For more than a decade, we’d dreamed of getting our kicks on Route 66. With a month set aside to follow our dreams and travel the route last fall, we couldn’t imagine taking the trip without our dog, Finley. Over the last two years, Finley has traveled more than 20,000 miles through 36 states with us, so its safe to say that he’s a well-seasoned traveler. Despite Finley’s comfort with taking road trips, we admit that we were nervous about trying to see some of the iconic sites and experience some of the famous meals and stops, with him in tow. Much to our delight, we found many of the historic roadside stops and vintage motels to be very dog-friendly; and many of the restaurants provide an option to carry-out a meal, so that you don’t have to miss out on any of the classics.
While planning for this trip, we scoured the internet for dog-friendly places along Route 66 and found that resources were few and far between. In order to help others wanting to travel the Mother Road with a furry co-pilot, we have compiled a state-by-state list of our favorite dog-friendly attractions; as well as offer our ideas for places to stay, what to eat, and where to find parks. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it will hopefully provide a number of options to be sure that you and your pets have an unforgettable trip while you “get your sniffs” on Route 66.
Finley’s Top Spot: Take a Dip at Montrose Beach- Chicago
Located about 7 miles north of the Route 66 Start sign in downtown Chicago, Montrose Beach is a great place to stop and cool off before hitting the road. An off-leash dog beach, your furry co-pilot can burn off some energy playing with the multitude of cavorting canines or choose to find a quieter spot and work on his/her doggy paddle.
Pose With Giants- Throughout Illinois
Gemini Giant- Launching Pad Drive In, Wilmington
Standing watch over the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, the 30-foot tall Gemini Giant has been making for great photo ops since 1965. One of the original 1960s “Muffler Men”, he was named for the Gemini Space Program, as America was in the midst of the its space age craze. Not having missed a day of work in the past 50+ years, the Gemini Giant looks pretty darn good and is definitely worthy of a stop and photos.
Elvis- Polk-A-Dot Drive In, Braidwood
Since the 1950s, the Polk-A-Dot Drive In has been serving tasty burgers, fries, and shakes to Route 66 customers. Although we’re well into the 21st Century, the mid-century vibe lives on with the fiberglass statues of famous stars that surround the building, including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and the Elwood Brothers. However, it’s the nine-foot Elvis at the entrance of the parking lot that is the photo op not to be missed- it’s not often that the King (or Queen) of Treats has an opportunity to pose with the King of Rock and Roll!
Paul Bunyon with Hot Dog- Atlanta
About 100 miles down the road from the Gemini Giant, another of the famous 1960s advertising giant Muffler Men is found in the small town of Atlanta. Impossible to miss, the 19-foot tall Paul Bunyon stands across from the classic Route 66 eatery, the Palms Grill Cafe. However, what makes him distinctive and feel somewhat out-of-place (besides being 19-feet tall) is that he is holding a giant hot dog. Why a hot dog, you ask? Originally, Mr. Bunyon stood atop Bunyon’s Hot Dog Stand along Route 66 in Cicero, IL (hence the misspelling of the mythical lumberjack’s name). When the hot dog stand closed in 2002, the town of Atlanta won a bid and Mr. Bunyon found a new home standing watch over a new generation of tourists traveling a familiar road.
Pink Elephant- Pink Elephant Antique Mall, Livingston
You might think that a giant pink elephant would be the quirkiest thing you could find at a Route 66 roadside stop, but it’s actually just the tip of the iceberg. Located in the former Livingston High School, the dog-friendly Pink Elephant Antique Mall is filled to the brim with antiques, collectibles, and other bric-a-brac. While you could spend hours perusing with your pup in tow, the most interesting part of a visit is the impressive collection of formidable figures, from a giant surfer and smaller Muffler Man to a giant ice cream cone and vintage Futuro House. There were plenty of giants from which to choose for photos, but Finley liked the namesake Pink Elephant the best.
Take “A Geographical Journey” on the Linear Parkway- Towanda
Once a lane of a four-lane alignment of Route 66 that ran through the small Central Illinois town of Towanda, you can now enjoy a peaceful walk and take a geographical journey along the Linear Parkway, a restored 1.6 mile stretch of the original road. Lined with educational kiosks and replica Burma Shave advertisements, the walk provides an opportunity to stretch legs (of both the two and four variety) and brush up on your Route 66 history. On a warm fall afternoon, we had the trail to ourselves and no more than a handful of cars passed by, making for a nice break before getting back on the road.
Sniff Turkey Tracks- Nilwood
On the shoulder of a quiet farm road to the south of the town of Nilwood, sits a colorful metal turkey. Just in front of the metal turkey, within a painted white box are surprisingly intact turkey (and potentially other critter) tracks. When the concrete for this stretch of Illinois Route 4/Route 66 was originally laid in the 1920s, some of the local fowl decided to leave their mark. Still in remarkably good shape, considering how many cars have driven over the tracks in the last century, it is a definitely a sight to sniff.
Snacks and Sniffs
Cozy Dog Drive In- Springfield
If you haven’t had a corn dog from the Cozy Dog Drive In, then you haven’t had the best corn dog ever. What started as a cornbread covered hot dog on a cocktail stick, called a “crusty cur”, at the Amarillo Airfield, eventually lead to the creation of the Cozy Dog Drive In in Springfield. Claiming to be home to the first corn dog served on a stick, the Cozy Dog has been serving corn dogs coated in a tasty corn meal batter since 1946. If you are at all selective about your stops, be sure that this is one of them. Whether it’s for lunch or dinner, whether you choose to sit inside the restaurant or head to the drive-through, like we did, and enjoy a meal from the comfort of your car (it is a “drive in”, after all), don’t miss an opportunity to try the “Famous Hot Dog on a Stick”. Oh, and those corn dogs? Believe the hype, they’re that good.
Parks to Sniff
Lions Park- Dwight
Located south of the town of Dwight along Old Route 66, Lions Park provides a nice place to stop with the traffic of suburban Chicago now in the rearview mirror. Peaceful and quiet, the park has a walking path perfect for a short stroll and open space perfect for frisbee throwing.
Route 66 Park- Atlanta
Created to commemorate the history of the Mother Road in Atlanta, which happens to be the geographic center of Illinois on Old Route 66, the Route 66 Park is across the street from a unique octagonal shaped library and home to some historical artifacts. It’s also home to one of the four drinking fountains placed around town in 1934, because “a thirsty public appreciates the convenience”. Much like the older boys did back in the day for the younger boys, Jay lended his hands and helped a too-short Finley quench his thirst.
Finley’s Top Spot: Be Batdog at the Route 66 Car Museum- Springfield
Dogs and cars go together like peanut butter and jelly, but usually not so much when it comes to classic cars. Imagine our surprise when we called the Route 66 Car Museum to inquire if they were dog friendly and got an enthusiastic “Yes!” in response. The museum has a collection of more than 60 classic cars, including a 1907 REO Model G (extra cool factor for being the company that inspired the name of one of the best bands from the 1980s), a 1948 Chrysler Woodie, and a 1983 DeLorean. The coolest exhibit however, is the 1971 Gotham Roadster, also known as the Batmobile. Built on a 1979 Lincoln sedan chassis, it’s an identical replica of the one used on the TV show. Visitors, including the ones with four legs and fur are welcome to take turns sitting in the car and channeling their inner Batperson or Batdog. We were nervous about letting Finley sit in the car, but the staff was insistent- and who are we to pass up such a fabulous photo opportunity. We enjoyed checking out all of the cars and can’t thank the staff enough for providing what was probably the most dog-friendly experience we had on the entire length of Route 66!
Stroll on the Chain of Rocks Bridge- St. Louis
Spanning the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri, the Chain of Rocks Bridge carried Route 66 vehicle traffic between the two states from 1929 to 1970. Named for a dangerous stretch of rock-filled rapids in the river, the unique design of the bridge includes a 22-degree bend near the middle. For many years after its closure, the bridge was neglected and at risk of demolition, its dilapidated appearance leading to its making an appearance in the 1981 post-apocalyptic movie, Escape From New York. After a period of restoration in the ’90s, the bridge eventually reopened for pedestrian and bike use in 1999.
From Illinois to Missouri, the walk is about one mile and offers views of downtown St. Louis, two architecturally interesting intake towers, a photo-op with a vintage-styled motel tourist court sign with gas pump, and the mighty Mississippi nearly 60 feet below. Up early to beat the heat, we saw just two other people on our walk to the Missouri shore and back. Parking is only available on the Illinois side of the bridge; the Missouri side, which has a large modern-looking rest area, has been closed due to safety concerns. An experience not to missed, it’s a pleasant stroll that will leave you feeling as though you’ve stepped back in time.
Picnic at Route 66 State Park- Eureka
A wooded, peaceful 419-acre park that was once the location of the doomed town of Times Beach, Route 66 State Park is now home to wide open grassy spaces bordered by trees, meandering walking and hiking paths, shaded picnic tables, and more. It’s the perfect place grab to a table, enjoy a picnic lunch, and toss the frisbee in this reclaimed little pocket of nature. The park is easily accessible from I-44, and a drive through will provide you with the opportunity to travel on a short stretch of Route 66 and a pleasant way to enjoy a peaceful respite in a beautiful setting.
Explore Gay Parita- Paris Springs
West of Springfield, in Paris Springs, you’ll find a crazy explosion of petroliana in the form of cars, signs, gas cans, and other funky items that combine to provide the experience that is Gary’s Gay Parita. Built by Gary Turner in 2004, Gay Parita is a replica of the 1930s Sinclair station that burned down on that site in the ‘50s. We were the only visitors when we stopped by on a rainy afternoon and George, the super friendly gentleman that owns the property with his wife (and daughter of the founders, Gary and Lena), spent some time chatting with us. Finley was more than welcome to wander around with us and check out everything from old cars to a garage full of miscellany to a random metal dinosaur munching on a stuffed toy. Definitely lots to see and sniff.
Wagon Wheel Motel- Cuba
Opened in 1938 as the Wagon Wheel Cabins and renamed in 1947, the Wagon Wheel Motel it is oldest motel still in operation on Route 66. Originally, nine cottages constructed of local Ozark sandstone provided a room with a private bath and an enclosed garage. In the 1940s, the garages were converted to rooms. In addition to lodging units, the Wagon Wheel also offered a gas station and restaurant, the Wagon Wheel Café, a popular spot that was well reviewed in Duncan Hines’ travel guide. As with most Route 66 businesses, the motel changed ownership a few times before falling into a state of disrepair. In 2009, the property was purchased, and the cabins and main building meticulously restored. The former café is now a gift shop full of Route 66 souvenirs and other wares.
From the moment we pulled up, the aura of yesteryear was everywhere, from the beautifully restored buildings to the vintage gas pumps and ’40s-era Chevy parked out front. The vintage experience continued at check-in with the handwritten registration cards and keys hanging on a pegboard, each with an old-school plastic engraved key fob. We stayed in room #18, a small room in a back building that was once a garage, but more recently converted into rooms. Since we had Finley with us, we weren’t able to stay in one of the original rooms but appreciate that the Wagon Wheel does offer two pet-friendly rooms. Our room was clean, quiet, and nicely decorated with (appropriately) a wagon wheel and some Route 66-themed decor. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening spent in one of Route 66’s most iconic motels, but perhaps the best part of our stay was listening to the click and hum of the neon sign as its arrow and wheel blinked on and off, just as it had since 1947.
Boots Court Motel- Carthage
The Boots Court Motel sits at what was once considered the “Crossroads of America”, the intersection of Route 66 and Route 71, also known as the Jefferson Highway, that ran from Canada to New Orleans. Built in 1939 in a streamline moderne style, the Boots Court was originally advertised as having a “radio in every room”. After many successful years and a number of owners, the motel eventually fell into disrepair before being purchased by two sisters at auction in 2011. Since then, they have been meticulously restoring the rooms to their 1949 appearance and even had the neon sign restored by the original sign maker. Without question, this was one of the coolest and most authentically vintage places that we stayed on Route 66. A night at Boots Court will cost you just $66 (chosen for Route 66) for a single and $71 (chosen for the cross-street, Route 71) for a double, an unbelievable deal for such a memorable experience.
We spent the night in room #9 and upon entering our room were greeted by warm lights glowing and a vintage-looking radio tuned to a 1940s station. We’d been at Boots Court for less than ten minutes and we were already in love. And the neon hadn’t even come on yet. Running along the top of the buildings and outlining the windows, the Boots Court has always been identifiable by its architectural green neon. Restored and relit in 2016 after nearly 15 years of darkness, it is in a word, awesome. This was one of those places that makes it easy to imagine yourself in a different time. Sure, the radio and lights were modern, but there were none of the modern distractions that make it so easy to ignore what’s around you. It’s obvious that the restoration of the motel has been thoughtfully done in an effort to truly recreate the experience of a 1949 traveler. As mentioned, our room had a radio, but not a TV. Why? Because the town of Carthage didn’t get television until 1953. The best part of our stay however, was the evening, which Finley spent peacefully sleeping on one of the two beds that he’d claimed as his own, while we played gin rummy and sipped wine from plastic cups while listening to ‘40s tunes. Definitely a night we’ll all remember forever. Sit. Stay. Step back in time.
Snacks and Sniffs
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard- St. Louis
Whether or not it’s true, it seems that there were once ice cream shops and stands on just about every corner of every small town along Route 66. Even today, there are no shortage of places along Route 66 to cool off with a frosty cup of ice cream or frozen custard. One of the most famous on Route 66 is Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis. Providing a tasty treat to Mother Road motorists since 1941, Ted Drewes is famous for their “concretes” (similar to Dairy Queen’s Blizzard) that are made with frozen custard so thick, it is served to the customer upside down. The perfect treat for a warm fall day, Finley was happy to drool from the backseat while we enjoyed our concrete, with a friendly fight down to the last bite.
Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q- Cuba
If you’re looking for dinner during your stay at the Wagon Wheel, look no further than next door. Just a few short steps away lies the shaded dog-friendly patio and small-town friendliness of Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q. Located inside what appears to be a giant barn, this BBQ joint feels homey with its handmade tables and chairs, huge servings of BBQ with all the “fixins”, and a giant map of the eight states through which Route 66 passes painted on the front patio. Served with a bowl of water even before we were, Finley was more than welcome and even offered bones, which we politely declined (much to his dismay). We all enjoyed the nice dinner with local beer and authentic Missouri BBQ on the shaded patio, as we watched the traffic roll by on old Route 66.
Whisler’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers- Carthage
Since 1953, Whisler’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers (or Whisler’s Drive Up, we’ve seen both names) has been serving up made-to-order, ridiculously delicious burgers to locals and visitors. Always on the hunt for the out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall, and/or local favorites that are dog-friendly, we found ourselves at Whisler’s on a drizzly afternoon. Located just two blocks north of Route 66 in a vibrant red building, Whisler’s provides a simple and inexpensive menu with various burger options, from the traditional hamburger and cheeseburger to combo options with catchy names like the Sow ‘n Cow (burger with bacon) and Pig ‘n Bull (burger with ham). The only other options on the menu, a bag of chips and a drink. We each ordered a cheeseburger and headed outside, raincoats in hand, to eat at the outdoor table with Finley. Relatively small by modern-day hamburger standards, the burger from Whisler’s managed to pack a ton of flavor into a little package. A simple white bun grilled alongside the burger, this was without question one of the best meals that we had on our entire Route 66 trip and we quickly discovered that one was not enough. Pro tip: order at least two, you won’t be sorry- we promise.
Trail to Sniff
Ruby Jack Trail- Carthage
When we’re at home, we usually walk about two miles each day, so we’re always on the hunt for places to take our daily walk when traveling. One of the best resources we’ve found is on TrailLink, which provides a listing of former rail lines that have been turned into trails. Over the last thirty years, thousands of miles of trails have been created and we’ve found these to be the perfect answer to our walking needs, particularly in the Midwest. Nice, quiet, and mostly empty, the Ruby Jack Trail runs from Carthage to the Kansas border, 16 miles away. We saw just one other couple on our two-mile walk, giving Finley a chance to burn some energy and us a chance to enjoy a peaceful evening in a classic Route 66 town.
Finley’s Top Spot: Pose with the Blue Whale, Catoosa
The Blue Whale of Catoosa was built in the early 1970s by Hugh Davis as a surprise anniversary gift for his wife, Zelta, a collector of whale figurines. Constructed in a naturally spring-fed pond at an impressive 20 feet tall by 80 feet long, it took 126 bags of concrete, applied one five-gallon bucket at a time, to cover the whale’s hand-welded metal framework. The Blue Whale was originally intended solely for family use; eventually though, locals began to enjoy the cool respite from the hot, humid Oklahoma summers. In 1972, the Davis’ added sand to create a “beach”; as well as constructed concrete tables and benches added along the “shoreline”. The Blue Whale became a popular hangout for locals and a favorite roadside stop for Route 66 travelers until it closed to the public in 1988. The whale fell into a state of disrepair before being refurbished in the late ’90s, complete with its signature blue paint. While swimming is no longer an option, people and dogs are welcome to walk through the whale, have a picnic, talk to the friendly volunteers in the gift shop, and have a whale of a good time.
Check out the Hogs at Seaba Station- Warwick
Built in 1921 along what was originally Oklahoma State Highway 7, part of the Ozark Trails road system, Seaba Station was once home to a five bay service station that sold “NevrNox” gasoline. Now home to the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum, there are more than 60 vintage motorcycles, some more than 100 years old. Although we hadn’t planned on a long stay, since we were traveling on a hot day, we asked if Finley could peruse the collection with us and the staff was more than accommodating. After checking out the bikes and some other antiques, be sure to check out the selection of souvenirs and grab a cold Route 66 Soda before hitting the road again.
Explore Cowtown at the Old Town Museum Complex- Elk City
With its gigantic Route 66 shield and 14-foot tall Kachina, Myrtle, (that once welcomed visitors to the popular ’50s-era roadside stop, Queenan’s Trading Post), it’s hard to miss the National Route 66 Museum Complex in Elk City. Four museums are located within the Old Town Museum Complex and there is much to see. Although the museums aren’t dog-friendly, we were welcome to explore some of the outdoor exhibits, which include Cowtown, a replica early 20th Century plains village, and a small village representative of Elk City in the 1950s. A stroll around the complex provides the opportunity to pose with a vintage “visible” gas pump, peek into the window of a malt shop, and check out a life-size metal longhorn and buffalo (very cautiously, if you’re Finley). A nice respite from driving, a visit provides a neat glimpse into Oklahoma’s history.
Take a Step Back in Time on a 1929 Alignment- Hext
Thankfully, there are still some stretches of Route 66 that are off-the-beaten path and convey a sense of what it was like to travel the Main Street of America in a time before interstates, chain motels, and 75 mph speed limits. Just north of the current roadway between Sayre and Erick, visible in some places and obscured by trees and overgrowth in others, lies two lanes of a 1929 alignment. For many years, these two lanes carried Mother Road motorists, until 1956 when the road was upgraded to a divided four lane highway. These lanes became the westbound side of four-lane Route 66, remaining in service until the arrival of the interstate in 1975. The construction of I-40 paved over the eastbound lanes and this original stretch of road was abandoned, making it the last segment of Route 66 in Oklahoma to lose its U.S. Highway designation. Despite being just shy of its 90th birthday, stretches of original Portland Cement peek through later-added layers of asphalt that have worn away and almost made us believe we had stepped back in time for a moment.
Parks to Sniff
Riverview Park- Miami
Just a short jog south of Route 66 in Miami, the 127-acre Riverview Park offers lots of wide open space, Finley-approved pockets of shade, and picnic tables, making it a perfect place to enjoy lunch on a beautiful Midwestern fall day.
Klingensmith Park- Bristow
Located just a few blocks north of Route 66 on the west side of Bristow next to Messina Lake, Klingensmith Park, has picnic areas, shady spots to relax, and a neat piece of history hidden amongst the trees in the middle of the park. Built in 1936 as a WPA project and dedicated personally by Eleanor Roosevelt, the Klingensmith Park Amphitheater has been host to many events over the last 80 years. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, you can walk along the rows of wooden benches or have your furry co-pilot hop on stage for a cute photo. Whether you stop for lunch or a just short break, its definitely worth the time to seek out this slice of small-town American history.
Finley’s Top Spot: Drop-in to the U-Drop Inn, Shamrock
The small town of Shamrock is home to what is perhaps the coolest former service station on Route 66. While its size holds true to the “everything’s bigger in Texas” mantra, particularly with its giant flared tower; the Art Deco design of Tower Station and its adjacent U-Drop Inn Cafe are perhaps the last type of architecture you expect to find in the dusty, wind-blown Texas Panhandle. The only cafe within 100 miles of town when it opened, it was a popular stop for both locals and Mother Road travelers, with the local paper dubbing it ‘“the swankiest of the swank eating places”. After falling into disrepair for many years, the station and cafe in all of its art deco gloriousness was restored with the aid of a federal grant in the early ’00s and is now home to the local visitor’s center and gift shop. The cafe and front office of the station have been redone to appear as they did in their heyday, and though the cafe no longer serves food, the incredibly friendly volunteers brought Finley (and us) into the cafe and served him a fresh bowl of water. A++ for dog-friendliness!
Hike Palo Duro Canyon- Amarillo
Texas is not one to shy away from embracing the “bigger is better” philosophy, so it’s fitting that the second largest canyon in the U.S. is located in the Texas Panhandle in Palo Duro Canyon. Located 25 miles southeast of Amarillo, The Grand Canyon of Texas, is 120 miles long and provides some spectacular geologic eye-candy that feels out of place in the wide-open plains of the Panhandle. A small entrance fee gets you into the park and access to more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Despite our drizzly October day, we hit the Givens Spicer Lowry Trail and enjoyed the views, the solitude, and our first tarantula encounter. Be sure to take a drive through the park and stop at the Visitor’s Center to take a get a glimpse of the best view in the park.
Pose at the Route 66 Midpoint- Adrian
Head 1,139 miles west from Chicago and 1,139 miles east from Los Angeles and you’ll end up in Adrian, TX, the official midpoint of Route 66 and home of the Midpoint Cafe (be sure to grab a slice of the cafe’s famous “Ugly Crust Pie”). Opened in 1928, the Midpoint Cafe operated 24 hours a day back when Route 66 was in its prime. It went through a number of names before becoming the Midpoint Cafe in 1995 under the ownership of Fran Houser, the inspiration for Flo and her V-8 Cafe in the movie, Cars. Fran has since sold the cafe, but can be found next door at the Sunflower Station and couldn’t be any friendlier; plus, she has a Finley look-alike, Brodie, that hangs out in the shop with her. The cafe and midpoint is a must-stop on any 66 trip!
Finley’s Top Spot: Be the Best Dog at the Route 66 Wedding Chapel- Tucumcari
We’ve always joked about fun and kitschy it would be to renew our vows in Vegas at a drive-thru chapel. When we discovered there was a chance to renew our vows on Route 66, we knew it was an experience that we weren’t going to pass up. Not a place that you would expect to be on a list of dog-friendly places to visit on Route 66, our experience was fabulous (we can’t say enough great things about the owner, Leigh, and her employee, Jean) and one of the most dog-friendly of our entire trip. Finley was not just allowed, but enthusiastically welcomed to join us for the entire vow renewal- and was even provided with a bow tie and cuffs! Everything was super casual per our request and Finley had so much fun running around the chapel and posing for pictures. We had such a blast that we stayed to get our pictures taken at Mother Road Old Time Photos (in the same building, also owned by the same couple). This is a unique and memorable experience and a perfect way to get some photos where the dog is actually looking at the camera.
*We’ve just learned that the Route 66 Wedding Chapel and Mother Road Old Time Photos will be closing soon and potentially relocating to Nashville. Despite their leaving, we had such an unforgettable experience that we still want to share it with other travelers. Wishing them the best of luck in all of their future endeavors!
Fort Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post- New Mexico/Arizona Border
Straddling the New Mexico/Arizona border, there is much to explore at the historic Fort Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post (not to be confused with the Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post a few hundred yards away, across the border in Lupton, AZ). Run by the Yellowhorse family that started the Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post in the 1950s, the Fort was added in 1979 with the hopes of attracting the attention of travelers on I-40. We were lucky enough to meet the grandson of the original Chief Yellowhorse who warmly welcomed us and not only invited Finley into the trading post, but also encouraged him (and us) to explore the property. Photo ops and sniffertunities abound, you can pose with wooden natives, get some shady relief inside a teepee, and stand (or sit) in two states at one time. A retro roadside Americana stop not to miss.
Historic Route 66 Motel- Tucumcari
Open since 1963, the Historic Route 66 Motel looks exactly like we imagined it did on the day it opened as the Royal Palacio Motel. Despite having a new name, the motel looks much as it did back in its mid-century heyday, thanks to the current owners who have done a fabulous job remodeling and upgrading the property, including preserving many of the original furnishings. From the breeze blocks to the floor-to-ceiling windows to the retro turquoise-colored Naugahyde easy chairs, there is nothing not to love about this motel located in one of our favorite towns on all of Route 66.
The pet-friendly King Room that we stayed in was roomy, bright, and had the original (and very cool) sink of quartz inlaid in terrazzo. A short walk to Del’s Restaurant makes for an easy take-out dinner that you can enjoy in the room, complete with dog drool on the side. Post-dinner and dessert (we enjoyed our piece of Ugly Crust Pie from the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian), we relaxed into the turquoise chairs for a perfect night of gin rummy and Frank Sinatra. Though there is an on-site espresso shop, Circa, that we’ve visited on previous trips through Tucumcari, it was closed when we were there, and its future plans were uncertain. We’re hopeful that it will reopen before travels take us through Tucumcari again. And we plan to be back soon!
Hotel Parq Central- Albuquerque
Originally built and opened in 1926 as the Santa Fe Hospital for employees of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad; then later spending some years as Memorial Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital for children and teens, the Hotel Parq Central is hands-down one of the coolest places we’ve ever stayed. Completely redone and reopened in 2010, the rooms are spacious with huge picture windows and stylish furnishings that pay tribute to the building’s former life as a hospital. The hallways have display cases full of items salvaged its past- from eye charts to surgical tools; the cabinet for the TV looks like it came straight out of a hospital room (in a very cool, not creepy way); and instead of the standard “Do Not Disturb”, the door tags read “Quarantine” and “Nurse!! Please Clean My Room”. Though there are rumors that the hotel is haunted, we’ve had no ghostly encounters and nothing but wonderful experiences.
Dogs are welcome (for a fee) throughout the hotel, excluding areas that serve food; and can enjoy the great park just behind the hotel, perfect for small walks. Even though you won’t be able to sit and enjoy the complimentary (and very tasty) breakfast, the incredibly helpful staff will give you a to-go box so that you can take some goodies to your room to eat. The rooftop Apothecary Lounge overlooking Central Ave/Route 66 has fun cocktails and an amazing view of downtown. Dogs aren’t allowed at the bar; but again, the super friendly staff will mix up some drinks that you can take back to your room, so that you can enjoy them with your furry travel buddy. There are some small plates available in the Apothecary Lounge, but you may want to look elsewhere for dinner. Just around the corner, Holy Cow Burgers has a nice covered dog-friendly patio where you can enjoy a burger and beer, or if you feel like simply enjoying your super cool room, you can order from one of our favorite restaurants in town, Poki Poki, via Grubhub and have dinner delivered directly to your room. One of our most favorite hotels, we make every effort to stay here if our travels take us anywhere even close to Albuquerque!
Snacks and Sniffs
Kix on 66- Tucumcari
A trip down Route 66 isn’t complete without at least one meal in an authentic diner. Although it began life as a Denny’s, Kix on 66 maintains the mid-century diner feel and experience, food included. Serving traditional diner-style food for breakfast and lunch for people, Kix on 66 also has a dog-friendly patio, complete with a “Fur Friendly ‘Pet-io’ Menu”. Unfortunately, the morning that we dined was raining, so Finley didn’t get a chance to check out the patio or dog menu, but we enjoyed the tasty Mainstreet Extravaganza with two eggs over-easy, hash browns, and house made sausage. It wasn’t gourmet, but we didn’t expect it or want it to be; it was exactly as advertised and the perfect way to start the day before we took that left turn to Albuquerque.
Trails and Parks to Sniff
Embudito Canyon Loop Trail- Albuquerque
Despite his being a Labrador, there is something that Finley loves more than treats and food (shocking, we know)- hiking. There is no happy, like a hiking Finley happy. Since we were staying in Albuquerque for a few days and happy to be back at a higher elevation, we decided to find a trail with some more mountainous terrain (our favorite app AllTrails is a fabulous resource). The trailhead for Embudito Canyon Loop is located just above a neighborhood on the east side of town, about five miles north of Route 66. A four-mile hike with approximately 1,200 feet in elevation gain, the trail climbs through desert and weaves throughout ponderosa pines, before bringing you up above the valley with gorgeous views and back down through a tree-filled canyon. A beautiful and fun way to get some exercise; and most importantly, provide you with a tired dog.
Damon Kbols Park- Tucumcari
Located next to the Chamber of Commerce on Route 66 between 5th and 6th Streets, Damon Kbols Park has mid-century era shaded stone tables and is the perfect place to stop and enjoy lunch like Mother Road travelers did back in the day.
San Jose Park- Grants
On the other side of the railroad tracks from Route 66 in Grants, lies San Jose Park. Mostly open space with a few tables, there is plenty of space to burn off a little woofer energy with some frisbee time.
Finley’s Top Spot (tie): Petrified Forest National Park- Holbrook
One of the most dog-friendly national parks we’ve visited, Petrified Forest allows dogs on all paved roads and trails, as well as in all official Wilderness areas. A drive through the park first takes you past the Painted Desert, a region of badlands that look as if they’ve been painted with gorgeous hues of pink, orange, and brown. As you continue driving, you’ll cross over an area that used to be Route 66 and one of our favorite photo ops in the park (it happens to be the location of the cover photo for this post). No longer a road, the only indication that it ever existed is a line of weathered wooden phone poles running in either direction.
Since dogs are allowed on all trails, we chose to hike the Agate House Trail. The two mile out-and-back hike provides the opportunity to check out some of the very large and impressive petrified logs, before eventually reaching the Agate House. Not actually a house, the Agate House is the remains of a small eight-room pueblo thought to have been inhabited more than 700 years ago. A perfect fall afternoon in the desert, we had the trail to ourselves and a happily exercised dog.
Finley’s Top Spot (tie): Picknik at Cool Springs Station- Cool Springs/Oatman
Cool Springs Station sits on the east side of Sitgreaves Pass in the Black Mountains of Arizona. On the original alignment of Route 66, it is a 1920s-era service station that at one time also had eight tourist cabins and a cafe. After a fire in 1966 left nothing but the stone foundation, the site sat abandoned until it was briefly rebuilt and then promptly blown up in the ’90s action movie, Universal Soldier. A complete restoration was done in 2004, and the station is now home to a gift shop, a small “picknik” area across the street where we enjoyed our lunch and a some space for woofer roaming, along with some great photo ops.
Strike a Pose at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post- Joseph City
Back in the glory days of Route 66, bright yellow signs with rabbits that increased in size as you headed west, lined the roadside for more than 1,000 miles. When drivers reached the final sign proclaiming, “Here It Is”, they knew they had arrived at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post near Joseph City, AZ. A former snake farm purchased (and the snakes just released into the wild) in 1949 and turned into the trading post, it has provided a stop for travelers and a photo op on the giant jackrabbit (or next to, if four legs prevent you from sitting atop it), ever since.
Sit at Standin’ on the Corner Park- Winslow
“Well, I’m a-standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see.” Chances are, you’re familiar with the lyrics in the 1972 Eagle’s tune, “Take It Easy“. Built in 1999 to commemorate the song which made a nation aware of the small Route 66 town in Arizona, Standin’ On the Corner Park is a hopping place. We had to wait a few minutes for our turn to get Finley’s picture, but it was well worth it for the cute photo.
Find Your Inner Mountain Lion at Two Guns Trading Post- Winslow
Once a thriving roadside stop on Route 66 about 30 miles east of Flagstaff, Two Guns started life as a railroad settlement, before becoming home to a restaurant, souvenir shop, the Apache Death Cave, and a zoo which featured mountain lions, cougars, Gila monsters, and more. It went through a few owners and attempts at survival, including being relocated once across the canyon with a realignment of Route 66, and the addition of a service station, motel, and new zoo in the ‘60s. Sadly, the service station burned down in 1971 and eventually the town succumbed to the all-to-familiar curse of the interstate. Only partial structures remain, though the word “Mountain Lions” remains fully intact on part of the former zoo and provides for a great place to stroll around (keep an eye out for broken glass) and a unique photo op!
See the Signs at the Hackberry General Store- Hackberry
One thing that seems to be in abundance along Route 66 are collections of stuff. There are historical museums, car collections, buildings covered in metal signs, and then there are some that can’t be so easily classified and are a mishmash of anything and everything. One of the most famous of those hodge-podge collections along Route 66 is the Hackberry General Store in the tiny Western Arizona town of Hackberry. Originally a gas station opened in 1934 as the Northside Grocery, it sold gas until the late ‘70s. After sitting empty for a number of years, Bob Waldmire, famous Route 66 artist and son of the founder of the Cozy Dog, reopened the Hackberry General Store in 1992 as a souvenir shop. Still housing a collection of vintage signs, rusty cars, old gas pumps, and a gift shop with more stuff, for many years it was recognizable by a bright red ‘57 Corvette that sat out front but is sadly now gone. Even though Jen’s dream car no longer sits out front, it’s still definitely a place to stop and sniff.
Wigwam Motel- Holbrook
Have you slept in a wigwam lately? Along Route 66, there are two Wigwam Villages, Village #6 in Holbrook, AZ and Village #7, in Rialto, CA. Built in the 1930s and ‘40s, there were originally seven Wigwam Villages constructed in six different states. Today, only these two and Village #2 in Cave City, KY still exist. Back in the late 1930s, Chester Lewis was passing through Kentucky and came across a Wigwam Village. His interest piqued, Mr. Lewis purchased the plans and the right to use the name from original developer, Frank Redford, intending to build a Wigwam Village in Holbrook. Part of the purchase agreement was that Mr. Lewis would install a coin-operated radio in each room and the monies collected from those radios would be sent back to Mr. Redford. Almost 70 years later, the radios no longer exist; but the wigwams, which are misnamed as they are actually tepees, are a step back in time and an awesome way to experience true Americana.
Although planners by nature, we made an attempt to travel 66 without having every stop determined in advance; however, we made an exception for the Wigwams. Knowing that availability can be scarce, we planned a large part of our trip around when we could get a room and it was well worth it. Looking virtually unchanged from postcards in the 1950s, our night spent in Teepee #8 was vintage at its best, with handmade original log furniture and a bathroom with original everything. The only signs that we were in the 21st Century were the window-unit air conditioner and small television. Always ones to embrace our steps back in time, we enjoyed some snacks and beverages on the bench outside while admiring a gorgeous sunset, followed up by a serious game of gin rummy played on a small section of the queen-sized bed that Finley was willing to relinquish. A perfect night, whether its 1957 or 2017, if there is just one vintage place that you must stay on Route 66, this is it.
Snacks and Sniffs
Mother Road Brewing Company- Flagstaff
How could you possibly pass up a brewery whose named was inspired by Route 66? A short walk from the Econo Lodge, where we stayed in Flagstaff, the Mother Road Brewing Company’s Pike Brewery location has a dog-friendly patio and fun beers with Route 66-inspired names. While enjoying a nice fall evening on the patio, we sampled the Kolsch Style Ale, Experimental Session IPA, Tower Station IPA, and Painted Desert ESB; as well as an exceptionally tasty pizza from Pizzicletta, which we ordered and was delivered to us right at our table. We were lucky enough to be visiting on a night when James Beard Award Winner and creator of the “Best Pizza in the United States” according to multiple publications, Chris Bianco, was the guest chef. Definitely a drinking and dining highlight of our trip!
Tourist Home Cafe- Flagstaff
Located in a former boardinghouse for sheepherders with an amazing neon sign, Tourist Home Cafe offers a variety of food and drink options, but its the breakfast pastries that shouldn’t be missed. We’ve stopped at Tourist Home on our last two trips through Flagstaff and while we’ve hoped both times that we wouldn’t end up leaving with a box full of pastries, we did. There are many options and trying them all isn’t possible, so we’ve been forced to chose just a few each time. To date, we’ve tried a coconut macaroon, Matcha green tea macaroon, homemade cinnamon sugar pop tart, red pepper biscuit, coconut scone, cardamom roll, pumpkin donut, and churro donut (not all in one sitting). While all of those have been exceptionally tasty, its the churro donut that stole our hearts. In fact, we loved it so much that after our first visit, we wrote a review of it for our Donut Digest. Located just two blocks south of Route 66, Tourist Home is the perfect place to grab breakfast, or if you’re like us- breakfast and dessert for the next two or three meals, before hitting the road for another day of adventures.
Finley’s Top Spot: Kitsch it Up at Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande
Out in the desert near Oro Grande is a crazy art installation of bottles, signs, and other random things (mattress springs, typewriters, stamp machines). Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch has more than 200 “bottle trees” and endless photo opportunities, making it one of our favorite roadside stops along Route 66- kitschy, creative, and a great way to stretch person and dog legs.
Ogle the Googie at Roy’s Cafe & Motel- Amboy
In a remote stretch of the Mojave Desert, lies one of the coolest Googie-style motels we’ve ever seen and perhaps the most photographed sign on all of Route 66. Roy’s Motel and Café in the tiny town of Amboy started life as a service station in 1938. In the 1940s, a café, auto repair shop, and an auto court were added to serve Route 66 travelers. The oft-photographed (and star of many modern-day commercials) neon sign was added in 1959, providing a beacon in the desert night for travelers for many years until the opening of the interstate in 1972 essentially ended the business overnight. After some rough years, the property (and in fact, the entire town of Amboy) were acquired by Albert Okura, owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain, in 2005. The gas station and café were reopened in 2008 and currently offer some very expensive gas, along with a few limited food and drink options. As it has for more than half a century, the real draw is the sign. The motel and its Googie-styled lobby still stand but appear more and more deteriorated each time we pass through. A must-stop Route 66 photo op, you can explore some of the property, grab a cold drink, and imagine what it was like back in the day to sleep under the neon lights of one of the coolest signs on Route 66. And since traffic isn’t an issue, be sure to stop and take your picture with the giant badges on the road as well.
Celebrate at the End of Route 66- Santa Monica
Congratulations, you’ve made it! Although the end of Route 66 (before being decommissioned) was technically located at the intersection of Olympic and Lincoln Boulevards in Santa Monica, the once symbolic and now official end is located on the Santa Monica Pier. Whether you’ve traveled all 2,400 miles or just a handful, no trip is truly complete without a photo at the “End of the Trail” sign, proving that you’ve reached the western end of America’s most famous road. Dogs are welcome to explore the pier and surrounding boardwalks (just not the beach), so be sure they’re included in your pictures. After all, you’ll want to show off your good boy or girl for co-piloting on this trip of a lifetime!
For those places that don’t have any vintage motels available, we have found that almost all La Quintas and many Best Westerns are dog-friendly, and both offer great incentive programs where you can earn free nights. We also like to stay in Doubletree Hotels, which offer full kitchens, laundry facilities, and plenty of space to spread out for a few days.
Please feel free to let us know if we can provide further suggestions or answer any questions to help with planning your pet-friendly Route 66 travels. And we definitely plan to travel Route 66 again, so please comment with additional dog-friendly suggestions for future trips!