Historic Route 66 was the original highway in the U.S. Highway System and one of the most popular roads in the country bringing prosperity to many of communities it passed through. The nearly 4,000 kilometer route operated from 1926 to 1985 and passed through eight states to connect Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA. With the introduction of the Interstate Highway in 1985, the ‘Mother Road’ was removed from the U.S. Highway System and many of the cities along the once prosperous route began to degrade.
However, some portions of the road in places such as Amarillo, TX; Santa Fe, NM; Flagstaff, AZ and Los Angeles, CA have been preserved in the hopes of attracting tourism and remembering the impact the route once had on the country.
During the 1950’s Amarillo was a flourishing city with many bars, motels and clubs frequently visited by the army since the city was home to an air force base. Route 66 put establishments like The Silver Spur and the Triangle Motel on the map, and the city’s 6th Street District included hip stores, restaurants and service stations.
Today, much investment has been put into Amarillo’s 6th Street Art Deco District in order to preserve the city’s historic and cultural roots. Many of the motels have seized operations but they, along with their once brightly coloured neon signs, remain untouched as a reminder of a time when people could ‘get their kicks on Route 66.’
Suggested activities: Palo Duro Canyon – second largest canyon in the U.S.; Cadillac Ranch – an art sculpture that features 10 Cadillac automobiles jammed into the ground
Suggested hotel: Courtyard Amarillo Downtown
The Courtyard Amarillo Downtown Hotel is inside the historic Fisk Building located on Polk St. The building was once used as a medical facility and has been around since 1927. It now boasts 107 guest rooms and suites, high-speed internet, a gym and a laundry room.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Driving from Santa Fe to Amarillo, Historic Route 66 passes through Glenrio, once a hot spot for tourists that included cafes, gas stations and motels. Again, with the introduction of the Interstate, the road running through Glenrio was bypassed ridding the city of business and turning it into ghost town.
Passing through Glenrio, Route 66 – now known as Interstate 40 – once ran through New Mexico and touched the major cities of Los Lunas, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, even passing through some Indian reservations and connecting travellers to Indian communities and culture.
Suggested activities: Georgia O’Keefe Museum; Palace of the Governors
Suggested hotel: Hotel Chimayo
The décor and atmosphere inside Hotel Chimayo centers on the Chimayo community found in Northern New Mexico. Located near the Santa Fe
Plaza, the hotel includes 56 rooms and suites with fireplaces, private or communal balconies, complimentary Wi-Fi and artwork from local artists.
The section of Historic Route 66 in Flagstaff runs along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon and features teepee-shaped motels, Indian shops and roadside attractions. In fact, a few years ago, Flagstaff even changed the name of its main street to Route 66 as a tribute to the historic road that left an imprint on the town.
Suggested activities: the Grand Canyon; Meteor Crater
Suggested hotel: Holiday Inn Express
Los Angeles, CA
Up until 1964, Route 66 ran from San Bernardino to Santa Monica Boulevard, located in today’s West Hollywood.
The city, considered to be the heart of L.A., is also home of the famous Sunset Strip which includes legendary music venues such as The Roxy Theater and Viper Room; famous restaurants such as RivaBella, Chi Lin and Pink Taco; and popular bars and clubs such as Sur Lounge, The Abbey and Skybar.
Seeing the effect Route 66 had on the cities it passed through, Santa Monica decided to capitalize on its success and proclaimed that the ‘unofficial’ end of the road is at the Santa Monica Pier.
Suggested activities: Celebrity spotting along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills; a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu
Suggested hotels: Best Western Plus Sunset Plaza Strip – Located right on the Sunset Strip, the hotel includes complimentary Wi-Fi, breakfast and a garden courtyard with a pool.
The LA Hotel Downtown – The hotel recently completed renovating its guestrooms and is in the process of becoming the Hyatt Regency. The hotel features a heated outdoor pool, a 24-hour fitness center, two restaurants and a business center.
Sunset Marquis – Located in a quiet neighborhood off the Sunset Strip, the hotel has catered to actors, writers, musicians and supermodels.
The property includes villas and suites, a spa, a recording studio and the popular Bar 1200.
The hotel also has a gallery displaying some of the most famous photographs in music history, as well as bi-weekly event called Live@SunsetMarquis, a music showcase that features emerging artists.