Road Trips

Six Days Touring the Mother Road: Route 66

Travel America's famous Mother Road, historic Route 66, through classic towns still filled with Americana and more.

Six Days Touring the Mother Road: Route 66
Museum Club, Flagstaff, Credit: Kerrick James

Before the Interstate paved the way, Route 66 was the Main Street of America. You'll find plenty of history, nostalgia and the longest original stretch of this road in Arizona—much of it preserved by the locals who lived it.

Grab your bike, load your car, and get your kitsch on Route 66.

Day 1: Cruise Lake Havasu and cross London Bridge.

Your trip begins three hours west of Phoenix in Lake Havasu City. Start your morning with a short tour of the Lake Havasu Museum of History to learn about the city's founder, Robert P. McCulloch, and the purchase, transport and reconstruction of the London Bridge.

Have lunch and enjoy lake views at one of the local microbreweries. Later, enjoy a cruise up the Colorado River through Topock Gorge, near the start of the Arizona stretch of Route 66. Your leisurely trip 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.

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

Drive an hour north to Oatman, a former gold-mining camp and your first stop on the longest original stretch of the old Mother Road. Stroll the buckboard street and visit the (allegedly haunted) Oatman Hotel, formerly the Durlin, where movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned. Enjoy staged gunfights and Oatman's famous four-legged settlers—the wandering wild burros—before moving on.

Leaving Oatman, take the scenic drive through the Black Mountains into Kingman. Glimpse some of the earliest electric cars ever manufactured, like an early 20th century Detroit Electric, at the Arizona Route 66 Museum's electric vehicle exhibit. Then, have a bite across the street at the nostalgic diner Mr. D'z and stop at Desert Diamond Distiller for a tour before continuing north to Peach Springs, home to the Hualapai Tribe.

Overnight at the Hualapai Lodge.

Day 3: Raft the Grand Canyon.

In the morning, board a bus to the bottom of Grand Canyon West for a day of white-water rafting with the Hualapai River Runners. Take in the views of sheer canyon walls and experience the Colorado River with an American Indian guide at the helm. You'll break 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. Take a quick tour of the mostly outdoors Skywalk or hop back on the bus for the two-hour ride back to Peach Springs.

Drive to Seligman and get a snack or souvenir at the quirky Delgadillo's Snow Cap—a Route 66 nostalgia lover's delight. If you have time, stop in the museum a couple of doors down and try to catch Angel Delgadillo, the "Guardian Angel of Route 66." His family spans generations in this town and he's something of a celebrity for his work preserving the route.

Drive to Williams to overnight.

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

Drive the hour north to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park or board the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams for a scenic trip to Grand Canyon Village. Be sure you give yourself plenty of time to spend exploring the grandest natural wonder in the world via a number of awe-inspiring lookouts and views. While there, visit the historic Kolb Studio, a Victorian-style home built by the Kolb brothers in 1905 as a base for their photography adventures.

To experience a breathtaking sunrise or sunset, overnight in the park at one of the lodging facilities such as the grand El Tovar Hotel.

Otherwise, head back to Williams or Flagstaff to overnight.

Day 5: Find old-fashioned charm and dark skies 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 Historic Park. Built by two brothers—who married two sisters—the Riordan Mansion, a picture-perfect example of Arts & Crafts architecture, is actually two homes that are mirror images of each other. When you're full-on history, grab a bite in downtown Flagstaff, then walk off your meal by strolling the shops.

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 at the charming Weatherford Hotel, a place with a history of presidents and gunslingers—so much so it inspired Western author Zane Grey to write Call of the Canyon while staying there.

Day 6: Rock out in Winslow, then check out nearby rock art.

From Flagstaff, continue east almost two hours to Holbrook for a photo in front of the teepee motel rooms at the Wigwam Motel. It doesn't get kitschier than this.

Drive west, back toward Winslow. On the way, you'll come across 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 required, and you'll need to call either (928) 386-5047 or (928) 288-3260 to book a tour and get the exact directions.

Keep the nostalgia going when you arrive in Winslow with a stop at the Standin' on the Corner Park made famous by the Eagles' song "Take it Easy."

Overnight in Winslow at La Posada Hotel, a National Historic Landmark built by renowned architect Mary Colter and considered Fred Harvey's last great railroad hotel. With your room booked, head to the hotel's award-winning Turquoise Room for dinner.

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