From the quirky to the classic, Oklahoma’s Route 66 has something for all including one-of-a-kind photo ops and unique eats
Route 66 in Oklahoma stretches 432 of the most iconic portions of the highway. “Over 100 unique attractions, restaurants and don’t-miss surprises await you on the Mother Road in our state,” said Todd Stallbaumer, Consumer and Trade marketing director for the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department.
Ever thought of completing the classic, all-American dream of a road trip with your group? Route 66’s horizontal highway is 2,400 miles of memorable sights, open fields, and historic relics enjoyed by all ages. Beginning in downtown Chicago and ending in Santa Monica, this route stretches through eight states. While there is much to see along this historic route, there’s one specific portion that should not be missed. Hint – it runs through Oklahoma.
GET YOUR LAUGHS ON ROUTE 66 IN OKLAHOMA
From giant gas to giant milk, you can’t miss the larger-than-life attractions along Route 66 in Oklahoma. One of the biggest of them all is The Blue Whale of Catoosa. While this attraction is visible from the road, we recommend pulling in, taking some photos, and bringing some lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables nearby.
As you continue on your drive, you may cross paths with the Space Cowboy of Tulsa. This 21-foot, blue-eyed security guard who protects Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios. The “Muffler Man” is a large, fiberglass sculpture originally used as an advertisement in the 1960s. He has been transformed and installed by artist Mark Cline and sculptor Chris Wollard, who both collaborated with American Giants to restore and reinvent the vintage hero. Step inside the “souvenir shop on steroids” to find the ultimate kitschy (yet somehow still cool) token to document your adventure.
When your car needs a fill, pull off at the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum in Sapulpa, home of the World’s Largest Gas Pump, topping off at 66 feet. Imagination and hard work transformed an old, decommissioned Armory into this sweet dream of a garage. It features three huge garage doors that open up to a collection of rare antique cars located on the former drill room floor.
The Blue Whale of Catoosa is one of many roadside attractions on Oklahoma’s Route 66.
EXPLORE OKLAHOMA’S CULTURE AND HISTORY
Roll down the windows, crank up the radio and travel in nostalgic style with a stop in Miami, Oklahoma at the historic Coleman Theatre. Remarkable melodies from 1929 Wurlitzer pipe organ transports patrons back to the Roaring 1920s when the Spanish Mission Revival building was constructed to host vaudeville shows and silent movies. Sparkling chandeliers and dark mahogany walls add to the grandeur of the opulent Louis IV décor.
Rope tricks, leading acts, and thoughtful essays offer a brief glimpse into a day in the life of the outspoken Oklahoma statesman, Will Rogers. Claremore’s stop on Route 66 is home to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, offering an in-depth and interactive impression of this Oklahoma legend. The museum displays rare antique movie posters and daily screenings of Rogers’ most famous films. Before heading out, take a visit to Roger’s tomb, located on the memorial grounds. To do so, schedule a group tour for only $5 per person on the Will Rogers Memorial Museum website.
Another historic staple of Route 66 in Oklahoma includes the Mother of all Mother Road museums. Enjoy a real slice of Americana at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton. Learn how the highway impacted American culture and won the hearts of road warriors. Each exhibit room is flavored by legendary music in keeping with its particular theme, like “Will Rogers Highway” by native son Woody Guthrie and the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” This museum also houses the world’s largest curio cabinet, a unique collection of items found on Route 66 throughout the years.
The National Route 66 & Transportation Museum in Elk City takes travelers on a virtual journey through each of the eight states that Route 66 passes through, winding from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. See quirky roadside attractions and get a real feel for the Route 66 road trip experience. Engage with classic automobiles that incorporate interactive and hands-on displays.
DRIVING UP AN APPETITE ALONG ROUTE 66 IN OKLAHOMA
All this exploring is sure to strike up an appetite, so make it a point to stop by Rock Cafe in Stroud, right off Route 66 in Oklahoma. This diner was already famous for its rugged stone face, but when a team of Pixar animators came for dinner, they left with a vision for the animated movie Cars. Pixar producers met a local celebrity, Dawn Welch, the charismatic owner of the Rock Cafe, and had their inspiration for their Cars character: Sally Carrera. In addition to this real-life Sally, the Rock Cafe is famous for its iconic grill, Betsy. More than five million burgers and chicken fried steaks have been seared to perfection on her 200-pound frame over the last 75 years. This cafe is a must-see, decorated with souvenirs left by the Pixar crew and gifts received from Disney. Meet the “Real Sally” when you visit the diner, which is open seven days a week.
For pure refreshment and entertainment, pop the top on one of 700 signature sodas at one of the newest attractions on Mother Road in Arcadia. A 66-foot LED soda pop sculpture at POPS projects a multi-colored beam in the night sky, lighting the path for thirsty travelers. The sleek, sophisticated oasis stocks more than 12,000 bottles of carbonated concoctions. The diner features old-fashioned milkshakes, juicy burgers and the famous chicken fried steak. POPS is open seven days a week. After you fill up on American classics, top off your tank and hit the road.
Lucille’s Roadhouse is another must-see on your Route 66 adventure. The original was built in 1927, just a few blocks down the road, and is now a historic, out-of-service gas station. The new Lucille’s is an all-American diner that serves the classic staples, including hamburgers, homemade mashed potatoes, and French fries.
TAKING THE SCENIC ROUTE
There’s so much to see on Route 66 in Oklahoma, for the rich history, food, and attractions make it one of the most iconic portions of the Mother Road. For a memorable and enriching experience, take a drive through America’s past and as Lightning McQueen says to Sally Carrera, “Stop and stay a while!”
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Originally written by Kathy Nolan
Updated by Elise Mackanych