Today you’re invited to join us on our journey as we travel the Mother Road and explore classic Route 66 landmarks in Arizona on the Great American Road Trip!
There’s something so vintage and nostalgic about packing the family in the car and hitting the open road. Some of the most enduring memories from childhood come from family vacations because of the excitement and novelty of deviating from your daily routine and going somewhere you’ve never been.
When we visited Ireland, we ate at a cafe called Times Square Burger. The interior was NYC-themed, all decked out in Americana, with large “Route 66” signs painted on one of the walls. It gave us a chuckle, as Route 66 famously starts in Chicago and doesn’t actually stretch all the way to New York.
Well it winds from Chicago to LA
More than two thousand miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66!
That being said, you can’t get too much more American than taking a road trip along Route 66! This iconic highway has been a symbol of American freedom and adventure since it was completed in 1926, and its rich history and unique landmarks continue to attract visitors from all over the world.
Despite the fact that Route 66 is no longer the main artery for cross-country travel, it has managed to maintain its status as an American icon. The historic highway has been designated as a National Scenic Byway — you can still drive parts of the original route and experience the unique blend of history, culture, and adventure that can only be found along Route 66.
You’ll find many of the iconic roadside attractions in the great state of Arizona. As we drove past the historic motels, diners, gas stations, and shops that line the road, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like to travel this route during its heyday.
Driving Route 66 in Arizona
My husband grew up in southern Arizona, and we lived there together for 13 years after we got married. All of our kids were born in Arizona. The American Southwest is very different from where I come from in Maine, but it’s earned a special place in my heart.
We’ve driven the majority of Route 66 in Arizona (twice!) and, while it’s still a ton of fun, I can’t help but be disappointed as some of the iconic landmarks are deteriorating.
If there’s one thing you take away from reading this post, I hope it’s the urgency to drive Route 66 while some of it still exists. I’m afraid it will soon be fully a memory in the past!
On this trip, you’ll be mostly driving along Interstate 40, which was built on top of some parts of the original Route 66 and bypassed other parts. On your last leg, you can choose to take the scenic route and drive the longest portion of the original Route 66 that’s still driveable.
In this post, I’ll share all of the must-see attractions along Route 66 in Arizona, starting at the Petrified Forest National Park and ending in Kingman, AZ. Let’s go!
Explore Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest National Park is a unique and fascinating place to visit. The park is home to one of the world’s largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood, which dates back millions of years. These ancient trees have been fossilized over time, turning into vibrant and colorful stone.
The park offers hiking trails with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, with its petrified wood, colorful badlands, and stunning rock formations. Inside the park you can see some of Arizona’s Painted Desert, which is exactly what you think about when you think about the American southwest. It’s a great way to start your Route 66 journey!
Stay in a wigwam in Holbrook
You can easily drive all of Route 66 in Arizona in one day, but it’s best to not be in a hurry! There’s lots to see and do, and I highly recommend staying overnight in Holbrook at the Wigwam Motel.
Purists will note that these are not, in fact, wigwams. They are teepees! But they are super cool all the same. If you’re traveling with little ones, make sure to watch Cars ahead of time, because the Cozy Cone Motel was based on the Wigwam!
We had a lovely, comfy stay at the Wigwam Motel and enjoyed a delicious dinner at nearby Butterfield Stage Co. Steak House.
Stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona
If you’re a fan of the song “Take It Easy” by the Eagles, you have to make a pit stop in Winslow to stand on the corner at the Standin’ on The Corner Foundation!
There’s a few nearby gift shops if you feel like browsing, and the last time we were there, a guitarist was playing live music across the street, which gave the area some nice ambiance.
You can also visit the Old Trails Museum, which showcases the town’s history as a railroad and Route 66 hub.
Visit the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark
The first time we drove Route 66 in Arizona, we bypassed Meteor Crater, the best-preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. What can I say, we were young and poor. The second time, however, we stopped and paid to visit the museum and meteor site — and it was so worth it!
The site of the meteor impact is absolutely breathtaking, and the museum itself was captivating for everyone in the family, with lots of information and interactive exhibits. Plan for at least a 90-minute visit to get the full experience.
Don’t forget Winona
Well, you could actually forget Winona because there’s not much to see there.
Hike Walnut Canyon National Monument
If you slept at the Wigwam and spent your morning exploring the Meteor Crater, you’ll probably have time to fit in a quick hike around Walnut Canyon before driving on to Flagstaff for lunch.
Walnut Canyon contains ancient ruins that offer insight into the lives of the Sinagua people who once lived there. Visitors can wander and explore while learning about this native civilization. If your kids collect Junior Ranger badges, you can get one from the visitor center.
Have some fun in Flagstaff
The next stop on your journey should be in Flagstaff. This is one of the larger cities in Northern Arizona, and there’s lots to do! In fact, I’ve written a whole post about things to do in Flagstaff with kids!
Depending on how much time you have, we recommend a visit to Lowell Observatory (where Pluto was first discovered!), a drive through Bearizona, and a delicious BBQ lunch at Satchmo’s!
You can also explore the Heritage Square and the Flagstaff Visitors Center, which is housed in a historic train station.
Optional side trip: Sedona
Sedona isn’t on Route 66, but it’s one of my favorite places in the world! If you have time, definitely head to Sedona for a day or two. The red rocks are absolutely breathtaking and the whole town has a cool vibe.
If you’re visiting Sedona with your sweetheart, be sure to check out my post on romantic things to do in Sedona!
Optional side trip: Grand Canyon
Continuing along I-40, west of Flagstaff, you’ll have the option to turn onto AZ-64 and head north for about an hour to the Grand Canyon. Again, if this is your only trip to Arizona or if you have time, you’ll definitely want to see the Grand Canyon.
If you’re a train enthusiast, you might want to consider parking the car and taking a train ride on the Grand Canyon Railway! This historic railway takes visitors on a scenic journey from Williams to Grand Canyon Village.
Even if you only have an hour to spare, you can get a lot out of a quick visit. You can park very nearby the canyon’s edge, and there are flat, paved walkways to enjoy an easy hike with amazing views.
Visit the Yavapai Geology Museum, then walk from Yavapai Point to Mather Point and back (or grab a shuttle one way). It’s about a mile and a half, round-trip, and you’ll be rewarded with excellent views. We even saw a gorgeous rainbow stretching across the canyon!
Read more in this post where I wrote about our RV adventures at the Grand Canyon!
Shop for souvenirs in Seligman
Back down on I-40, head west through Ash Fork and turn onto the stretch of old Route 66 that will take you into Seligman, often called the birthplace of historic Route 66. Take a stroll down the main street, check out the vintage shops and diners, and soak in the nostalgic atmosphere.
Seligman is known for its association with the “Father of Route 66,” Angel Delgadillo, a local barber who helped save the historic highway from being decommissioned. His efforts paid off, and the highway was officially recognized as a historic route in 1987.
Stop by the Snow Cap Drive-In for a delicious shake, and be sure to stop in at Angel & Vilma Delgadillo’s Original Route 66 Gift Shop (inside the old barbershop) for some keepsakes to remember your trip!
Drive the longest stretch of original Route 66
From Seligman, you have two choices. You can take the fast route to Kingman, via I-40. Or, you can take the scenic route and drive along the longest stretch of original Route 66. It’s only about an extra 15 minutes added to your trip, and that’s why we’re here, so we recommend taking the long way!
On your journey, you’ll pass through several historic Route 66 towns, including Peach Springs, Valentine, and Hackberry. Stop at the Hackberry General Store and grab a cold Coke to enjoy on the last part of your trip!
Wrap up your trip in Kingman
You’ve made it to Kingman, and this is the last stop on your Route 66 road trip through Arizona! Stretch your legs with a walk around Locomotive Park and check out the Santa Fe Steam Engine parked there.
Then, head to the Kingman Visitor Center where you can visit the Arizona Route 66 Museum and gift shop. Kids will love watching the model train that runs along a track all around the building.
If you’re ready for dinner, make your way to Mr. D’z Diner and order some classic American fare. Be sure to try their homemade root beer (I recommend it in the form of a float)!
Route 66 beyond Arizona
Loving your historic journey along Route 66? The good news is that the fun doesn’t end (or start, for that matter) in Arizona!
Beyond Arizona, the road takes you on a thrilling adventure through some of America’s most iconic cities and landmarks, whether you’re headed east or west.
One of the most significant aspects of Route 66 is its connection to California. The highway was once the main route for travelers heading west, and it played a significant role in the development of the American West.
As you continue on Route 66, the road takes you through the Mojave Desert. You’ll pass through Barstow and San Bernardino, which is home to the First Original McDonald’s Museum. Here, you can learn about the history of the fast-food chain and see some of the original equipment used to make the first McDonald’s meals.
You’ll know your trip is complete when you hit water at the Santa Monica Pier!
From there, head into Los Angeles, where you can explore the city’s vibrant culture and iconic landmarks.
The Road to Chicago
Or, head east to where Route 66 officially begins in Chicago. On the way, you’ll pass through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, each with its unique charm and attractions.
In Missouri, you’ll come across the Gateway Arch, a 630-foot monument that symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States.
In Illinois, you can explore the historic city of Springfield, which was once home to President Abraham Lincoln.
Overall, the journey along Route 66 is an unforgettable experience that takes you through some of America’s most iconic cities and landmarks. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for an adventure, this road trip is a must-do for anyone visiting the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the must-see towns along Route 66 in Arizona?
If you are planning to explore Route 66 in Arizona, there are a few towns that you don’t want to miss. Kingman, Seligman, and Holbrook are some of the most popular towns along the Arizona stretch of Route 66. These towns are known for their historic landmarks, museums, and charming downtown areas.
How long does it take to drive the Arizona stretch of Route 66?
The Arizona stretch of Route 66 is approximately 400 miles long, and it can take anywhere from 1 to 5 days to drive, depending on how much time you want to spend exploring the towns and landmarks along the way.
What historic landmarks can be found on Route 66 in Arizona?
There are many historic landmarks along Route 66 in Arizona, including the Petrified Forest National Park, Wigwam Motel, Standin’ on The Corner Foundation, Meteor Crater, Twin Arrows (though sadly now only one arrow stands), Walnut Canyon National Monument, Angel & Vilma Delgadillo’s Original Route 66 Gift Shop, Grand Canyon Caverns, and the Hackberry General Store. These landmarks offer a glimpse into the history of Route 66 and the people who traveled it.
Is there a scenic detour from Route 66 to Sedona, Arizona?
Yes, there is a scenic detour from Route 66 to Sedona, Arizona. The Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is a 14-mile drive that takes you through the stunning red rocks of Sedona. This drive is a must-see if you are traveling Route 66 in Arizona.
What makes the Arizona portion of Route 66 a bucket-list adventure?
The Arizona portion of Route 66 is a bucket-list adventure because it offers a glimpse into the history of America’s most famous highway. Whether you are a history buff or an adventure seeker, there is something for everyone along the Arizona stretch of Route 66. From the stunning landscapes to the charming towns, Route 66 in Arizona is a trip you won’t forget.