The term 'iconic' is often used with abandon to describe national landmarks; frequently, it does not quite fit with the reality. When it comes to Route 66, however, there are few other words that do it justice.
Also known as the Mother Road, Route 66 runs for some 2,448 miles across 3 time zones and 8 states. It offers travellers the chance not only to experience one of the world's most famous road trip destinations, but also to discover some of the USA's most interesting points in history, as well as a splash of authentic Americana.
Seligman, Arizona (Image credit: iStock)
Taking a journey along Route 66 will allow you to trace those monumental moments in the nation's history: the rapid expansion of commerce, fleeing the Dust Bowl, joining the war. As well as experiencing the echoes of that history, you can visit museums that will take you into it in more depth, as well as get a taste of classic Americana.
Being the first direct route from the Midwest to the Pacific, it also has almost limitless variety. Here are some of the cultural and historical highlights to look out for.
Springfield is one of the first stops along the route. The capital of Illinois, it is famous for being the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln - and the corndog. In fact, this is where the USA's love affair with drive-thru restaurants began - a piece of Americana that has spread across the pond.
The Gateway Arch (Image credit: iStock)
The Gateway Arch
Of huge historical significance, the Gateway Arch stands in commemoration of the settlement of the American West. You will find it in St Louis, marking the point from which pioneers set out to conquer the wilderness.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
In Oklahoma City, you will come across the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, where you can get to grips with the culture of the west. And indeed it is a fitting place to do so, with Oklahoma being the gateway to the Wild West. It houses a wonderful collection of fine art and artefacts, and will provide you with a fantastic grounding in the history and cultures of this fascinating part of the USA.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
Promising to provide a 'personal' journey through Route 66's history, this museum introduces you to the legends surrounding the road, from ideas and myths to the practicalities of turning the road from a concept into a reality. It also offers information about the Dust Bowl, as well as its iconic 1950s diners and much more.
Cadillac Ranch (Image credit: iStock)
Roadside attractions are, of course, a quintessentially American quirk, and you will encounter few finer in your travels than Cadillac Ranch. Here, you can enjoy the unusual site of 10 classic cars nose-down in the dirt, and decorated in graffiti. Visitors are, in fact, encourage to add their own art, so if you are feeling creative, pick up a spray can!
Known as the 'birthplace of historic Route 66', this small roadside town is a slice of true Americana delight. At its centre, Delgadillo's Snow Cap Diner, which has stood alongside Route 66 since 1953. Serving up hotdogs and super thick shakes, it's retro and kitschy decor epitomises American diner culture.