Ultimate Route 66 Road Trip - Chicago to LA | Avis Rent a Car

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Where does Route 66 start and end?

Route 66 begins in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica, California with historic signs marking the official start and end points. The journey between the two points covers 2,448 miles and passes through eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Route 66 has more claim than any other highway to the title of “America’s Road Trip.” Born on April 30, 1926, when the number 66 was officially assigned to this long stretch of road, Route 66 stands as a symbol of 20th century Americana you can still traverse today.

During the 1930s Dust Bowl, millions migrated from fallow farmland in the Midwest to (hopefully) greener pastures in California, many of them using Route 66 to make the journey. And at its heyday in the 1950s, tourists traveled up and down the Mother Road, leading to a flourishing industry of hotels, diners, and roadside attractions.

Although Route 66 lost its designation as an official member of the U.S. Highway System in 1985, it still bears many of the uniquely American landmarks that kept it popular for decades. 

 

How long does it take to drive Route 66?

It takes about 2 to 4 weeks to drive Route 66 from start to finish. Travel time varies for several reasons:

  • The many roadside attractions along the route each take an hour or more to fully enjoy.

  • The route runs through both big cities (with lots of traffic) and rural areas (where speed limits are lower).

To complete the trip in two weeks, drive about 175 miles per day. For a more leisurely month-long trip, keep a pace of about 80 miles per day.

 

If driving Route 66 is on your bucket list (and it should be!), use this list of major landmarks to plan your epic road trip.

 

(1) Historic Route 66 Begin Sign

Corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603

Don’t miss your chance to take a selfie at this official Route 66 starting point, found in the heart of Chicago. Then grab a rental car in the Windy City and get on the road.

(2) Route 66 Raceway

3200 S Chicago Street, Joliet, IL 60433

Life on Route 66 has a slower pace—except at this speedway. In addition to hosting several professional events, the Route 66 Raceway allows visitors to race their own cars on the track.

(3) Route 66 Drive-In 

1700 Recreation Drive, Springfield, IL 62711

The first of two drive-in theaters featured on our list, this open-air cinema shows current movies after dark all summer long.

(4) Chain of Rocks Bridge

10820 Riverview Drive, St. Louis, MO 63137

Most bridges are pretty straightforward, but this one has a twist—literally. Walk or bike over the bridge, and look out for the unexpected 22-degree turn midway!

(5) MERAMEC CAVERNS

1135 Highway W, Sullivan, MO 63080

Take a guided tour through these spacious and spectacular caverns, carved into natural limestone deposits by erosion over millions of years. Legend says Jesse James once used them as a hideout.

(6) ROUTE 66 MUSEUM 

915 S Jefferson Avenue, Lebanon, MO 65536

Find this small, free museum inside the Lebanon library. Learn historical tidbits about the route, and see examples of a 1950s diner, gas station, and motel room along the road. 

(7) ROUTE 66 CAR MUSEUM

1634 W College Street, Springfield, MO 65806

Car buffs will love getting up close with the vehicles that traversed Route 66 back in the day. Check out more than 60 cars, including a Ford Model T and a Thunderbird convertible.

(8) 66 DRIVE-IN THEATRE 

17231 Old 66 Boulevard, Carthage, MO 64836

Watch a double feature without leaving your car at this historic Route 66 drive-in. It’s only open during the summer season, so plan your travel days accordingly if you want to stop by. 

(9) ROUTE 66 MURAL PARK

Around 621 S Main Street, Joplin, MO 64801

Perhaps the most Instagram-worthy stop on your trek, Route 66 Mural Park features two large-scale tile murals just begging for a photo op.

(10) RAINBOW BRIDGE

SE Beasley Road, Baxter Springs, KS

Rainbow Bridge is the only bridge of its kind still remaining on the former highway, making it a must-see. Stop for some fresh air and a pretty river view.

(11) BLUE WHALE OF CATOOSA

2600 Route 66, Catoosa, OK 74015

Once a husband’s anniversary gift to his wife, Blue Whale of Route 66 is a quirky roadside attraction that is now one of the most iconic stops on Route 66.

(12) BUCK ATOM’S COSMIC CURIOS

1347 E 11th Street, Tulsa, OK 74120

This gift shop is the go-to spot for any Route 66 souvenirs you’re seeking, from t-shirts and art prints to toys like bobbleheads and Route 66–themed stuffed animals.

(13) HEART OF ROUTE 66 AUTO MUSEUM

13 Sahoma Lake Road, Sapulpa, OK 74066

Ever dreamed of seeing the world’s tallest gas pump? No? Well, you’ll get a chance at the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum. Check the museum’s website for special events.

(14) POPS ARCADIA

660 Oklahoma-66, Arcadia, OK 73007

When your stomach is rumbling, there’s no better stop than POPS Arcadia, which offers more than 700 different types of soda and diner-style eats the whole family will love.

(15) LAKE OVERHOLSER BRIDGE

8703 Overholder Drive, Bethany, OK 73008

Lake Overholser Bridge stands as a proud reminder of Route 66’s glory days. Admire the size and symmetry of this historic, architectural wonder.

(16) OKLAHOMA ROUTE 66 MUSEUM

2229 W Gary Boulevard, Clinton, OK 73601

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum differs from the others in a few ways. Sit in a replica diner and learn more about popular myths relating to the Mother Road.

(17) TOWER STATION AND U-DROP INN

111 Route 66, Shamrock, TX 79079

This building’s unique look is meant to resemble a nail poking out of the ground (and was replicated in the movie Cars). The former gas station and cafe now functions as a visitors center.

(18) CADILLAC RANCH

13651 I-40 Frontage Road, Amarillo, TX 97124

You’ve never seen Cadillacs showcased quite like this! Check out the quirky public art display of graffiti-covered vintage Cadillacs coming out of the Texas desert.

(19) GLENRIO GHOST TOWN

Glenrio, Texas 79045

Situated on the border of New Mexico and Texas is the former railroad town of Glenrio, one of the best preserved mid-century ghost towns in America today. 

(20) ROUTE 66 AUTO MUSEUM

2436 Historic Route 66, Santa Rosa, NM 88435

Like other Route 66 museums, this New Mexico stop invites visitors to travel back in time. Peek inside hot rods and browse displays of unique memorabilia.

(21) Nob Hill

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The action along Route 66 picks up when you reach Nob Hill. Head to this hotspot in the center of town to enjoy brewpubs, taquerias, and more.

(22) El Rancho Hotel

1000 E Highway 66, Gallup, NM 87301

If you’re looking for unique, historical lodging along Route 66, El Rancho Hotel is it. Once upon a time, the still-open hotel welcomed 1940s-era movie stars filming in the Southwest.

(23) Painted Desert

1 Park Road, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028

Check out the other-worldly atmosphere of the Petrified Forest National Park, where you can hike through the backcountry, camp, ride horses, and do so much more. Dogs and other pets are welcome!

(24) WIGWAM MOTEL

811 W Hopi, Holbrook, AZ 86025

Spend the night in a motel room shaped like a Native American teepee. Though the amenities are sparse, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff and enjoy a piece of history.

(25) STANDIN’ ON A CORNER PARK

Corner of Kinsley Avenue and E 2nd Street, Winslow, AZ 86047

Borrowing inspiration from the popular 1970s song “Take it Easy,” this roadside attraction and photo op is a great stop for any Eagles fans traveling Route 66.

(26) METEOR CRATER NATURAL LANDMARK

Interstate 40, Winslow, AZ 67047

You’ll be mesmerized by this rare, up-close-and-personal look at a meteorite impact crater that struck Earth about 50,000 years ago. Check out the visitor center to learn more!

(27) GRAND CANYON CAVERNS

Peach Springs, Arizona 86434

The largest dry caverns in the United States, the Grand Canyon Caverns are a chance to travel over 200 feet underground to observe fascinating geological formations.

(28) ARIZONA ROUTE 66 MUSEUM

2 Powerhouse Visitor Center, 120 W Andy Devine Avenue, Kingman, AZ 86401

This museum features bright murals, life-size dioramas, and historical exhibits capturing life on Route 66.

(29) CALICO GHOST TOWN

36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, CA 92398

Established in 1881, this Route 66 ghost town was once an Old West mining town. At its peak, Calico produced more than $20 million in silver in just 12 years.

(30) ROUTE 66 MOTHER ROAD MUSEUM

681 N 1st Avenue, Barstow, CA 92311

The Route 66 Mother Road Museum will give you a chance to learn more about the Mojave community and check out artifacts like old motor bikes and a pinball machine.

(31) ELMER’S BOTTLE TREE RANCH

24266 National Trails Highway, Oro Grande, CA 92368

Admire tree-shaped sculptures made from glass bottles and other vintage objects at this funky Route 66 pitstop. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

(32) CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66 MUSEUM

16825 D Street, Victorville, CA 92395

There’s always something new to see at the California Route 66 Museum, which houses a collection of highway memorabilia and features several interactive photo spots.

(33) WIGWAM MOTEL

2728 Foothill Boulevard, San Bernardino, CA 92410

This motel chain is a great place to catch some zzzs along Route 66. Take a swim in the outdoor pool and enjoy the surprisingly spacious teepee rooms.

(34) SANTA MONICA PIER & END OF THE TRAIL

330 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

The end of Route 66 features glorious sand, surf, and sun! Go for a ride on the Ferris wheel, swim, and return your car rental in LA.

Book a Long-Term Car Rental for a Long Road Trip

 

If you plan to drive the full length of Historic Route 66, enjoy your trip even more from behind the wheel of your dream car, and add the mileage to one of our vehicles.  Avis is here to help you with your car rental needs.

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