museum is filled with beautiful galleries that take visitors on a journey back in time to Route 66 in Oklahoma. You can listen to songs from the Big Band era; experience what thousands went through during the Dust Bowl; check out the 1950s diner, and much more.

Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX

I would consider the Big Texan Steak Ranch to be one of the most unique attractions on Historic Route 66. The ranch features a world famous restaurant; gift shops and a motel.

The restaurant is most famous for its challenge to diners: eat a 72oz steak and all the sides in under one hour, and the entire meal is free! In addition to a free meal, you get your name and time put up on a wall for others to admire. I’ve heard a tip from people that have won this challenge: cut the steak into small bites and eat a piece of meat along with the sides.

Tucumcari Tonight! Tucumcari, NM

Tucumcari, NM has been a popular stop for generations of travelers on the Mother Road. In fact, there is even a song about Tucumcari. Tucumcari sits in the middle of a high plains semi-arid desert with beautiful mesas and rock formations surrounding it. At night, neon signs light up the buildings along the highway. Many of the original businesses that catered to tourists on Route 66 are still open.

Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum
Pow Wow Restaurant and Lizard Lounge
Blue Swallow Motel
Tucumcari Historical Museum
Joe’s Back N the Day
Desert Inn
Route 66 Neon
Kix 66
Historic Route 66 Motel
Tucumcari Historical Museum
Del’s Restaurant
Motel Safari

Santa Rosa, NM

Santa Rosa, NM is known as the “The City of Natural Lakes”. The city is home to 12 natural lakes; which reminds me a lot of an oasis in the middle of the desert. However, the landscape around Santa Rosa is not actually a desert; more like a semi-arid climate. Swimming and scuba diving are popular activities here. There is also a water park featuring the largest waterslide in the southwest.

Blue Hole as well as several other lakes
Comet II Drive-in Restaurant
Silver Moon/Budget Motel
Route 66 Auto Museum
Scuba Diving
Lake City Diner
La Mesa Motel
Park Lake Water Park
Route 66 Restaurant
La Loma Lodge

Route 66 is an American icon that still lives on today. Since being decommissioned as a U.S. highway back in the 1970s, its popularity and legacy continue to grow. Each year, thousands of people drive across the remaining sections of the highway. In fact, many Europeans come over just to drive on Route 66. The Mother Road contains many sites and attractions that are still open for tourists.

Please note, that many of the locations mentioned in this article have additional attractions, dining, and lodging options not listed. This article only mentioned a few of the popular places that I’ve had the opportunity to visit.


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