Are you thinking of heading out on a trip into America’s heartland along Route 66? If so, you’ll have the privilege of traveling along one of the most famous and iconic stretches of road in the entire country. Although most of this fabled path received new highway designations decades ago, the so-called Mother Road and the Main Street of America still retains many of its historical buildings, cultural heritage and unique charm, in addition to the more modern cultural attractions created during its resurgence. Before you embark on your trip, here are five must-see sites to visit along Route 66, starting on the West Coast and heading east towards the Midwest.
3800 Homer St.
Los Angeles, CA 90031
It’s not one of the better-known attractions along Route 66, and its annual attendance can easily be eclipsed by a single event at neighboring Dodger Stadium. But Heritage Square features a historical glimpse into LA’s glorious past and deserves to be a must-see site. With the help from locals and the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board, eight Victorian structures were preserved from destruction when newer homes were built and moved to a location off Route 66 between Dodger Stadium and Pasadena. Of the many noteworthy highlights of a tour of Heritage Square are the Palms Depot at the entrance to the museum, the Perry Mansion and the Hale House, said to be the most photographed house in Los Angeles. Also not to be missed is a visit to Colonial Drug, featuring a vintage soda fountain, rare antiques and several well-preserved pharmacy items.
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811 W. Hopi Drive
Holbrook, AZ 86025
One of the few remaining villages of this quirky motel chain Wigwam Motel No. 6 is arguably one of the premier attractions along Route 66. If not, it’s certainly one of the most familiar and most photographed spots along the 2,448-mile, two lane Mother Road. The first of seven Wigwam villages opened in 1933 in Horse Cave, Kentucky, and each teepee came equipped with spring mattresses, a bath with hot and cold running water and wood furniture. Over the years, six more Wigwam Motels were built, including two along the Main Street of America. In addition to Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, the other two surviving villages are Wigwam Motel No. 7 in San Bernadino, Calif. and Wigwam Motel No. 2, opened in 1937 in Cave City, Kentucky. The Holbrook location features 15 concrete and steel teepees, a small museum and a much-needed swimming pool to cool off from the Arizona desert heat. Due to the popularity of the motel, reservations for overnight stays are recommended well in advance.
1-40 Frontage Road
Amarillo, TX 79124
Located just west of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, Cadillac Ranch is a must see roadside attraction for anyone traveling along Route 66. The public art installation introduced in 1974 is a stunning display of 10 colorfully painted Cadillacs dated from 1949 to 1963. In part a fitting homage to the tailfin era that was so popular amongst American cars, the Cadillacs are partially buried in the dirt only to reveal the back portion, and supposedly positioned at the same angle as Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. Visitors to Cadillac Ranch should also visit the Sixth Street Historic District in Amarillo, featuring a number of other fascinating Route 66 road attractions including the Natatorium, Taylor’s Texaco Station, Adkinson-Baker Tire Company and the San Jacinto Fire Station. Visitors traveling east towards Oklahoma City might also want to stop in Shamrock, also in the panhandle, for a photo op of the well-known Tower Conoco Gas Station and U-Drop Inn Café, at the intersection of Historic Route 66 and U.S. Highway 83.
Cars On The Route
119 N. Main St.
Galena, KS 66739
Formerly known as 4 Women on the Route, this popular diner gained worldwide attention after one of its outside attractions inspired the creation of a beloved character from a Walt Disney movie. Tow Tater is a 1951 International Harvester boom truck that provided the inspiration for an animated version known as Tow Mater, featured in the award-winning 2006 film “Cars,” produced by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. The Galena diner instantly became one of the most famous roadside attractions along Route 66 and is especially popular for families with children. The diner was originally known as the Kan-O-Tex service station, built during the 1930s and eventually purchased in 2007 by four women who restored it as the present-day diner. Also on the property are a few other vehicles bearing resemblance of other characters from the “Cars” franchise.
Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park
21300 E. Highway 28A
Chelsea, OK 74016
Another unusual attraction worth visiting Is Totem Pole Park just east of the Mother Road near Foyil, Oklahoma. Created by retired art teacher Ed Galloway and introduced to the public in 1937, Totem Pole Park features the “world’s largest concrete totem pole,” a “Fiddle House” supported by 25 concrete totem poles and several smaller totems spread over 14 acres. The largest totem pole reaches a height of 90 feet and displays intricate bas relief carvings of Native American art. There is no admission to the park and visitors are welcome to have lunch on either of the two concrete totem picnic tables. The 11-side Fiddle House houses a museum, which is also free and open to the public. The totem pole park is managed by National Parks System as part of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.
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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.