A road trip down Route 66 never gets old. This iconic route (known as America’s “Mother Road”) runs from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California for about 2,448 miles. Over the years it’s been renamed in various segments, but you can still follow the same historic route across the country today.
It passes through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and lastly, the beautiful Golden State – with lodging options, classic restaurants, roadside attractions, and bright neon signs lining the way. These are five of the many unique stops you won’t want to miss along the stretch through California.
1. Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande
The ultimate recycler, Elmer Long, built this artsy forest of glass bottles near Oro Grande. It includes over 200 installations of colored bottles, vintage signs and other antiques. You can even hear soft tunes from the empty, hollow bottles and wind chimes when a breeze gusts through. It’s open 7 days a week, sunrise to sunset.
2. The Original McDonald’s, San Bernardino
McDonald’s now has locations all over the world, but there’s something really fun about visiting where the very first one used to be. Owned and preserved by Albert Okura, this now-museum showcases a quirky collection of items from the chain restaurant’s early beginnings, and several historical items from decades past. You can see rare items like the original menus, Happy Meal toys throughout the years, significant photos and other memorabilia. It’s safe to say by the time you leave you’ll be craving a Big Mac and fries.
3. Route 66 Mother Road Museum, Barstow
With free parking and admission, this roadside museum is a must when you’re passing through Barstow. They’re dedicated to the historic Route 66, with several artifacts and vintage memorabilia dating back to the 1950’s and ’60s. They also have a small shop here, so you can pick up shirts and other gifts to take back home with you.
4. Roy’s, Amboy
Back in the day, Roy’s was one of the most hottest places to stop along Route 66. Between a motel, gas station, cafe and auto repair shop, this place in the now-ghost-town of Amboy offered almost everything, and at one point they were actually the only gas station & lodging in the area.
Sadly, the motel has been shut down for years now, but the cafe & gas station have both been refurbished and reopened as of 2008 – thanks to the same owner of the original McDonald’s, Albert Okura. It’s also a fun quick stop to pick up postcards, shirts, maps, water, soda, chips and candy.
5. The Last Stop Shop, Santa Monica Pier
A sign near the Santa Monica Pier reading “End of The Trail” marks the very end of your trip. Before heading back home, take a walk around the oceanfront shops and score one final souvenir at the Last Stop Shop.
This is the place to get Route 66-everything. Their merchandise varies from coffee mugs to magnets, metal and wood signs, license plates, shot glasses, hats and all kinds of other collectibles. Take a look at their website here to see everything they’re currently offering.
Where are some of your favorite places to stop along Route 66 in California?