No Route 66 journey is complete without stopping by at a few roadside attractions. From zany sights you'd never expect to famed American treasures, every day of your journey will offer something new to see. Whether you're a history buff, nature lover, car expert or just a fan of the new and interesting, the Mother Road has something for everyone.
We can't wait to take you on the Route 66 adventure of a lifetime, once it's safe to do so. In the meantime, you can plan ahead with our guide to some of the most captivating roadside sights out there.
A few of our favourite spots — in the order you'll see them while driving west — include:
The Gemini Giant of Wilmington, Illinois is something you truly have to see to believe. Inspired by the ongoing space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, this eight-metre-tall statue of a spaceman was erected in front of the Launching Pad Drive-in in 1956. Today both the statue and the drive-in diner — complete with a gift shop and Mini Americana Museum — remain a testament to the heyday of car travel in America.
The Gateway Arch
There are few monuments as quintessentially American as St. Louis' Gateway Arch. Rising high above the mighty Mississippi River, this monument was completed in 1965 to serve as a symbol of the diverse people who have shaped American history and westward expansion, according to the National Park Service.
Route 66 adventurers can witness the Gateway Arch from every angle with a tram ride up to the top. If heights aren't your thing, disembark on a riverboat built to look like the steamboats of the 19th century for an unparalleled view of St. Louis.
The Blue Whale of Catoosa
On a road filled with unique sights that will make you look twice, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma stands out. This 24-metre-long whale sculpture was built by Hugh S. Davis, a local zoologist, who wanted to create a unique place for his grandchildren to play. Construction of the Blue Whale took two years, with most of the work done by Davis and one other friend, and utilised a welded metal frame and cement.
Visitors can either take a guided tour of the whale, or explore the sculpture for themselves, including a secret ladder that goes into the whale's head.
The Leaning Tower of Texas
While some roadside attractions catch your attention because they stand out from their surroundings others are more uncanny. attractions Way out in Groom, Texas, there's a water tower that looks average but for one key feature; it's built on a slant. Rather than being the result of an accident or natural disaster, the water tower was designed that way by Ralph Britten: He wanted something eye-catching to lure Route 66 travellers to his diner and truck stop, according to Atlas Obscura. Groom is also home to a 19-storey cross, one of the largest crosses in the world.
Meteor Crater and Barringer Space Museum
Not every attraction on Route 66 is man-made. About 50,000 years ago, a massive meteor crashed into the desert in what is now Arizona, creating a force 150 times greater than an atomic bomb and leaving behind a crater stretching 1.2 kilometres in diameter and reaching as much 170 metres beneath the surface. Route 66 adventurers can witness this natural wonder from an air conditioned viewing area (it gets hot in Arizona!), an observation deck or by walking the crater's rim themselves.
Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch
Sometimes, beautiful art comes in forms you'd never expect. In California's Mojave Desert, the late Elmer Long turned his father's extensive collection of glass bottles into the most unique sculpture garden imaginable. Each bottle is used as a branch on a tree-like structure. While Long sadly passed away in 2019, his 200-plus "trees" live on.
For the road trip of a lifetime, you simply cannot top a drive down historic Route 66. We can't wait to take you back out on The Mother Road: Our next planned tour is scheduled for Summer, 2021. You can look forward to an incredible 20 nights travelling from Chicago to Las Vegas, exploring the best antique cars, roadside attractions and natural features that America has to offer. While you wait, you can stay connected and check out more views of the adventure ahead at www.route66tours.com.au.