13 Must-See Attractions Along Route 66

13 Must-See Attractions Along Route 66

Road trips are a fantastic way to see the United States. Unlike flying, you get to lay eyes on all the beautiful parts of nature that are often overlooked. Small towns give a unique look into what a simpler life is like, for those who fantasize about it. Route 66 spans from the Midwest to California. Each year, millions of people pack their cars and find themselves on this historic road to get wherever they need to. Route 66 is beloved for all of its fun stops and jaw-dropping sights along the way. 

Iconic American landmarks are part of what people see when they drive on Route 66. This includes the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. This archway was first built to let slaves and African Americans know they were free from the racist laws the South put on them before 1965. In 2024, people marvel at the arch for its beauty and what it symbolizes in American history. 

Another must-see attraction along Route 66 is the Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma. This type of attraction is what Route 66 is best known for. The whale was first built as an anniversary gift by a local townsman for his wife who collected different whale artifacts. Today, the whale sits in a park where countless families stop each year to enjoy a picnic or take a break from driving. For more information about what to see in different states, click here to read about each state’s most underrated natural wonder. 

To compile this list of must-see attractions along Route 66, 24/7 Tempo consulted travel-related sources. These include Travel and Leisure, The Points Guy, and Travel Channel.

Gateway Arch 

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The Gateway Arch has become a symbol for freedom in the United States.
  • Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Throughout time, the Gateway Arch has been more than just a beautiful monument in Missouri. When it was first built, the arch symbolized freedom to slaves in the United States. Once people moved beyond the arch, they made it to the more accepting parts of the United States. In 2024, people have access to get to the top of the arch. Up there, folks can overlook the greater Midwest region of the United States.

While many of the best sites to visit along Route 66 are in small towns, the Gateway Arch is something every American is welcome to stop and appreciate whenever they can. Since Route 66 starts in the Chicago area, those traveling from the Midwest won’t have any issue spotting the arch at the start of their roadtrips. 

Blue Whale

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The Blue Whale structure was originally built as an anniversary present by a local man to his wife.
  • Location: Catoosa, Oklahoma

Route 66 allows people to stop and look at things they usually wouldn’t notice under normal circumstances. In Catoosa, Oklahoma, a popular sight for travelers to visit is the memorable Blue Whale structure. It was made by Hugh Davis, a local man who wanted to gift the whale to his wife as an anniversary present.

She loved collecting whale artifacts, so Davis felt like she would enjoy seeing the large-sized whale whenever she wanted. In 2024, the structure is a popular place for families to stop for pictures. There are plenty of areas to enjoy food before getting back on the road as well. Catoosa is a suburb of Tulsa, which is one of Oklahoma’s biggest cities. 

Gemini Giant

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The Gemini Giant is part of Route 66’s memorable attractions.
  • Location: Wilmington, Illinois

Part of the allure of Route 66 is the giant “Muffler Men” folks driving along the road will find. If you’re driving from East to West, one of the first attractions you’ll come across is the Gemini Giant. He’s 30 feet tall and, like the other “Muffler Men,” he was first used as a way to advertise to people who were driving on Route 66. 

The statue was made out of fiberglass to help it withstand the harsh winters that Illinois faces. If the statue was made out of anything else, there’s a high likelihood it would have already been destroyed or ruined by the elements. Anyone who wants to see the Gemini Giant will need to visit Wilmington, Illinois, which is just outside of the greater Chicago area. 

Cadillac Ranch

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Cadillac Ranch is a famous stop for tourists in Amarillo, Texas.
  • Location: Amarillo, Texas

Few cars stand out in the hearts of Americans like Cadillacs. These cars are known for their dependability and style. Older Cadillacs are starting to be restored and brought back to their glory so that people can drive them again. However, the cars used at Cadillac Ranch won’t be restored anytime soon. This site in Texas is known for having cars face down in the ground.

The idea was first started by a group of artists named Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels. The cars are each angled the same way as the Pyramids of Giza. The surrounding area of Cadillac Ranch is pure desert, making those who stop by feel like they’re in the middle of nowhere. That’s not the case, though. Amarillo is a highly populated town in Texas with more than 200,000 citizens calling it home. 

Calico Ghost Town

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It’s easy to get caught up in the mystique that Calico Ghost Town offers.
  • Location: Calico Mountains, California

Over the years, ghost towns have become popular tourist attractions. People are fascinated by the idea of having to uplift your life and leave the big things behind as your new adventure begins. Most ghost towns are in the western part of the United States, as they are commonly associated with mining. Once there were no more resources to mine from the ground, workers left with their families and entire communities.

They’d move onto the next place that had gold, silver, or coal available for mining. One of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the United States is the Calico Ghost Town. This area still has houses, stores, and other buildings still standing. The Calico Mountains are located near Barstow, California, which is a popular stop for those driving to and from Las Vegas. The ghost town is a great place to explore. It’s considered a lovely destination where travelers can have fun with their loved ones. 

Original McDonald’s Museum

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McDonald’s has become a worldwide brand after starting in San Bernardino, California.
  • Location: San Bernardino, California

Instead of stopping at a random McDonald’s along your drive on Route 66, travelers are welcome to head to the original museum in San Bernardino. The history of the restaurant is interesting to learn about for a slew of reasons. Richard and Maurice MacDonald first founded their famous restaurant in California back in 1940. By that point, there wasn’t anywhere to get food quickly. You were forced to sit at restaurants and wait for the servers to come to you. 

The MacDonald brothers figured out how to streamline food-making by having it ready the second someone came in to order. In 2024, it’s easy to find the golden arches nearly everywhere around the world. Ray Kroc was the man who met with the MacDonald brothers and pushed them to franchise out restaurants. 

Leaning Tower of Britten

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The Leaning Tower of Britten is now also referred to as the Leaning Tower of Texas.
  • Location: Groom, Texas

Groom, Texas is home to an architectural marvel – the Leaning Tower of Britten. This tower in the small Texas town once was an actual functioning water tower for the city. The people who designed it got the idea from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is one of the most famous monuments in the world. The tower was going to be demolished until Ralph Britten, the owner of a local truck stop, purchased the tower. He began using it as an advertisement.

The truck shop has since closed down, but people driving along Route 66 often stop by to take pictures with the memorable leaning tower. Ever since the shut-down of the shop, some refer to it as the Leaning Tower of Texas. No matter what you call it, checking out the tower about 40 minutes east of Amarillo is a must-do. 

Meramec Caverns

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The Meramec Caverns have millions of years of history inside of them.
  • Location: Sullivan, Missouri

Missouri is home to the beautiful Ozark Mountains. There are countless places to stop and explore within this mountain range, but none offer the same level of beauty as the Meramec Caverns. The inside of the caves if full of stunning rock formations that have been forming and solidifying for millions of years.

Originally, Native Americans used the caves for shelter. They also used them to keep warm during the harsh winters in Missouri’s climate. The cave trail lasts more than four miles, so there’s a high chance that everyone you travel with will find some sort of beauty in the caves. Sullivan is Southwest of St. Louis, which means those passing through to reach the largest metropolitan area in Missouri will have an impressive place to relax. 


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It’s difficult to miss the giant neon bottle that stands outside of Pops Diner in Arcadia, Oklahoma.
  • Location: Arcadia, Oklahoma

Most of the unique places that sit on Route 66 have been there for decades. That’s part of the charm of stopping by and visiting each amazing place you see. However, Pops is a diner in Oklahoma that first opened their doors in 2007. The difference between this diner and most others is the amount of soda options it has.

Soda lovers will appreciate the 700 different flavors and styles you can order when you go to Pops. It’s difficult to miss Pops when you drive by because of the giant neon sign that hangs outside of the diner. The high-quality food and excellent service provided at Pops is second to none. Arcadia is only a half hour drive from Oklahoma City, which means travelers have easy access on Route 66. 

Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe

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Plenty of people around the world recognize the Texas Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe from the movie “Cars.”
  • Location: Shamrock, Texas

It’s no secret that the movie “Cars” took a lot of inspiration from Route 66. One of the most memorable parts of the film mimicked the way the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe in Shamrock, Texas looked like. In the movie, Ramone’s House of Body Art looks exactly like this famous building. 

There are countless other scenes in the movie that take inspiration from the famous Route 66, but none stand out like this one. In real life, this area is part cafe and part gas station. Like the film, this station-cafe wasn’t doing well until it was restored in the 1990s. Shamrock is a small Texas town that’s a two and a half hour drive west from Oklahoma City. 

Meteor Crater

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Tons of people wonder where the meteor that first made this crater originally came from.
  • Location: Winslow, Arizona

Meteors provide insight into what outer space is like. These falling rocks can be dangerous if they fall too close to where people live. Winslow, Arizona is home to Meteor Crater, one of the largest craters caused by a meteor in the world. It’s been more than 50,000 years since the rock fell from the sky and crashed into Earth. These days, anyone who wants to check out this unique area can walk up to the rim to see what something from outer space might look like.

There’s no telling when another meteor is going to crash into Earth. Luckily, science and technology has advanced enough that we can predict when and where a meteor is going to hit. After a prediction is revealed, the rock is diverted away from Earth so nobody gets hurt. Those who want to visit Winslow will have to drive three hours north from Phoenix to get there. 

Petrified Forest National Park

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Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park that goes along Route 66.
  • Location: Arizona

National parks are one of the things that make the United States amazing. There’s beautiful land to explore and enjoy, regardless of which national park you visit. There are mountain ranges, deserts, and plenty of natural areas that are designated as a national park in the United States. However, even though it stretches more than 1,000 miles, the only national park along Route 66 is Petrified Forest National Park. 

This area of the United States in Arizona is known for its desert look. People who aren’t fearful of wildlife have much to appreciate about Petrified Forest National Park. There are plenty of animals, such as snakes and coyotes, that survive these harsh conditions. Make sure you’re always vigilant of where you’re stepping and what’s in front of you. Safety should always be prioritized when visiting a park like this. 

Santa Monica Pier

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Santa Monica Pier is a magical place when it’s lit up at night.
  • Location: Santa Monica, California

California is known for having many famous landmarks, one of which is the Santa Monica Pier. Unlike most piers in the world, the Santa Monica Pier has an amusement park, shopping options, and plenty of restaurants with incredible menus. The ferris wheel allows those who ride it to take in beautiful views of both California and the Pacific Ocean. 

Route 66 is famous for ending in the bright lights of this particular Los Angeles beach town. The beauty of Santa Monica Pier is that whenever you go, you’ll likely cross paths with people from nearly every town and state you already passed through on your journey. Summers at Santa Monica Pier are packed with people trying to escape the heat by going to the beach. For more travel content, click here to read about the 20 must-see destinations in California. 

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