7. William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock (Arkansas)
No matter whether you care about politics or not, a visit to a presidential library is a good way to mix some American history into your all-American road trip. I especially enjoyed stepping inside the re-creation of the Oval Office at the Clinton Library in Little Rock. You can sit behind the replica Resolute Desk and attempt your best presidential impersonation.
8. Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs (Arkansas)
Tucked right in the middle of Arkansas, Garvan Woodland Gardens is a place you might only come across if you take a cross-country road trip. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re anywhere in its vicinity. The tulip displays were vibrant and colorful, and the garden grounds also contain the Anthony Chapel, an impressive high-vaulted, glass-walled sanctuary set in the woods.
9. Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
The country’s oldest park maintained by the NPS, Hot Springs National Park is definitely not like the other national parks you might be accustomed to. While exploring the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row—most are set up like museums now, but two of them are still operating—you learn about the history of these turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th) therapeutic healing resorts. For example, Al Capone was a frequent patron. Relaxation, gangster style!
10. Pops Arcadia (Oklahoma)
A Route 66 diner/gas station that sells over 700 varieties of soda pop and features a giant 66-foot (not a coincidence) neon soda bottle out front? U-S-A! U-S-A! For soda enthusiasts like myself, Pops Arcadia, located just outside of Oklahoma City, is a wonderland.
And they definitely know their stuff—as you comb the aisles and aisles of bottles, you’ll find all sorts of far-out flavors and odd American kitsch. My favorite soda pop bottle of the day: Judge Wapner Root Beer. Remember Judge Wapner? He’s back! … in root beer form.
11. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum (Oklahoma)
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is a serene and moving tribute to the 168 people who lost their lives in the 1995 Federal Building bombing. The rows of empty chairs—one for each of the victims—and the gates of time that signify both the final moment of peace and first moment of recovery are exemplary of the memorial’s purposeful and poignant design. A highly recommended visit when you drive through OKC.
12. World’s largest Route 66 sign in Elk City (Oklahoma)
Once we hit Oklahoma City, our path merged with the famous Route 66. How could we tell? Well, the world’s largest Route 66 sign in Elk City was a good tip-off.
13. Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe in Shamrock (Texas)
Fans of Pixar’s Cars may recognize the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn, as it is the model for Ramone’s Auto Body Shop in the movie’s fictional town of Radiator Springs. Even if your car is no Lightning McQueen, you can drive on up to this neat roadside attraction.
For more people and places that inspired the 2006 animated film, check out this Route 66 guide to Cars.
14. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo (Texas)
One of the most iconic Route 66 attractions (also mimicked in Cars) is Cadillac Ranch, located on the outskirts of Amarillo, Texas. A single-file line of ten vintage Cadillacs, partially buried head-first in the ground, this art installation was constructed in 1974. Since then, it has taken on a life of its own, as the cars get sprayed with fresh graffiti every day by countless visitors.
Pro tip: bring your own spray cans if you want to leave your mark.
- PREVIOUS: New York to Tennessee
- NEXT: New Mexico to Arizona