Is there a more iconic American roadway than Route 66? Decades after its retirement as a federal highway, this cross-country corridor still draws road trippers from around the world, though it’s not possible everywhere to hit the original pavement.
It’s an exercise in time travel—a taste of pre-Interstate travel—and in all-around Americana, given the abundance of vintage tourist landmarks and kitschy roadside attractions still to be found along its blacktop. U.S. Route 66–nicknamed the “Mother Road” and the “Main Street of America”—opened in 1926, connecting Chicago with Santa Monica. It cut across eight states to do so: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The Mother Road served as an important westward funnel for Americans displaced by the Dust Bowl, then one of the country’s quintessential tourist routes.
The development of the Interstate Highway System spelled the end of Route 66’s golden era, but the Mother Road lives on in the form of state highways, frontage roads, business loops, and other remnants, many marked with the irresistible 66 label. Combining those with the various Interstates that replaced Route 66, you can cobble together all kinds of different sightseeing adventures along the Main Street of America.