Last summer, when my Great American Road Trip took me from Philadelphia to Albuquerque, it created the perfect opportunity to adventure along historic Route 66. Even though I’ve driven cross country several times, I hadn’t toured The Mother Road and the time was ripe.
Traversing eight states in a disjointed patchwork of roadways, there’s no shortage of things to see and nostalgia to enjoy along The Main Street of America. But my adolescent kids and I had to be nimble since we were due in Albuquerque by a certain date.
So we plotted a course of easily accessible stops that made for a fantastic romp along historic Route 66. These particular sites can be mapped while traveling across the states or as day trips from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Replica of 1930s Sinclair's gas station on Route 66; Photo by Sandy Farnan
ROUTE 66 ATTRACTIONS & RESTAURANTS
SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI (3 HOURS EAST OF TULSA)
Red’s Giant Hamburg: Touted as “America’s First Drive-Thru,” Red’s was a Route 66 staple during its heyday. Thanks to this recreation of the original 1947 restaurant, you can immerse yourself in the past, right down to the classic cars out front and drive-in speakers on every booth.
Rockwood Motor Court: Beautifully renovated cottages pay homage to the 40s and 50s as vintage furnishings, décor, and collectibles tastefully occupy all spaces. The owners, who also live on the property (just like they did in the old days), enthusiastically dished on the best nearby Route 66 sites and stops.
Gary’s Gay Parita: About 25 miles west of Springfield on a stretch that calls for the top down, stands a replica of a 1930s Sinclair’s gas station. The owners, also descendants of the original owners, curate everything from the original gas pumps and old-timey cars to a variety of travel memorabilia and souvenirs. Kodak moments abound!
OKLAHOMA EAST (45 MINUTES EAST OF TULSA)
Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park: About five miles off Old Route 66, this stop features the handiwork of its namesake. Between 1937 and 1948, Galloway not only created the world’s largest concrete totem pole at 90 feet tall and a collection of totems to explore, but also carved dozens of beautiful fiddles displayed in his aptly named Fiddle House.
Blue Whale Of Catoosa: No spoiler alerts here—you must visit this joyful roadside attraction to get the story of why it exists! Travelers of all ages will delight inside the whimsical 80-foot-long whale that rests atop a serene pond—a great spot for a picnic.
Variety of sodas available at POPS on Route 66; Photo by Sandy Farnan
OKLAHOMA WEST (1.5 HOURS WEST OF TULSA)
Just outside Oklahoma City, you’ll find these two stops right down the road from one another.
Arcadia Round Barn: One of the most photographed sites on the Route, Arcadia was sleepy during our visit. In fact, we had the whole carefully restored 1898 building to ourselves.
POPS: As if the 66-foot tall LED-lit soda bottle out front doesn’t impress, wait ‘til you see the selection of more than 600 sodas inside. Rainbow bottles line the generous walls of windows, making a spectacular vision. Part gas station, burger joint, and souvenir shop, POPS is a sight to behold day or night.
Cadillac Ranch in west Texas near Route 66; Photo by Sandy Farnan
AMARILLO, TEXAS (5.5 HOURS WEST OF TULSA)
Cadillac Ranch: Even though it’s located alongside a major highway that merged with Route 66, once you make your way out to the 10 relic Cadillacs buried nose-deep in the west Texas dirt, nothing else exists except for you, your can of spray paint, and your imagination. No training needed, just mark your turf and become part of this iconic and living work of art!
There are so many places in between that our tight schedule didn’t allow us to explore including a 13-mile stretch through Kansas that is said to have inspired the Disney movie “Cars” and the giant, 75-foot-tall Golden Digger statue in Tulsa. The many signs, bridges, murals, renovated service stations, and curio shops that hold this golden era of road tripping in time remain on our top travel destinations list, and maybe just bumped to the top of yours!