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Route 66 sign printed on the road in the Californian desert
2 March, 20214 minute read

7 things you can't miss on Route 66

When it comes to American holidays, you can’t get much more iconic than a road trip along the length of Route 66. A proper Stateside adventure, it packs in a whole host of authentic American experiences – perfect for fans of retro Americana. Attractions along the way are hugely varied, from buzzing cities to vast national parks to quirky roadside wonders. Here are the seven things we’d recommend adding to your Route 66 holiday itinerary…

Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City marks the eastern point of Route 66, and is a great place to begin your American road trip. Built along the shores of Lake Michigan, and with the Chicago River carving a path through Downtown, exploring the waterfront is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with the city. Enjoy an al fresco lunch on the Chicago Riverwalk, board a sightseeing boat for a leisurely cruise past skyscrapers and beneath some incredible century-old bridges, or stroll along the sandy beaches that edge the lake. Don’t leave the city without heading to Adams Street for a photo next to the famous ‘Begin Route 66’ sign.

View of Chicago's skyscrapers sitting next to a beach on Lake Michigan

Gateway Arch, St Louis

At 630 feet high, St Louis’s Gateway Arch is the tallest arch in the world. On our Route 66 tours, we’ll whisk you to the top to take in views across the city and beyond. It’s equally striking from ground level too, clad in shimmering stainless steel that reflects in the Mississippi River below. It’s often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the West’ – a fitting thought, as we’ll be heading west as we continue our adventure along Route 66.

Downtown St Louis, with its famous arch, at twilight

The Ride-Thru Cave, Missouri

It wouldn’t be a Route 66 holiday without something a little bit bizarre! Around five miles off Route 66 are the Fantastic Caverns, a cave system first discovered in the 1860s. Billing itself as ‘America’s Ride-Thru Cave’, tours here are conducted by tram, pulled along a one-mile route by a Jeep. Along the way, you can admire stalactites, stalagmites, ‘soda straws’, floor-to-ceiling columns and clear pools hiding tiny, delicate cave pearls.

Cadillac Ranch, Texas

This quirky art installation – said to represent the golden era of the car – was created back in the ‘70s by the Ant Farm, an artists’ collective from San Francisco. Ten classic Cadillac cars are buried nose-down just off the roadside, their bodies covered in colourful graffiti. It’s an iconic road trip sight – on our Route 66 holidays, we’ll pass by on our way out of Amarillo.  

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

This otherworldly landscape takes you around 200 million years back in time, when huge conifers grew in this windswept corner of the Painted Desert (and dinosaurs roamed among them). Nowadays, the forests are colourful petrified wood – a fascinating sight to see. The surrounding Badlands are just as scenic, scattered with buttes and mesas.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, USA

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Nothing can quite prepare you for your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. The colossal size, the glorious colours, the rock formations – it really is an incredible sight to see. Admire its scale and beauty from the Rim (easy walking trails can take you away from the crowds if you’re looking for a more peaceful spot), or splash out on a plane or helicopter ride to give you an unforgettable aerial perspective. Although it’s just north of the original Route 66, it’s still a real must-see on tours across America.

Las Vegas Strip, Nevada

Think Las Vegas and the image that probably comes to mind is the Strip. With its neon lights, huge resort hotels and casinos galore, it’s quintessential Sin City. Don your comfiest pair of shoes and hit the sidewalk, pit-stopping whenever the mood takes you. Catch the dancing fountains outside the Bellagio or the erupting volcano at the Mirage, ride a gondola at The Venetian, and pose for pics next to the ‘Eiffel Tower’ (Paris Las Vegas) or ‘Statue of Liberty’ (New York-New York). If you need a sit-down, there are almost endless options for a meal or drink – and, of course, there’ll always be a seat free at the blackjack or roulette table (just don’t gamble away all your spending money…).

'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign with palm trees and the Mandalay Bay Hotel behind

If you’ve been inspired to embark on your own American road trip, you can find all the information on our Route 66 holidays here. Alternatively, browse our full collection of American holidays on our website or in our digital brochure.

Image of blog author Laura Weeden

Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.

Laura | About the author

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