Arizona’s Route 66 Still a Kick

By: Elena Acoba

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March 26, 2015

Hit the open road for a memorable vacation.

About the author

Elena Acoba

Elena Acoba

Since moving to Tucson in 1988, freelance writer Elena Acoba has enjoyed traveling to the four corners of Arizona. Her favorites spots in her adopted state: the natural wonders and the rich historical sights.

Imagine the open road in the mid-20th century, when the journey was as much anticipated as the destination. The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona can help you plan a truly nostalgic trip on Arizona’s portion of iconic U.S. Route 66. It remains a popular drive with its leg-stretching activities and loads of photo possibilities.

Old Route 66

You’ll still find throw-back diners, motels and shops along Arizona’s 121 miles of the longest unbroken stretch of Route 66 – the original highway in any of the eight U.S. Route 66 states. There are also lots of interesting skeletons of abandoned businesses to see along the two-lane, scenic byway. Hit these highlights of old and new attractions.

Old Trails Bridge in Topock still shines white as its stunning arch spans the Colorado River to connect California and Arizona. It guided automobile traffic to and from Arizona’s most-western portion of Route 66 until 1948, when the deck was removed to run a natural gas pipeline.

Wild burros in these parts outnumber Oatman residents, so it’s not unusual that a handful regularly wander about. The animals are descendants of tamed burros abandoned during the 19th-century mining boom. They’re federally protected, so look, but don’t harass or feed them. Instead, enjoy the daily Wild West gunfights.

Life-size dioramas, murals and artifacts galore at the Arizona (Powerhouse) Route 66 Museum in Kingman tell the story of western travel along what would become known as the Mother Road. Housed in a historical electric power building, the museum traces local routes for American Indian traders, Dust Bowl refugees and 20th-century vacationers.

Meet more than 140 big cats, macaques, ostriches and other exotic animals that have found sanctuary from abandonment and abuse at Keepers of the Wild in Valentine. Get a closer look and learn about the good works of the reserve in a guided safari tour.

If you have at least an hour to spare, stop at the underground Grand Canyon Cavern in Peach Springs. It’s been a tourist attraction along the route since 1928. The dry limestone cave has easy walking paths. Guides weave information about its geology with history and lore.

Stop for a bite at the 62-year-old Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, hometown of Angel Delgadillo. Angel led the effort to preserve Arizona’s old Route 66 and helped establish the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. Take time to enjoy the memorabilia his family has collected, and pick up a souvenir at the Route 66 Gift Shop.

Route 66 Communities

These old Route 66 communities, now just off Interstate 40, continue to serve up the flavor of the road trip.

Take a 30-mile-an-hour cruise over Route 66 in Williams on the two-seater Route 66 Zipline. Drive through Bearizona, a wild animal park with bison, sheep, wolves and, of course, bears. Pet deer, pigs, goats and other animals at a 46-year-old stop, The Grand Canyon Deer Farm.

Live the Eagles’ 1972 song “Take It Easy” at Standin’ on the Corner Park in Winslow. The lyrics come to life as a mural depicts “a girl” in a flatbed Ford truck staring out on the park “to take a look” at a bronze statue of a cowboy balladeer.

Fanciful and photogenic dinosaur statues sprinkled around Holbrook make perfect sense when you realize the town is a gateway to Petrified Forest National Park. You can find another good photo op at the 1950 Wigwam Village Motel #6, where each room is shaped like a teepee.

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