Perhaps the most quintessentially American vacation is a road trip. Despite high gas prices, America is still very much a car-centric culture, and the lure of the open road just might run through the blood in our veins. Route 66 is still one of the best road trips you can take across this beautiful nation to see historic, small-town Americana at its finest. These six places are required viewing when traveling the historic highway from Chicago to Los Angeles:
- Lou Mitchell's in Chicago, Illinois
This quintessential Chicago eatery is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat and begin your trip on historic Route 66. In business since 1923, Lou Mitchell's is a Chicago institution. They are well known for giving Milk Duds to kids and freshly made doughnut holes to adults as they wait for their meals.
- The Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois
This is a stop for the family or the kid-at-heart. A little novelty is always a good thing, and the Gemini Giant definitely provides it. The Gemini Giant stands proudly in his green space suit, holding a rocket. At over 20-feet tall, he guards over the Launching Pad Drive-in.
- Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, Missouri
While the Arch is wonderful, folks from St. Louis will tell you that there isn't anything more traditional St. Louis than a delicious treat from Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. Their frozen custard creations, known as “concretes” are so thick that a spoon remains firmly embedded if turned upside down.
- Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Art takes many unique forms. Nowhere is this more noteworthy than at Cadillac Ranch along Route 66 in Texas. This artistic installation features ten vintage Cadillacs that are submerged in concrete nose down and have since been covered with a variety of different types of graffiti creating an oddly beautiful and always interesting piece of truly American artwork.
- Hackberry General Store in Kingman, Arizona
The 1950s and 1960s are alive and well in all their splendor at this retro general store in the desert. Bursting with memorabilia, including vintage cars in the parking lot, this quaint general store acts as both a museum of sorts and a souvenir shop.
- Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California
This is the unofficial "end" of Route 66, just beyond Santa Monica Boulevard. Gorgeous stretches of beach, amusement, and carnival-type attractions bring out the child in all of us. No road trip across the length of Route 66 would be complete with a stop at its end.
With this list, you are on your way to a memorable road trip and a truly one-of-a-kind American experience. Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 showcases our nation in all its different shapes and forms. Those with a yearning for the open road and a unique, even kitschy, American experience will not be disappointed with a trip across the nation on this historic highway.