When it comes to road trips, you can’t beat Route 66, especially in Arizona. Stretches of the iconic road, which once connected Chicago to Los Angeles, wind through a national park and past curio shops, diners and family-friendly attractions in the state. You just need to set aside a few days, pack the car and hit the road.
Before you go, familiarize yourself with the drive. Route 66, where it still exists, essentially parallels I-40. You will need to jump on and off the interstate to retrace the route, but most of the time, signs clearly indicate where to exit. For turn-by-turn directions through the state, visit the site.
Traveling east to west, make your first stop the Petrified National Forest. A map from the Painted Desert Visitor Center will show where Route 66 once crossed the park and direct you to stops along the 28-mile driving tour. Highlights for kids include the colorful mesas and buttes of the Painted Desert, the more than 600 petroglyphs covering Newspaper Rock, the Rainbow Forest Museum’s dinosaur fossils and the park’s petrified logs.
You could easily spend an entire day in Flagstaff. Start by exploring the city’s downtown, where you’ll find unique shops, boutiques and restaurants. Then, head up to Lowell Observatory. During the day, you can look at the sun through a solar telescope and see the telescope used to discover Pluto. At night, enjoy night viewing, listening to sky talks and watching science demonstrations.
If kids need to burn off some energy after hours in the car, take them to Flagstaff Extreme. The venue has zip lines and treetop adventure courses for adults and kids alike.
There’s plenty for kids to do in Williams. Animal lovers will want to stop at the Grand Canyon Deer Farm to pet and feed deer or drive through Bearizona to see bears, bison and more. Williams is equally known, though, for the Grand Canyon Railway, which journeys back and forth to the Grand Canyon twice daily.
Williams embraces Route 66 nostalgia, too. Plan to have a meal at one of the local diners, like Twisters. The 1950s-era soda fountain serves burgers, fries, colas and ice cream treats.
As you exit I-40 at Ash Fork and continue to Seligman, watch for Burma Shave road signs, remnants of a bygone advertising campaign, along the side of the road. Seligman itself is a small, whimsical city surrounding the Route 66 Gift Shop & Visitor Center.
Even if you’re not hungry, order something from Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In, which likes to serve a good dose of humor with its food. Check out the vehicles, reminiscent of characters in the Cars movie, in the drive-in’s parking lot.
For historical context, visit the Historic Route 66 Museum in Kingman. The museum’s exhibits, better suited to older kids, begin with Native American trade routes, continue with settlers’ wagon routes and focus on the Mother Road.
After touring Kingman’s attractions, step back in time at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, a historic diner that makes its own caramel root beer.
End your trip in Oatman. The century’s old mining town is known for its wild burros, the direct descendants of the packing animals turned loose when the mines shut down during World War II and roaming the streets. Purchase treats to feed them from local gift shops before heading back down the hill and home.