One of the nation’s first highways, Route 66, will be getting a modern new addition: a $1 million roadside park in Springfield, Missouri, which will commemorate the road’s history. Though portions of the nearly 90-year-old Route 66 are no longer passable, it still stands as an important monument to cross-country travel in the U.S. by car. Featuring replicas of landmarks, old fashioned fueling stations, and a history plaza, the first phase of the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park will be complete in August. In the meantime, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite ways to enjoy what remains of Route 66:
Joshua Tree to Mohave National Preserve: Two of America’s most beautiful landscapes are just a few hours apart by car. Driving through Joshua Tree National Park is a journey unto itself, but once you leave from the north, you can connect with Route 66 after a short trip on Amboy Road. What remains of the route in this rural part of Southern California are ghost towns and huge expanses of desert. There’s an aged fuel station in Amboy that’s still functional today, but be warned: It’s home to some of the most expensive gasoline in the lower 48. Still, it’s worth a stop, as one of the few Route 66 landmarks in the area that remain open for business.
Springfield, MO to Baxter Springs, KS: If you’re visiting the new park in Missouri, head south from there. Just 13 miles of Route 66 lay in Kansas, but the views along those 13 miles are beautiful. You’ll be led directly through downtown Baxter Springs, a quintessential old town where aged Philips 66 signs and decades-old soda machines line the streets, all amazingly well-preserved.
Petrified Forest National Park to Needles, CA: Ask anyone to name a national park in Arizona and they’ll likely mention the Grand Canyon. It’s beautiful, but it’s hardly the only notable park in the state. Petrified Forest National Park, surrounded by sparsely populated southwestern towns, offers up some of the most impressive desert landscapes this country has to offer. Traverse a huge portion of Route 66 to go east through the park and to the border town of Needles, CA. Be sure to bring your camera and your hiking shoes, as you’ll find hundreds of acres of desert to explore along the way.
Oklahoma City, OK to Albuquerque, NM: It’s an 8-hour drive between these two classic American cities, but this stretch of Route 66 is filled with countless ghost towns. You’ll also have a prime opportunity to stop in Amarillo, Texas, which is about halfway between them. The city is home to The Big Texan, and one of the nation’s most famous culinary challenges: If you manage to scarf down a 72-ounce steak, plus fixings, in under an hour, your meal is free. (If this sounds impossible — it is for most — you’re always welcome to watch others try.)
Chicago, IL to St. Louis, MO: This is the route that started it all. The Midwest’s biggest city is a great place to be in summer, but escaping to the south provides expansive country views. Old-fashioned service stations dot this route, as do a few iconic bridges (take note of the one spanning the Meramec River west of St. Louis, as well as the Chain of Rocks, which crosses the Mississippi). Once you’ve arrived in St. Louis, you’re right near the new Roadside Park in Springfield.