Recently, I was lucky enough to undertake one of the greatest road trips in the world, a once in a lifetime trip across the USA on the historic Route 66.
U.S. Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System established on November 11, 1926.
Since its inception, the road has welcomed millions of people every year who dream of discovering true Americana.
Here, I write down the highpoints of my trip and give you an insight into the amazing experiences and the wonderful people I met on the 2448-mile trip.
Start: Chicago, Illinois
The first stop on this incredible journey is the Windy City. Sitting on the west coast of the massive Lake Michigan, Chicago isthe most populous city in the U.S. state of Illinois and the third most populous city in the United States.
Setting to some of my favourite films including the Blue Brothers and Ferris Bueller, the city is home to some of the biggest sports teams in the US including the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bulls.
There was only one thing on my mind when I came to Chicago though. It’s world-famous deep-dish pizza. Invented by Pizzeria Uno’s Pizza Chef Ruby Malnati in 1943 the deep-dish features a high crust, lots of cheese and a chunky tomato sauce.
We stopped by the famous Lou Malnati pizzeria which was founded by the son of Ruby to experience this one of a kind pizza.
St Louis, Missouri
The second highlight of our trip across the US was our arrival in St Louis. The city skyline is dominated by an impressive structure called the Gateway Arch.
The 640-foot arch was built in the 1960s to honour the early explorations of Lewis and Clark during the country’s westward expansion. The city also hosts Busch Stadium, home to the St Louis Cardinals, the St Louis Zoo and the theme park six Flags.
Here we spent some time exploring the city and dipped our toes in the Mississippi river just because we could. Before leaving Tulsa, we stopped at the world-famous Ted Drewe’s frozen custard before making a slight detour into Kansas and then on to Oklahoma.
Famous (at least in my mind) as being the city Chandler went to work in on Friends, Tulsa was a true highlight for us. A much smaller city when compared to Chicago and slightly larger than St Louis, Tulsa is a great middle ground destination.
Host to great attractions such as the Philbrook Museum of Art, Gilcrease Museum and Tulsa Zoo. The city is also home to the ‘Centre of the Universe’ a very mysterious location which deserves some research.
Tulsa has a rich history when it comes to Route 66 and we found ourselves staying in a traditional motel named Desert Hills and eating at a traditional 1950’s style diner called Tally’s Good Food Cafe.
‘Is this the way to Amarillo?’ Is exactly the question we were asking ourselves on the way to our next destination. Before heading to Amarillo, we made a slight detour to what is known as the VW Slug Bug Ranch.
The ranch itself is an impressive art installation of upended Volkswagen Beetles buried in the ground and spray painted by the many visitors passing by on the Route. Keep your eyes open for the half full spray cans strewn around the cars and leave a little message of your own.
In Amarillo we spent the evening at one of (If not the) the best restaurants for meat lovers, the Big Texan Steakhouse. The Steakhouse is home to the 72oz Challenge an epic man v food challenge which tests would be big eaters to devour the aforementioned 72oz steak in under an hour.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
From Texas to New Mexico we go to enter into Breaking Bad territory. The fanboy inside me had to take time out in the city to visit some of the sites from the show including Walter White’s house and the well-known Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant which is known as Twisters in real life.
Albuquerque is New Mexico’s largest city and features a number of museums including the New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society and the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.
If you time your visit right like we did you can also take part in the city’s Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta where hundreds of hot air balloons take the skies every night and morning. The fiesta is the largest hot air balloon event in the world and it’s truly a site to behold.
Before continuing on the Route to the small town of Holbrook in Arizona, ensure that you stop off at the Petrified Forest National Park. The park itself is a vast expanse of land with some incredibly impressive views.
Take the 28-mile trip through the part and witness the Blue Mesa, ancient Native American Petroglyphs and hike through the Crystal Forest.
Holbrook itself is the epitome of a small Route 66 town filled with ranches, souvenirs shops and motels. If you’re looking for a unique lodging option, try the incredibly popular Wigwam Hotel directly on the Route.
Detour: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Possibly one of the most breath-taking things you will ever witness. The vastness of the 277-mile-long Canyon is incredible, and you can get lost for hours just looking into the distance.
The South Rim of the Canyon is about 178 miles from Holbrook so be sure to allow for plenty of time for the drive there and back. It’s certainly worth it. The Canyon features a welcome centre and a number of colour coded walks and hikes along the rim and don’t worry, if you get too tired after a long walk in the heat you can always get one of the many complimentary buses back to the car.
Surprisingly, the wildlife at the Canyon is incredibly friendly to people and we managed to see a group of Deer and the impressive site of a fully-grown Buck.
Detour: Las Vegas, Nevada
The second detour you can make after experience the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon is to head north into Nevada and visit Sin City.
Las Vegas is an incredible city that can only be described as Disney Land for adults. It really is somewhere that needs to be experienced at least once in your life. The city is primarily known for gambling, partying, dining and entertainment with many ‘big names’ such as Barry Manilow, Elton John and Celine Dion having residencies in the city.
Enjoy some of the biggest and best casinos in the world here. Our favourite was Ceaser’s Palace and the Venetian which features its own canal system.
Before you leave the city. Make sure you get a picture at the infamous Las Vegas sign.
End: Los Angeles, California
The end of the Route sees you arriving at the infamous City of Angels, Los Angeles. Home to the movie stars, amazing beaches and sprawling cityscapes.
Make sure when you’re there you take a walk to the end of the Santa Monica pier as this is the official end point of the Route. Once you’ve completed your journey you can take some time out to enjoy the sites of Venice Beach, take a walk down Hollywood Boulevard to spot your favourite star and quite possibly take a hike up to the Hollywood Hills to see the infamous sign.
Whilst in the city we also took time out to partake in one of America’s greatest pass times, football! We attended the Memorial Coliseum to support the LA Rams.
Route 66 is truly a once in a lifetime trip and it takes you through pretty much everything the United States of America has to offer. Whether you’re looking for the bright lights of the city, true Americana of the past or small-town America.
You’re sure to find something you love and are guaranteed to put on a couple of pounds whilst you’re at it.