With over 20 museums lining Route 66, narrowing down which ones to visit isn't easy. Mixing the history of the road in with a few quirkier topics, the following is a list of museums that are well worth the stop.
1. Arizona Route 66 Museum
Depicting how travel has evolved along Route 66 using murals, life-size dioramas, and photos, this museum takes you on a journey of its own. Follow the paths of the Native American trade routes and U.S Army-led survey expeditions, experience the despair and hardships of being a dust bowl refugee, and visit the golden 1950s that brought life and excitement to the road.
When you hit the road again, you'll feel like you're travelling Route 66 with history at your side.
2. The Unofficial McDonald's Museum
The year 1940 marked the beginning of McDonald's fast food chain, with the opening of a San Bernardino restaurant. Run and owned by Dick and Mac McDonald, the brothers soon realised two important things that allowed the company to become what it is today. One, that it was their hamburgers that were the sellers, and two, that their clientele didn't care to linger once they'd finished eating.
On the site of the original restaurant, which was demolished in 1971, philanthropist Albert Okura built a new building to serve as a museum. It's a space filled with the toys, signs, fibreglass statues and McDonald's related memorabilia, designed to take you on a walk down memory lane.
3. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
Route 66, or 'the mother road' is cobbled together by iconic ideas, myths, and dreams, all of which you'll find at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. Here you can learn about the hopes and the labour that went into building the road. And take the chance to experience the big band era, when Route 66 seemed filled with the sound of roaring trucks, and the celebrations that welcomed soldiers home.
The journey doesn't stop there. Further along in time, vacationing families take you on the American road trip, making pitstops at the diners that fed them. This museum is as bright and alive as the road itself.
4. National Route 66 Museum
Route 66 passes through eight states on its way from Chicago to Santa Monica, and this museum covers them all. Find out about the quirky roadside attractions that are scattered along the route, pick out the ones you've already encountered, and choose which you'll stop for when you hit the road again.
Another focus is the people who have lived, worked and travelled on this road. Vignettes, recorded histories, and personal accounts pass these stories on to you, bringing it all to life.
5. Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum
This museum is a must when on a Harley Davidson tour of Route 66. Containing an eclectic variety of rare and vintage motorcycles, it even has a 1917 Harley Davidson for you to admire.
Stock up on memorabilia and gear from the 1950s and 60s, and gaze longingly at the bikes before heading back to your own.
6. Devil's Rope Museum
One of the stranger and more wonderful attractions along Route 66, this museum cannot be left off the list. Barbed wire is the subject, and you might just learn a lot more about it than you'd ever expect to, including how it changed the world. You'll find more than 2,000 samples inside along with barbed wire sculptures, and leave with a (possibly) much greater appreciation for fencing.
History created the mother road, and these museums capture it for you to experience. Come drive Route 66, and re-live the past yourself.