Are you ready to visit some of the most fantastic Route 66 attractions for families? Also called Main Street of America, Route 66 is a masterpiece of Americana. A symbol of American freedom and the ideal road trip locale, visiting Route 66 is a dream of many.
The neon signs, hotels, cafes, and quirky roadside attractions, Route 66 has been the inspiration for books, music, and cinema. While Main Street of America seems like the most appropriate nickname, this famous American road has also been called the Will Rogers Highway and The Mother Road.
No matter what you are looking for on your adventures on Route 66, you are sure to find what you are looking for as it truly has a bit of everything to fit the needs of every type of traveler. Let’s get started!
Why is Route 66 so famous anyways?
The popularity of driving Route 66 has changed over time, and as such, the reason for its fame has changed over time as well. In the past, the route was so popular because it was being promoted as the quickest way to get from Chicago to Los Angeles. (And also the most scenic!)
Now, the route isn’t totally intact, yet it is still extremely famous. Why? For tourist reasons, of course. The history and the culture of what Route 66 used to be is super powerful. Driving on the open road with the window down, music blaring, is all so meaningful.
Despite the obvious boost is serotonin, you also can’t help but to think about every vehicle that has gone before you. Who had their hand out their window in wind right here on this exact piece of road fifty years ago? Were they headed west the same as you, or were they headed back east? Nostalgia is a powerful thing and being able to feel like you are experiencing history is something that people simply can’t stay away from.
What is the best time of year to travel Route 66?
When you are planning your Route 66 trip, be sure to consider the weather. The temperature and weather conditions are vastly different from Illinois to New Mexico to California.
To make sure that you get to see as many of the best things to see on Route 66 as possible, be sure to plan your trip around the weather. The best time to travel Route 66 is late spring early fall.
Major Cities Along Route 66
You may want to stop in some of the most popular cities on Route 66 to see what there is to do and see in each town. Here are some of the most popular cities on Route 66:
Popular Attractions & Cities Near Route 66
While you will likely stop at many cities on this famous road while you are on your Route 66 road trip, you should also take a look at some of the famous cities (and attractions!) that are nearby.
Here are a few cities and attractions that are not on Route 66, but are close to it:
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
Las Vegas (only 6 miles north of Route 66, Nevada)
Cimarron Canyon State Park (New Mexico)
Río Grande del Norte National Monument (New Mexico)
Joshua Tree National Park (California)
White Pines Forest State Park (Illinois)
25 Best Route 66 Attractions For Families
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is one of the most famous places on Route 66. The pier has an amusement park, viewing areas, fishing opportunities, concession stands, and more. Built in 1909. the pier has been a popular attraction for more than a century.
Known for being the end of Route 66, the Santa Monica pier is one of the ver best Route 66 attractions for families. The amusement park, beach vibes, games, and fun food options make it a great place for kids and parents to enjoy theirselves.
The Bagdad Cafe should be on everyone’s Route 66 bucket list! This quirky roadside cafe is a quintessential Route 66 locale. The unique architecture, delicious buffalo burgers, and spectacular vibes make this easily one of the best Route 66 attractions for families.
The cafe was featured in the 1987 film, the Bagdad Cafe. The interior design is just a dream for everyone who loves roadside America. The walls covered in dollars and pictures, the motorcycles parked out front, the old signs and juke box… it’s all so… *chefs kiss*!
El Range Motel
Some of the best Route 66 attractions are motels. The motel culture on Route 66 is super intriguing. The nature of it is all so, dare I say, adventurous. Again, the mystique and nostalgia factors come into play.
Is the person pulling up to the motel simply stopping through, or are they off on some great adventure exploring Route 66 and beyond? The heyday of motels along this famous route was spurred by an increase in vehicle ownership and a growing economy.
Staying at a historic motel that has been around for nearly a hundred years is super cool considering how young America is and the exciting past of the area surrounding Route 66. The El Rancho Motel is one of the best Route 66 attractions for families today!
See Where Route 66 Begins in Illinois
Have you been wondering where Route 66 begins? One of the easiest roadside attractions on Route 66 to see is the sign that marks the beginning of Route 66. Located in downtown Chicago, the beginning of the route is marked with a sign high up on a pole.
You can find the “begin” sign on East Adams Street, facing traffic. There are older and newer signs marking the historic route all throughout the city. If you are going to be experiencing Route 66 in the Chicago area, don’t miss taking a photo with the sign that begins it all as it is among the best Route 66 attractions for families.
Historic Standard Oil Co
Many people wonder what to do on Route 66 out west. However, there’s a lot to be seen on the entirety of the route. One of the coolest Route 66 attractions for families in Illinois is the Historic Standard Oil Co.
Located in Odell, Illinois, this site is maintained by the National Park Service. You may be wondering, how is this on the list of best Route 66 attractions for families? First, this gas station holds a lot of history. For homeschooling families or families who simply like to dive into the past on their travels, this is the perfect addition to your Route 66 bucket list!
John D. Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Company in 1868 and it went on to be the most common gas station in America. This site is the winner of the National Route 66 Historic Foundation Cyrus Avery Award for being the most outstanding Route 66 preservation project.
If you are simply looking for a place to rest your legs while still getting to experience some Route 66 history, stop at Standard Oil Co.! Plus, for all the Instagram and scrapbook-y families, the gas station makes for a wonderful photo backdrop.
Brick Road Route 66
Another Illinois Route 66 attraction, the brick road is one of the most unique and thrilling Route 66 attractions for families. You can slow down for a stretch, roll down the window and fill the country breeze dance across your cheeks as you drive down this stretch of brick road.
Originally built in 1931, this segment of road was laid by hand over a concrete roadbed. This is an incredible photo opportunity along Route 66 and yet another marvelous slice of American history that you can touch for yourself.
Kan-o-Tex Service Station
Also called Care on the Route. This is among the top kid-friendly Route 66 stops in Kansas! You will find this site along the Kansas portion of Route 66 in the town of Galena. What makes this one of the best Route 66 attractions for families is the recognizable characters you will see out front.
Characters from Cars movie can be seen in front of the service station, including Tow Mater! This is a stop that will make you all smile, especially those with young children in tow.
Historic Rainbow Bridge
The Historic Rainbow Bridge goes over Brush Creek near Riverton, Kansas. It is located on former Route 66 on what is now an old country road. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s and today serves as a piece of Americas past.
It has made its way onto the list of best Route 66 attractions for families for a few reasons. First, it’s an ideal stop for families traveling with young children because there’s nothing better than being able to distract a fussy little than saying “hey look a bridge!” ha!
Another reason is that history buffs and architecture lovers will adore this site. This rainbow bridge is the brainchild of the architect James Barney Marsh. He built around 70 rainbow arch bridges like this in the Midwest. The National Park Service protects and maintains this bridge as an important part of Route 66 history.
This old Route 66 Food Market is a must-see on your travels. One of the best Route 66 attractions for families, the Williams Store, now also known as the Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store is an iconic shop along Route 66.
This store was a feature on any map of Route 66 in the 1930s and 40s. Travelers were able to get all of the staples for a road trip meal at Williams Store. You could stop in for a cold slice of watermelon, some ice, bread and lunch meat for sandwiches, and more.
When you go on your trip down Route 66, be sure to swing by this charming brick store in Kansas for some candy, Route 66 souvenirs, or a cold drink for the road!
Route 66 Rocker
Oh, the quintessential American road trip stop. For those looking to compile a long list of exciting, and sometimes quirky, Route 66 attractions to visit with kids, do not overlook the Route 66 Rocker.
Recently the rocker was painted red and renamed the Route 66 Red Rocker. This famous rocking chair is the world’s largest! For those looking to make amusing memories on the road, this is one of the best Route 66 attractions for families!
Check out: 35 Cheap Cities To Visit In The U.S With Kids
Wagon Wheel Motel
This absolutely dreamy cottage-like motel in Cuba, Missouri, is a must-see along Route 66. The motel has been beautifully restored and is the oldest continuously operating motel along Route 66. It has been running for more than 85 years, making it one of the coolest Route 66 attractions for families!
You will know you have arrives when you see the iconic neon sign and gas pumps along the road. Drive on in and enjoy the large tubs, free wifi, and original features like the wood doors, floors, and windows from the 1930s. When you stay at this motel, you will be within walking distance of amazing restaurants as well!
Route 66 Attractions For Families Continued
San Miguel Mission
San Miguel Mission is among the oldest Route 66 attractions for families to visit. This Spanish colonial mission church can be found in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The original Route 66 went through downtown Santa Fe. However, later on, the road was moved to make it shorter.
Today, if you find yourself following the original route, check out the stunning San Miguel Mission. It is considered to be the oldest church in America, as it was built in 1610. The Spanish built more than twenty Catholic missions in a line in California as they settled the Pacific Coast. To be able to see this little slice of America history for yourself is a super cool experience as you travel along Route 66.
Blue Swallow Motel
For anyone who has ever wondered, what is Route 66 famous for anyways? By far, the neon signs and the classically American motels are a staple on Route 66. Located in Tucumcari, New Mexico, the blue Sparrow Motel is a can’t miss attraction!
Whether you are just stopping to take a peak, and a few pictures or you are planning on staying for a night or two, don’t pass up this stunning display of Americana goodness! The neon sign and the old car parked out front will immediately grab your attention as you approach the motel from the road.
The Blue Swallow Motel is one of the best Route 66 attractions for families! And being able to stay at the Blue Swallow is a major check off the ultimate Route 66 bucket list for family travelers.
Arcadia Round Barn
The Arcadia Round Barn is one of the best things to see on Route 66. This historic barn is in the town of Arcadia, Oklahoma. Now a tourist attraction, it was built by William Harrison Odor, a farmer, in 1898. It was built using trees that grow in the area that were soaked in water while they were green to get the curved shaped that was needed.
This site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s and is maintained by the National Park Service. You can explore the area and the barn as it is open seven days a week. It has been used for more than just farming as well.
For nearly twenty-five years, it drew crowds of dancers and musicians who came to take advantage of the marvelous acoustics that the barn offers. Mormons from Salt Lake City were particularly interested in the barn for quite some time. Don’t skip over this stunning historical site in Oklahoma as it is one of the best Route 66 attractions for families!
Route 66 Museum
Don’t forget to add the Route 66 Museum to your bucket list! When it comes to family-friendly Route 66 stops, this museum is among the coolest Route 66 attractions for families to visit. The museum is in the town of Clinton, and it offers visitors an incredible look into the history of this world-famous route.
You will see photos of early days of Route 66, songs about the road, learn about the history, and even hear about some of the myth surrounding the route. Inside, you will see diner inspired decor, old cars, neon signs, and memorabilia.
World’s Largest Totem Pole
Another world’s largest? Yep! Another world’s largest addition to the list of best Route 66 attractions for families, this totem pole took nearly 25 years to construct! Maintained by the National Park Service, the Ed Galloway Totem Pole Park in Foyil, Oklahoma is 90 feet tall.
Just a few miles off of America’s Main Street, you can check out this incredible visual display for yourself. After hours on the road, little one will love running around the pole and playing in the grassy areas around the display. Have a picnic and take some photos before hitting the road again!
Speaking of kid-friendly attractions on Route 66, kids love checking out this unique art display in Amarillo, Texas. Arguably one of the most well-known Route 66 attractions for families, Cadillac Ranch is a place that allows visitors to express theirselves.
Bring some spray paint or even a sharpie, and leave your mark on one of the cars while you’re there. This is a super popular location for Instagrammers and families looking to take some incredible photos for the memory book!
Check out: 30 Amazing Things To Do In Austin, Texas With Kids
Mid Point Cafe
This Adrian, Texas cafe serves traditional American food from breakfast to dinner. (and dessert!) The 50’s style dinner is something you will want to see for yourself.
From biscuits drowning in gravy and burgers stacked high to fruit covered cheesecakes and root beer floats, this diner is simply incredible. A true American treasure that you will want to add to your list of Route 66 attractions to visit.
Phillips Service Station
Located in McLean, Texas, this old Phillips Service Station can be found on the westbound Old Route 66. It is frequently referred to as the Cottage or Doll House gas station and is simply perfect for family photo ops. The station has been around since 1928 and was then renovated in 1992.
Wigwam Village Motel
You may recognize this motel from their portrayal in Cars. The Wigwam Village Motel is one of the best Route 66 attractions for families! They call Holbrook, Arizona, home and are a perfect way to experience the fun and quirkiness of Route 66. Built in 1936, these motels have graced the iconic Route 66 ever since.
This is another site along Route 66 that is being protected by the National Register of Historic Places. There were seven wigwam hotels built and of those seven only three survive today. This location in Arizona and the locations in Cave City, Kentucky and San Bernardino, California.
Taking a dip in the Santa Rosa, NM Blue Hole is one of the best things to do on Route 66 with kids. You can enjoy cliff jumping, swimming, diving, snorkeling, and scuba diving during your visit.
What makes this one of the greatest Route 66 attractions for families is that it is open year around, its a great way to burn some energy, and it is simply stunning. This natural feature is crystal blue and comes complete with hidden caves! After you enjoy the Blue Hole, you can find plenty of things to do, see, and eat in Santa Rosa.
Ah, the Gateway Arch. This iconic St. Louis landmark stands at 630 feet tall. Located on the water’s edge along the Missouri and Illinois border, the arch is in a perfect location for family travelers.
When you visit the arch you will be within walking distance of many other exciting things to do in the city. The Arch Park, Field House Museum, and the Old Courthouse are all must-sees in the area.
Additionally, the amount of incredible restaurants in the area is HUGE! You can find everything from fine dining steakhouses like Carmine’s Steak House and relaxed joints like Pickles Deli, Chilli Mac’s Diner, and Ballpark Pizza all within walking distance. The arch is legendary by itself and when you add all of the fun sites surrounding it, it makes it one of the very best Route 66 attractions for families.
Blue Whale Of Catoosa
Have you seen this before? If you are looking for weird things to see on Route 66, don’t pass up the Blue Whale of Catoosa. Arguably the most popular stop on Route 66, this blue whale is quite a sight.
Built in the 1970s by Harold Thomas, the whale was constructed to be a tourist attraction. People would come from all over the country to swim, fish, picnic, and enjoy a stop along the iconic Route 66. Today, it is still one of the best Route 66 attractions for families.
The Bergoff Historic German Restaurant is among the coolest Route 66 attractions for families, especially for foodies and history lovers. This incredible restaurant in Chicago has been family-owned and operated for more than a whopping 123 years!
The Berghoff family have put their heart and soul into this restaurant and it shows. You can find both German and America offerings. Wisconsin fried cheese curds, canjun chicken, Reuban sandwiches, and wiener schnitzel all grace the menu at Berghoff.
Waylan’s KuKu is a mainstay burger joint in Oklahoma that has made its way onto the list of top Route 66 attractions for families. With a typical menu of burgers, fries, and ice cream cones, this eatery is an absolute classic!
One of the best things about KuKu is that the prices are simply unbeatable. Giant hamburgers, tater tots, waffle fries, fried pickles, it is all super reasonably prices. The low prices, great taste, historic factor, and of course, the ice cream, make this one of the best things to do on Route 66 with kids!
Do Route 66 stops get more iconic than this? Historic Seligman Sundries offers guests a kitschy and fun shopping experience. With vintage decor, shopping at Seligmans is an exciting experience.
Take pictures, enjoy the light hearted atmosphere and grab yourself something yummy off of the menu while you are there. The breakfast burritos and chorizo scrambles are great!
Now that you have seem some of the coolest Route 66 attractions for families, which will you be adding to your Route 66 bucket list? Don’t forget to share with your fellow road tripping parent friends!