From the quirky to the classic, Oklahoma’s Route 66 has something for all
Planning to motor west? Get your kicks at quirky landmarks and shoot plenty of Instagram-worthy pictures along the Mother Road. Take the Great American Road Trip along Oklahoma’s 432-mile stretch of black asphalt lined with iconic attractions on Route 66. “
“Oklahoma boasts the most original drivable miles of the world’s most famous road. 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.
Roll down the windows, crank up the radio and travel in nostalgic style with a stop in Miami at the historic Coleman Theatre. Remarkable melodies from a 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.
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He never met a man he didn’t like. Learn more about the outspoken Oklahoma statesman at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. Rope tricks, leading acts and thoughtful essays offer a brief glimpse into a day in the life of this largerthan-life character. Don’t just read the rare authentic movie posters that cover museum walls. Last year, for the 100th anniversary of Will’s first movie, the Will Rogers Memorial Foundation completed a successful Red Carpet fundraising event to restore the 36year old onsite theatre. Watch Will Rogers in his famous films that are screened daily using interactive touchscreens. Before riding off into the sunset, pay your respects to the legendary performer with a visit to his tomb, located on the memorial grounds. Schedule a group tour (10 or more guests) two weeks in advance with a guide for $5 per person.
Some people call him the Space Cowboy of Tulsa. He might not be Steve Miller’s gangster of love, but this 21-foot, blue-eyed security guard who protects Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios is out of this world. The “Muffler Man” is a large, fiberglass sculpture originally used as advertisement in the 1960s. He has been recently 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.
Fill ‘er up! That’s a tall order at the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum in Sapulpa. Fortunately, the 10,000-square foot dream garage is also home to the World’s Tallest Gas Pump, topping off at 66 feet. Imagination and hard work transformed an old decommissioned Armory into a sweet dream featuring three huge garage doors that open to house rare antique cars on the former drill room floor. On June 24, the museum will be promoted as an official pit stop in the 2020 Great American Race.
Tires and toddlers screech when they pull in to the Rock Café in Stroud. The diner was already famous for its rugged stone face, constructed with rock that was removed when the Mother Road was built. In 2001, a team of Pixar animators came to dinner and found another local celebrity, ready for her close-up. Pixar creatives were inspired to develop a Cars character based on Dawn Welch, the charismatic owner. The only thing more popular than the real-life Sally Carrera is Betsy the Grill. More than five million burgers and chicken fried steaks have been seared to perfection on her 200-pound frame over the last 75 years. The café décor features souvenirs left by the Pixar crew and gifts received from Disney. Meet the “Real Sally” when you visit the diner, 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 the 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.
Pull over to visit 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. If you break it, you buy it. Look, but don’t touch vintage souvenirs in the “world’s largest curio cabinet,” a unique collection of items found on Route 66 throughout the years. Each exhibit room is flavored by the legendary music in keeping with its particular theme, like “Will Rogers Highway” by native son Woody Guthrie and the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”
Follow the timeline of America’s Main Street and explore exhibits showcasing the history of the highway in each decade since its inception, starting with the route’s initial construction in the 1920s. Artifacts, signs, vehicles and memorabilia have survived to tell the story of the highway’s golden years, its eventual decline and the nostalgia that surrounds Route 66 today.
Unless you have unlimited time to explore the open road, it’s difficult to see and grasp the big picture. Fortunately, 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. It really does wind from Chicago to LA. See quirky roadside attractions and get a real feel for the Route 66 road trip experience. Experience classic automobiles with interactive and hands-on displays. Drive down Route 66 in a 1955 pink Cadillac and watch a black and white movie at the drive-in while sitting in a classic Chevy Impala.
By Kathy Nolan