Though it is long past its heyday, historic Route 66 is still a place where you can get plenty of kicks. Though only the most ambitious road trippers have the time and energy required to complete the entire “Main Street of America,” which extends from Los Angeles to Chicago, many motorists still enjoy the fun nostalgia that comes from traversing smaller sections of it.
The strip of highway that runs from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico, is long enough to incorporate several of the most iconic Route 66 roadside attractions. Here are a few standouts that travelers will want to catch.
Santa Monica Pier (California)
This century-old beach pavilion is considered the “endpoint” of Route 66, though if you are starting your journey from the west coast, it’s just the beginning. This landmark boasts an iconic entrance, along with a smorgasbord of shops and restaurants, plus lots of family-friendly entertainment. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is fun and educational, while kids and adults of all ages will enjoy Pacific Park and its one-of-a-kind, solar-paneled Ferris wheel.
Wigwam Motel Village #7 (California)
Built in 1949, the California Wigwam Hotel in San Bernadino is a delightful throwback to the type of kitschy roadside lodgings that sprung up all along Route 66 during its prime. The concrete, teepee-shaped cabins that make up this historic hotel fell into disrepair over time, but were restored and reopened in 2002.
Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
The only U.S. national park to include and protect a section of Route 66, the Petrified Forest National Park takes its name from the large deposits of petrified wood contained within. The badlands region is also filled with gorgeous multi-colored stones with bands of red, violet, green, ochre and white sediments from the Triassic period, 200 million years ago.
Winslow’s Corner (Arizona)
The Eagles have recorded some of the best classic road trip tunes, and chief among them is “Take It Easy.” The catchy lyric about “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” has been immortalized with one of Route 66’s most unique attractions, a bronze statue of a man with an acoustic guitar in front of a mural depicting the song’s lyrics, erected at the intersection of West 2nd Street and North Kinsley Avenue. There’s also a large painting of a Route 66 road sign on the brick road in front of the attraction, making it a great spot to post for vacation photos.
De Anza Motor Lodge (New Mexico)
Opened in 1939, the De Anza Motor Lodge in Albuquerque was once the biggest and most popular motel on East Central Avenue. Today it enjoys a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, though it is no longer taking reservations. Still, even youngsters may recognize the vintage motel, as some scenes of the popular AMC drama “Breaking Bad” were filmed in its parking lot.
From Los Angeles to Albuquerque, Route 66 is littered with fun stops and roadside attractions. These are just some of the many great spots that make the journey more important than the destination. Be sure to read next month’s installment on the stretch from Albuquerque to Tulsa!