Iconic Landmarks Along Arizona’s Route 66

Arizona is gifted with many of the most memorable icons of funky architecture, quality kitsch and robust Americana to be found on the entire 2000+ miles of blacktop constituting Route 66. These treasures are quintessential remnants of American automobile and pop culture, and stretch the boundaries of folk art in ways both bewildering and fanciful.

In 1946 Bobby Troup composed an eternally catchy tune, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, that celebrated the postwar freedom enjoyed by returning American servicemen and their families. Twenty years before that blissful summer of 1946, Route 66 earned its hard-won stripes as a Depression-era pathway to California. Follow along as we take a little trip, from our border with New Mexico to the Colorado River.

Start your engines

Interstates subsumed much of the original path of Route 66, so start your westward quest on I-40 near Lupton, Exit 359, where two ‘trading posts’ stuffed with trinkets offer browsing in the shade of sheer sandstone monoliths. Head past Fort Courage, Exit 348, to Sanders, where the excellent R. B. Burnham Trading Post is an oasis of quality American Indian artwork.

Drive on to exit 311, Petrified Forest NP, where a 1932 Studebaker rusts starkly in the realm of crystallized forests. Next up is Holbrook, site of rustic cafés, fake dinosaurs and precious petrified wood you can legally take home.

As daylight wanes watch the setting sun and blue hour overtake the tipis and vintage cars at the Wigwam Motel. This is a top photo fave for me, and I always return to discover new angles and details I’ve missed. They do rent their tipis, which are a bit like time travel inside.

Or, rest comfortably for the night at La Posada, the artfully restored classic railway hotel in Winslow. Savor brunch at their Turquoise Room, then pay homage at Standing-On-A-Corner Park in morning light. Pose by the red flatbed Ford and the Eagles statues, as their country rock anthems loop endlessly.

Iconic Landmarks Along Arizona’s Route 66
Wigwam Motel, Holbrook. Credit: Kerrick James
Iconic Landmarks Along Arizona’s Route 66
Credit: Kerrick James

Head North

Broken bits of history are strewn along I-40 exits from Winslow to Flagstaff, but do take Exit 233 to explore Two Guns. Here the stone walls of a zoo that once held mountain lions overlook Canyon Diablo and a vintage Route 66 bridge. A bit west, Twin Arrows was an iconic trading post (Exit 219), but one arrow has bit the dust, sadly. Flagstaff claims a chunk of Route 66 with some motel neon, but it’s best to head thirty miles to Williams, a town literally split by the Mother Road, for their classic signage, funky art and jewelry available for purchase.

Iconic Landmarks Along Arizona’s Route 66
Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In, Seligman. Credit: Kerrick James

Afternoon brings you to the longest contiguous drivable stretch of Route 66, Seligman to Kingman. Seligman is the quirky jackpot, filled with wondrously kitschy photogenic delights, and that’s before you experience Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In, world famous for bad counter jokes and tasty milkshakes.

I frequently overnight in Seligman, imagining the cavalcade of families and characters who passed this way over the last 10 decades. I’ve even glimpsed James Dean and Marilyn Monroe here, if only in two dimensions, and yes there’s one neon Route 66 sign you’ll want to capture as the stars come out.

If you have time and feel adventurous drive toward Grand Canyon Caverns and later rest awhile at the Hackberry General Store. Grab a cold craft root beer and drink deeply of the rusting ambiance scattered about the store. There’s a wealth of imagery here, and if you’re lucky, Elvis may be in the building.

Iconic Landmarks Along Arizona’s Route 66
Credit: Kerrick James

Kingman, Oatman and beyond

Further west your eyes will widen at the sight of Giganticus Headicus, an imposing sculpture in channeling Easter Island who reigns in Antares. Be sure to stop in and meet Gregg Arnold, the artist who created him. Kingman has vintage motels from the heyday of Route 66, with fine neon signs worth photographing at the Hill Top and El Trovatore motels.

Do tour the Powerhouse Visitor Center & Museum for a rich slice of Route 66 history, before striking out to the mountains way west. You’ll ascend to Cool Springs, climb curvy Sitgreaves Pass and descend into Oatman, a gold mining village.

Feral burros roam the main street of Oatman, begging for snacks and chasing each other, so watch your six as you stroll. There are staged gunfights for charity, and the Oatman Hotel is genuinely famous for Clark Gable’s wedding night with Carole Lombard in 1939.

Beyond Oatman, the highway weaves south through desert hills to the edge of the Colorado River at Topock, where this journey ends at last. There’s an indefinable romance to driving the wide-open stretches of Route 66, an intact magic that retains worldwide appeal.

Iconic Landmarks Along Arizona’s Route 66
A wild burro in Oatman. Credit: Kerrick James

I’ve met people from many nations all across Route 66, and that shared spirit of freedom and nostalgia is why I drive it whenever I can. It’s far more than a highway or a journey. To many Arizona travelers it’s an elixir, and I can almost hear Nat King Cole crooning Bobby’s R&B hit as sunset steals away into the neon lights of Kingman.

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About the Author

Travel Journalist

Kerrick James

Kerrick James is a travel journalist specializing in active and cultural adventures worldwide, but Arizona is home. The 2020 SATW Travel Photographer of the Year, he’s rafted the Grand Canyon for magazine stories, to teach photo workshops, and purely for fun.


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