26 September 2016
The famous Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America, stretches across the USA, from Illinois in the east to California in the west. This 16-day self-drive tour takes you along its entire length, giving you plenty of time to explore the towns and cities along the route, and even making a short detour to glitzy Las Vegas.
Your road trip begins as you arrive at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, collect your car and proceed to your hotel. Chicago is famous for its towering skyline and rich musical heritage – fans of jazz and blues are in for a treat here. You can't visit Chicago with out taking in the Willis Tower, still better known as The Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the world. Take the elevator to the 103rd-floor skydeck to enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Michigan, the city and suburbs and, on a clear day, all the way to Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. You may like to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, home to one of the best and most diverse art collections in the world, including the world's largest group of Monet paintings, as well as Millennium Park, where you'll find a huge stainless-steel sculpture by Anish Kapoor.
You have a full day to continue exploring Chicago today. You may like to make the short drive to the suburb of Oak Park, home to the world's largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings and houses. Also worth a visit is Navy Pier, where you'll find an IMAX theatre, a grand ballroom and an enormous Ferris wheel. A great way to see the city is the optional Graylines Hop On Hop Off Tour, a scenic tour of Chicago's lakefront and downtown area aboard a trolley bus. For delicious food, as well as fascinating cultural experiences, head to Chinatown or Little Italy, while this evening you'll want to head out to one of the many lounges to enjoy some live music.
You'll leave Chicago this morning and drive toward Springfield, stopping en route at the town of Bloomington, home of the Historic Route 66 Memory Lane, a park featuring restored billboards, classic business banners and Burma-Shave signs. You'll then continue to Springfield, Illinois state capital and hometown of Abraham Lincoln. Here you can visit The Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Depot and the Lincoln Tomb.
Today's destination is Saint Louis, where the famous St Louis Gateway Arch serves as a symbol for the conquest of the West. Here you can visit Union Station, whose unique architecture was inspired by the walled medieval city of Carcassone in southern France, as well as many historic homes, including Grant’s Farm, once home to Ulysses S Grant, the USA's 18th president, and now a wildlife preserve where you can see bison, elk, antelope, zebras, llamas and ostriches.
Today's first stop is at Rolla, home of the Totem Pole Trading Post, built in 1933, before continuing to Springfield, birthplace of Route 66 when, on 30 April 1926, officials here proposed the name for the new Chicago-Los Angeles Highway. Here you'll find classic diners, with red booths and gleaming chrome, as well as Jordan Valley Park and the interesting shops and restaurants of the historic downtown area.
Today you'll leave Missouri and drive towards Oklahoma, stopping at Dale's Ole 66 Barber Shop in Joplin for a spot of nostalgia before continuing to Tulsa. The 1920s "Oil Capital of the World" is still booming, with a thriving aerospace industry and a number of major corporations situated here. Don't miss the art-deco façades at the Boston Building, Union Depot and the Philtower, while art lovers should head to the Philbrook and Gilcrease museums. Oklahoma is also rich with Native American history, and the Cherokee Heritage Center at Tsa-La-Gi is a wonderful place to learn more about Cherokee life.
This morning you'll drive toward Oklahoma's state capital, Oklahoma City, stopping en route at Stockyards City, founded in 1910 and popular for its restaurants and shops selling in Western wear, custom-made boots and saddles. The Oklahoma National Stockyards, which claims to be the largest live cattle market in the world, is also worth a visit, as is the National Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center. Walk through Property Junction, a life-size recreation of an authentic frontier town, and take a water taxi along the Bricktown Canal, constructed by excavating an old street. You may also like to visit the galleries, studios and restaurants of the Paseo Historic District.
This morning you'll drive towards the Lone Star State, with your first stop in the town of Shamrock to visit the U-Drop-Inn Restaurant and Service Station, dating from 1936, and the Pioneer West Museum. You'll then continue to Amarillo and the Cadillac Ranch: a roadside attraction featuring a row of 10 graffiti-covered Cadillacs, buried nose-first in the ground. You can also visit Route 66’s Historic District, a mile-long stretch of road that's filled with shops, clubs and restaurants. You may also like to visit the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center & Museum, to learn more about the development of the breed.
Today you continue into New Mexico, stopping first at Tucumcari, where you can learn more about the town's history at Tucumcari Historical Museum. After a brief stop at Santa Rosa, you'll continue to Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city and a diverse mixture of frontier town and sophisticated metropolis. Here you may like to visit the historic Old Town, trendy Nob Hill and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, as well as taking a scenic ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world’s longest aerial tram ride.
Today you'll take a short drive to neighbouring Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in the USA, known as the "City Different" because of its blend of cultures, reflected in its varied architectural styles. Here you can visit the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in Santa Fe, built in 1626, and The Cross of the Martyrs, located on a small hill which offers spectacular views. You may also like to visit the Oldest House, which dates back to 1766.
Today's you'll head out, through the small town of Gallup, to Holbrook, Arizona, home to the Petrified Forest National Park. On the 28-mile drive through the park you'll see colourful petrified logs that are 225 million years old. Part of the Painted Desert also lies within the park, with hardened dunes with spectacular bands of greys, reds, oranges and yellows. The area is especially beautiful at sunset and sunrise, when the land appears to glow. This evening, head to Holbrook’s Main Street for shopping and dining.
This morning you'll depart for Grand Canyon National Park. En route, you'll stop at the town of Winslow to visit The Old Trails Museum and the Minnetonka Trading Post, whose façade is made of petrified wood, before continuing to the Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world. Along the South Rim you'll find many viewing areas, as well as a series of walkways, and you can visit Bright Angel Lodge for an excellent vantage point, as well as a gallery and restaurant. If you're feeling adventurous, take a hiking trail or guided mule ride down to the Colorado River, or a rafting trip along the river itself. You may also like to take the optional North Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour to see the spectacular Kaibab National Forest, the imposing Tower of Ra and the seemingly endless stretches of gorges.
Today you're headed to Las Vegas – not strictly speaking part of this historic route, but definitely worth the detour. Here you can take a stroll down Las Vegas Boulevard to see all the themed hotels and casinos. Take in a live show, try your luck in a casino or take a trip up to the top of the Stratosphere hotel tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi, and enjoy the views. Shopaholics will be in their element in Vegas, as you can enjoy luxury shopping in any of the premier hotels, or drive to one of the designer outlet malls in search of a bargain. The city is also famous for its world-class dining. To see a different side of Las Vegas, visit Fremont Street, a historic street filled with shops, restaurants and casinos, topped by a canopy screen where more than 12 million lights put on a spectacular show.
You'll leave the glitz of Las Vegas behind today and drive toward Santa Monica. To continue following Route 66 you have to drive via Barstow for a visit to Casa Del Decierto (Desert House), home of the Route 66 Museum. After a brief stop, you'll continue to Santa Monica. You have the full day today in Santa Monica, which boasts 75 museums and art galleries, as well as theatres and excellent shopping. You may also like to visit Santa Monica Pier, once known as the "finish line" of Route 66, where you'll find an aquarium, an amusement park and the famous Hippodrome building.
You have another full day in Santa Monica today. Don't miss the chance to relax on the 3.5 miles of beaches, and perhaps enjoy some swimming, surfing, volleyball, skating or cycling. You may like to take an optional surfing lesson on Santa Monica Beach. In the evening, you'll find a wide range of excellent dining - Santa Monica is the home of Californian and fusion cuisine. Alternatively, today you could choose to explore neighbouring Los Angeles. Here you can enjoy the glamour of Hollywood, shop in luxurious Rodeo Drive and have lunch in Venice Beach.
Your road trip comes to an end today as you transfer to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for your onward flight.
Standard fr £739pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated