Route 66 will continue to surprise you on this leg as you travel through Oklahoma and on into Texas, the Lonestar State. The modern cities are still awash with memorabilia and memories from the past, and even the smaller towns such as El Reno and Elk City are still proudly identifying themselves as Route 66 attractions. Added curiosities along this leg include an eerie abandoned ghost town and the ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’ just outside your next major destination.
Tulsa, Oklahoma is a hive of activity, with both contemporary attractions and throwbacks from Route 66’s rich past. It blossomed in the 20s and 30s during the oil boom, and much of the architecture and designs from that time remain to this day. To focus on attractions related to this strip of road through America, start with a visit to the Route 66 Village on Southwest Boulevard, which is an open-air museum that makes you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time to see the town in its former glory. Cain’s Ballroom has been around since 1924, and while it was once a dime-a-dance hall, it’s now a historic, premiere performance venue. The Tulsa Art Deco Museum is worth visiting just to see the structure itself, but what’s inside includes much more from this bygone era.
Leaving Tulsa, continue following the Interstate 44 on to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City is the biggest town along this leg, and it’s also something of a treasure trove for Route 66 fans. The town is known as a cowboy capital, so the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a must for old-school history buffs with more than 28,000 Western and American Indian artifacts and artworks. The Oklahoma City National Memorial is an emotional tribute to the city’s bombing in 1995 that changed the city forever. As for specific Route 66 attractions, the Milk Bottle Grocery is one of the most famous, with its massive milk bottle atop a tiny red brick building. The Tower Theatre closed down in 1989, but as part of a Route 66 Preservation Project, the venue is set to reopen for public use in 2016 while still keeping its retro facade and atmosphere. And it’s hard to miss Ann’s Chicken Fry House, with its pink Cadillac parked outside and 50s theme inside.
When you drive away from Oklahoma City, you’ll be saying goodbye to the I-44 and continuing on the I-40 towards El Reno to the west.
While El Reno has some great antique stores as a nod to Route 66 among other attractions, there’s really only one thing the town is famous for - hamburgers. On the first Saturday of each May, the city puts on the Fried Onion Burger Day Festival (it’s a thing), and cooks up a ginormous burger that weighs 750 pounds. There’s only so much burger a person can handle, however, so the festival also includes a car show, a craft show, and live entertainment. If you’re in town throughout the rest of the year, don’t drive through without stopping at one of the burger joints that sits on Route 66 and helps give the town its reputation. Sid’s Diner, Robert’s Grill, and Johnnie’s Grill have all been around for decades, each offering the fried onion burgers the town is known for.
Foss is a town that isn’t really a town. It once boasted a population of more than 500 people, but after the building of the I-40 bypassed the town, it quickly dwindled away. Slowly, the inhabitants of Foss packed up and left, leaving empty shells of houses throughout the town. Today, it’s a fascinating ‘ghost town’, an eerie place where you can wander around the ruins. The only places left standing are the old church that was built in 1894, and the prison.
Elk City in Oklahoma is roughly half way along Route 66 - the perfect place to check out the National Route 66 & Transportation Museum. The museum is like a Route 66 in miniature, as it takes you through the entire road trip of eight states, complete with information about attractions and history along the way. You can cruise down the route in a pink Cadillac from the 50s, or watch a drive-in black and white movie whilst sitting in a classic Chevy Impala. It wouldn’t be a Route 66 attraction without something ‘giant’, so don’t forget to grab a photo with the two-storey kachina doll, Myrtle, out the front of the museum. Also on site are the Old Town Museum with artifacts from early pioneer life, the Farm & Ranch Museum, and the Blacksmith Museum.
The Palo Duro Canyon State Park is only 30 minutes south of Amarillo, but it’s the perfect last stop on this leg of the trip. They call it the ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’, but while it might look similar, the Palo Duro Canyon has many attributes that makes it special all on its own. Humans have lived in the canyon for an estimated 12,000 years, and in that time, it was a hunting ground for large animals such as giant bison and mammoth. At 120 miles long, it’s a little under half the length of the Grand Canyon, but this 20-mile wide and 800-feet deep canyon is still sizable. Its name translates as ‘hard wood’ in Spanish, and today you can visit the park for camping, hiking, and biking - as well as sightseeing.