“If you ever plan to motor West, travel my way, take the highway that’s the best,” Nat King Cole crooned in 1946. Route 66 was the first highway to connect the Midwest to the West Coast, and it still symbolizes the spirit of American independence. Though it’s not the longest or oldest public highway in the country, it is the most romanticized, and when it was decommissioned in 1985 many felt that a bit of American optimism was lost. But several of the eight states that boast a piece of old Route 66 are working to recapture the glory days of motor travel. Of them all, Oklahoma may be doing it best.
According to LegendsOfAmerica.com, Oklahoma was the birth place of Route 66, the brainchild of Cyrus Avery. He hatched the idea to link two of America’s most powerful cities, Los Angeles and Chicago, with a continuous ribbon of pavement. Taking a trip across Oklahoma’s revitalized portion of Route 66 is like visiting another era, a time when cars were big and gas was cheap. So wax up your iron beast and treat it to some road-worthy tires—it’s time to get your kicks.
Claremore – The Will Rogers Memorial
Photo by K.Muncie via Flickr
A stop to honor one of America’s most beloved figures is only fitting when you’re touring Route 66; one of the many nicknames for the highway was the “Will Rogers Highway.” The memorial includes a museum and theaters where visitors can watch clips of Rogers from his vaudeville days.
While you’re in Claremore, take a tour of Belvidere Mansion, one of four allegedly haunted attractions in the area. This one is a beautifully restored Gothic mansion, where people claim to have seen the ghosts of the original home owner (who died during construction) and his wife.
Claremore Area – Totem Pole Park
Photo by Dustin M. Ramsey via Wikimedia Commons
Just 10 miles north of Claremore off Route 66 stands a once-in-a-lifetime sight: the world’s largest totem pole. At 90 feet tall, this monolith was conceived and built by Oklahoma legend Nathan Edward Galloway and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Afton – The Buffalo Ranch Travel Center
Photo by KellyK via Flickr
If you’re a fan of nostalgia, this may be the best photo op you’ll get. Gas up and buy some road snacks at the travel center, and be on the lookout for a roaming buffalo or two. Take a tour of the vintage architecture; you’ll find 20s’-era gas stations, old businesses and buildings. The crown jewel in this Americana tour is the Rest Haven Motel, where it’s easy to imagine a tired traveler stopping for the night.
Oklahoma City – Big City Fun
Photo by Soonerfever via Wikimedia Commons
It’s not all ghost towns and open prairie along Route 66. You can find fine dining, first-class accommodations and cultural events in Oklahoma City. The Diamond Ballroom is a famous-with-the-locals music venue, where you can hear everything from rock to honky tonk with plenty of room for dancing. If visual arts are more to your liking, make a stop at the historic Paseo Arts District or take a group tour of Blue Sage Studios, a glass-blowing studio where you can even take a lesson in the ancient art.
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