While Historic Route 66 might be past its original heyday, “America’s Main Street” still has plenty to offer anyone seeking a healthy dose of nostalgia, especially in Arizona.
Originally commissioned in 1926, the road stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles, increasing the flow of commerce across the West while the boom in travel helped boost the small towns along the route.
As more travelers passed through, diners, gas stations and roadside attractions began popping up, ultimately creating the places and memories that have endured for decades.
In Arizona, Route 66 passed through numerous towns on its way to California. In 1984, Interstate 40 opened and bypassed those communities.
But in the decades since, cities such as Williams, Winslow, Kingman and others have maintained their connection to the history of Route 66, offering visitors a blast to the past on each visit.
Thinking about a trip? Here are things to do on your next drive along Historic Route 66.
Holbrook: Arizona’s eastern gateway to Route 66
Located in the famous Painted Desert, Holbrook sits about 20 miles west of the Petrified Forest National Park and is the first major stop along Route 66 when driving in from the east.
The town might be most known for the iconic Wigwam Motel, built in the 1930s and modeled after the teepees used by Plains Indians.
Once part of the Wigwam Villages motel chain, the existing structure in Holbrook is only one of three remaining open today, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism.
The motel also served as an inspiration for the Cozy Cone Motel in the Pixar film “Cars.”
Winslow: Still standing on the corner
Legend has it that singer-songwriter Jackson Browne was headed to Sedona when his car broke down in Winslow. This inspired the lyric “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” in “Take It Easy,” a song made famous by the Eagles.
And while multiple sources, including the Arizona Department of Transportation, clarify that Browne actually was in Flagstaff when he was struck with the inspiration, it is still an enduring part of Winslow’s identity today.
The Standin’ on the Corner Park sits on the corner of Second Street and North Kinsley Avenue and features a life-sized statue of a man with a guitar, just steps away from a red flatbed Ford parked at the curb — bringing the song lyrics to life.
Every September, the park is home to a two-day festival to celebrate the iconic music that thrust Winslow into the American conscience.
Williams: Arizona’s last Route 66 city
Williams sits less than 40 miles to the west of Flagstaff and has the unique distinction as the final stop in Arizona to be bypassed by I-40 after a hard-fought court battle. In the 30 years since, the city has preserved its historic connection to the road and its travelers.
Williams is home to an expansive collection of memorabilia and nostalgia-inducing sights. In an era dominated by social media, the small but bustling downtown provides plenty of Instagram-able options, from an extensive collection of neon signs and large public murals to retro shops and restaurants that make the perfect backdrop.
Kingman: A Route 66 revitalization
Kingman originally sprang to life when the railroad made its way west, but the city experienced yet another economic boom when Route 66 brought a new class of travelers.
You can stop by the Arizona Route 66 Museum to learn more about the evolution of travel in America and then hop over to the Locomotive Park across the street, where you can climb into Steam Engine #3759 as modern trains roll by on nearby tracks.
The historic downtown is undergoing a major upgrade focused on connecting today’s new businesses to the city’s storied past. The project, expected to be complete by May 2024, aims to develop a unique theme and identity for Kingman’s city center.
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