Route 66 is one of the most iconic road trip routes in the USA. Spanning 2,400 miles, 8 states and 3 times zones, the route takes you from Chicago in the East all the way to Santa Monica on the West Coast taking you through small town America as you experience the ultimate USA road trip!
Several of our travel experts have done this road trip themselves and have put together some of their top tips for a Route 66 road trip.
How long does it take to drive Route 66?
The first thing most people ask is how long does it take to drive Route 66? We recommend you give yourself two to three weeks and organise a good basic itinerary so while you might get distracted from time to time and veer off course, you’ll be sure to include everything you want to see.
What’s the best route to take?
We would suggest driving the route from East to West. The route was originally built to allow travellers to get to the West of the USA so it’s best to experience the trip as it was intended. Chicago is the official start of Route 66 and it ends in Santa Monica, however you can chose to do just parts of the Route also. Some choose to start in Chicago and go as far as Kansas and Oklahoma where you will find the oldest and most authentic parts of the route so definitely not to be missed. Some however join the route closer to the West Coast in Flagstaff, Arizona or Santa Fe, New Mexico and drive to Santa Monica.
While the original road no longer exists you can still travel the historic route and we recommend you stay on this as much as possible to get the real authentic experience, however if you end up taking a few diversions and find yourself a bit behind schedule just jump on the interstate for a while to make up some time!
What are the best places to stop and visit on Route 66?
Route 66 promises just what you imagine a classic USA roadtrip to be with plenty of vintage gas stations, American diners, antique neon signs, 1950s motels and plenty of unusual and eye catching roadside attractions to keep you entertained along the way. Here are some spots we recommend taking some time to visit along the way!
The oldest part of Route 66 can be found in Oklahoma, so be sure to add some time into your itinerary to explore this part of the US a little further. Keep an eye out driving through the state for iconic landmarks such as The Milk Bottle Grocery and the Blue Whale of Catoosa.
The official Route 66 Museum is located in Clinton Oklahoma and here you can discover the classic images, myths and stories about the history of the ‘Mother Road’. From its conception and what was needed to make the road a reality all the way to its status as one of the most famous roadtrips in the world today, this museum covers it all, set against a soundtrack of big band music from the 1950s.
Cadillac Ranch, Texas
Located just ten miles southwest of Amarillo Texas, this famous attraction comprising of 10 graffiti covered Cadillac cars half buried into the ground is the perfect spot to get your iconic Route 66 pictures! The ranch is open 24/7 and is free of charge.
One of the oldest cities in the United States, located in the heart of New Mexico, Albuquerque is a mix of diverse cultures and dynamic traditions. Known as the ‘hot air ballooning capital of the world’ treat yourself to a glide across this stunning desert state. You can also take the tramway up the Sandia mountains where you’ll find a great restaurant on top with great views. If you feel like stretching your legs after all that time on the road there plenty of trails to do within the mountains too.
Vernon’s speakeasy restaurant in Albuquerque is also a must. Great food and experience, be sure to prebook and you’ll get a password to use when you enter this well-hidden restaurant so you get the true speakeasy experience!
When in Albuquerque, pay a visit also to Santa Fe, a 45 minute drive away. This has a real old style hacienda feel to it and definitely a spot you’ll remember forever.
There is so much to see in Arizona it’s well worth taking some time to spend here. Not exactly on the Route but not far off it is the Grand Canyon which is absolutely worth taking a detour for! Bearizona Wildlife park in Williams Arizona is an amazing experience. You drive around the park and the bears and wolves are roaming free, very cool and a little scary but in a good way!
Sedona, is a great spot to visit in Arizona. It’s an old town surrounded by red rock formation with a real cowboy feel to it. Fun fact; Walt Disney wanted to build the very first Disneyland here but the locals wouldn’t allow it. So it got built in LA and the Thunder Mountain Rollercoaster in Disney is a copy of one of the red rock mountain ranges in Sedona.
Holbrook is another great spot to visit in Arizona. Discover the Petrified Forest National Park with lots of hiking trails to discover, spend a night in a tepee at the Wigwam Village or just stroll through the town and soak up the feel of this desert town.
Top tips for driving Route 66
•Bring sunglasses! You will be driving directly into the late afternoon sun going down in the horizon, if it gets too strong then just stop and rest for a while until it calms down.
•Bring some small souvenirs (pins, badges etc) to give to the staff in some of the old town hotels and restaurants. They more than likely have Irish heritage and will love it and might even display it somewhere in their property so something of yours will forever be on Route 66.
•You will be driving right across the United States so climates will change so be sure to pick a good time of year to travel – September is usually the best time to go, not too hot, hopefully not much rain!
•Just like any roadtrip, make sure you have your ultimate roadtrip playlist ready to go. Anytime you hear those songs again it will bring you right back this iconic USA holiday. Also consider tuning your car radio into the local stations from time to time as you drive across the country to discover some local favourites!