The Mother Road, the Will Rogers Highway, Main Street USA - no matter what nickname we give it, Route 66 is as nostalgic as it is long! Get your kicks along 2,448 miles of America's most famous road trip. One of Bon Voyage's own Route 66 experts and our resident American - Theresa, gives you a little insight on this bucket list itinerary........
Chicago is also the birthplace of the skyscraper and some of the world's most iconic buildings including the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and 875 North Michigan (formerly John Hancock Center). It isn't just the height of the buildings that will mesmerise, but the entire architecture of the city. Take a boat ride along the Chicago River which runs through the city for the best views.
Chicago is a great walking city - mooch the affluent Gold Coast and River North neighbourhoods, shop along Michigan Avenue's famed Magnificent Mile or stroll Navy Pier. Be sure to try two local Chicago treats - deep-dish pizza and Garrett's popcorn.
Start the day with a Chicago tradition - breakfast at Lou Mitchell's. The Mitchells have been there since 1923, so they can tell a story or two about the beginnings of Route 66.
Spend the rest of your day exploring this great city on a Great Lake! Make sure to head down to Navy Pier for great views of Lake Michigan. Then perhaps a spot of shopping down Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile. If you aren't still full from breakfast - be sure to try another Chicago institution - Deep. Dish. Pizza. Please, just do it!
Embark on the first 300 miles of Route 66 as your epic journey begins.
Distance: 289 miles
The icons you've heard of will start to appear before your very eyes! Take it slow and stop for all those photo opportunities. From Romeoville, through Joliet and the Gemini Giant in Wilmington. Then the colourful murals of Pontiac and original pieces of the road that travelled directly through Springfield - the state capital, make sure to stop off at The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Before crossing the state border, be sure to make one last Illinois stop in Collinsville and the world's largest catsup bottle!
From Illinois, cross into the state of Missouri via the historic Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge over the mighty Mississippi River. Be sure to stop at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (6726 Chippewa) for a delicious, creamy treat. They've been welcoming Route 66 travellers since 1929. Once you arrive in St Louis, your first stop has to be the incredible structure that is Gateway Arch. The views of the Mississippi River from the very top of the arch are simply spectacular.
Distance: 216 miles
Even though most of Route 66 through Springfield is now Interstate 44, remnants of the old road are everywhere just off the highway. In fact, Springfield is considered the mother of the Mother Road.
It was here that Cyrus Avery of Oklahoma who fought for a route through Oklahoma met with John Woodruff of Springfield to plan and promote the idea of an inter-regional link that would bring trade and access to the area. In their honour, Springfield has preserved much of the old highway frontage along St Louis Street as well as the Chestnut Expressway.
If you are a fan of Western folklore, you must delve into the Wild Bill Hicock legend surrounding his fellow gambler Dave Tutt. There are so many stories no one really knows what happened.
Visit Meramec Caverns, a timeless attraction visited by millions travelling Route 66. Meramec Caverns were used by Jesse James, of famed James Gang fame - who locals knew as just a nice Missouri boy - as a hideout when escaping the Law. The owner of Meramec Caverns, Lester Dill started the American advertising institution, the bumper sticker, when he gave away portable advertising to all who stopped by to visit.
Distance: 297 miles
The survivors of the Trail of Tears gradually established new institutions and traditions in what was then known as Indian Territory. The soil proved to be good for cattle raising giving rise to the era of the American Cowboy. Soon the lands in Indian Territory were opened to non Native Americans and settlers came from across America and the world.
In November 1907, life changed for everyone in Oklahoma when the Territory became a state and the place to go to strike it rich with oil. People came from all parts of the world to seek their fortunes in Oklahoma's teeming oil fields. Cities like Tulsa, Ponca City, Bartlesville and Oklahoma City flourished. In fact the State Capitol is the only one in the country with an oil well on the grounds.
Oklahoma City suffered a dramatic decline at the end of the 1980s, however since then the city has gone through an astounding transformation which continued during the rebuilding which followed the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. There is a monument dedicated to the victims with an adjacent museum which tells the story.
For nightlife, make sure you visit Bricktown, a former warehouse district that has been reinvented with restaurants, cafes, night clubs giving a vibrant atmosphere.
Distance: 258 miles
Outside Amarillo you will find vast ranches of the Texas Panhandle, some numbering in the millions of acres that spread as far as the eye can see. Shortly after being discovered by the Spanish Explorer Francisco Coronado in 1541, the area became a magnet for cattlemen and sheep herders from all points of the compass looking for fresh grazing grounds. Some Dust Bowl farmers headed to California while others stopped here to stake their claim for ranching. As a result, Amarillo still has a unique blend of the Old West and the New West, populated by American Cowboys, roughnecks, self-made millionaires and the ever-present oil derricks.
Make sure you allow time to drive Amarillo Boulevard which is part of the original Route 66. The road is lined with block after block of strip shopping centres and roadside motels straight out of the 1950s.
Distance: 278 miles
Your stay for the next two nights is in Santa Fe (one of the original abandoned routings of Route 66 ) you'll experience a far better choice of accommodation here than Tucumcari and it's more fun in the evenings.
Distance: 65 miles
The classic Route 66 continues to guide visitors through Albuquerque from the volcanoes on the city's far west side past the Rio Grande Botanical Gardens and the Albuquerque Aquarium, through historic Old Town and downtown areas, through the University of New Mexico and trendy Nob Hill. Here you will find many of the city's best restaurants, distinctive shops and boutiques.
Historic Old Town has been the heart of Albuquerque since the city was founded in 1706. When the first group of Spanish families settled here they organised their new town in the traditional Spanish colonial way, with a central plaza anchored by a church. The San Felipe de Neri Church with walls five feet thick is the oldest in Albuquerque, and its white towers mark the old town from a distance.
Distance: 265 miles
Approximately 30 miles from Holbrook, en route to the Grand Canyon, is the fascinating Meteor Crater. Over 22,000 years ago a meteorite blasted a huge hole, nearly a mile across and over 500 feet deep into this plateau.
On site the former USA Museum of Astrogeology has been remodelled and includes new displays on the never-ending process of impacts and collisions in our solar system. The Meteor Crater Interactive Learning Centre includes twenty-four exciting exhibits, making it the most extensive and informative museum of its type on planet Earth. Also included in the Learning Centre are two interactive computer displays that contain information and high-tech graphics on space, meteorites and asteroids, the solar system, and the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that impacted Jupiter.
Distance: 144 miles
An easy way to familiarise yourself with Grand Canyon Village is on one of the shuttle buses that currently operate on 4 routes. Pop into the Visitors Center for a choice of 30-75 minute options.
There's also the Desert View Scenic Drive, a 25 mile stretch of Arizona that parallels the South Rim of Grand Canyon. Along the drive, enjoy some of the most breath-taking views of the Canyon showing the massive layers of multi-coloured rock.
Distance: 326 miles
Viva Las Vegas! Since its founding 100 years ago, Las Vegas has been the biggest, brightest, and the brazenness boomtown in the history of the world. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that this place will blow your mind.
While it is not on Route 66, The Las Vegas Strip is considered an All American Road and National Scenic Byway. This is an ideal diversion to break the journey between the Grand Canyon and California, however, if you aren't a fan - you don't need to include Vegas in your Route 66 holiday.
If you do, you’ll find some of the most glamorous, unique hotels in the world, complete with award winning restaurants, opulent health spas, lavish swimming pools and incredible golf courses. Although it may be tempting to drive around Las Vegas to see the sights, we strongly suggest that you park up the car for your time here, put on a very comfortable pair of walking shoes and hit the Strip running, so to speak. Start walking the Strip and you’ll find yourself dipping in and out of the mega hotels and sights that line this neon route, it will actually take you a whole day to do this properly. Hotels are huge and look like they are only 2 minute stroll away when they are in fact a 20 minute brisk walk away.
Theatre-goer or not, you’re in Vegas so you’ve simply got to check out a show. If there is something you are keen to see, book it before you go. If not, there are many ticket booths along the Strip that sell cut price tickets on the day.
Distance: 270 miles
Journey through the Mojave Desert where you'll find it hard to believe that the area around Barstow was once covered by immense lakes ringed with Native American Villages. Route 66 is Main Street through Barstow. Rainbow Basin, about 15 miles north of Barstow, is one of the lakebeds that existed between 10 - 30 million years ago.
Calico Ghost Town is California's official Silver Rush Ghost Town, and preserves one of the few original mining camps in the Old West. One third of the town is original with the rest constructed in the spirit of Calico's Old West past.
Finally, arrive in Santa Monica where Route 66 meets the Pacific Ocean at the Santa Monica Pier.
If you are up for more driving, the Sunset Strip connects Hollywood with Beverly Hills, and trendy Malibu Beach isn't far away.
The final day of your deluxe Route 66 holiday. As you depart, be confident you have had a true All-American Adventure that you'll be bragging about for years to come.
You may wish to extend your holiday? Why not tag on a drive up the dramatic Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco? Or, time in the tropical Islands of Hawaii?
Call the travel specialists at Bon Voyage to discuss your perfect Route 66 road trip.