Exploring Along Route 66 in Arizona with Kids
In this time with so much uncertainty surrounding travel, it’s nice to have some local trip ideas in mind in the event that you just need to get away for the weekend! We are lucky to have a huge piece of road tripping history right in our backyard – the historic Route 66!
Also called “The Main Street of America,” Route 66 was established in 1926 as a primary route for those traveling west. It begins (or ends, depending on which way you are traveling) in Chicago and continues through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and our great state of Arizona before reaching a dead end on the Santa Monica Pier at the Pacific Ocean.
If you enjoy history, kitschy roadside attractions, or just simply fun photo ops – this is a great way to spend a weekend! My family recently took our RV along portions of the 66 and wanted to share some of our favorite stops along the way!
Traveling west to east, the first stop on our Route 66 tour was the living ghost town of Oatman, Arizona!
Originally built as a mining camp during the gold rush, Oatman now survives mainly on tourism and is known as the wild west town of the roaming wild burros. It is true, these donkeys walk up and down the main street of town and are quite friendly, coming right up to our truck windows in search of snacks.
We visited late in the day as most of the shops had started closing, but still had a great time walking the main street straight out of a western movie and taking fun photos!
The Oatman Hotel is a big piece of history, opened in 1902. It was a home for many passing miners, and is said to be the hotel Clark Gable and his wife spent their honeymoon in 1939. The hotel fell upon hard times, was repeatedly repaired after several fires, and is now said to be haunted.
There are saloons and general stores with homemade ice cream, Navajo fry bread, and classic diner eats. They have gold panning stations and several tour companies offer excursions to the mines and 4×4 tours of the beautiful desert surrounding the town.
Oatman makes the perfect lunch stop during your afternoon before you move onto the next stop, Cool Springs.
The drive out of Oatman is a wild one with sharp turns and steep drop offs. It is an absolutely beautiful drive, but not recommended for oversized vehicles. There are several rusty historic vehicles at the base of the cliffs that are evidence of less than cautious driving.
Cool Springs is a service station between Oatman and Kingman, set up as a much needed stop for gas and refreshments after passing through the twisty roads. There is a small museum, rock shop, a store with fun Route 66 souvenirs and sodas, and a collection of historical pieces.
The next stop on our route is the city of Kingman, Arizona! Kingman is a great base camp as it is the biggest of all our Route 66 stops and has many choices for overnight accommodations. The Arizona Route 66 museum is also located here. Did you know that you can buy a Route 66 passport and have it stamped in each state if you are driving along Route 66 through multiple states? Much like the National Park passports, this is a fun activity for the kids and makes a great souvenir for them to remember their road trip.
If your kiddos love trains, there is an old Spanish Mission style railway station in downtown Kingman, built in 1907. Afterward, you can head over to Locomotive Park, where the kids can climb up into the cab of the Santa Fe Railway engine #3759, as well as enjoy modern trains that run through the park.
Beale Street is Kingman’s historic main street. This is where you will want to come to enjoy a meal, along with some fun murals and vintage signs. We love to try local breweries when we travel so we made a stop at Rickety Cricket Brewing. They have a great kid’s menu and a fun casual atmosphere.
Continuing on our journey east, this next town is a must see if you are a fan of the Cars movie franchise! In fact, it has been said by many that the town of Seligman, Arizona was the original inspiration for Radiator Springs!
This town is a photo op wonderland, with murals, replicas of Tow Mater, Doc Hudson, and an old jail that you can walk through!
Seligman has some of the best souvenir shops we saw along our trip. If you are looking for vintage signs, 50’s diner decor, Route 66 apparel, and other great (Father’s Day gift ideas) for the car enthusiast in your life, we recommend the Return to the 50’s gift shop! The owner was super friendly and knew so many fun facts about Route 66 and the vintage cars in the shop.
The diner was originally opened by a resident prankster in the early 50’s and the family carries on his tradition of making dining fun with a sign stating “Sorry, We’re Open” at the fake door to get inside. There’s another door with fake door knobs before you wrap around to the back where the real entrance is. We were even squirted with fake condiments when ordering (a squeeze bottle with red yarn, but it sure scared my preteen when she thought her shirt was getting splattered with ketchup!) but it’s all in fun! And there are plenty of weird items to enjoy on the property while you wait for your order (like toilet planters).
If you prefer table service, there is also the famous Roadkill Cafe where their slogan is “You Kill It, We Grill It.” But no matter where you go, there is guaranteed laughs and charm waiting for you in Seligman.
We ended our trip here, but if you continue east, your next stop would be Williams, a destination we’ve spent a good deal of time in during the Christmas season for their Polar Express attraction, and the wonderful drive through wildlife park, Bearizona! Click here to read more about things to do in Williams!