“My idea of heaven is me and my wife on Route 66 with a pot of coffee, a cheap guitar,
pawnshop tape recorder in a Motel 6, and a car that runs good parked right by the door.”
Where to sleep on Route 66?
And above all how to choose the most tied motels/hotels to the myth of the Mother Road?
Driving the Main Street of America it means to set out on a series of experiences which make the journey an unforgettable series of stop motions and emotions – literally.
Having breakfast or lunch at the old diners along the route, stopping and chatting with the locals, listening to their tales or stories as regards the gas stations and the attractions at the moment and – the most important thing – sleeping in historic locations (if not all, at least in some of them).
There are really many motels and hotels on Route 66 linked to the history of the Mother Road.
So I thought to give you a selection of those ones I personally know – famous more or less – and that I recommend you for some particular reasons, according to my experience.
Read the descriptions and reckon also according to your expectations and needs.
As I have already written (and repeated many times) in a post dedicated to the planning of a trip on Route 66 – find it here – “remember that it always exists one only Route 66, but 1000 different ways to interpret it and enjoy it. Among them there’s certainly yours.”
A typical American motel and at the same time a downright museum of Route 66 with relics, gas stations, old signs and theme cafes/restaurants.
Route 66 Hotel & Conference Center is located at 625 E, St. Joseph Street, in Springfield, Illinois, the town preserving the greatest number of monuments dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln.
Considering its position and distance from Chicago – about 320km – it can be easily chosen as the first stay overnight on the Mother Road.
One among the most famous and recognizable historic motels of Route 66, thanks to its peculiar neon sign, too – designed personally in 1941 by the second owner John Mathis – which indicates the position at 901 E, Washington Blvd, in Cuba, Missouri.
The Wagon Wheel Motel was built in 1935, at the end of the Great Depression, and since then it never ceased its activity, despite the modifications to the original building and the passage through several owners. Despite the fact that it has been restored recently, it remains a place rich in charm and magic, in full Route 66 atmosphere.
One tip for breakfast or lunch.
About 900m far at 402 S, Lawrence Street you’ll find one of the best diners of the Route, Shelly’s Route 66 Café. Abundant portions, definitely ridiculous prices, unique local encounters (and unforgettable, sometimes) and “old America” atmosphere granted!
The Munger-Moss Sandwich Shop welcomed travelers of Route 66 in Missouri already since 1936. Originally it was located on the Big Piney River, at the entrance of the notorious – and very feared – Devil’s Elbow Bridge.
In 1945, following the alternative routes of the Mother Road, the motel was moved to the near Lebanon and reopened as Munger Moss BBQ.
The Munger Moss Motel was built here – at 1336, Route 66 in Lebanon, Missouri – in 1946 adding it to the restaurant and the service station, both disappeared since a lot of time, by now. The historic neon sign has been completely restored in 2010 thanks to a grant of the National Park Service for the preservation of the historic buildings of Route 66.
Simple accommodations, a bit vintage, but clean. Wi-Fi and very good coffee (in the lobby) included.
The Rail Haven Motel, famous as Rail Haven Motor Court, too, is located at 203S, Glenstone Ave, Springfield, Greene County, in Missouri.
It was built in 1938 and widened in 1957. Today it is a property of the Best Western chain.
It is possible – booking well in advance – to stay overnight in the rooms (409 and 419) where Elvis Presley and Marylyn Monroe stayed.
The Big Texas Ranch Steak & Motel is located at 7701, Interstate 40, Access Rd in Amarillo, Texas and it is considered by many people – together with the adjoining Big Texan Steak Ranch – a stage of the Mother Road not to be missed.
It’s an original western style motel, with theme rooms and accessories and steakhouse reproducing in all respects a typical main street of an old small town in the Western USA.
Accommodations are clean, bathrooms are a bit narrow, parking and Wi-Fi always included.
Strictly a steak and ribs dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, it’s worth it the stop. If you’re travelling in groups (above all in the weekend), it is recommended to book at least the day before.
The Blue Swallow Motel – my favourite one among all by far – is the motel of the Mother Road par excellence!
It is located at 815 E, Rte 66 Blvd in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
It has welcomed the travellers of Route 66 since 1939 and despite it has changed management more times it has lost nothing of its original charm.
The rooms has been restored recently, cleaned and furnished with taste in full 1950s style, the adjoining garages are theme decorated, the common areas are extremely cared, the welcome and the kindness of the actual owners Nancy and Kevin Mueller are really unique. And above all, they make the difference.
You could find yourselves spending the evening with them listening to old stories about Route 66 and Tucumcari. Maybe in front of a bonfire with beer and marshmallow organized on purpose for you.
El Rey Court Inn is located at 1862, Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
It’s a big property skirting the old Mother Road just before reaching the old town of Santa Fe.
It is made of a series of adobe style buildings neighbored by small gardens. Its building dates back to 1936, the rooms are extremely clean, cared and furnished with vintage furniture dating back to the Spanish colonization of New Mexico.
Parking and Wi-Fi always included.
El Rancho Motel is located at 1000 E, Highway 66 in Gallup, New Mexico.
It is known as “Home of the Movie Stars”, too, because it was use in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s as stay by the Hollywood stars who shot here western movies – more than 100 movies in 15 years.
Among the guests of the Rancho Motel there were characters of the caliber of Ronald Regan (who came back to the Rancho Motel as President of the United States, too), Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West, Kirk Douglas and many other ones.
The building is particularly vintage, the insides are very cared, the balconies on the second floor overlooking the great hall have been turned into a sort of museum dedicated to the stars passed by here.
The rooms are clean and essential, the style is that one of their golden age and many ones are called after the famous characters who stayed there.
The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is a part of the “Wigwam Villages” motels chain which was born in the United States in the 1930s and ‘40s.
The rooms are built in the form of Tipis (the native tents), then wrongly called wigwams. Originally seven Wigwam Motels existed spread in the USA: two in Kentucky and one in Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana and California.
Two among the three motels survived today are located on the historic Route 66, one in Holbrook, Arizona, and the other one at the border between Rialto and San Bernardino (California). According to my personal experience, I would recommend the Holbrook one, both for its position – San Bernardino is in an anonymous and isolated area – and for the accommodations, already Spartan and a bit old.
The Holbrook Wigwam Motel is located at 811West, Hopi Drive in Holbrook. It was built in 1950.
The motel is organized as a square with 15 cement and steel wigwams on three sides and the main office on the fourth one with a small shop (originally there was also a gas station which served the travellers of the Route).
La Posada Hotel and Gardens is located at 303 E, Second St. in Winslow, Arizona. It is a stage not to be missed of the Mother Road, also famous to have been quoted in the famous Eagles’ song “Take it easy”.
It’s a historic Mexican style “hacienda” which in the past welcomed characters of the caliber of Albert Einstein, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Wayne, Amelia Earhart, et cetera.
The hotel has been completely restored recently, theme rooms, very good restaurant, Wi-Fi and free parking.