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The Mother Road: Route 66

Regions: Arizona’s West Coast, Northern Arizona

Travel the West’s most famous highway, historic Route 66, through classic towns still filled with Americana – and so much more. 

There was a slower, simpler time before the Interstate picked up the pace of today. Back then, Route 66 was the Main Street of America. Arizona is home to the longest original stretch of this road, which is one of 25 scenic byways in Arizona, and much of it is still preserved by the locals who lived it.

If you are lucky, you may run into a couple who still live and work on the road and can tell you a story or two. History and nostalgia lie along the way on this classic road trip. So get your kitsch on Route 66.

Day 1: Live it up in Lake Havasu – and cross London Bridge the same day. 

Your trip begins three hours west of Phoenix in Lake Havasu City. In the morning, take a museum tour to learn about the history of Lake Havasu, its founder, Robert P. McCulloch and the purchase, transport and reconstruction of the historic London Bridge.

Have lunch and enjoy lake views at one of the local microbreweries. Later, enjoy a leisurely cruise through beautiful Topock Gorge, near the start of the Arizona stretch of Route 66. Your leisurely trip up the Colorado River will give you the chance to observe interesting rock formations, ancient petroglyphs and abundant plant life. You might even spot a coyote, wild burro or bighorn sheep along the way. Overnight in Lake Havasu City.

Day 2: Experience gold mines, gunfights and wild burros in Oatman. 

Drive north to Oatman (:60), an old gold-mining camp and your first stop on the longest original stretch of the old Mother Road. Stroll the buckboard street and visit the Oatman Hotel, where movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned. Enjoy staged gunfights and the famous four-legged settlers of the town – the wild burros that wander the street. Take an authentic stagecoach ride at the Gold Road mine before heading out of town.

Take the scenic drive through the Black Mountains and head into Kingman (:30). Visit the Powerhouse Visitor Center on Andy Divine Road, which is also home to the Route 66 Museum. 

Have a bite in one of the old nostalgic diners and stop in Peach Springs, which is home to the Hualapai Indian tribal headquarters. Overnight at the Hualapai Lodge.

Day 3: Raft the Grand Canyon with Hualapai guides. 

In the morning, take the bus to the bottom of Grand Canyon West for a day of white-water rafting. Take in the views of sheer canyon walls and experience the Colorado River with a Hualapai Indian guide at the helm, stopping for lunch and a short climb to the cool and beautiful travertine falls. When you reach the end, a helicopter will lift you to the canyon's rim, where you'll board the bus back to Peach Springs. 

Drive to Seligman and get a snack at the quirky Snowcap – a Route 66 nostalgia lover's delight. If you have time, stop in the museum a couple doors down and talk to Angel Delgadillo, also known as the Guardian Angel of Route 66. His family has spent generations in this town and he will have a few stories to tell. Drive to Williams to overnight.

Day 4: Tour the Grand Canyon by car or rail – and don’t miss the sunset. 

Drive north to Grand Canyon National Park (1:00) or board the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams for a scenic trip to the Grand Canyon Village. Spend a few hours exploring the grandest natural wonder in the world. Be sure to visit the El Tovar Hotel and Kolb Studio, as well as numerous lookouts for different and awe-inspiring views of this amazing place.

To experience a breathtaking sunrise or sunset, overnight in the park at one of the lodging facilities. Otherwise, head back to Williams or Flagstaff to overnight.

Day 5: Find old-fashioned charm and classic diner fare in Flagstaff.

Spend the day in Flagstaff, where the main drag is Route 66. Start off with a visit to the Museum of Northern Arizona, the gateway to understanding the land and peoples of the Colorado Plateau. Two hours or more can easily be spent learning about this magnificent region. 

Visit Riordan Mansion State Park. The mansion was built by two brothers who married two sisters, and the mansion is actually two homes that are mirror images of each other. The homes offer a picture-perfect example of Arts and Crafts architecture.

Grab a bite at the Galaxy Diner on Route 66, then walk off your meal by strolling the wonderful shops in Flagstaff's downtown area. Be sure to stop by the Visitors Center in the historic train depot. 

Have dinner at Charly's Pub and Grill in the charming Weatherford Hotel, a place with a history of presidents and gunslingers – so much so that Zane Grey was inspired to write Call of the Canyon while staying there. 

After dinner, take a guided tour of Lowell Observatory, where you can see the telescope a Lowell astronomer used to discover Pluto in 1930. 

Spend the evening country dancing at the Museum Club, a historic Route 66 roadhouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Overnight in Flagstaff.

Day 6: Stop at Winslow’s famed La Posada Hotel, then check out rock art.

Drive to Winslow via Interstate 40. Stop to visit the La Posada Hotel, a National Historic Landmark and Arizona historic preservation at its best. Mary Colter built this beautiful structure, which was once a Fred Harvey hotel, along the Santa Fe Railroad. 

Continue east to Holbrook and stop at the Wigwam Motel for a photo in front of the teepee motel rooms. It doesn't get kitschier than this. 

Drive west back toward Winslow. Between Holbrook and Winslow you'll find Joseph City and the Rock Art Canyon Ranch. This privately-owned working cattle ranch offers tours of a spectacular rock art site in Chevelon Canyon, considered by some to be the finest rock art site in Arizona. Reservations are requested. 

Drive back into Winslow for more nostalgia. Stop at the Standin' on the Corner State Park. "The Corner" was made famous by the Eagles song "Take it Easy." Overnight in Winslow at the La Posada and have a fabulous dinner in the Turquoise Room.

Note: Estimated travel time is indicated in parentheses.

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