Traveling on the notorious Route 66 is a dream for many. While it takes a lot of time and planning to drive the entire length of the road (all 2,451 miles of it!), it is possible to drive sections of the road without much of an effort. We haven’t fulfilled our quest to drive the entire length of the road, but we were able to get a good taste by driving Route 66 from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon. It was just enough to know that we will be back for more.
Starting the drive on Route 66 from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon, we happened across some awesome sites that are worth the detour and longer drive times. The most difficult part of this drive is continually rerouting the GPS to stay off of Interstate 40!
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Top Stops on Route 66 – From Los Angeles to Grand Canyon
1. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, CA
One of the most unique and quirky places we stopped on our Route 66 adventure was at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, CA (National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368). This funky sanctuary of rural folk art is definitely worth the detour. Walking around taking in the light and colors from the glass bottle topped iron trees, with random relics from times past weaved throughout the fun ranch, is a great way to get out and stretch your legs. Even in 100°F temperatures, it was a joy to walk through the man made forest, soaking up a small bit of the artistic quirkiness that is so closely tied to the idea of Route 66.[box]BONUS STOP: Calico Ghost Town, not really on Route 66 per se, but is a fun little detour if you feel up to it. It is also a perfect stop over between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Calico Ghost Town was founded in 1881 as a silver mining city. With hundreds of mines, Calico produced millions of dollars in silver in a span of 12 years. When silver went bust in the mid-1890s, Calico did too.
Calico has been restored, creating a fun place to hop back in time. You can wander the buildings, visit a mine, ride a cute mining train and have a meal. Kids will love it and so will most adults too![/box]
2. Oatman, AZ
My son’s favorite stop of our journey was in Oatman, AZ, an odd mix of ghost town and tourist trap. Oatman is a former gold mining town whose glory days are long since passed. Once a bustling town, it now has a minuscule population of approximately 100. Oatman looks like a set straight out of Hollywood, but it’s actually the real deal. Outside of the saloons and t-shirt shops, the town still retains it’s rough and tumble Wild West ways.
For kids, and adults alike, excitement abounds with seeing the wild burros roaming the streets looking for handouts. Many shops sell carrots for visitors to feed the wild donkeys, but bring your own if you can as the shops sell out and close randomly. Also, don’t miss the Wild West shootouts that take place each afternoon on Main Street that gives a sense of what life might have been like in the olden days. Timings vary from 12:30 to 2:00 depending on the season.[box]COOL SPRINGS STATION: Another quick stop between Oatman and Kingman is the Cool Springs Station, a restored gas station, which houses a museum and gift shop. The stretch of Route 66 from Oatman to Cool Springs is one of the most scenic areas of the drive, reminiscent of Cars the movie.[/box]
3. Kingman, AZ
While Kingman won’t win any awards for an old time historic feel, it is a great stop off point to learn more about this historic drive. The Route 66 Museum, housed in an old power plant is full of life size dioramas, old cars, postcards and mementos to occupy you for a while. Once you have had your fill, head across the street for a meal at the classic Americana Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner.
4. Seligman, AZ
If you can only stop in one town on Route 66 from Los Angeles to Grand Canyon, Seligman should be the one. With its neon signs, roadside motels and quirky shops lining the road, you will get a true sense of the spirit of the old Route 66. A favorite stop off point here is Delgadillo’s Snow Caps Drive-In (301 E. Route 66, 928/422-3291) for “Hamburgers without Ham”. Cars (the movie), loving kiddos will love exploring the wacky back yard of Snow Caps. The burgers, fries, and milkshakes (not to mention the jokes!) are worth the detour.
While in Seligman, take time to check out the Route 66 Gift Shop and Museum and miscellaneous shops. Want to experience several places during a quick visit? Stop in at the Roadkill Cafe (502 W. Route 66, 928/422-3554) for food and walk the 15 minutes down to Delgadillo’s Snow Caps for a milkshake or ice cream, while checking out the shops along the way.
5. Williams, AZ
Williams is primarily known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, but isn’t shy about showing off its Route 66 heritage. Almost every store has markings of Route 66 outside, luring shoppers to purchase a variety of kitschy souvenirs. The old-fashioned street lamps and neon signs make Williams a great place to visit in the evening hours if you are just passing through. If you need all the bells and whistles of a functioning town, Williams makes a great place to stay with a grocery store, gas station and plenty of places to eat, sleep and shop.
If you can spare the time, think about hitching a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams which makes its way to the Grand Canyon every morning, returning in the afternoon (2 hours each way). A fun, stress free way to visit the Grand Canyon during a short visit. Looking for more traditional family fun, head to Bearizona just outside of Williams for a fun drive through animal park experience.
Driving on Route 66 is a classic American experience everyone should experience in some form. Reliving days past, experiencing the community spirit that is still alive and kicking in small town America is a great way to remember how this country was built. So, go on, load up your road trip playlist and head out on the highway…to get your kicks on Route 66.
Are there any spots on Route 66 that you think are well worth the stop? Share them with us below!
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