Wanderlust America

Take a road trip on Route 66 – from Chicago to Los Angeles

Route 66 is an iconic highway in the United States that runs over 2,400 miles. It stretches from Chicago, Illinois all the way to Santa Monica, California. It has long become a legendary symbol of American history and culture. It attracts tourists from every corner of the world. Although you cannot drive the entirety of the original Route 66 as parts of the road have either been replaced or destroyed, much of it is still drivable today. Let us take a road trip together and learn more about the historic Route 66.

Route 66 scenic drive


Before it was called Route 66, and long before it was even paved in 1926, the corridor was traversed by the National Old Trails Highway. For three decades before and after World War II, Route 66 had earned the name “Main Street of America”, because it wound through the small towns across the Midwest and Southwest, lined by hundreds of cafes, motels, gas stations, and tourist attractions

Start and End of Route 66

  • Start – The official eastern terminal of Route 66 starts at the intersection of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, Illinois. This place is marked by a plaque sign which reads, “Historic Route 66 Begins Here”.    
  • End – When first established in 1926, the western terminal was in downtown Los Angeles, California, at 7th Street and Broadway. However, in 1936 the route was later realigned to terminate at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. This is now the official end point of Route 66. During the modern era, the intersection of Pier Avenue and Main Street in Santa Monica has been recognized as the “unofficial” end point of Route 66. 


Driving Route 66 usually takes about 2 weeks when you include stops and visit cities that are on the way. You can drive Route 66 in as little as 8 days if you drive every day and do not see any of the sights. However, you will need a month to really explore the places you are driving through.   

Route 66 starry night view


  • Go back in time with the Field Museum in Chicago.  
  • Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois.  
  • Enjoy yourself at Meramec Caverns, Missouri.  
  • Gateway Arch, St. Louis.  
  • Meet Mater the tow truck in Galena, Kansas.  
  • This is your Land in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  
  • Have fun at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.  
  • Dig some Dinosaurs in Tucumcari, New Mexico.  
  • Enjoy the wilderness at Petrified Forest National Park.  
  • Explore the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.  
  • Watch the stars at Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona.  
  • Check out the massive Meteor Crater in Arizona.  
  • Have family-friendly fun at Mojave Trails National Park.  
  • End your trip at the Santa Monica Pier.
Santa Monica Pier End of the Trail

Route 66 by State

  • Illinois – Chicago, Illinois is the eastern terminus of the Mother Road, and depending on which way you are traveling, you will either start or end your trip across from Grant Park and Lake Michigan. The road takes you southwest through rural Midwestern towns that are full of classic motels, vintage filling stations, and historic bridges until you reach the Mississippi River and East St. Louis. There are nearly 300 miles of Route 66 in Illinois.    
  • Missouri – Most of Missouri’s Route 66 has been replaced by larger highways over the years, so what remains of the original road is a patchwork. However, it is still possible to travel on quite a bit of the original route. The stretch of Route 66 from St. Louis to Tulsa is considered the heart of Route 66 by some travelers.    
  • Kansas – Kansas section of Route 66 is short but sweet and mangoes to pack in several must-see stops in a little under 14 miles. This small stretch passes through three towns – Galena, Riverton, and Baxter Springs- and can be driven in as little as 30 minutes. Make sure you do not miss the only remaining March Arch Rainbow Bridge, several museums, and small businesses on the Kansas stretch.    
  • Oklahoma – Oklahoma embraces nearly most of its 400 miles of Route 66. There are more drive able portions of the old Mother Road in Oklahoma than in any other state. From Quapaw to Texola, this stretch is home to the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Art Deco gems of Tulsa, and two great museums filled with Route 66 history. Make sure you stop into the Sandhills Curiosity Shoppe in Erick.   
  • Texas – The Lone Star state has about 180 miles of old Route 66 roads remaining. It closely parallels Interstate 40, as it is easy to hop on and off stretches of the Mother Road. Some of the very best attractions in the United States are right here in Texas. It is worth checking out Dot’s Mini Museum, Rooster’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, the Hickory Inn Cafe, Bonanza Motel, the Vegas Hotel, and a restored Magnolia service station.    
  • New Mexico – It is known as the Land of Enchantment. Maybe it’s the combination of hot springs, forests, deserts, and mountains, or the area’s rich history and ties to its past. Towns like Santa Fe and Taos are full of art galleries, boutiques, innovative architecture, museums, great restaurants, and much more. Albuquerque is a high desert city with an artsy vibe where you can admire the Pueblo architecture, explore the Old Town, pop into the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and learn about the desert at ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden.    
  • Arizona – Sedona is one of the places you just have to experience in person. It is surrounded by majestic red rock canyons and pine forests; this small desert town is known for its vibrant art scene and mysterious healing forces. With its artsy vibe and comfortable climate, it is also home to cute shops, restaurants, and galleries. Grand Canyon National Park is one of the truly epic places you must see in person to believe. It was designated as a national park in 1919, and it sees more than 5 million visitors annually. Whether you decide to take in the sweeping views from the top or hike into its depth, you’ll easily find out why it’s one of the most revered national parks in the United States.   
  • California – The California part of Route 66 will give you a proper taste of its diverse scenery, from tiny desert ghost towns to the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. You should take your time and zigzag through the glass forest at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch or get your photo taken at Roy’s Motel and Cafe. You will know you are at the end of your journey once you arrive at the Pacific Ocean. California’s must-see attractions are the Mojave Desert, the Wigwam Hotel, and the Santa Monica Pier. It is also home to the Griffith Observatory, the Huntington Library, and the Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. 
Route 66 map

Foods you must try

  • Pancakes – Diners pepper the road from the very start of it in Chicago all the way to the end in Santa Monica.  
  • Frozen Custard – You’ll see it on many diners’ menus, many rounding off a classic meal with a splash of sweetness.  
  • Burgers – A classic American burger should definitely be on your list to try on Route 66.   
  • Soda – Get yourself a root beer, add some ice cream, and make it float, or just try a traditional soda.  
  • New Mexican Spice – As soon as you enter New Mexico, give Tacos a try.  
  • Sandwiches – This will help you when you have a tight budget.  
  • Corn Dogs – Many places along the road offer corn dogs but one place that should be on your list is the Cozy Dog in Springfield, IL.   
  • BBQ Food – Missouri and mid-west states have a lot of BBQ joints where you can really indulge in the cuisine.   

Best time to take a trip

  • Spring – It is a popular time to travel on Route 66. The weather is generally mild, and landscapes are full of blooming flowers and lush greenery.   
  • Summer – Summer is the peak season to travel on Route 66. The weather is warm, making it great for outdoor activities and attractions.   
  • Fall – Fall is another excellent time to visit. The crowds start to thin out, making it easier to get accommodation and enjoy the attractions.  
  • Winter – This is the off-peak season as the weather can be cold. However, if you’re seeking a quieter, and budget-friendly trip, this is the time to travel.   


Most people prefer to drive their car or rent a vehicle. While others decide to take a motorcycle or even a bicycle tour. There are also guided tours available that provide transportation, accommodation, and narrated tours.    

Road Trip

Things you didn’t know

  • It also served as a course for an endurance race.  
  • The “Father of Route 66” was an Oklahoma businessman.   
  • A former Marine wrote down the song that helped make the highway famous.   
  • A TV series was named for the legendary highway. 


  • Make sure you research the route and its attractions beforehand to decide where you want to stop along the way.   
  • The roads can be challenging due to their narrow lanes, and sharp curves. Drive carefully and plan your essentials for the trip.   
  • Remember to keep a budget for gas, food, and accommodation along the way. 

Route 66 is an iconic highway from its starting point in Chicago all the way to its end in Santa Monica. It is a highway that should be on every traveler’s itinerary whether they’re driving all of it or just a portion  

You can also read: Route 100 

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