When you book a tour down Route 66, you’re taking on more than just a sightseeing trip. You’re following the history of a nation, invoking all of the nostalgia associated with Main Street America.
Some vacations offer a glimpse into the lifestyle and culture of a historic destination – but don’t expose visitors to the significance of the location and its impact on local residents.
Route 66 Tours show you the breadth of Americana, witnessed first-hand from the world-famous stretch of road that shaped it. Forget the crowded interstates that criss-cross between cities – authentic Route 66 takes you down both populated and almost-forgotten paths, though small towns and across patches of land that still whisper the secrets of the Mother Road.
This article will focus on the rich history of Route 66 Texas, and reveal what lies ahead on the asphalt of the Lone Star State. Before exploring what makes Texas a popular Route 66 destination, it’s important to highlight the enduring appeal of the highway itself.
Tripping down Route 66
Arguably the most famous roadway in the world, Route 66 beckons travellers from across the globe. A recent Reader’s Digest article estimates as many as 2 to 3 million visitors make a pilgrimage across a portion of the road each and every year. Combined with the fact that Texas state parks play host to 10 million visitors annually, and the Lone Star State stands cemented as a world renowned outdoor adventure destination.
By venturing off the beaten path and into the unknown, the appeal of exploring The United States of America appeals to visitors far and wide, especially those interested in experiencing the nostalgia famously captured in cinema and song. The tradition began all the way back in 1946 with Nat King Cole’s hit, which told listeners where they could “get their kicks.” (Watch the music video for “Route 66” here.)
Each subsequent generation has enjoyed cultural resonance with the road. Once renamed to honour a famous cowboy in 1952, the route also known as Will Rogers Highway was again celebrated in 2006 with John Mayer’s version of King Cole’s hit in the animated classic “Cars.”
Given the continued popularity and appeal of Route 66, many tourists are looking forward to traversing the blacktop this year. Many of the sights and sounds of America’s Mother Road can be found on the Panhandle Texas route. From Bug Ranch to Sixth Street, everything’s bigger in Texas … the old route is no exception. Here’s why the Lone Star State stretch of Route 66 holds a special appeal.
Route 66 Texas
Old US-66 remains in The Lone Star State, although much of the original roadway has since been replaced by I-40. These days, Route 66 crosses the Texas panhandle and boasts about 150 miles of driveable road, accentuated by lesser-recognised towns like Shamrock, McLean and Vega. Amarillo is the lone city celebrating the old route running through its downtown core on Sixth Avenue – boasting a mile-long stretch of vintage Route 66 architecture in the historic district downtown – that is now recognised by the National Register of Historic Places.
The Lone Star State is etched into the hearts and minds of adventure seekers from all around the world. Perhaps the mind conjures images of the range on a big Texan steak ranch, or the scenic alpine mesas viewed from the side of a Texas panhandle blacktop. From 6th street in Austin to the dusty vistas of a panhandle roadway, the nostalgia-inducing romanticism of The Wild West and Texas is something you just don’t mess with – just like the infamous slogan says. Not many states can boast their own catch phrase – as Culture Trip recounts, the origins of the world-renowned, T-shirt and bumper sticker-adorning slogan began in the mid-eighties. The phrase, designed alongside an anti-littering campaign, caught fire worldwide … and reduced state littering statistics by an astonishing 72%.
The cowboy, rebel attitude personified by Route 66 films like 1969’s “Easy Rider” go hand-in-hand with Texas swagger. Aside from some vintage iconography, what makes the Mother Road a continuingly popular attraction in Texas?
Why the Lone Star State does Route 66 best
Attractions like the Cadillac Ranch encapsulate the unique roadside appeal of Main Street America. After all, there aren’t very many places you drive by on your Texas roadtrip that feature the back end of ten heavily painted Caddys pointing straight into the big sky – in a symmetrical row!
Created by local millionaire Stanley Marsh in 1974, Cadillac Ranch is the result of collaboration with art collective The Ant Farm. The unique attraction, featuring half-buried, heavily graffitied classic American automobiles, draws hundreds of visitors each year. Travellers are encouraged to bring their own spray paint cans and contribute to the ever-evolving art of this historic site.
The original Cadillac Ranch was located in a wheat field, and was quietly moved two miles to the west in 1997. The new location – a cow pasture off of Interstate 40, just outside the confines of the closest city. Marsh, owner of the new Cadillac Ranch location as well, has long encouraged travellers to visit the artistic expression lining the Texas roadway.
The subject of a famous song by Bruce Springsteen, 1980’s ‘Cadillac Ranch’ was a standout from his album The River. The early 80’s appeal of “The Boss” only added to the popularity of this great Lone Star State attraction.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is the second largest of its kind in the United States, trailing only the Grand Canyon National Park (another popular attraction off of Route 66) in grandeur. The extraordinary vistas, visible from the comfort of your automobile, readily display skies of inconceivable beauty. Palo Duro Canyon is huge, occupying over 25,000 acres of trails used by early Spanish explorers and buffalo hunters.
While Texas can’t claim ownership of the totality of Route 66’s roadside attractions and places of interest, the Panhandle does boast some of the more breathtaking views and vistas. The lavishly opulent sunsets seem to evoke the whimsy that has captured the imaginations of poets, cowboys and singers for so long, and the Deep South appeal of this wonderful Wild West state continues to make it a landmark destination in any Route 66 enthusiast’s Texas road trip itinerary.
Plan your Route 66 adventure
Your Route 66 Tours adventure begins by selecting the seasonal ride that best suits your vacation goals.
The desert skies and sprawling cityscapes along the way present differently in the spring, summer and fall – our fully guided experiences will ensure you get the most out of your chosen ride. Many of our fellow travellers have come back – some many times over – to take in the sights and sounds of the Mother Road at a different time of year.
Our well-seasoned Route 66 road trip experts are with you every mile of the journey, guiding and informing you through the highways and dusty roads that comprise your tour. Unlike some other offerings, we deliver only authentic Route 66 – something missing from American maps since 1985.
Route 66 Tours offers daily treks down Main Street America that finish after roughly 170 miles per day, in order to ensure you’re able to take in everything the adventure has to offer. This universally adoptable pace promises not to rush the historic vistas past your vehicle during the day, and leaves plenty of time to relax and explore at night.
Unlike some other tour operators, we believe our friends deserve to ride AND rest in style, and so we make sure you’re accommodated by high-quality hotels along the way. We don’t camp … there’s too much to see on tomorrow’s adventure to risk missing because of a bad back from a poor night’s sleep.
For riders looking to make the most of a time crunch, our Route 66 Express Tour rumbles down historic Main Street America to the tune of a 17-night stay. For those who can’t make the 26-night commitment of our popular Plus offerings – but still want to experience Route 66 the way it was intended – the Express package is the way to go. With our Spring and Summer Express offerings, you’ll launch from Vegas before officially hitting the Mother Road in the Mojave desert of California. Should you choose to experience America in autumn instead, our Fall Express package starts in Chicago, before heading West to end in Vegas.
Regardless of the season, you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds, taking in the breathtaking views of The Windy City and the dusty backroad treasure-towns hidden due West.
If you’re up for an even greater adventure, our brand new Spring Plus Tour – running April 22 through May 18 2023 – extends your time on the road to 26 nights, this time beginning in the Wild West of Las Vegas, Nevada before tripping down South to sunny California. From there, we’re headed towards the Windy City, stopping in Chicago for a river cruise before making our way back west. Similar to our regular Tour schedule, the road East averages roughly 170 miles per day, while the ride home lets you cruise back West at a pleasant average of 277 miles per day ride. The ride home doesn’t take Route 66, offering a different view of life on the American road and ensuring you’re not taking in the same sights twice.
If summer sun and the roar of full-throated Harleys is up your alley, our famous Sturgis Bike Week Tour – running July 25 through August 17, 2023 – is the clear choice to make. This special, 23-night adventure takes you from Vegas through some of the world’s most beautiful national parks … with a little five-night stop over in Deadwood for the Sturgis event. You’ll be in the thick of it all, amidst the Black Hills of South Dakota surrounded by thousands of your fellow motorcycle enthusiasts. A quick 13-mile ride to Deadwood – another famous American destination – will have you rested up each night before trekking back to the craziness that is Bike Week.
Once the roaring of full-throttle engines has subsided, you’ll head back to Vegas before departing home with countless new memories and stories to tell.
We’re proud of all of our Route 66 Tours, and promise to distil all of the experience and insights we’ve attained onto you and your travelling party. We boast about our “2015 Inductees to the Route 66 Walk of Fame” designation only because it represents the loving care we put into making your adventure the ride of a lifetime.
Come travel with us, and leave the frustration of planning your next vacation behind. We’ll handle all of the point A-to-B itinerary for you, so you can maximise your time taking in the wonders of Route 66. Book your Route 66 Tours adventure today, and hit the road on the adventure of a lifetime. Our flagship spring, summer and fall tours are booking now.