Top Arizona Attractions to Explore in 5 Cities
Historic Route 66 is about to turn 95 years old.
On November 11, 1926, US 66 opened from Chicago to Los Angeles. The route was designed with two main objectives: to increase the flow of trade from east to west and to serve as an economic engine for the small towns along the route. It has come to be known as “America’s Main Street”.
Route 66 has certainly turned out to be a boon to the cities of Arizona. Most were small railroad stops, but the arrival of Mother Road encouraged expansion as they built shopping districts along the busy boulevard.
Freed from the constraints and schedules of a train, travelers have made their own choices. Services such as gas stations, garages, restaurants, motor courts and roadside attractions have sprung up. Route 66 would shape the development of Arizona communities for decades.
From east to west, here are five Arizona cities to explore along Route 66.
Frankly weird: 10 of Arizona’s most unusual roadside attractions
Winslow: Standing on the corner
Travelers once passed through Winslow in such large numbers that Route 66 had to be split into separate one-way streets to manage them. When Interstate 40 drained the flow of traffic, the city had a hard time. But when Winslow appeared in the 1972 Eagles song “Take It Easy,” he was fortunate enough to reclaim a small portion of the prosperity.
The city created a park with a bronze sculpture of a troubadour anchoring a street corner. A large mural filled with other elements – the name of the town, a girl in the flatbed Ford – and now people come from all over the world to stand on the corner of Winslow, Arizona. More than 100,000 per year seek this musical table. Such a beautiful sight to see.
Eating in Winslow: The Turquoise Room at La Posada Hotel offers world-class cuisine, often based on indigenous and neighboring ingredients. Large bay windows offer a splendid view of the grounds and the tracks (928-289-2888, https://theturquoiseroom.com). A relaxed bar, Relic Road Brewing Co., brings a welcome pub atmosphere to Winslow. It serves fresh chuck burgers, sandwiches and a full range of starters (928-224-0045, https://www.facebook.com/brewery2017).
Stay in Winslow: Hotel La Posada opened in 1930, the last of the major railway hotels. Closed for years and intended for the wrecking ball, it has been rescued and restored to its former grandeur as an airy hacienda-style building filled with artistic flourishes (928-289-4366, https://laposada.org) .
Don’t miss: The Old Trails Museum is home to a wealth of exhibits including Native American pottery, railroad artifacts, Route 66 memorabilia, and an impressive collection of fossils (928-289-5861, https://oldtrailsmuseum.org).
Check it out: Arizona Route 66: Favorite Places, Hidden Gems
Flagstaff: a mountain getaway
Multiple Old Double Six lines enter from the east. Coming from Winona (you haven’t forgotten, right?) On Townsend Winona Road is the pre-1947 stretch.
Or take exit 204 from I-40 near Walnut Canyon and cross the railway overpass. This was the main stem of Route 66 in the following years. There are remnants of the Mother Road era, such as the Museum Club, a log cabin, and Miz Zip’s, an old-fashioned restaurant famous for its pies, as well as several mid-century motels.
The downtown flag vibrates with energy. Backing onto the Northern Arizona University campus, the downtown area contains an eclectic collection of shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars, with a microbrewery just steps away, most still housed in historic buildings.
Eating in Flagstaff: MartAnne’s Burrito Palace, a Flagstaff institution renowned for its breakfast chilaquiles, also serves dinner with creative Mexican fare (928-773-4701, https://martannes.com). Satchmo’s at East Flag combines barbecue and Cajun cuisine, a tasty combination. Mouth-watering sandwiches dominate the menu, including pulled pork and blackened catfish po’boys (928-774-7292, http://www.satchmosaz.com).
Stay in Flagstaff: Be a part of the downtown scene and sleep at the Weatherford Hotel. Open since 1900, the property has been beautifully renovated and quite bristling with pubs, ballrooms and panoramic balconies (928-779-1919, https://weatherfordhotel.com).
Don’t miss: The Walk This Talk audio tour explores a forgotten alignment of Route 66 where you’ll hear tales of old auto courts, brothels, and unsolved murders. The self-guided tour begins near the north side entrance to the Flagstaff Visitor Center. Dial 928-218-2926 at the Walk This Talk panel. https://www.flagstaffarizona.org/blog/walk-this-talk.
Free and cheap in Flagstaff: Walking tours, murals, wildlife viewing and more
Williams: the neon boulevard
Named after Bill Williams, a wandering highlander, this town in the pines is inextricably linked to both the railroad and Route 66.
Williams exploded after the Santa Fe Railroad built a passenger line to the Grand Canyon, resulting in an influx of tourism. Of course, the arrival of Route 66 and the increasing flow of automobile traffic ended up killing rail service to the canyon.
On October 13, 1984, after a legal battle, Williams became the last Route 66 town to be bypassed by the freeway. When things looked bleak, the Grand Canyon Railroad started operating in 1989. This helped Williams hold on until the rebirth of Mother Road. Today, Williams feels vibrant again with a mix of shops, restaurants, motels and saloons along Route 66 under a glittering canopy of neon signs.
Eating in Williams: Pine Country Restaurant is known for home cooking and delicious artistic pies artfully displayed near the door, so you’re tempted the moment you walk in (928-635-9718, https://www.pinecountryrestaurant.com). The Red Raven offers refined and relaxed cuisine with an emphasis on freshness. Don’t forget to sample the impressive wine list (928-635-4980, https://www.redravenrestaurant.com).
Stay in Williams: The Lodge on Route 66 is a beautifully rehabilitated motel that features wood and travertine floors, solid wood furnishings and plush bedding, with a Southwestern flavor (877-563-4366, http: //www.thelodgeonroute66 .com).
Don’t miss: Bearizona is a drive-through wildlife park that offers visitors a close encounter with animals, large and small, surrounded by ponderosa pines. Talking with wardens, bus tours, and animal encounters make Bearizona an educational and entertaining experience (928-635-2289, https://www.bearizona.com).
Bearizona Animal Park: Here are the novelties and how much it costs to visit
Seligman: historic heart of Route 66
In 1985, just a year after the freeway bypassed Williams, US 66 was decertified. All the panels have been removed and it has been removed from the maps. America had lost its main street.
A few years later, local business owners led by city barber Angel Delgadillo formed the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, the first of its kind. They were successful in lobbying the state to designate Route 66 as a historic route. This provided the model for all other states to follow. This is how the Mother Road survives today, as Historic Route 66, state by state.
Angel Delgadillo: After 30 years, still the guardian angel of Route 66
Eating in Seligman: Grab a burger or tacos at Snow Cap Drive-In, opened by Juan Delgadillo, Angel’s brother, and still family run. And don’t be surprised if you have a few laughs – Juan was famous for his gags (928-422-3291). Or try hearty international cuisine at Westside Lilo’s Cafe. Don’t leave without tasting the succulent carrot cake (928-422-5456, https://www.westsidelilos.com).
Stay in Seligman: The Supai Motel offers clean and comfortable rooms with retro charm. Don’t expect luxury, but an authentic yesteryear experience and a large classic neon sign to welcome you (928-422-4135).
Don’t miss: Visit Angel Delgadillo in his former barber shop, now the Route 66 gift shop and visitor center. Mother Road’s “Guardian Angel” tells tales of the road to an avid traveling audience (928-422 -3352, https://www.route66giftshop.com).
Kingman: The Western Anchor of Route 66
Nestled in a long valley between the Cerbat and Hualapai mountain ranges, Kingman was a railway hub that served as a major supply point for the surrounding mines and ranches.
It all started in 1857 with the march of camels and men crossing the present-day Kingman. The expedition was led by Lieutenant Edward Beale to study a route. The Beale Wagon Road paved the way for railroading through Arizona and eventually Route 66.
Make your first stop at the Powerhouse Visitor Center. Visit the Arizona Route 66 Museum housed in an imposing concrete structure. In Kingman, Route 66 is also known as Andy Devine Avenue, named after the hoarse-voiced actor who grew up here.
More history of Route 66: Hackberry General Store fuels Mother Road nostalgia
Eating in Kingman: Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner is a retro restaurant offering full breakfasts, burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and homemade root beer (928-718-0066). In addition to house beers, Rickety Cricket Brewing serves a menu of snack foods, stacked burgers, and gourmet pizzas (928-263-8444, https://www.ricketycricketbrewing.com).
Stay in Kingman: Motel El Trovatore, a pre-WWII motor court, pays homage to guests such as Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean with stylish themed rooms. Let the towering neon sign on the roof be your flagship (928-753-6520, https://www.eltrovatoremotel.com).
Don’t miss: Opposite the power plant is Locomotive Park with a big old-fashioned steam engine and historical information signs.
Route 66 Travel Guide
Roger Naylor is the author of “Arizona Kicks on Route 66”. The book focuses exclusively on the Arizona portion of the Mother Road, the amazing scenery, history, and towns, plus some great side trips. Buy it at https://www.rogernaylor.com.
Find the journalist on https://www.rogernaylor.com. Or follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RogerNaylorinAZ or Twitter @AZRogerNaylor.
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