If you are planning on heading out on a Route 66 road trip 1 week trip, this is the article for you. I promise you will not regret this trip as it is one of the best road trips in the US!
Route 66 is one of those epic bucket list trips that you will honestly remember forever and planning for it can be a bit overwhelming. I am here to help! We did our first Route 66 road trip and honestly had the time of our lives. It is one of our favorite trips to date and we have had quite a few!
We’ll go over the best Route 66 road trip 1 week itinerary, the best part of Route 66, the best Route 66 travel guide, the best Route 66 road trip from California, and the best way to do Route 66.
Driving Route 66 in 1 week will be a bit of a time crunch but if you plan out all your stops ahead of time, you can definitely do it. You’ll likely have to take the highway at times but as often as you can, you should follow the original Route 66 route. It’s not on maps anymore but you can find a great Route 66 turn-by-turn guide here.
THIS POST IS ALL ABOUT THE ULTIMATE ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP 1 WEEK ITINERARY.
THE ULTIMATE ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP 1 WEEK ITINERARY:
CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP
We’re starting the Route 66 road trip 1 week itinerary from California because that’s how we started it. Although it is technically “backward,” it’ll get you all the same places and was just as much fun for us.
If you are making the effort to drive Route 66 you have to make sure to at least start and end at the signs! The End of Route 66 is perfectly on Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles and serves as the perfect backdrop to the start of your epic Route 66 road trip 1-week vacation!
BEST CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66 STOPS:
Now for the fun part! There are some beautiful miles of Route 66 in California (fun fact I grew up just a block from a section of Route 66) and so much to see and do! These were our favorite stops as we took a whole day to drive through California for Day 1 of our Route 66 road trip!
santa monica pier
We are so happy we started with the Santa Monica Pier, especially at sunrise. It was so quiet and peaceful and GORGEOUS! But really, what better way to start a road trip than with an amusement park with fair food! Be sure to stop and take a photo at the Route 66 End of the Trail Sign and grab a malt at Pier Burger.
This isn’t the only Wigwam Motel on Route 66 but having it placed just in the middle of a suburban neighborhood makes it all the much cooler! Each room is its own teepee and you are free to roam about the property and see all the old Route 66 signs and cars even if you don’t stay there.
The first day of a Route 66 road trip, it’s required to have a milkshake at an old school diner. Roy’s Cafe is the perfect stop for that! The milkshake was to die for and all the greasy diner food is perfect after a few hours in the car on the way to Arizona!
Arizona Route 66 Road Trip
State number two is a GOOD ONE! We love traveling in Arizona and actually extended our 1 week Route 66 road trip by 4 days because we stayed in Arizona for so long! There is plenty to do all over Arizona, but we’ll keep this focused on the best stops along Route 66!
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BEST ARIZONA ROUTE 66 STOPS:
This is an absolute MUST. It is just outside of Phoenix heading towards New Mexico. Only 15 minutes off I-40, there is a free parking lot overlooking an epic view of the Painted Desert. If you are able to go for sunset we highly recommend it. The sunsets in Arizona are already gorgeous but over the Painted Desert, are next level! Bring a picnic dinner and watch the desert change colors before your very eyes.
If you have ever heard the Eagles’ song, “Take it Easy,” you make recognize the small town of Winslow, Arizona. The lyrics “standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona” actually brought a lot of attention to this town. They now have a dedicated corner along the main road with signs and statues and paintings. It is the cutest spot and we loved goofing off here for a few hours. There is free parking and plenty of small family restaurants and shops to explore.
If you are looking for something super unique, be sure to check out the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. It’s just a 20-minute drive off the route and is home to a MASSIVE meteor crater from 50,000 years ago. It honestly looks amazing and the photos are stunning. We would have loved to have visited but didn’t have enough time to make it worth the $20 pp tickets. You’ll need a whole afternoon to enjoy this spot!
NEW MEXICO ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP
You are flying through the trip now and Route 66 in New Mexico is a good one. The Route is relatively easy to follow and brings you to see some gorgeous views, like seeing Alburquerque from above at night! For your 1 night in New Mexico, we recommend a stay at El Rancho Hotel as a perfect kitschy stay on Route 66!
BEST NEW MEXICO ROUTE 66 STOPS:
An unexpected stop for us while in New Mexico but it was perfect for sunrise overlooking Alburquerque. A peaceful spot along an often busy road trip (at least through California & Arizona). This was a perfect spot for some photos or a picnic.
A perfect Route 66 diner, with jukeboxes, counter service, burgers, malts, and old signs everywhere. This is a perfect stop for breakfast, lunch or diner while passing through New Mexico. We especially loved the wall outside the diner with all the old street signs!
GLENRIO GHOST TOWN
A true Route 66 ghost town sits just a few hundred feet from I-40 and has been completely bypassed since the highway went in. Unfortunately, this is not the only ghost town along Route 66, but is extremely easy to get to. It borders New Mexico and Texas and has a post office, two motels, a cafe, and a gas station that are all identifiable and extremely creepy.
TEXAS ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP
Probably our favorite state on Route 66 because there was so much to do, even in such a small part of Texas. And all the people we came across were SO NICE!
BEST TEXAS ROUTE 66 STOPS:
You made it halfway through Route 66 and it’s time to celebrate! They have a cute midpoint sign and line in the road perfect for a photo op! And of course a diner! Complete with everything you need to take a break from the long long drive you have already done and get ready for the next half.
A must visit on your Route 66 road trip 1 week itinerary. This free art installation is located just off I-40 near Amarillo and is unlike anything we have ever seen. You can spray-paint your mark on the cars but no need to bring spray paint, there is SO MUCH laying around there for you to use. Be sure to get there early, before the heat and the crowds.
BIG TEXAN STEAKHOUSE
One of our favorite dining experiences along our Route 66 trip. The Big Texan Steakhouse is BIG and over the top and we loved every second of it. They have a challenge if you can finish a 72 ounce steak in an hour (with all four sides) you get it for free. Definitely not for us, but it is so much fun to watch someone else try on the main stage. We also got a flight of 10 beers for $12 and it was so worth it! They were all so good and unique.
CONOCO GAS STATION
It’s a must to find at least one old school gas station along Route 66. This was our favorite of the ones we found because it is in such good condition and art deco architecture is one of my favorites. They have a cafe and gift shop with the sweetest lady running it, so it makes a great stop all around!
If you are planning your next road trip, be sure to include all these road trip essentials for adults! Whether you are planning a weekend getaway or a cross-country road trip, these
OKLAHOMA ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP
We think it starts getting pretty quirky here in Oklahoma. Part of the fun of Route 66 is all the super kitschy stops along the way that sometimes, just don’t make any sense. You will start finding a ton of them here in Oklahoma!
BEST OKLAHOMA ROUTE 66 STOPS:
NATIONAL ROUTE 66 MUSEUM IN ELK CITY
We actually accidentally stumbled upon this museum when we saw the massive Route 66 sign out front. It was once the largest Route 66 sign in the world and only recently fell to second, but trust me it’s huge. They also have the cutest little model town of what it might have looked like on Route 66 back in the day.
CLASSEN INN SUPERETTE
This super trendy motel has been completely remodeled and is now a popular place to book a night for a Route 66 road trip! We just stopped by for some photos but the patio looked so cute and I would have loved to stay a night here.
BLUE WHALE OF CATOOSA
If you are looking for the most kitschy Route 66 stop, this is it! Located along the old Route 66, this stop was once a popular swimming hole. Now a great picnic spot and a perfect place to capture some photos of the most obscene sculpture we’ve ever seen.
Back when Route 66 was actually in use, there were long stretches of nine-foot roadways. That’s so tiny! Lanes today are standard of 12 feet and that’s just one way! This tiny road is fun to drive and quite rough, but we did see some beautiful farmland along the way.
KANSAS ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP
We didn’t even know Kansas was on the original Route 66 path, but 13 miles of old Route 66 slink through the southeast corner of the state. You have to veer off quite a ways from the main highways here, but it was definitely worth it to be sure we hit every state on the old Route 66.
BEST KANSAS ROUTE 66 STOPS:
CARS ON THE ROUTE
If you’ve seen Pixar’s Cars, then you will love this stop! The tow truck that was used as the inspiration for Mater the Tow Truck is located here in Kansas. In the photo above, the original tow truck is the one on the right and Disney version is in the middle. They have since added many more features of the Disney movie, including a bit more down the road (see below).
Route 66 Sign in Road
This is walking distance from Cars on the Road and is essentially an extension of that. Luigi and Doc have been added and there is even a map of Route 66 that tons of people have signed! We added our signature, too. And we had to find one Route 66 sign in the roadway and this was a perfectly empty road for that!
MISSOURI ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP
As we were nearing the end of our Route 66 road trip, we spent our second to last night in St. Louis. Since the driving distances were pretty long these days, we only got to stop at the Route 66 stops in St. Louis but we still loved them!
BEST MISSOURI ROUTE 66 STOPS:
GATEWAY ARCH NATIONAL PARK
Another National Park to add to the bucket list. This one is so different than all the other national parks but the Gateway Arch is insanely impressive. Plus is overlooks the beautiful Mississippi River and downtown St. Louis. On a warmer day, I would have loved to walked the whole park and had a picnic in the grass.
TED DREWES FROZEN CUSTARD
To be honest, I had never had frozen custard before nor did I really know what it is. It’s thick creamy ice cream, essentially and I am in love. These custards are so thick that you can turn the cup upside down and it won’t fall out! They have a million options and we just asked for recommendations and they were amazing. I remember mine being a berry custard with cookie add-ins.
This bowling alley is a perfect throwback to a simpler time. I love the neon signs and the old-school bowling shoes. A great place for a break from the car! Just be sure not to come on a Monday at 10:00am, that’s senior bowling league!
ILLINOIS ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP
You made it to the last state of your Route 66 road trip!! How incredible was the entire route?! Well, we’ll be sure to go out with some good food and a fantastic city that I could spend weeks in. But since we just have a night, here are the best Route 66 Chicago Stops.
BEST ILLINOIS ROUTE 66 STOPS:
Just past the End of Route 66 Sign is the massive Millennial Park. From ice skating in the winter to outdoor concerts in the summer, this park has everything. We love walking around and admiring the art installations, The Bean being a favorite!
No trip to Chicago is complete without some delicious food. What better way than a Route 66 classic, Lou Mitchell’s. An all-American diner with a bakery and a claim to “the world’s finest coffee.” We didn’t get a chance to eat here, due to 2020 restrictions, but we definitely will be back.
END OF HISTORIC ROUTE 66 SIGN
Let’s finish where we started and find the End of Route 66 Sign. You’ll see these brown signs throughout your road trip but this special one is located on the corner of Jackson Dr. and Michigan Ave.