Where: USA and Route 66
How Long: 20 Days
The Ultimate Road Trip on the ‘Main Street USA’ from
Chicago to Santa Monica & featuring some great hotels
The romance of Route 66 continues to captivate people around the world running between Chicago and Los Angeles for over 2448 miles
Tour Operator: Scenic Car Tours
Available: 21st May - 9th June 2017
The romance of Route 66 continues to captivate people around the world running between Chicago and Los Angeles for over 2448 miles, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most archetypal roadside scenes. If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”
DAY 1 – Direct flights from London to Chicago – Upon arrival at Chicago O’Hare airport collect your car rental & proceed to your overnight hotel located in Joliet on the outskirts of Chicago, Here you’ll be able to make your final arrangements for your historic ‘road trip’ after settling in. Overnight at the Best Western Joliet Inn & Suites
DAY 2** – Joliet, Nr Chicago to Springfield, IL (165 miles) – Most of today will be spent traveling through Illinois farmlands on your way to Springfield, the Illinois State Capital, is Abraham Lincoln country. He left here to serve as President of the United States during the most awful period in American history, the Civil War and returned as a fallen hero, a casualty of the same war. New Salem where Lincoln lived and worked for six years has been reconstructed. Costumed interpreters bring the village alive. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is the centerpiece of a four block historic neighborhood. The President’s Tomb, Presidential Library and original law office are also open for touring.
Overnight at the Best Western Clearlake Plaza
DAY 3 – Springfield to St Louis, MO (100 miles) – From Springfield, it’s only a couple of hours drive to St Louis.the crossroads where highways from Chicago, Kansas City, Memphis, Nashville, and Indianapolis meet. As you cross from Illinois into Missouri you’ll be crossing the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge. Be sure to stop at Ted Drew’s Frozen Custard, serving Route 66 travelers since 1929. In St. Louis, the original Route 66 tracked through town very near the Gateway Arch and we definitely recommend riding the elevator inside Arch to the top of the 630 foot structure. Spectacular views of the Mississippi River await. In the evening, you can catch up with the St. Louie Blues, which were born right here and taste the fruits of Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewerThe city was originally the focal point of Indian trails that ran all across the US and the jumping off point for Lewis and Clark’s Expedition of Discovery to open the West through the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. It will also be your jumping off point to points south and west, as you begin your journey through the wide open spaces. Saint Louis is one of the largest cities in the USA with a metropolitan population of over 2.8 million.
Overnight at the Best Western Kirkwood Inn
DAY 4 – The day at leisure in St Louis – Founded in 1764 Saint Louis became a major port on the Mississippi River and even hosted the Olympic Games in 1904. The Gateway Arch commemorates the settlement of America’s West and it was from here that countless pioneers set out to conquer the wild frontier. Stop at Ted Drewes, an Iconic Route 66 attraction, and try a ‘Concrete’ a thick milkshake made from vanilla frozen custard. Overnight at the Best Western Kirkwood Inn or St Louis Inn
DAY 5 – St Louis to Springfield, MO (210 miles) – Route 66 from St. Louis to Springfield, Missouri takes you through the lush rolling hills of the Missouri Ozark Mountains. The road follows the Great Osage Trail, a major Indian path across the state and a route used by Jess James, of famed James Gang fame, who locals knew as ‘just a nice Missouri boy!’ One of the most famous attractions on Route 66, Meramec Caverns was also used by the James Gang as a hideout when escaping the law. Lester Dill who owns Meramec Caverns started the American advertising institution, the bumper sticker, when he gave away portable advertising to all who stopped by to visit. Much of the rural Ozark region, punctuated by the second oldest mountains in the world, looks much as it did when the first settlers arrived. Springfield has been bustling since the St. Louis-San Francisco railroad arrived in 1870. Even though most of Route 66 through here is now Interstate-44, remnants of the old road are everywhere just off the highway. Interestingly, Springfield is considered the mother of the Mother Road itself. It was here that Cyrus Avery of Oklahoma who fought for a route through Oklahoma met with John Woodruff of Springfield, to plan and promote the idea of an interregional link that would bring trade and access to the area. In honor, Springfield has preserved much of the old highway frontage along St. Louis Street as well as the ‘Chestnut Expressway.’ If you’re a fan of western lore, delve into the ‘Wild’ Bill Hickock legend surrounding his fellow gambler Dave Tutt. There are so many different stories no one really knows what happened.
Overnight at the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven
DAY 6 – Springfield to Oklahoma City, OK (310 miles) – Oklahoma was the home of Cyrus Avery, who came to be known as the ‘Father of Route 66.’ After he was appointed to head the commission that reviewed the routes of new national highways, he fought for several years to bring a major highway through his home state, knowing it would boost the economy. Ultimately, he was successful in the choice of a route that followed the National Old Trails Road in 1925, which just happened to cross right through the middle of Oklahoma. Woody Guthrie of ‘This Land is Your Land’ fame who hailed from Oklahoma, illustrated the icon which Route 66 had already become in a song that told of the plight of the Okies fleeing to California. The Los Angeles police stationed themselves at the Arizona border in 1934 to stop the flood of Dust Bowlers looking for a better life. Southwest of Springfield, you’ll begin to see why they would leave, as the landscape changes from the rich crop raising Midwest into the American southwest; red, dry and dusty. During the1930s, more than 15% of Oklahoma’s population took Route 66 to escape the constantly blowing sand. They picked up their belongings, their families, their hopes and their dreams and headed west. After World War II, the pretty Oklahoma City referred to by the Nat King Cole in ‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66’ rose to new heights during the oil boom (the State Capitol is the only one in the country with an oil well on the grounds), only to suffer a dramatic decline at the end of the 1980s. Since then, the city has gone through an astounding transformation which continued during the re-building which followed the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The monument to the victims is very moving and an adjacent museum tells the story. For nightlife, make sure you visit Bricktown, a former warehouse district that has been reinvigorated with restaurants, cafes, night clubs and a vibrant atmosphere.
Overnight at the Best Western PLUS Memorial Inn & Suites
DAY 7 – Oklahoma City to Amarillo, TX (260 miles) – For the traveller going west on Route 66, Texas is Cowboy Country. It is here that some of the most wonderful icons of Route 66, those ‘functional simple buildings that were adorned with all manner of exterior signs promising all things larger than life, still exist. Two headed snakes, reptile farms, alligators, wondrous caves and petrified mummies all vied for the attention of the vacationer in a unique side show that would have made P. T. Barnum proud. The tales carried home from these vacations would entice and amaze the neighborhood for months. Amarillo is one of the last places on earth where the Old West is just minutes away or depending on where you are, could be closer than that. The vast ranches of the Texas Panhandle, some numbering in the millions of acres are just outside of Amarillo. Shortly after being discovered by Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado in 1541, the area became a magnet for cattlemen and sheep herders from all points of the compass looking for fresh grazing grounds. As the Dust Bowl farmers headed to California, more cattlemen and cowhands moved in to claim the same territory for ranching. Step into ‘The Real Texas’ as the locals say. Today, Amarillo and the surrounding Panhandle area is still a unique blend of the Old West and the New West, populated by American cowboys, roughnecks and self made millionaires and the ever present oil derricks. Working ranches, essentially unchanged from the day-to-day operations of the late nineteenth century peacefully coexist with a vibrant twenty-first century economy powered by petroleum. More than 2 million cattle are still shipped out of Amarillo each year. Make sure to drive Amarillo Boulevard which is the original Route 66 that is still lined with block after block of strip shopping centers and roadside motels straight out of the 1950s. Overnight at the Best Western Santa Fe, Amarillo
DAY 8 – Amarillo to Tucamari, TX (120 miles) – For many people traveling the old Mother Road during its hey-day, New Mexico presented their first glimpse of the more exotic cultures of the Southwest. To people who had never left the Midwest before, it was as if they had entered another country. Back then, the Native American and Spanish cultures were much stronger, not having been diluted as much with contemporary life. It was a fascinating heritage of old Indian Pueblos that dated back to before European colonization and Santa Fe and Albuquerque that looked like they could have fallen straight out of Mexico with adobe buildings and a Spanish plaza in the middle town. What adventure and discovery these lands presented; a phenomenal contrast to Middle America. Unique to New Mexico also was the number of Mom and Pop businesses that sprung up along Route 66. Some are still there. More amazing are the materials used to create workable spaces for the businesses. Crates left over from World War II became the walls of a motor court. Oilcans became shingles used to roof a service station. Cast away bottles and roadside trash became the material to create a wondrous roadside attraction. Diners could be ordered from a catalog and shipped by railroad to their destination. These are the same icons we marvel at along the road that so represented America’s love affair with the automobile. As a result, New Mexico still has the most miles of original Route 66 that can be driven today. On your way between Amarillo and Tucumcari, New Mexico, be sure to stop at Cadillac Ranch to see the ten tail- finned Cadillacs buried in the sand. Once nicknamed ‘Six-Shooter Siding,’ Tucumcari, New Mexico got its start in 1901 as a rowdy railroad camp filled with saloons and outlaws. Soon, it became one of the many small railroad towns in the southwest with a flagging economy and diminishing population. Today, Route 66 is critically important, since it was the new businesses that were established along Route 66 which allowed Tucumcari to hang on, when other towns failed completely. Realizing that they have one of a handful of authentic roadside towns still intact and thriving has promoted a renaissance and revival among the gentlemen and businesses who just refused to let this wonderful piece of Americana and the American ‘road trip’ pass away entirely. Let the signs that read ‘Tucumcari Tonight!’ beckon you to this interesting place.
Overnight at the Best Western Discovery Inn
DAY 9 – Tucamari to Albuquerque, NM (180 miles) – Next up, Albuquerque – New Mexico’s capital city. Younger than its more northerly counterpart, Santa Fe, Albuquerque was founded in 1706 by a group of Spanish colonists who were granted permission by the King of Spa in to establish a new city on the river. Old Town Plaza was the result of Spain’s Laws of the Indies which required setting a plaza at the center of any city. This Plaza still fronts the San Felipe Neri Church complex built in 1793 and the El Camino Real, the main route through town that connected Santa Fe and Albuquerque with Mexico City. The Santa Fe Trail also criss-crossed the region in 1821. Today, both routes are National Scenic Byways and All American Roads. Historic neon signs still glow on the old Route 66 through Albuquerque which is now Central Avenue. Alongside the vintage signs, you’ll see new versions put up by businesses that are continuing the aesthetic traditions of the old Route 66, adorning their shops with bright buzzing neon. The famous Route 66 continues to guide visitors through Albuquerque from the volcanoes on the city’s far west side past the Rio Grande Botanical Garden and the Albuquerque Aquarium through the historic Old Towns and Downtown business districts and continuing eastward through the University of New Mexico and trendy Nob Hill, where you’ll find many of the city’s best restaurants, distinctive shops and boutiques. Overnight at the Best Western Rio Grande Inn/Executive Suites
DAY 10 – Day at leisure in Albuquerque – Enjoy a self-guided Historic Walking Tour of Albuquerque, passing from the Old ‘Villa Albuquerque’ in Old Town, to the Downtown Civic Plaza, created in 1972. In between, you will witness 300 years of history.
It will be challenging to determine which other places to visit. Sandia Peak Tramway takes you over 2.5 miles to the 10,000 foot peak of the Sandia Mountains. Visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque Museum and the National Hispanic Cultural Center to learn more about local culture and history. Petroglyphs at the Petroglyph National Museum and El Morro National Monument reveal the life of ancient peoples who inhabited the area. The National Atomic Museum and Trinity Site, the exact spot where the first atomic bomb was detonated tell the story of this momentous event in American history. Alternatively take a drive North East (approx 64 miles/1 hour) along Highway 25 to historic & cultural Santa Fe.
Overnight at the Best Western Rio Grande, Albuquerque, New Mexico
DAY 11 – Albuquerque to Gallup (139 miles) – Gallup lies on Interstate 40 (Historic Route 66), 139 miles west of Albuquerque and 25 miles east of the Arizona border. The city is the tour hub for the popular Four Corners Region, Gallup is also the largest Indian center in the Southwest and the ceremonial capital of Native America.There are many American peoples in the Gallup/Four Corners region. By far the most numerous are the Navajo, who are today widely regarded for their achievements in wool, with original Navajo rugs and blankets (both new and antique) sought by private collectors and museums throughout the world. Overnight at the Best Western PLUS Gallup Inn & Suites
DAY 12 – Gallup to Monument Valley, AZ (225 miles) – The Four Corners is the only place in the United States where four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) come together at one place. Here a person can stand in four states at the same time. The unique landmark is managed by the Navajo Nation and is open for visits from the public. Ship Rock as it is commonly known, is a 1700-foot eroded volcanic plume is sacred to the Navahos as Tse Bi dahi, or the Rock with Wings. This name comes from an ancient folk myth that tells how the rock was once a great bird that transported the ancestral people of the Navahos to their lands in what is now northwestern New Mexico. Mesa Verde is one of the best-preserved glimpses into North America’s pre-historic past. More than 600 cliff dwellings and 4,700 archaeological sites tell the story of the Ancestral Puebloans who made this their home up to the 13th Century. Today, Mesa Verde National Park is forever preserved as a United Nations World Heritage site – a place where ancient history, natural beauty and modern comforts come together to create a remarkable destination in Southwest Colorado. Monument Valley provides perhaps the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. The isolated red mesas and buttes surrounded by empty, sandy desert have been filmed and photographed countless times over the years for movies, adverts and holiday brochures. Because of this, the area may seem quite familiar, even on a first visit, but it is soon evident that the natural colors really are as bright and deep as those in all the pictures. The valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, interrupted by the crumbling formations rising hundreds of feet into the air, the last remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region. Overnight at the Gouldings Lodge, Monument Valley, Utah
DAY 13 – Monument Valley to Grand Canyon, AZ (184 miles) – So it’s not on the original Route 66, but it’s so close it would be a crime to pass it by! The Grand Canyon is an iconic symbol of the desert Southwest and a spectacle not to be missed. This incredible natural wonder is difficult to comprehend, even as you stand at the rim or hike down into the canyon. Carved over several millennia, this massive wonder of nature is 445 kilometres (277 miles) long, up to 29 kilometres (18 miles) wide and over 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) deep. Snaking through the canyon floor is the mighty Colorado River, which runs 2330 kilometres (1450 miles) through seven US states and two Mexican states. Overnight at the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, Arizona
DAY 14 – Day at leisure at the Grand Canyon – In your free time, we highly recommend a scenic flight over the canyon, which offers perspectives that you cannot see when exploring by foot. Also recommended is the film show at the IMAX Theater, which will give you a good overview of the area and how it developed. There are many walks that you can enjoy ranging from easy to moderate ones. There is also time to shop around for local souvenirs.Overnight at the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, Arizona
DAY 15 – Grand Canyon to Las Vegas, NV (270 miles) – Visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk, where you’ll stand on a platform made of glass, the rim of the Grand Canyon is 70 feet behind you, the other side of it is 3 miles in front of you, then if you dare to look down you’ll see ‘nothing’ but 2,000 feet of air between you and the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The historic Route 66 town of Seligman and the Snow Cap Diner make for a quirky stop en route for a view of the Hoover Dam, one of the greatest engineering achievements in human history, Hoover Dam continues to draw thousands of visitors each day, some 70 years after its creation. TAs you cross the dam you are crossing the border from Arizona to Nevada and then it’s just 35 miles Las Vegas ‘the entertainment capital of the world’. If it is gambling you want, you have come to the right place as nowhere else in the world will you find so many casinos in one place. Overnight at the Best Western PLUS Casino Royale
DAY 16 – At Leisure in Las Vegas – The Las Vegas Strip, now an All American Road and National Scenic Byway, is a sparkling fantasyland at the heart of the city. Its unique blend of exciting entertainment, scenic beauty, and lavishly landscaped resorts take you to a wide variety of exotic realms from a medieval castle to a Parisian sidewalk cafe, a lakeside Italian village, or a pyramid in ancient Egypt. Once you arrive on the Strip, however, you might be surprised to find that it’s also an enjoyable walking environment. Whether it’s pirates plundering, fiery volcanoes spouting or tropical gardens luring the weary, the Las Vegas Strip offers a variety of fascinating visual experiences. Las Vegas is home to some of the most spectacular shopping in the world. The Forum Shops at Caesars is Las Vegas’ premier luxury retail destination offering top retail, dining, entertainment, location and thematic Roman ambiance. And with two distinct locations together featuring 290 designer and name-brand outlet stores, Las Vegas Premium Outlets® is a must stop for savvy shoppers.
Overnight at the Best Western PLUS Casino Royale
DAY 17 – Day at Leisure in Las Vegas – Another day to explore the sights and attractions that are Las Vegas.
Overnight at the Best Western PLUS Casino Royale
DAY 18 – Las Vegas to Santa Monica, CA (290 miles) – Finally, after a journey through the Mojave Desert today, you’ll reach the bright lights of Hollywood. It may be hard to believe that the area around Barstow was once covered by immense lakes ringed with Native American villages. When silver was discovered in Calico, the area became a mining center that included borax mining. Route 66 is Main Street through Barstow. Just off Main on First Street, you’ll discover the original Harvey House which gave rise to hospitality complexes all over the southwest. Rainbow Basin about 15 miles north of Barstow is one of the lakebeds that existed between 10 and 30 million years ago. Calico Ghost Town is California’s official Silver Rush Ghost Town, preserving one of the few original mining camps in the Old West. One third of the town is original with the rest constructed in the ‘spirit’ of Calico’s Old West past. Today’s destination, Santa Monica is where the Mother Road meets the Pacific Ocean at the Pier. Many a dream has begun and ended on those beaches. Overnight at the Double Tree Suites by Hilton, Santa Monica
DAY 19 – AM at leisure in Santa Monica – Afternoon transfer to Los Angeles Int’l Airport to return your rental car (if applicable) before checking in for your flight back to London
DAY 20 – Arrive London