From Chicago to LA, through Texas, New Mexico, and the Grand Canyon, your trip on the Mother Road combines three of the best cities in the union with the wild and unkempt side of the West. The desert cedes to the city for the grand finale in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the culminating point of the most famous road in the world.
Grand Canyon National Park
Your tour through the most famous road in the world begins in Chicago. The Windy City, the door to the Midwest, and one of the US’s most famous cities, Chicago’s skyscrapers tower above Lake Michigan, an architectural feat that has only got richer with time. The city is the birthplace of jazz and blues: make sure to go by Rush Street and enjoy one of the many concerts available every day of the week.
The capital of Illinois is also one of the most historic cities in the union, closely linked to president Abraham Lincoln’s storied legacy. The Illinois State Capitol, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, and the Presidential Museum bear witness to his important contributions during the abolitionist movement. In addition to cultural and historical attractions, Lake Springfield and the Sangamon River—Lincoln’s personal favourite—call you to explore.
3. St. Louis
The Gateway Arch, the pride and joy of St. Louis, has often been called “The Gateway to the West.” In St. Louis, warm hospitality, cutting-edge restaurants, and a growing art-scene all combine to create a unique southwestern twang. After overlooking the city from the Arch, head down Cherokee Street to have a craft beer and enjoy the many galleries the street has to offer.
Not one, but two Springfields—the next one on your trip along Route 66 is also an essential stopover for historical reasons. It was in Springfield that John Woodruff and Cyrus Avery laid down the first step of the Mother Road. The Ozarks stretch out before you to the south, so making a trek down the Ozark Plateau a must for anybody looking to cool down after a round of history.
Tulsa is a quintessential stop on this great road, its image forever memorialised as being the hometown of Cyrus Avery, one of the founders of Route 66. Today, the city’s ambience is defined by placid Art Deco parks—make sure to take a stroll down Tulsa Parks—and superb fine-art museums, including the Philbrook Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum.
6. Oklahoma City
Oklahoma’s capital is renowned for several reasons: it has the largest cattle auction in the world (every Tuesday and Thursday), and several of the union’s best steakhouses. But as you walk down the chic Bricktown, where old warehouses have now morphed into bars and boutique shops, you’ll notice that O.C. has modernised into more than just a cattle city.
As a city that joins nature with culinary delight, Amarillo is the perfect introduction to the Lone Star State. Your stop here will give you the opportunity to explore the Palo Duro Canyon State Bark, which boasts colourfully bizarre rock formations such as the Lighthouse Pinnacle. After a hike, enjoy a rack of Texas barbecue at any of the city’s renowned BBQ joints.
8. Santa Fe
Santa Fe vaunts a curious accolade: at 7,000 feet, it is one of the highest state capitals in the whole union. Founded by Spanish colonists, the city also stands out for its unique architecture—the Pueblo Revival style was created here—and for being the birthplace of modernist painter Georgia O’Keefe. Walk by the cube-shaped, sandstone coloured abodes and you’ll quickly notice where the “Different City” moniker comes from.
9. New Mexico
Red rock formations and the arid desert of the southwest form the next part of the Route 66 panorama. Your route is part of the New Mexico Scenic Byways, a particularly picturesque road where the El Malpais National Monument can be found. Here, you can hike over dramatic pitch-black lava fields and marvel at the "La Ventana", a natural rock arch.
10. Grand Canyon National Park
Your visit to the Grand Canyon National Park will, quite simply, be the highlight of your trip across the union. Hike along the edge of the canyon and look down into the gorge from the gorges, which plunge down to 5,905 feet. Experience the sunset as it breaks through the Colorado River. Here, in the canyon, you’ll be able to taste the wild and unrestrained side of the USA.
11. Las Vegas
Huge neon lights, the best luxury hotels in the world, and casinos until the wee hours: no other city epitomises the idea of “think big” than Las Vegas. Besides the glitz of the Strip, don’t forget that between Seligman and Kingman, you can also enjoy a piece of the original Route 66. If you’re feeling a break from the city, take a trip to Lake Mead and the colossal Hoover Dam, which dams the Colorado River.
12. Los Angeles
Your last day will be spent in the city of stars: Los Angeles. The legendary Route 66 ends in the Santa Monica district, so round off your road trip with a drink on the Santa Monica Pier. Roll along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets on your trip, a perfect way to cap off your adventure on the most famous road in the world.
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