Route 66 with Joshua Trees deep inside California's Mojave Desert.

The Best Route 66 Photo Spots: Our Complete Guide (with map!)

Updated by Pat Dorri on June 12 2023

Route 66 is a legendary route that features in mid-century film and literature, passing through some of the most iconic scenery in the western United States. It's also known as the route travelers took when they left the Depression-era Midwest in search of a new life in California.

A Route 66 road trip takes you 2,280 miles across the USA, through buzzing cities and quirky small towns. From mid-century motels to 1960's Muffler Men and modern sculpture in Chicago, you'll find some stunning photo opportunities along the way.

You can't follow the original route of Route 66 in the 21st century. However, in many places, it's still possible to hop off the interstate and follow long sections of the old route if you want to stay true to the iconic highway's roots.

Here is our comprehensive guide to the best parts of Route 66 if you'd like to learn more.

The best photo spots on Route 66 and where they are located
Photo SpotLocationDescription
Historic Route 66 Start SignChicago, ILThis famous sign marking the eastern starting point of the historic Route 66
Cloud GateChicago, ILLocated near Route 66 and also known as 'The Bean', a must-see in Chicago
The Route 66 Muffler MenWilmington, Atlanta, Springfield, Livingstone IL, Tulsa, OKOversized fiberglass statues scattered along the historic highway
Route 66 Drive-InCarthage, MOA classic drive-in theater offering a nostalgic movie-watching experience
The Blue Whale of CatoosaCathoosa, OKA giant blue whale structure on a pond, a quirky roadside attraction
Cyrus Avery Centennial PlazaTulsa, OKDedicated to 'the Father of Route 66,' featuring a 30-foot bronze sculpture
U-Drop InnShamrock, TXBeautifully restored art-deco service station known for its architecture
The Big TexanAmarillo, TXA historic steakhouse in Amarillo, Texas, famous for its outdoor statues
Cadillac RanchAmarillo, TXArt installation with graffiti-covered Cadillac cars buried in the ground
Route 66 Midpoint SignAdrian, TXPopular sign marking the geographical halfway point of Route 66
Blue Swallow MotelTucumcari, NMWell-preserved 1930s-era motel, known for its neon sign
Wigwam HotelHolbrook, AZUnique hotel reflecting a blend of kitsch Americana and Native American symbolism
Jack Rabbit Trading PostJoseph City, AZKnown for its famous "HERE IT IS" billboards and a large fiberglass jackrabbit
Standin' on the Corner ParkWinslow, AZCommemorates the Eagles' song "Take It Easy" with a life-sized bronze statue
Roy's Motel & CafeAmboy, CAIconic motel and café offering a nostalgic glimpse into Route 66's heyday
End of the TrailSanta Monica, CAIconic motel and café offering a nostalgic glimpse into Route 66's heyday

Below, you can see the best photo stops on the map we have created.

1. Historic Route 66 Start Sign, Chicago

32 hours (2,280 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: As its name suggests, this is the starting point for the whole of Route 66 – don't set off without grabbing a photo here if you're planning on documenting your trip in pictures.

You'll find a few other start points on nearby streets if you want to make a short tour of them all. This is due to changes in the city's road network before the start point was moved to its current location.

If you'd like to learn more about where Route 66 starts, check out our detailed guide.

Brown "Historic Route 66 Begin" sign in downtown Chicago, Illinois, with historic buildings in the background
Start collecting memories and snapshots in Chicago, starting with the famous Route 66 Sign.

Where is it located on the route: You'll find the sign on the corner of E Adams Street and S Michigan Avenue, right in the heart of Chicago. As you head west on Adams Street and cross the Chicago River, you'll meet up with Old Route 66, which is one of the routes you can take out of the city.

Best time to visit: You can take pictures here any time of day. If you're driving up to the sign you might prefer to avoid the Chicago rush hour by visiting in the middle of the day.

If you have a long day of Route 66 driving ahead then there's nothing to stop you making an early start before you hit the road.

Snow is always possible in winter – this might be a bonus for a snow-capped photo of the sign but you'll also have to contend with wintery weather as you begin your Route 66 road trip.

Where to park: There are a few paid parking bays on E Adams Street just a few meters from the Route 66 Start Sign. If you stop here, make sure to park in marked bays only to avoid your vehicle being towed if you stop further along E Adams Street.

Alternatively, continue another block south on Michigan Avenue and you'll find the entrance to Grant Park South Garage which ducks underneath Michigan Avenue.

2. Cloud Gate, Chicago

32 hours (2,280 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: This huge modern sculpture in the center of Chicago's Millennium Park – also known as the Bean – is an iconic city landmark designed by Anish Kapoor and it makes an eye-catching picture in its own right.

With its smooth, curved surface it also lets you get creative by taking shots of the reflected skyline.

Chicago, IL / USA with the famous Cloud Gate Chicago bean landmark at day nobody around in summer.
While Cloud Gate is not directly located on Route 66, it is a much-worthy detour to make while you are in Chicago.
Photo Spirit/

Where is it located on the route: Cloud Gate and Millennium Park are located just a 7-minute walk from the Historic Route 66 Start Sign.

Best time to visit: This is a really popular city landmark, and it can get crowded. Come mid-week or before 8 AM for the best chance to photograph the sculpture without bystanders.

Millennium Park also hosts many events so check ahead in case access is limited or crowds are even bigger than normal.

Where to park: Park on E Adams Street or Grant Park North/South Garage (fees apply) and walk over to Millennium Park after taking a picture at the Route 66 Start Sign.

3. The Route 66 Muffler Men

1 hour 10 minutes (60 miles) from Chicago

31 hours (2,100 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: Several of these huge 1960s statues can be found on Route 66. They were built to make local businesses stand out and have become iconic photo stops along the route.

The first one you'll meet is the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois. He's a 10-meter-tall astronaut standing right by the roadside. Others that you'll find along the way include:

  • Paul Bunyon – a hot dog-wielding giant in Atlanta, Illinois
  • The Lauterbatch Tire Giant in Springfield, Illinois
  • The Uniroyal Gal in Livingstone, Illinois – now dressed in vintage 60s attire rather than her original bikini
  • The Golden Driller and the Space Cowboy in Tulsa, Oklahoma
The statue of a man wearing a green shirt and a rocket helmet, while also holding a rocket
The iconic Muffler Men are quirky roadside attractions on Route 66 and the first one you will encounter will be the Gemini Giant if you are traveling from Chicago.
Nicola Patterson/

Where is it located on the route: To reach the Gemini Giant from the Route 66 Start Sign, follow Old Route 66 then I-55 as you head out of Chicago then turn off the interstate as you approach Wilmington.

Best time to visit: You can get a picture by most of the Muffler Men at any time of day, but time your visit to make a refreshment stop at the diner if you're visiting the Gemini Giant.

Where to park: The Gemini Giant stands in the parking lot of the Launching Pad Drive-In so pull in here and grab a coffee or a bite to eat before carrying on your drive.

4. Route 66 Drive-In, Carthage, MO

8 hours 30 minutes (570 miles) from Chicago

23 hours (1,575 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: This drive-in movie theatre still retains many of its original features, including the roadside sign, art deco ticket booth and of course the screen itself with huge red lettering advertising the drive-in to passing drivers.

The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The historic Route 66 Drive-in sign, with a sign that shows what is currently on show
Looking for your own experience of nostalgia? Catch a movie under the stars at the historic Route 66 Drive-In.

Where is it located on the route: From Springfield, the historic highway follows MO-266 and MO-96 through Albatross and Rescue before reaching Carthage, where W Central Avenue takes you through the town.

Turn left onto Garrison Street then follow the signposted right turn onto Route 66 West at Carthage Square.

Old 66 Blvd takes you out of town past the Municipal Park - as you start driving through farmland you might feel like you've missed it but keep on going and you'll see the Route 66 Drive-In on your right a few minutes after leaving Carthage.

Best time to visit: You can pull up any time to take a photo of the huge drive-in banner and sign, which looks out over the old highway.

Most of the time the drive-in theatre is just a blank screen so check ahead for screening dates and times

Where to park: You can't pull right into the drive-in unless there's a movie showing but there's space to pull up outside and the vintage sign and ticket booth are visible from the driveway.

5. The Blue Whale of Catoosa, OK

10 hours (675 miles) from Chicago

21 hours 30 minutes (1,465 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: This unique sculpture of a blue whale emerging from an Oklahoma pond has been a popular and quirky stop on Route 66 for many years.

It's free to visit and you can stop for a picnic beside the pond too. Travelers in the past used to be able to swim in the pond but these days visits are strictly land-based.

Iconic Blue Whale sculpture at Catoosa on Route 66
The famous Blue Whale of Catoosa is one of the most adorable roadside stops on Route 66.
Steve Lagreca/

Where is it located on the route: Catoosa is a short distance outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is located right on the original route of Route 66. To visit the whale, approach Tulsa via OK-66 and you'll pass right by it on your way to the city.

Best time to visit: The Blue Whale of Catoosa is only open during the daytime. Check ahead for opening hours if you're planning to arrive early or late in the day.

If you arrive after the gates closed you can still see the whale from outside, but it won't be the same experience taking photos through the fence.

Where to park: There's a parking lot right outside, just turn off OK-66 when you spot the whale.

6. Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, Tulsa, OK

10 hours 15 minutes (690 miles) from Chicago

21 hours 50 minutes (1,465 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: Right beside the Arkansas River you'll find a statue of Cyrus Avery, “the Father of Route 66” who pushed for Route 66 to be created back in the 1920s.

Take a photo close up or from up high on the pedestrian bridge. With its large Route 66 logo, the bridge itself also offers a good photo opportunity. You can also walk beside the river or follow Route 66 across the Arkansas River on foot if you want to stretch your legs.

Bronze statue commemorating the "Father of Route 66" on a sunny day
To learn more about the "Father of Route 66", Cyrus Avery, visit this impressive statue.

Where is it located on the route: Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza is located right on Route 66 as it travels through Tulsa, just where Southwest Boulevard crosses the Arkansas River.

To access the parking lot, follow W 11th Street out of Tulsa, which is also US Route 66, then take a left turn by the gas station onto S Houston Avenue and turn right onto W 13th St. You'll find the parking lot at the end of the road.

Best time to visit: Visit any time, but think about coming at sunset if you like to watch the sun going down over the river.

Where to park: You can't park directly outside Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, but there's a parking lot on the opposite side of Route 66 from where you can walk across the pedestrian bridge to access the Plaza. Some visitors have reported that the parking lot can be hard to navigate following local signage - it's worth taking a quick look at this one out on a map first since it's not an intuitive route.

7. U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX

13 hours 50 minutes (960 miles) from Chicago

17 hours 30 minutes (1,180 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: This stunning Art Deco building houses a gas station and the U-Drop Inn café and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's also the inspiration for Ramone's House of Body Art in the Cars movies.

Historic U-Drop Inn at night with its famous neon signs lit up
If you visit the U-Drop Inn at night, you can admire its neon lights.
T photography/

Where is it located on the route: You'll probably be following I-40 on this stretch of the route, and you'll reach the exit for Shamrock just a few miles after crossing the state border from Oklahoma into Texas.

The U-Drop Inn is located on the corner of Main Street and Old Route 66. If you enter the town onto Main Street, the Inn is just a few blocks off the interstate.

If you follow Old Route 66 from the eastern side of the town, follow Business Loop 40 W which runs along the historic highway but is much more clearly signposted.

Best time to visit: Currently the café is only open for lunches (11am – 2pm) so aim for the middle of the day to try one of their fabulous homemade pies as well as taking photos.

If you're not planning a lunch stop, you can pull up and photograph the outside any time of day. At night you'll see the art deco buildings illuminated, so this is also a good time to stop for a photo.

Where to park: There's a small parking lot to the side of the café.

8. The Big Texan, Amarillo, TX

15 hours 15 minutes (1,060 miles) from Chicago

15 hours 30 minutes (1,080 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: You can't miss the 60-foot-tall cowboy welcoming you in from the interstate. When you stop to see him up close you can also get a picture next to the huge cowboy boot and bull outside.

The distinctive colors of this brightly painted steakhouse, decorated with Texan flags, also make a great picture.

The Big Texan Restaurant with the iconic cow sculpture in the foreground
Make sure to sample the delicious offerings at the Big Texan after taking photos with the quirky statues in the front.
David Harmantas/

Where is it located on the route: The Big Texan is located right by I-40 as you travel through Amarillo.

Best time to visit: You can visit any time. The steakhouse is usually open for lunch and dinner but it's a popular stop and doesn't take bookings so be prepared to wait a while if you're getting a meal here at busy times.

You can also stay overnight at the motel.

Where to park: There's a parking lot outside the steakhouse and motel.

9. Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

15 hours 15 minutes (1,060 miles) from Chicago

15 hours 30 minutes (1,080 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: This unique art installation made of 10 vintage Cadillacs planted nose-down in the ground is one of the iconic Route 66 sites.

Bring spray paint (or buy in the nearby gift shop) and you can add your own art to the installation.

The Cadillac Ranch at Amarillo Texas
Cadillac Ranch is a definite must-see on Route 66; you can even add your own graffiti to this ever-evolving art installation.
Erwin Widmer/

Where is it located on the route: Head west out of Amarillo on I-40 and you'll soon reach Cadillac Ranch. The installation is located right beside the interstate, but to drive up to it you'll need to take exit 62A onto the frontage road, cross over the interstate then turn right onto the south access road.

Best time to visit: You can enter the site 24 hours a day so you can visit whenever you like and there's no rush to get here before the gates shut. However, there's no shade, so avoid the middle of the day if you're traveling during hot weather.

You can also walk right round the Cadillacs, so whatever time of day you're here you can play with the light and shadows to get some interesting photos of the installation.

Note that the site can get very muddy following heavy rain, so you might not be able to get up close to the cars.

Where to park: There isn't a parking lot but you can pull up on the roadside right by the entrance, on the south access road to I-40.

10. Route 66 Midpoint Sign, Adrian, TX

15 hours 50 (1,100 miles) from Chicago

15 hours (1,040 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: As its name suggests, this is the midpoint of the original route, and probably a welcome milestone when you're taking this long drive. However, since the old highway was decommissioned it's no longer exactly halfway along the route you'll drive today.

The midpoint is marked with a sign beside the road and also a line across the road. Stay safe if you're trying to photograph the line itself as the road leads on to the interstate.

The vintage signage at the Midpoint Café across the road is also a great photo opportunity. The characters at Flo's V8 Café in the movie Cars were based on staff at the Midpoint Café, though the building itself looks quite different to the on-screen version.

The famous Midpoint sign of Route 66 on a sunny day
You have made it to the midpoint of Route 66! Celebrate with a selfie of yourself next to the famous sign.
TLF Images/

Where is it located on the route: The Route 66 Midpoint Sign is located on the edge of the small town of Adrian. The original Route 66 runs parallel to the interstate through the town before joining back up with I-40.

Best time to visit: The sign is right by the roadside so you can pull up any time you like. The café is currently open from 8.30 to 4.00

Where to park: You can't stop right on the road here but pull up by the Midpoint Café just across the street.

11. Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, NM

17 hours 15 minutes (1,125 miles) from Chicago

14 hours 15 minutes (977 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: This iconic Route 66 motel retains its original neon signage, which is still illuminated after dark. The long-standing motel is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Blue Swallow Motel, built in 1939, still operates on historic Route 66.
The Blue Swallow Motel is hard to miss - just follow the neon signs!
Bill Chizek/

Where is it located on the route: Route 66/E Tucumcari Blvd runs right through the center of town so the Blue Swallow Motel will be easy to spot as you head through.

Best time to visit: Drive by in the evening for a picture of the motel sign illuminated. Or, seeing as this is a highly rated Route 66 stopover, consider booking a night at the Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari to break up your drive.

Where to park: There's parking outside the motel, but be considerate of motel guests if you're not checking in.

There are also parking lots outside the neighbouring convenience store and donut store if you want to stock up on snacks and take a walk down to the see motel.

12. Wigwam Hotel, Holbrook, AZ

22 hours 30 minutes (1,570 miles) from Chicago

8 hours 40 minutes (570 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: With tipis for rooms and vintage cars parked outside, this motel dates back to the early days of Route 66. It's now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can still book an overnight stay here.

Two wigwams with blue colored vintage cars parked in the front
Another quirky hotel on Route 66, you can see the wigwams all the way from the road as you approach this property.

Where is it located on the route: The Wigwam Hotel is located on West Hopi Drive, the main road in and out of Holbrook from I-40.

Best time to visit: You can pull up any time of day but if you want to avoid taking a picture of modern-day travelers and their vehicles, come in the middle of the day after check-out time.

Where to park: Free parking is available outside the motel.

13. Jack Rabbit Trading Post, Joseph City, AZ

23 hours 20 minutes (1,550 miles) from Chicago

8 hours 25 minutes (555 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: This souvenir stop on Old Route 66 (just off I-40) is decorated with colorful murals. Take a few minutes to explore the curiosities and souvenirs inside the trading post too.

Just outside, you can't miss the “Here it is” sign – today it's a frequently photographed local landmark, but historically it was the last in a series of jackrabbit signs marking the distance to the trading post, which stretched as far as Missouri.

The famous trading post sign that says "Here it is" with a rabbit logo, photo taken on a sunny day
If you are looking for Jack Rabbit Trading Post, well, "Here It Is"!
Curtis Harsh/

Where is it located on the route: You'll find the Jack Rabbit Trading Post between Holbrook and Winslow. Take Exit 269 if you're traveling on I-40 then turn left to reach the trading post, which is on the south side of the interstate.

Best time to visit: The trading post is open during daytime hours Monday to Sunday but it's also possible to pull up for a picture when the store is closed.

Where to park: There's a parking lot right outside.

14. Standin' on the Corner Park, Winslow, AZ

23 hours (1,600 miles) from Chicago

8 hours 15 minutes (540 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: Standin' on the Corner Park was built to commemorate Winslow's Route 66 heritage and to mark Take it Easy, the first hit by the Eagles which was inspired by the town.

There's a huge Route 66 sign painted onto the intersection nearby, so you can set up a cool picture looking at the vintage-style wall art and statues beyond.

Every September you can also enjoy a festival weekend at the park (book in advance).

The famous park on a sunny day with the Route-66 sign in the foreground
Standin' on the Corner Park is a nod to the famous Eagles Song.

Where is it located on the route: Winslow is just off I-40, and you'll see a sign directing you onto historic Route 66 when you exit the interstate.

There's a one-way system through the center of town so you'll have to do a circuit if you want to park as close as possible to Route 66 Plaza. The 'corner' that you're looking for is where 2nd St and N Kingsley Avenue meet.

Best time to visit: Stop any time but consider visiting early in the day if you want to avoid traffic photobombing your picture of the Route 66 sign on the road.

Also, be sure to book ahead if you want to visit the Standin' on the Corner Festival in September.

Where to park: There's plenty of on-street parking in nearby streets

15. Roy's Motel & Cafe, Amboy, CA

28 hours (1,950 miles) from Chicago

3 hours 50 minutes (210 miles) from Santa Monica

What makes this photo spot special: Roy's Motel is known for its Midcentury Modern architecture, and the site has been used in music videos, commercials and movies.

The motel is currently closed, but the site is being gradually refurbished. The huge vintage sign stands out against the dry landscape on the National Trails Highway.

Famous roadside attraction Roy's Motel and Cafe during sunset
See if you can recall all the times you have seen the famous sign of Roy's Motel & Cafe on the television.
CL Shebley/

Where is it located on the route: A stretch of old Route 66 is currently closed due to damage to the road, so to get here you'll have to follow I-40 along the southern edge of Mojave National Preserve.

Exit onto Kelbaker Road but instead of turning right into Mojave National Preserve, head south towards Amboy. Once you reach National Trails Highway, turn right and you'll reach Roy's Motel & Cafe in a couple of minutes.

The Amboy Crater is just past Roy's Motel and is an interesting place to stop for a visit.

Best time to visit: It can get pretty warm here in the summer months, but you'll probably only be stopping for a quick photo so that shouldn't be a problem.

If you're planning on stopping at Amboy Crater too, avoid the hot time in the middle of the day.

Where to park: Simply pull up off the highway outside the motel to take a photo.

16. End of the Trail, Santa Monica, CA

32 hours (2,280 miles) from Chicago

What makes this photo spot special: As well as being able to take a picture at the sign that marks the end of your trip, you'll be looking out across the sparkling Pacific Ocean, which provides plenty of photo opportunities of its own.

Santa Monica pier and Route 66 End of the trail
Your epic adventure of Route 66 photo ops ends in sunny Santa Monica.

Where is it located on the route: The End of the Trail Sign is located by Santa Monica Pier, having been moved from its original location a couple of blocks inland due to road building work.

Best time to visit: Avoid the morning and evening rush hours if you want to spend less time in traffic.

Where to park: There are large parking lot beside Santa Monica Pier and along Ocean Way, and other smaller lots on Appian Way. These might fill up as the day goes on, especially at weekends, so come early to avoid searching for a space. And check the closing time of your parking lot – some close at sunset.