A few years ago — before starting this blog — Kevin and I hit the road on Route 66 driving all the way from California into Arizona. Route 66 is like taking a time machine back to the 1950’s. It’s a slice of a bygone era — a time before the interstate freeways and overpasses that now dominate LA. For this itinerary, we began in Winslow, Arizona, and traced our way west. It’s a packed itinerary (as always!), but we guarantee you won’t be bored.
Stop 1: Standing on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona
The last time Kevin and I drove Route 66, we skipped over Winslow, Arizona. So this time, we took my parents’ advice — not only visiting Winslow but staying overnight at the historic La Posada Hotel.
In the 1920s, the Fred Harvey Company decided to build a major hotel in Winslow given its prominence as the headquarters for the Santa Fe Railway. Plus, it was a convenient stop for trains traveling between Los Angeles and Chicago, with the hotel’s doors literally just steps from the tracks.
The hotel entertained a long list of celebrities, presidents and foreign dignitaries. In fact, all of the rooms are labeled after the notable guests such as Albert Einstein, film critic Leonard Maltin (where we stayed), Amelia Earhart, Clark Gable and Gene Autry just to name a few.
If you can’t spend the night, you’ll at least want to grab a meal at The Turquoise Room, which serves regional contemporary Southwestern cuisine. We took the advice of my parents and got a seat by the window, where we could watch the trains pass by. The restaurant has been lauded by Conde Naste and National Geographic as one of the top restaurants in the state. We had a hard time choosing what to order, but their specialty corn and black bean soup is not to be missed!
Fred Harvey, whose company built the hotel, also wanted to provide exceptional dining and service to the railroad passengers. And the story goes that the male waiters couldn’t keep up to Harvey’s high standards. So he began hiring women and soon introduced an all-female wait staff known as the “Harvey Girls.” Kevin and I even checked out the documentary, playing on a loop, in the hotel’s main hallway that explains the basic rules of becoming a “Harvey Girl,” which required them to be well-mannered, neat in appearance, and educated through the eighth grade. It made us think — if only some of the places we’ve eaten at over the years had a quarter of those standards!
While the hotel is certainly the big draw to Winslow, you won’t want to miss the infamous corner that inspired the 1972 Eagles hit “Take it Easy.”
The famous (and very hummable song) helped put Winslow back on the tourism map when the park was built in 1999. You won’t have to walk more than 10 steps to hear the famous song blasting from the speakers of a nearby gift shop. The shop owners said that visitors will line up in the warmer months just to get a snap of themselves with the sign. If you’re hungry, grab a bite on the opposite corner at Sipp Shoppe. Kevin was a big fan, though held back on ordering a milkshake at 9 am (no matter how much he wanted to!).
Stop 2: Explore the Ghost Town of Two Guns
No matter how many abandoned properties or ghost towns we’ve seen on the West Coast, we still find them pretty eerie. And Two Guns definitely did not disappoint. This is a very easy spot to access, located off the main highway heading towards Flagstaff. I even saw it from the road, which is what inspired me to wake up Kevin and head out to explore.
While researching our trip for some unique stops, I actually came across a longer post on the place on the Atlas Obsura blog. Once a trading post, the blog explains the story of Two Guns is like a modern-day Hamlet – murder, madness, and supernatural superstition dotting its colorful history. Apparently, the two owners got into a fight (with one shooting the other) and the survivor was mauled not once but twice by mountain lions. Today you’ll find ruins of the zoo, a gas station and other parts of the trading post. After reading some of the history, you’ll begin to think the place is cursed, too. Plus, we read there can be some shady characters around (but not when we visited). Regardless, we snapped a few photos and got back on the road…quickly!
Stop 3: Get Caffeinated in Flagstaff
Flagstaff is another perfect stop to break up the trip. Plus, the downtown has plenty of fantastic shops such as the Bright Side Bookshop that has a wide range of new books and gifts. But we personally loved all the coffee shops in town and walked from one store to the next sampling coffee and brownies. Our favorite was Steep, which was packed with students inside with their laptops on the free wifi.
Stop 4: Go Wild at Bearizona in Williams
By far, Bearizona was the highlight of our trip on Route 66. Kevin didn’t know what to expect but soon was my wide awake, action photographer! Bearizona, located in Williams, Arizona (30 minutes from Flagstaff), is a drive through park where you’ll get to see North American animals (elk, deer, bears, wolves, etc) in their natural habitats. Cost is $22 for adults and discounts for seniors, elders and military.
The staff seems to take great care of these beautiful animals. We happened to visit on the day of a massive snow storm — and counted about 15 workers out shoveling the roads. As we pulled into the park, I wasn’t exactly sure what we’d do if the car got stuck in the bear enclosure. After all, this would be a typical scenario on one of our road trips!
After driving through the enclosures, which took us about 35 minutes, we parked in their lot where you can continue to walk around like a typical zoo. Make your way to the massive gift shop, where they have a model train and restaurant. But keep on going and follow the signs to see the black jaguar.
Stop 5: Chow Down in Seligman
Continue your journey on Route 66, driving along the windy roads, until you hit the town of Seligman. This one road community has a nice mix of tourist shops and dining options. We began to get hungry. We first tried visiting Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In, which is one of the original businesses along Route 66, but it was closed for the low season (typically high season is May – October).
Instead, we walked just across the street to the Road Runner Restaurant, which had a shockingly huge menu. We recommend sticking to the pizzas or the roast beef panini. You can also spend the time shopping at the large gift shop while you wait to eat. Um, you’ll know where to find me.
Stop 6: Shopping Galore in Kingman
Besides driving, you’ll find a lot of shopping around Route 66. Kingman is one of the larger communities along the route. If you have the time, you should try visiting the Route 66 Museum. We didn’t get a chance to check it out, but read it does a fantastic job giving the history and back story to “The Mother Road.” If you have more time, there are several nice shops located along Beale Street such as The Farmhouse, along with coffee shops like Beale Street Brews and even a cozy wine bar with live music called Diana’s Cellar Door. We could have easily spent more time here – in fact, we’d recommend it if you have more than just a day.
Stop 7: Dodge Burros in Oatman
Finally, no trip along Route 66 is complete without a stop in Oatman, a town known for its wild burros. Oatman is a fun place to visit — an authentic old western town with burros roaming the streets and gunfights staged on weekends.
Oatman’s “wild” burros are the descendants of the burros brought here by miners in the late 1800’s. When the miners no longer needed them, they were set free. But guess what? They didn’t go very far. Each morning, the burros come into town looking for food and wander the streets looking for tourists to eat. Just kidding, no tourist has been eaten yet. But visitors can buy carrots and other snacks at one of the many shops in town and feed them by hand. Though, hand sanitizer not included!
Clark Gable and Carol Lombard also spent their honeymoon at the Oatman Hotel. While no longer a hotel to stay overnight, you can still walk upstairs and along the rickety wooden floors to see the suite. And apparently the hotel is a very popular spot for ghost hunters. So if you feel a chill, you’ll know why!
You made it! The trip makes a great combo with the Grand Canyon or even a visit to Las Vegas, which shockingly is just a few hours away from Kingman (and you could do this trip in reverse ending up in Winslow). Stay tuned for more road trip and weekend ideas!