Route 66 – Arizona
When it comes to the asphalt icons, Route 66 holds a special place amongst the quintessential American road trips. From Lupton in the East to Oatman in the West, you are going to want to take in all the beauty, desolation, and history litter in abundance across this desert landscape. So, buckle up and let your hair blow free in that convertible. It’s time to hit the Arizona open road and check out the top 5 ‘must see’ hot spots. We know you are in a hurry to get to Santa Monica, but these stops are worth slowing down and stepping back into the past for a chance to gain a little…perspective.
Seriously though. It really is…a forest…of petrification. Millions of years ago, 225 million to be more exact, this desert landscape was actually a lush forest. Hard to believe the harsh desert grassland you would see there today was one a hot, humid rainforest where dinosaurs roamed. Turns out Petrified Forest National Park is one of the best places in the world to fossilized remnants of the Late Triassic Period. Although it may not be easy to imagine yourself in a rainforest millions of years ago, there is plenty of amazing left for reality to be enough. Strewn across this landscape are colors galore. One real-life glance around and you will soon understand why names like Crystal Forest, Blue Mesa, and Painted Desert didn’t take much imagination to come up with.
If you are coming East on Route 66 from New Mexico, jump off Exit 311 at the Painted Desert Visitor Center. From here you can follow the road all the way south through the park ending up at Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center. Don’t miss the Giant Logs on your way out of the park.
The Corner of Winslow, AZ
For all you Eagles fans out there (and really who isn’t), Winslow, Arizona is worth the road trip pilgrimage all by itself. In fact, come rolling into town with ‘Take It Easy’ blaring on your speakers. Stop at the 4-way on the corner of Old Highway 66 and North Kinsley Avenue. Then, pause for a few moments enjoying the cheers from those already ‘Standin’ on the Corner’ getting their own iconic shot made famous by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. Winslow has definitely capitalized on the musical fame and almost every shop you enter will have Route 66 and Eagles memorabilia in all its forms. Stop in and chat with the locals. They have stories to tell. Plus, this road trip is about finding that ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling.’ That ‘Hotel’ in ‘California’ can wait just a little bit longer.
Way after those trees petrified a little further to the East, a massive meteor came searing through the sky and blasted a hole in Arizona. Moving at 26,000 miles per hour, it didn’t take long for this 150 foot chuck of space rock to change the face of Northwestern Arizona forever. Today at Meteor Crater & Barringer Space Museum stands a structure dedicated to preserving this moment in time that left some pretty serious scars around 50,000 years ago. As of today, the crater measures over 4,000 feet across and 500 feet deep. That means if you placed the Washington Monument in the bottom of the crater, you would be able to see the top at eye level while standing on the rim. Take some time to learn the history, watch the films, and check out the other novelties on display in the crater museums, theaters, and gift shops. This landscape and parts of its history will definitely leave you feeling a little other-worldly.
Williams, Arizona is truly the ‘Gateway to the Grand Canyon.’ I can say this with complete confidence because I am backed by the authority of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. So, there. True to its name, it lies a mere 60 miles south of the South Entrance to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. You can’t drive on Route 66 to get there. But, you can take the train. Williams is home to the Grand Canyon Railway. The train will whisk you away on a ride that is almost as thrilling as the destination. Plus, taking the train means you won’t have to wait in line at the entrance, or fight for a parking spot once inside the park.
Another great aspect of Williams (other than being on Route 66, of course) is the unique wildlife park known as Bearizona. On the eastern edge of town, just off the Interstate lies 160 acres of Ponderosa Pine Forest set apart for viewing the unique wildlife of North America. There is both a drive-through and a walk-through option for park visitors. You’ll be able to see animals ranging from badgers, bison, and bears to Rocky Mountain elk, raccoons, and Reindeer.
Right at the Heart of Route 66 you will find Kingman, Arizona. If you had to boil it down to one word, you wold stop in Kingman for History. This place is full of remnants from the past. Tesla may have taken the headlines as of late, but Kingman boasts the world’s very first Electric Vehicle Museum, right on Route 66. Additionally, if transportation is in your wheelhouse, Kingman can easily scratch your locomotive itch. Right in the center of town is the Locomotive Park where the famous Steam Engine #3579 is proudly on display. After a picnic lunch at the park, cruise on over to the Kingman Railroad Museum located in the former Kingman Santa Fe Railroad Depot. Kids, at kids at heart, will love the variety of model trains, as well as all the memorabilia from railroad history.
The 350-ish miles to get you across the Arizona stretch of Route 66 are worth every ohh, and ahh, and potty stop along the way. Snag a few snacks, gas up your ride, and get on your way. Route 66 awaits. And we promise, you will get your kicks…on Route 66.