The essence of modern America is distilled from the long, restless, often rowdy move West by the first covered-wagon settlers and latterly, the pioneers on tarmac. There’s no more iconic highway than the legendary Route 66. The original ‘Mother Road’ was actually conceived in the heart of the USA, in Tulsa, OK in the late 1930’s from where it struck out West to Santa Monica, CA and East to Chicago, IL, crossing more than 3,750 kms. This ‘Heart of the Nation’ fly-drive is an exciting, immersive opportunity to explore the entirety of Route 66, but with special focus on its longest unbroken stretch – the 625 quirky and fun-filled kilometres in Kansas and Oklahoma.
Starting off in vibrant Chicago, with ample time to enjoy its big city delights – head out on the old road to explore a variety of pure ‘Americana’ landscapes; towns and cities in Illinois and Missouri before heading along the short but utterly evocative Kansas stretch of Route 66 into Oklahoma.
Alongside Tulsa’s lavish oil baron-funded art collections and eclectic ‘live’ music and nightlife districts; and OKC’s fabulous National Cowboy & Western Heritage museum; Stockyard City and vibrant Bricktown entertainment area, Oklahoma commemorates the old road along every mile, with original diners and motels, museums and iconic curiosities – all the way to Clinton’s Oklahoma Route 66 Museum and Elk City’s great fun, living history Old Town and National Route 66 Museum complex.
Evocative road signs and Route 66 memorabilia signal your onward journey through Texas; New Mexico; the breathtaking Grand Canyon in Arizona and glittering Las Vegas, before the sunshine state of California beckons – the ‘End of the Trail’ at Santa Monica’s Pier. Three nights in vibrant Los Angeles offer time to unwind at the end of this memorable exploration of the Mother Road.
The Exciting Parts
- Explore Chicago’s incredible sights and architectural treasures
- Drive the Ozark Highlands of southern Missouri
- A longer stay in Kansas and Oklahoma to experience the longest driveable stretch of Route 66 and discover Native American Culture
- Pay a visit to Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch, a ritual site on The Mother Road
- Sample rich culture and the true Southwest in Albuquerque
- View one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon
- See the replica of the long-lost Route 66 “End of the Trail” sign at the Santa Monica Pier
Chicago - St. Louis (480KM)
St. Louis - Springfield (340KM)
Springfield – Tulsa (291KM)
Tulsa - Oklahoma (170KM)
Oklahoma City - Elk City (180KM)
Elk City - Amarillo (239KM)
Amarillo - Albuquerque (458KM)
Albuquerque – Santa Fe – Albuquerque (186KM)
Albuquerque – Holbrook (420KM)
Holbrook – Grand Canyon National Park/ Williams (290KM)
Grand Canyon National Park / Williams – Las Vegas (480KM)
Las Vegas – Santa Monica/Los Angeles (470KM)
Los Angeles/Santa Monica
Los Angeles Departure
Day 1 Chicago Arrival
Arrive at the airport and transfer independently to your hotel.
Day 2 Chicago
Step outside today and experience mile after magnificent mile of the Windy City. Stand on the corner of Michigan and Adams, marked as the starting point of historic Route 66. Enjoy coffee and a big breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s, a Chicago institution since 1923 and a must for Route 66 travellers. Stroll the lakefront, peruse the shops, bike the parks, grab a Chicago Dog, or explore the city’s incredible sights and architectural treasures including Willis Tower, North America’s tallest building.
Day 3 Chicago - St. Louis (480KM)
This morning, pick up your rental car and get ready for an unforgettable journey into the then and now of America along historic Route 66. This legendary old road passes through a variety of pure Americana landscapes and takes in some of the country’s biggest, oldest and most peculiar sites along the way. Enroute, don’t miss Wilmington’s most photographed “citizen”, the larger-than-life green Gemini Giant, and Atlanta’s Bunyan Giant, a 19-foot statue of Paul Bunyan holding a giant hot dog. In Springfield, stop at the Cozy Dog Drive-In, the birthplace of the corn dog, and explore the legacy of Abraham Lincoln with a visit to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Once in St. Louis, the largest city along Route 66, you can follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers by visiting the historic sites found throughout the city, including the Gateway Arch, the nation’s tallest monument
Day 4 St. Louis - Springfield (340KM)
Continue through the Ozark Highlands of southern Missouri to Springfield, recognized as the birthplace of Route 66 in 1926. Enroute, be sure to stop at Meramec Caverns, Missouri’s buried treasure located in Stanton. These caverns are an extensive set of natural limestone caves whose formations and colours are as unique as they are beautiful.
Day 5 Springfield – Tulsa (291KM)
This morning, set off through the southeastern corner of Kansas - the shortest stretch of Route 66’s eight-state run, but one rich in history, interest and photo opportunities (such as Nelson’s Old Riverton Store, and Galena - watch out for ‘Mater’ the old tow-truck in the animated movie ‘Cars). The Oklahoma section of the Mother Road comprises the longest driveable mileage of any state, and heading for Tulsa - there is a real feeling of reaching the very heart and soul of America. Stop to view the magnificent Coleman Theater in Miami, and enjoy a hearty pot roast lunch in the Clanton’s’ family cafe in Vinita. In Claremore, silent movie star Will Rogers is commemorated in his own Movie Theatre and Museum and close to Tulsa, the 20 foot-tall concrete Blue Whale at Catoosa makes a fun photo stop. Tulsa - where Route 66 was conceived by visionary local businessman Cyrus Avery in 1927 - is home for the next 2 nights.
Day 6 Tulsa
A small, sleepy town at the turn of the 20th century but within a dozen years Tulsa had blossomed into a bustling oil-prospectors’ city and today it is replete with history, culture, energy and fun. Home to the most substantial art and artefacts collection of the American West at the Gilcrease Museum, or marvel at collections of European art acquired by the oil barons of old, there is much to see on this free day in and around Tulsa. Vibrant Guthrie Green plays host to mouthwatering food trucks on Wednesdays and the super-cool Brady Arts District, center of Tulsa’s ‘live’ music pedigree - jazz, folk, blues, rock, is the home of the famed Woody Guthrie Center and lively evening entertainment.
Day 7 Tulsa - Oklahoma (170KM)
There is ample time, this morning, to pay a visit to the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza - an atmospheric tribute to the ‘Father of Route 66’ - with its bronze sculpture depicting the battle between early automobiles and horse-drawn traffic. The plaza faces a preserved 1917 bridge over the Arkansas River, reached by an art deco skywalk. Driving out along Route 66 to Oklahoma City, most of the original Mother Road is still negotiable - a living, breathing museum of old motels, diners, iconic sights and atmospheric attractions. Stop off at the Sapulpa Historical Museum, the Lincoln Motel and Chandler’s quirky Route 66 Interpretive Center. An afternoon stop at POPS diner & gas station at Arcadia offers a showcase collection of more than 650 different soda flavours from around the world and close by is Oklahoma City - base for the next 2 nights. Downtown, Bricktown and nearby Midtown, the choice of eating places, live music venues, bars and shops is huge - all in comfortable strolling distance.
Day 8 Oklahoma City
In Oklahoma City, there’s Western life and culture galore, and visits to the stunning National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the city’s compelling tribute to the 1995 bombing victims - the National Memorial & Museum - are highly recommended. In nearby Stockyard City, the nation’s largest cattle auction and genuine Western apparel stores are a big draw. OKC’s Boathouse District offers genuine whitewater rapids and a thrilling zip-wire across the canal for the intrepid visitor. Meanwhile, downtown is a relaxing place to stroll, with a visit to the beautifully laid out Myriad Botanical Gardens an excellent option for a leisurely lunch. The city is endlessly surprising -with a genuine Western feel, but also an urban-modern vibe to rival any city in the US. An evening stroll around the Paseo Arts District - with its 20 galleries, or the Plaza District - for creative food and unique stores, will show off the attractions of OKC to great effect
Day 9 Oklahoma City - Elk City (180KM)
Another relatively short driving day on Route 66 to Elk City, with maybe a brief detour down to the pretty, bustling university town and campus of Norman. This stretch is the beating heart of the Mother Road, studded with genuine Oklahoma attractions and toothsome eating experiences, such as the legendary fried onion burgers in El Reno; historic Lucille’s Roadhouse in Weatherford and astronaut Tom Stafford’s Air & Space Museum nearby. On the edge of Clinton, an intriguing stop is the Mohawk Lodge Indian Store - one of few remaining Indian Trading Posts - and downtown is the iconic Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. Continue west about 20 miles to Elk City, home for the night.
Day 10 Elk City - Amarillo (239KM)
This morning, visit Elk City’s eclectic and great fun Old Town Museum complex. Waiting to be explored is the story of pioneering western Oklahoma - the Transportation Museum, Old Town Museum and Ranch Museum are topped off with the National Route 66 Museum, a memorable way to take leave of the Sooner State. Continue on to Amarillo, located in the pancake-flat plains of the Texas Panhandle. This area of Texas was once the buffalo-rich grasslands of the Great Plains, inhabited by bands of Kiowa and Comanche Indians. Stop en route at Shamrock’s Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café, whose towering spire is still a reminder of the booming business it once saw. See the first restored Phillips 66 gas station in McLean, and two other eye-catching sights in Groom, the leaning water tower and a giant stainless steel cross that easily stands 150-feet tall. Once in Amarillo, be sure to stop at Big Texas Steak Ranch where only the very hungry should attempt their 72oz. steak challenge.
Day 11 Amarillo - Albuquerque (458KM)
Before leaving Amarillo be sure to visit Cadillac Ranch. Meant to represent the “Golden Age” of American-made automobiles, this unique display of art features a row of ten colourfully painted Cadillac cars buried grille first in the ground. Continue to the MidPoint Café in Adrian, ideally located at the halfway point of Route 66 and famous for its “ugly crust” pies. From Adrian you’ll follow Route 66 to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a great taste of the Land of Enchantment.
Day 12 Albuquerque
Located approximately in the center of New Mexico, Albuquerque spreads north and south along the banks of the Rio Grande and is by far the state’s largest city. Spend the day exploring Downtown Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, a treasure trove of Route 66 landmarks and one of the original Route 66 towns. Historic Old Town offers a taste of New Mexico’s Spanish colonial past while the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, owned by the state’s 19 different Pueblo communities, traces the history of the region’s Native American cultures.
Day 13 Albuquerque – Santa Fe – Albuquerque (186KM)
To get a true sense of the Old Route 66, today you will detour to New Mexico’s state capital, Santa Fe. Founded on the ruins of an abandoned Indian village and steeped in history, Santa Fe is the oldest Capital in the U.S., and although it lost its place on Route 66 in 1938, it remains one of the most picturesque cities in the state. At one time this was the end of the old Santa Fe Trail, the earliest trade route linking the American frontier back east with the far west. Plan to visit one of Santa Fe’s famous art galleries, art markets, or museums full of traditional and contemporary art, including works by their own Georgia O’Keeffe, or shop for authentic creations you just won’t find anywhere else.
Day 14 Albuquerque – Holbrook (420KM)
This morning, the state of Arizona welcomes Route 66 travelers with an overwhelming display of trading posts. View huge concrete tepees that stand at the foot of brilliant red-rock mesas en route to Petrified Forest National Park, the only park in the National Park System containing a section of Historic Route 66. Here you will come face-to-face with over 13,000 years of human history and one of the world’s largest and most colorful assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures and archeological sites. Catch a sunset over the Painted Desert from the park’s Kachina Point before heading to Holbrook. Once in Holbrook, stop at the Wigwam Motel whose steel and concrete teepees featuring modern conveniences have welcomed guests since the 1950’s.
Day 15 Holbrook – Grand Canyon National Park/ Williams (290KM)
Continue to Meteor City, a true vintage trading post whose distinctive dome can be seen for miles along this stretch of Route 66. Pass through Flagstaff and Williams en route to Grand Canyon National park, a natural wonder that you simply have to see to believe. Spend the day discovering the distinct South Rim of the Canyon. Stop at one of the numerous overlooks, walk part of the Rim Trail or along the historic Hermit Road. Visit a Photo Hot Spot, or climb to the top of a stone Watchtower for panoramic views that extend over 100 miles on clear days.
Day 16 Grand Canyon National Park / Williams – Las Vegas (480KM)
Leave the pretty town of Williams and the Grand Canyon behind as you make your way to Seligman, the first stop heading west on the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66. Continue through Kingman whose old Route 66 cafés and motels still flourish, to one of Arizona’s hidden treasures, Hoover Dam. Considered the largest single public works project in the history of the U.S., The Hoover Dam straddles the mighty Colorado River, which forms the border between Nevada and Arizona and brings much-needed water and power to the Southwest. Continue to Las Vegas, Nevada, a city that needs no introduction.
Day 17 Las Vegas
Enjoy a full day Las Vegas style. Walk the famous Las Vegas Strip lined with mega-resorts and flashing neon lights, place a bet at one of the many casinos, dine at world-class restaurants, catch the latest must-see show, shop designer boutiques, ride a rollercoaster, lay by the pool … the list goes on. With so much to do, 24 hours in a day hardly seems like enough.
Day 18 Las Vegas – Santa Monica/Los Angeles (470KM)
This morning, set out through the Mojave Desert for Calico Ghost Town, Yermo, California’s authentic silver mining town and one of the few original mining camps of the Old West. Rejoin Route 66 in Barstow where a collection of historic photographs and artifacts related to Route 66 and the Mojave Desert Communities are on display at the Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum. Continue through Pasadena, Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to Santa Monica for a true Hollywood ending to your cross-country journey. Park and venture the last few blocks on foot to view the “End of the Trail” sign on Santa Monica’s Pier. This sign officially marks the western end of historic Route 66.
Day 19 Los Angeles/Santa Monica
Spend the day strolling along the beaches of Santa Monica or browsing the adjacent indoor/outdoor shops at Third Street Promenade. Or, further explore L.A.’s one-of-a-kind destinations, playgrounds of the rich and famous and architectural gems. Universal Studios Hollywood and Anaheim’s original Disneyland Park are also located within easy driving distance.
Day 20 Los Angeles Departure
Return your rental car at Los Angeles International Airport prior to your departure
Please note: One way drop off fee on your car rental applies locally and is approx $500