Route 66 in Arizona features some of the longest stretches of Mother Road still driveable. The "Grand Canyon State" offers plenty to see and do to Route 66 travelers, including many natural attractions such as the Painted Desert, Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest. One natural attraction that can't be left off the list is of course the Grand Canyon itself, something that purists will be quick to point out is not actually ON Route 66. This is true, of course, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that Route 66 passes close enough to the Grand Canyon to make it easily accessible, being just an hour from Williams and Kingman. For decades a trip to the Grand Canyon has been an integral part of the experience for many westbound travelers.
Listed in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in Arizona…
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the US government stored enough food and water rations in these caverns to support 2,000 people for up to two weeks and these supplies are still there to this day! Tours of the Grand Canyon Caverns depart daily every half an hour and last approximately 25 minutes. If you're feeling brave you can even spend the night 22 stories down in a "room" over 65 million years old!
Jack Rabbit Trading Post is a familiar image to anyone acquainted with Route 66. The famous “Here It Is” sign let’s you know when you’ve arrived and the large model Jack Rabbit outside welcomes all travelers. This is an excellent gift shop and contains everything from the more obvious Route 66 memorabilia to old license plates found by the road side!
Although not actually an attraction on Route 66 a jaunt to the Grand Canyon has become such a common side trip that I felt it was worth inclusion. Since it’s birth Route 66 has guided many families on vacation towards the Grand Canyon. It’s situated just an hour from both Williams and Kingman making it easily accessible from Route 66. As a day trip you should allow an hour to reach the south entrance, otherwise there’s good lodging to be found within the National Park itself.
Located just minutes from Interstate 40 in Northern Arizona near Winslow, Meteor Crater is the breath-taking result of a collision between an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour and planet Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. Nearly one mile across, this is the world’s best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. The visitor center on the north rim houses several interactive exhibits and many artifacts.
Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona where wild donkeys roam the streets having descended from the pack animals associated with the town’s early mining history. These days there are plenty of gift shops and “museums” to peruse, while the locals are incredibly inviting. To get to Oatman you must first navigate the Oatman Highway – an intimidating 20 miles of steep grades, narrow road, and sharp hairpin curves!
Formed over 200 million years ago, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park makes for a particularly interesting detour off Route 66. The views are spectacular and photographs can’t do justice to the beauty of the many colored layers – it really has to be seen to be appreciated. For the purposes of your roadtrip, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park can be treated as one destination – Mother Nature’s two-for one!
Standin’ on the Corner Park opened in 1999 and commemorates the song “Take It Easy”, written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, and, most famously, recorded by the Eagles. The song includes the verse “Well, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see”. Now, you too can stand on the corner give your best rock and roll pose!
The Arizona Route 66 Museum is located in Kingman’s Historic Powerhouse and depicts the evolution of Route 66 through Arizona. Murals, photos and life-size dioramas depict each of the groups that have traveled the historic route over the years. Follow the paths of the Native American trade routes, the U. S. Army-led survey expeditions, the settlers on their migration west, and the fun and excitement of 1950's Route 66.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is one of only three surviving “Wigwam Villages” in the US and one of two situated on Route 66 (the other being in Rialto, CA). Each concrete tee-pee has a genuine vintage car parked outside - if you can't stay the night at least stretch your legs in Holbrook and check out this great icon of Route 66.
Angel Delgadillo has been dubbed the "guardian angel" of Route 66 and is the main founder of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. Angel has experienced the Dust Bowl of the '30s and the rise and decline of historic Route 66. Over the years, Angel himself has become an attraction along the road with people stopping to talk to him and coming from all over the world just to meet him! Angel's old barber shop and pool hall is now also home to a great visitor center and gift shop.