Route 66 Attractions: the Western States
Discover the best things to see along Route 66
The famous Route 66 snakes its way west, through states including Texas, New Mexico, and California, taking you past many great attractions. Find out what you can see as you drive through the western states of this epic highway.
Route 66 Texas Attractions
Hosting nearly 200 miles (300 kilometers) of the famous highway, Texas is also home to some of its must-see attractions, including a fascinating art installation called Cadillac Ranch. Route 66 runs through the town of Amarillo, and directly past this modern work of sculpture, comprising 10 Cadillac cars buried nose-first in a field on the outskirts of the town.
The installation was created in 1974, by a group of San Francisco artists who encouraged others to leave their own mark on the sculpture. Funded by eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh, the installation showcases the evolution of the Cadillac design over time, in particular its striking tail fin. Feel free to contribute to the piece by adding your own creative graffiti before continuing on your journey west.
Texas also holds the honor of hosting the exact midpoint of Route 66, located in a tiny town called Adrian. As you drive through the one-street town, a road sign announces you’ve reached the half-way point of your road trip – from here, the historic Route 66 was exactly 1,139 miles (1,833 kilometers) from both Chicago to the east and L.A. to the west. You can pick up a souvenir to mark the occasion in the town’s only café and gift shop.
Route 66 New Mexico Attractions
As you enter New Mexico on Route 66, you’ll also enter the state with the longest stretch of this famous highway. As you might expect, there’s plenty to see here too, including the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari – a traditional historic motel that echoes an America of an older time.
Built in 1939, the Blue Swallow is still operating today and is perfectly preserved, from its original attached garages and stucco walls to the classic neon sign for attracting weary drivers. A testament to its significance, the motel is included on the US National Register of Historic Places. The choice of the swallow in the motel’s name is symbolic of travel, as the bird was one of the first signs that land was near for sailors at sea, and due to the fact they return home every year.
In the middle of the desert, not far from the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, you’ll discover the town of Santa Rosa, home to a swimming lake – Blue Hole. A Route 66 road trip can be hot in these parts, so stopping off for a cooling swim at this natural sapphire-colored sinkhole is the perfect respite. This natural phenomenon is 81 feet (25 meters) deep and the fresh, clear water completely renews itself every six hours, thanks to the network of artesian springs that feed into it. Due to its depth and clarity, the Blue Hole is also popular with divers, and more than 3,000 students undergo open water diving training there each year .
Route 66 California Attractions
The final stages of an east-west road trip on Route 66 take you through California. But before you reach the end, don’t miss the chance to take in one of the most unique sights on the entire route: Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande. Created by local artist Elmer Long, this bizarre and beautiful installation consists of a forest of more than 200 “bottle trees.” By attaching colored glass bottles he collected as a child to metal poles, Elmer has created a tree-like effect that truly comes into its own when the sun shines through them. A perfect spot to capture a perfect picture.
The final destination of the road trip on this historic highway is Santa Monica Pier. Route 66 originally ended in downtown Los Angeles, but this wasn’t deemed the most scenic of conclusions to such an epic journey, so the route was extended to the coast. The beautiful Santa Monica pier is one of the most photographed locations in the world, and a perfect place to end your Route 66 road trip. To reach the sign itself, you’ll need to park and walk out on the pier some 200 feet (60 meters) – just before you reach the Playland arcade.