Every movie, song or story about Route 66 is one of freedom and leaving an old life behind. We’ve decided to follow this famous route to see whether we can escape the concrete jungle and find stress-free havens along the way.
Why is Route 66 famous? The history goes that people used to ‘leave the dust bowls’ and escape to a better life in the city. The final part of this freedom road was paved in 1926. Route 66 travels through 8 states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. It has been decommissioned as a federal highway since 1984 and this ‘Mother Road’ (as John Steinbeck nicknamed it) still lives on in reputation. Join us as we take the road well-traveled, leave the cities behind and head towards the ‘dust bowls’ to show you the non-city sights along Route 66…
What a way to start our 3,940km journey to Illinois; our first stop is the wonder that is the Grand Canyon! The vast open spaces, age-old rock formations and stunning sunsets will make us forget all that we just left behind. The best part is that the trip is only going to get better and take us further from the bustling cities.
Next stop, Paso Robles. Also known as ‘Pass of the Oaks’, this is the ideal destination to wind (and wine) down. While you’re not far from city life, it will feel like a different world. The endless vineyards and hot springs will ensure that you’ve found that escape you ‘hit the road’ for!
Taos Pueblo Ancient settlement should be on your cultural bucket list. Along with iconic sites like the Grand Canyon, Great Pyramids and Taj Mahal, Taos Pueblo has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The traditions and cultures of the Taos Indians are well-preserved and respected, so be sure to check whether visitors are allowed at the time you plan to visit. There may be a traditional ceremony or festival going on, which requires the village to be closed to outsiders. Fun Fact! The Pueblo consists of many small homes lined up next to each other, sharing connecting walls. These structures have no doors or windows because access used to be from the roof.
Pedernales Falls State Park is an outdoor adventure haven. Every activity is centered around the Pedernales River – the perfect escape from the city. Make the most of your time by tubing, swimming, wading and fishing. Or you could hike, ride mountain bikes or go full Texan and enjoy some horseback riding.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest managed wildlife sanctuaries in Oklahoma. The refuge has been protecting natural wildlife habitats since 1901! This ecological oasis is located in the Wichita Mountains. Here, you’re sure to forget about your laptop and desk in the city, as you get in touch with every aspect of nature. Your senses will be overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of 806 plant species, 240 species of birds, 36 fish species, and 64 species of reptiles.
A very unique experience awaits you as you enter Kansas. The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve gives you glimpse into what real prairie living was like. You can visit an old school (that consisted of one classroom), or you can explore the single church on the hill. Hike through the tall prairie grass and come up close and personal with nature (ideal place for bird-watchers) and the bisons. Fun Fact! In the Kansas Flint Hills you will see the last 4% of the tall grass that used to fill these hills.
Our second-last state and stop along Route 66 is known as “the heart of St Louis”. Forest Park sees more than 12,000,000 visitors per year! This is also where you’ll find the Muny (Municipal Theater of St Louis) – the nation’s largest outdoor theatre. Visitors flock here to watch famous operas like Aida under the stars, or enjoy fireworks from an amphitheatre tailor-made for a show in the sky!
Your final stop in rural America is the Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest. These sandstone rock formations have a presence that would make any traveller hold their breath. Fun Fact! Initially called Red Rock Corral by the Europeans, it was later renamed by two surveyors. M.S. Beach and his companion R. Cable came to set up Colorado City and on their way, they rode through the impressive rock formations. Beach suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden”. Cable then agreed and said, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.”
So, grab your beer and toast to your 3,940km journey through the open spaces of America!
You can join Expat Explore as we help you wind down and escape the city. Join our USA tours that explore some of the highlights of the vast and varied country!
We’ll deliver top travel tips, insider info and travel inspiration right to your inbox.