10 Nostalgic Route 66 Landmarks to Make Your Road Trip Pop

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Route 66 is an iconic path that stretches from the heart of Chicago to the coast of California. Along this historic highway, you'll find a collection of classic sights: neon signs, small family-owned shops, and old-school motels that bring the past to life.

Imagine a night in a wigwam-shaped cabin directly linked to the adventures Route 66 offers. Ready for an adventure?

Here are 10 Route 66 stops where every mile tells a story and invites you to make memories along America's most legendary highway.

Nostalgic Route 66 Locations

1. Roy's Motel and Café, Amboy, California

Roy's Motel and Café in Amboy, California, is a vivid reminder of Route 66's rich history, showcasing its lively past through Mid-Century Modern Googie architecture—a style known for its futuristic designs and space-age elements.

View of the historical Roy’s Motel sign and small cabins located on Route 66 in Amboy, California

The café and gas station, re-opened in 2008, has received a facelift, with renovations nearing $100,000. These first steps toward revival have made Roy's a practical stop for fuel and memorable for its historical significance.

Roy's iconic neon sign in the Mojave Desert is set for restoration as part of broader efforts to rejuvenate the complex.

Although the motel remains closed, it has transformed into a stage for art exhibits and cultural events, establishing Roy's as a dynamic landmark on Route 66.

Its unique aesthetic and historical significance have attracted international travelers, artists, and filmmakers, such as when Olivia Rodrigo chose this iconic location for a performance in her documentary, demonstrating the enduring allure of Route 66's culture and heritage.

Visiting Roy's Motel and Café adds a distinctive touch to any Route 66 road trip, connecting travelers to this iconic highway's storied past and hopeful future.

2. Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona

The Hackberry General Store in Hackberry, Arizona, stands out as a Route 66 landmark, brimming with vintage memorabilia, classic cars, and authentic roadside artifacts that capture the essence of the historic highway.

Located in the picturesque Arizona desert, it's not just a magnet for photographers and travelers looking for a unique desert backdrop but also a refreshing pit stop offering cold drinks.

Hackberry General Store with a 1957 red Corvette car in front on August 3, 2012 in Hackberry , Arizona, USA. Hackberry General Store is a popular museum of old Route 66

Once the base for the renowned Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire, the store continues to welcome visitors with its eclectic mix of photo opportunities, from its rustic facade to the iconic vintage gas pumps that dot its exterior.

Beyond just being a place to stop, Hackberry General Store offers a comprehensive look into Route 66's past with its wide array of memorabilia.

Visitors also get to explore the nearby village, where the history of Route 66 is evident on every corner. It's a must-see for anyone traveling this famous route, providing a straightforward link to the road's rich history.

3. Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona

The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook offers a unique lodging experience with its teepee-shaped cabins rooted in Route 66 history.

Opened in 1950 by Chester E. Lewis and inspired by another Wigwam Village, this Arizona landmark captures the creativity and spirit of the Mother Road.

Wigwam Motel on historic route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona

Guests at the Wigwam Motel are treated to a stay that blends quirky charm with comfort amidst vintage cars and original furnishings.

The Lewis family enhanced the motel's appeal by adding a museum full of Route 66 memorabilia, turning a visit into a deep dive into the route's rich history.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam Motel is one of the enduring symbols of Route 66's golden era. It's a key stop for anyone eager to experience the heart of America's most iconic highway.

Vintage cars parking in front of Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Holbrook

4. Twin Arrows, Arizona

Twin Arrows in Arizona offers a unique photo op with its giant arrows and trading post ruins, showcasing Route 66's creative spirit.

Twin Arrows, Arizona, the remains of the famous service station on the Route 66

From its early days as the Canyon Padre Trading Post to its heyday as Twin Arrows, this spot served as a key rest stop for travelers heading between Winslow and Flagstaff, providing a place for refreshments and a pause in their journey.

Even after the trading post's closure, the Twin Arrows continue to attract travelers looking to enrich their road trip with authentic slices of Route 66 nostalgia.

Make sure Twin Arrows is on your itinerary. It’s a quick visit that promises to add that special pop to your Route 66 adventure, inviting you to step out, stretch your legs, and capture a moment that ties you to the storied path traversed by countless travelers before you.

While you're in Arizona, you could also check out Southwest National Parks: 9 Stunning National Parks in the Southwest for Your Bucket List

5. El Vado Motel, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In 1937, the El Vado Motel welcomed travelers on Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With its unique Spanish design, the motel offered 32 rooms, each with its garage, near the heart of the city's cultural sites.

Over the years, El Vado faced closure and decay until 2005, when it shut down. Recognizing its value, Albuquerque's city leaders bought El Vado in 2010, determined to save it. Their goal was to keep its historic charm while giving it new life.

Historic 1937 El Vado Motel with its vintage sign and southwest style white units seen during an overcast winter day

By 2016, with help from a development partner, the city transformed El Vado into a lively place again. Now, it blends the old with the new. It's a spot where visitors can eat, shop, and enjoy entertainment.

El Vado represents the evolution of Route 66, merging historical charm with contemporary amenities. Stopping here adds a special touch to any Route 66 adventure, linking past and present.

6. Tucumcari, New Mexico

Tucumcari is a prime example of Route 66's enduring appeal in New Mexico. This town is a treasure trove of Route 66 history, filled with neon signs, classic motels, and diners that instantly transport you to the highway's heyday.

The Blue Swallow and other views of historic route 66 in New Mexico

What sets Tucumcari apart are its detailed murals that depict life during the Route 66 era. These artworks turn the town into a visual storybook of the famous road, making it a key stop for those wanting to experience Route 66's rich culture and history.

Tucumcari was once famed for its "TUCUMCARI TONITE!" billboards, a call that still resonates through its welcoming vibe today. The town's main drag, now known as Route 66 Boulevard, is lined with establishments serving travelers for decades.

Despite new developments and the proximity to Interstate 40, these local businesses remain faithful to the Route 66 spirit.

7. The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico

The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari highlights Route 66's timeless charm with its glowing neon signs and retro ambiance.

This family-operated motel welcomes travelers with a nostalgic experience of the Mother Road. The motel offers a unique stay and connects guests to the rich history and roadside hospitality of Route 66's golden era.

Historic Blue Swallow Motel on Tucumcari Boulevard (Route 66) on August 8, 2014 in Tucumcari, New Mexico

Opened in 1942, the Blue Swallow Motel showcases architectural uniqueness and provides garage units! The motel maintains its tradition of genuine hospitality, a hallmark of its previous owners.

Known for its welcoming nature, there are tales of the motel accepting personal items as payment or even offering rooms at no cost, highlighting the strong sense of community along Route 66.

Despite changes in American travel with the development of Interstate 40, the Blue Swallow has continued to attract those drawn to the history of Route 66. Restoration efforts, especially refurbishing its iconic neon signs, have kept the motel a lively spot for today's travelers.

Sunrise at the historic Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66

This reviewer specifically recommended booking Room 14 for some quiet:

What a great place. Like stepping back in time but everything updated. I would recommend room 14 if you want a quiet room with two beds. Everything about this place is excellent and as a bonus, the owner Rob makes a great cup of coffee.

8. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton is an essential stop for anyone exploring Route 66. It guides visitors through the highway's history, showcasing the development of the iconic road, the challenges and hopes of those who traveled it, and its cultural impact.

USA, Oklahoma, Chandler. Springtime at the Route 66 Interpretive Center.

Interactive exhibits cover key themes like the Dust Bowl migration, the post-war boom, and the era of family road trips, complete with era-specific music and a replica 1950s diner setting.

Managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society, the museum comprehensively views Route 66's influence on American transportation and culture. Highlights include vintage vehicles, memorabilia, and multimedia presentations that bring the road's storied past to life.

Before leaving, visitors can stop by the gift shop to find Route 66 souvenirs, from apparel and books to unique keepsakes.

9. Route 66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage, Missouri

Historic 66 Drive-in Theatre and neon sign, on Route 66, on May 7, 2013, in Carthage, Missouri. National Register of Historic Places

The Route 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Missouri, opened in 1949 and has been a key attraction for those exploring Route 66 and looking for an authentic drive-in movie experience.

After closing in 1985, the drive-in saw a revival in 1998 and now operates every weekend, showing two movies back-to-back. While the original speaker poles stand as silent past sentinels, the experience of watching a film here remains unchanged, connecting today’s audiences with the drive-in’s storied history.

drive in movie theater on route 66

With its vintage neon lights, the theatre gives a feel of the good ole days while providing timeless entertainment. Offering excellent entertainment value, the drive-in continues to enchant visitors with its double-feature screenings and tasty concession stand treats.

It's also a great value for money:

My first ever drive in movie and it was the most amazing experience! Great price for HOURS of entertainment. The hot dogs from the concession stand were delicious. I would suggest taking a radio so you can tune in to hear the movie without running your vehicle. I can’t wait to come back!!

10. Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon, Missouri

Munger Moss Motel and vintage neon sign on historic Route 66 in Missouri

The Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, offers travelers a genuine slice of Route 66 history. Established in 1946, this motor court-style motel captures the era's essence with its iconic 1950s neon sign that still lights the way for visitors just as it did decades ago.

Originally starting with stucco double bungalow cottages, the motel evolved over the years, expanding from its initial few rooms to 85, although today it has fewer, suggesting some spaces have been thoughtfully combined for comfort.

A standout feature is the grand neon sign, enhanced in the late 1950s with a large yellow arrow pointing travelers to their restful stop. Despite its location on the old Route 66 path, the sign remains visible from the nearby interstate, beckoning modern travelers to a rest stop filled with character.

Munger Moss Motel and its vintage neon sign on historic Route 66 in Missouri

According to reviews, this motel is now run by one woman named Ramona (who has a wealth of facts about Route 66), so book early. If you're after a nostalgic time, this guest recommends the place:

Overall, adorable place. Certainly brought us back to the 1970s. Color scheme, wall photos, furniture, carpeting, bathroom fixtures, old tv, and the lack thereof microwave and mini fridge. Limited outlets made it difficult to find spots to charge our devices (HA!). Was a real eyeopener of how far technology has taken over out lives.

Keep Route 66's Spirit Alive

Route 66 — the Main Street of America, where neon lights, mom-and-pop shops, and vintage motels spark nostalgia.

As we near the journey’s end, we appreciate that these iconic sites remain in operation. By traveling The Mother Road respectfully and promoting preservation, we help this American story continue.

Route 66 has long sparked adventure; its future relies on supporting beloved icons from the past. Take and share photos, support local businesses, and chat with the owners. Let’s maintain their rich legacy.

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