Our Historic Route 66 Self Drive is a journey you’ll never forget, beginning in Chicago and ending at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. On the way you’ll experience classic Americana, hike in majestic national parks and visit some of the US’ most exciting and distinctive cities.
This 16 day self drive is an opportunity to travel the world’s most famous road. This is the highway millions of Americans used to migrate west during the Great Depression and continues to occupy an important place in American culture. Along the way you’ll see the classic neon signs, motels and gas stations that have starred in endless movies. Beginning in Chicago, America’s second city, you’ll travel over 3,000 km west, taking in the flat landscapes of the Texas Panhandle, the high deserts of New Mexico and the legendary beaches of southern California. Albuquerque offers a unique atmosphere, with its retro styling and adobe architecture, while pretty Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the US. In Las Vegas you can risk it all at the tables, see a mind-blowing magic show or visit the incredible Hoover Dam. On this self drive, you’ll have the freedom to decide what you want to do and when. This is sure to be the journey of a lifetime.
- Travel more than 3,000 km along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles
- Experience classic Americana along the way; taking in iconic diners, gas stations and motels
- Bet it all on black in Las Vegas or take in a fabulous show
- Explore the beautiful high deserts of New Mexico and Arizona
Start your Journey
Arrive in Chicago
Today you’ll arrive at Chicago International Airport, collect your hire car and make the drive to your accommodation. Depending on your time of arrival you may wish to head out and explore or spend the evening relaxing in your hotel.
This morning you can get out and explore the gothic grandeur of America’s Second City. Chicago rests on the banks of Lake Michigan and there are some great parks along its length where you can enjoy a stroll. Culture lovers should head to the iconic Arts Institute of Chicago, which boasts a world class collection of 19th and 20th century art.
There will be ample opportunities for eating in Chicago. Be sure to visit Lou Mitchell’s for breakfast for an authentic diner experience. Don’t forget to try a slice of deep dish pizza - an essential part of any visit to Chicago.
Chicago – St Louis
From Chicago you’ll head out to St Louis on the first section of Route 66. Here you’ll pass those quintessentially midwestern cornfields and lonesome prairies. All along Route 66 you’ll see roadside attractions. On this stretch is the Gemini Giant in Wilmington and the statue of lumberjack Paul Bunyon in Atlanta, Illinois.
You’ll arrive in St Louis in the afternoon. The city is known as the Gateway to the West and was the starting point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The famous St Louis Arch commemorates the journey. Check out the National Blues Museum for a fascinating insight into the history of this music. In the evening hit one of the city’s superb BBQ joints for delicious, hearty cuisine.
St Louis - Springfield
Today you’ll pass through the Ozark Highlands region, bound for Springfield, Illinois – the former home of Abraham Lincoln. En route, be sure to visit Meramec Caverns, a network of limestone caves once used as a hideout by outlaw Jesse James. He actually escaped from the law via the underground river.
When you reach Springfield you can visit Lincoln’s house, which stands in a conservation area that looks much as it did in the 19th century. Spend the evening in this pretty town and immerse yourself in its history.
Springfield – Tulsa – Oklahoma City
Leaving Springfield, you’ll drive on through the southeastern corner of Kansas for Oklahoma City. This section of the route includes much of the original road was built in the 1920s. En route you’ll stop in Tulsa, a city known for its fabulous art deco architecture. Visit Decopolis, Tulsa’s art deco museum, to discover more about the history of this movement and how the city adopted it.
You’ll arrive into Oklahoma City in the afternoon. The city boasts a wealth of classic Route 66 architecture, from motels to gas stations, in the distinctive atomic age style.
Oklahoma City – Amarillo
Driving out from Oklahoma City to Amarillo, Texas, you’ll see the land change as you enter the wide open plains of the Texas Panhandle. Around 200 years ago this region would have been filled with buffalo as far as the eye can see.
Take a detour to the town of Clinton to check out the Route 66 Museum, which is filled with memorabilia and artefacts that commemorate this iconic road. You’ll also pass plenty of other historic buildings, including Shamrock’s U-Drop Inn gas station and diner – an extraordinary art deco wonder that would look more at home in Paris or New York than out here on the plains.
Spend the evening in Amarillo, which is at the heart of cattle country. Meat lovers should visit the Big Texan Steak Ranch for dinner.
Amarillo - Albuquerque
As you leave Amarillo, you can drive by the famous Cadillac Ranch – an open air art installation of 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground. Passing on to Adrian you can stop and enjoy an “ugly crust” pie at the MidPoint Café - which claims to be the halfway point along Route 66. It’s also a great spot to pick up some Route 66 merchandise.
Later that day you’ll cross the border into New Mexico and arrive in to the state’s largest city of Albuquerque, which will be your base for the next three nights.
Albuquerque is built on the banks of the Rio Grande, the river that has historically separated the US from Mexico. The city is a fascinating place to explore. Downtown you’ll find Central Avenue, which boasts some historic buildings and classic signs that travellers on the original Route 66 would have been familiar with. The city’s Old Town features some amazing adobe architecture and some charming boutiques, restaurants and cafés. Foodies will love the many excellent Mexican restaurants here, perfect for a delicious dinner.
Albuquerque – Santa Fe – Albuquerque
Today you can spend the morning in Albuquerque before driving an hour north to the state capital of Santa Fe. This lovely Spanish colonial city was founded in 1610, making it the third oldest city in the US. It boasts an excellent cathedral and some good museums. Art lovers will appreciate the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which showcases the work of New Mexico’s most celebrated artist.
You’ll return to Albuquerque later that evening for a hearty dinner.
Albuquerque - Holbrook
It’s time to hit the road again, travelling the 420 km from Albuquerque to Holbrook, Arizona. The scenery is notably different as you leave New Mexico behind, with bright red rock mesas looming on the horizon.
Depending on the route you choose to take, the drive may take you through Petrified Forest National Park, a bizarre landscape of fossilized trees. You’ll discover ruins dating back thousands of years from the various peoples who called this place home. After spending a day exploring, head up to Kachina Point to watch the sunset over the Painted Desert.
Arrive in Holbrook in the evening, where you can stay at the Wigwam Motel, a kitschy roadside attraction that has been drawing visitors since the 1950s.
Holbrook – Grand Canyon/ Williams
Today you’ll leave Holbrook, heading for the Grand Canyon.
Meteor City, Arizona makes for an interesting stop along the way. This iconic geodesic dome was once a popular trading post. Nearby is the impressive Meteor Crater, which was created by an impact from space 50,000 years ago.
Driving on, you’ll reach the town of Williams, which is located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here you’ll find plenty of hiking trails and viewpoints where you can marvel at the unimaginable scale of this natural wonder.
Grand Canyon/ Williams – Las Vegas
Rise early to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, an unforgettable experience, before packing the car and heading west on the longest stretch of the original Route 66. You’ll pass several classic small towns on the trip, including Seligman. This place is filled with vintage cars, historic diners and 1950s style gas stations. Kingman is another worthy stop, offering an impressive Railway Museum.
As you arrive into Las Vegas nothing can prepare you for the assault on the senses. Even if you’re not much of a gambler, an evening on the Strip is a must.
Today you’ll have a full day to explore Las Vegas and its surroundings. Marvel at the casinos, with their over the top attractions designed to entice you in, watch one of the many Cirque du Soleil shows on the strip or take on the house at the tables. You’ll find some world class restaurants here, alongside cosy bars where you can sit back and enjoy the spectacle with a drink in hand. You can also take a trip out of town to see the majestic Hoover Dam, a vast engineering project in a beautiful setting.
Las Vegas – Santa Monica – Los Angeles Area
Today you’ll head southwest from Las Vegas, travelling through the Mojave Desert with its startling blue skies, cacti dotted hills and entrancing atmosphere. You can stop at Calico Ghost Town, a former silver mining centre long since abandoned.
At Barstow you can take in the Route 66 Museum, which includes objects from those who made it all the way to their destination.
As you arrive into Los Angeles, you’ll pass Hollywood and Beverly Hills en route to Santa Monica – where you can have your photo taken at the iconic “End of the Pier” sign.
Congratulations, you’ve just travelled the entirety of Route 66, a staggering journey of more than 3,000 km.
Los Angeles Area
Today you can spend the day relaxing by the pool or get out and about for one last day of exploration. Visit the beaches of Santa Monica for some sun worshipping or take a stroll around LA’s distinctive neighbourhoods. You may also choose to visit Universal Studios or Disneyland for one last shot of classic Americana.
Depart Los Angeles
Check out of your hotel and transfer to Los Angeles International Airport for your onward flight.
- International flights and airfare taxes
- Cost of accommodation (double room based on two people sharing) for a total of 15 nights (alternative but similar accommodation may be used at certain times of the year)
- Board basis: Room Only
- Car hire and insurance
- Visa arrangements and fees
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses, such as beverages, telephone calls, laundry, camera fees, spa and business facilities in the hotel
- Attractions and excursions
You might also like these
Take a look at these other inspiring itineraries. Our Destination Specialists would love to create something perfect for you.
New England Self Drive Holidays
Calgary To Vancouver Road Trip
There’s no question too small. Start planning your dream trip by talking to our Destination Specialists.
Sign up to our newsletter
Receive the latest travel inspiration and destination news.
How we tailor make your holiday
The Hayes & Jarvis Way
We've been tailor making holidays for 65 years. With over 60 destinations to choose from, talk to us and we'll listen to your travel ideas to create unforgettable holiday experiences.