Route 66 California

Route 66 California: What to See Along the Way

October 26, 2022 /

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

Here we are at last in California, the final destination of our Route 66 road trip. The Golden State with its deserts and the beaches of Santa Monica lapped by the Pacific Ocean will be the backdrop to our last itinerary. So let’s not waste any more time and get ready to face the last miles of the Mother Road on this trip along Route 66 in California.

Route 66 California: Attractions Map

Route 66 California: Best Stops Along the Way

Needles

Route 66 California Best Stops

The first town you’ll encounter as you enter California doesn’t have much to offer you other than a couple of interesting facts. The first is something to bear in mind if you’re passing through here in the summer: Needles is in fact known to be one of the hottest places in the United States, it is not uncommon in fact that during the summer the temperature is close to 104 °F.

The second curiosity concerns Peanuts. Their creator Charles Schulz lived in this town and the desert that surrounds it was a source of inspiration for the setting where Spike, Snoopy’s brother, lived. Unfortunately, contrary to what one would expect from a small provincial town in the USA, Needles doesn’t offer anything that adequately highlights this connection with one of the most important and internationally known personalities, except for a statue of Spike and some other memorabilia preserved at the Needles Regional Museum (929 Front St, Needles), located near the historic El Garces Hotel (built in 1908). If you are hungry, try the Route 66-themed Wagon Wheel Restaurant (2420 Needles Hwy).

Goffs – Fenner – Essex

Route 66 California attractions

What you will encounter along the way are, or are about to become, true Ghost Towns. What was once Goffs Public School is now the headquarters of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association (37198 Lanfair Rd, Essex), where you can find information on the region’s history. Essex, on the other hand, was once a sort of oasis in the Route 66 desert where its public well (now dry) offered free water and drinks to travelers in need. The Mojave Desert near Essex was also the training ground for General Patton’s troops preparing to take on the desert fox Erwin Rommel during World War II.

Amboy

Route 66 California map

Here in Amboy you can stop and admire one of the most famous attractions on Route 66, namely Roy’s Motel & Cafe, immediately recognizable by its sign that will give you a sense of the atmosphere that could be breathed in the Route’s golden years.

Detour – Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Park

Route 66 California attractions map

If you’re planning to visit Joshua Tree National Park (one of America’s most scenic parks) this is the best time to take a detour from the Route 66 route. About 50 miles south of Amboy is the town of Twentynine Palms, which is an excellent base for visiting the famous national park.

Bagdad – Siberia – Ludlow – Newberry Springs – Dagget

things to see on route 66 in california

Continuing on Route 66 after Amboy, the towns you will encounter are all abandoned with little or nothing to see, except for a few old gas stations and a few buildings that have not yet surrendered to the passing of time, so before arriving in Barstow we suggest you make a detour along the way to visit the interesting Ghost Town of Calico to which we have dedicated a separate article.

Barstow

Route 66 California cities

Finally we arrive in a real town after so many miles spent without much to see except for the desert landscape, which undoubtedly has its charm, however. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the museums and stores on our favorite road, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Route 66 Mother Road Museum (681 N 1st Ave), full of interesting memorabilia (update January 2022: unfortunately, the museum has closed), and if you’ve always been fascinated by trains, it’s definitely worth spending some time at the Western America Railroad Museum (685 N 1st Ave).

Route 66 California barstow

If you are driving Route 66 from Arizona and were pleasantly surprised by the Meteor Crater then you might consider a visit to the Desert Discovery Center (831 Barstow Rd) which houses the Old Woman Meteorite, the second largest meteorite found in the United States.

things to see on route 66 california

Strolling down Barstow’s Main Street, you can also see a series of murals depicting the history of the town and the Mother Road, either on your own or on a guided tour. If you’re interested in learning more about local history, the Mojave River Valley Museum (270 E Virginia Way) is the place for you, with more than 20,000 photographs and a collection of local newspapers dating back to 1911.

Helendale – Oro Grande

Route 66 California route

Between these two towns, the Bottle Tree Ranch (National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande) is definitely worth a visit, a creation of Elmer Long who started this particular art form in 2000; as you can see, some of the creations are rusty and dusty while others are newer, proving that the “forest” is constantly expanding.

Victorville

historic Route 66 California attractions

If you are passing through Victorville, you must stop at the California Route 66 Museum (16825 D St) where naturally you will find many historical artifacts related to the Mother Road, with particular attention to the Californian section.

Cajon Pass Area

Once you leave Victorville behind you, after a few miles you will find the Summit Inn (5970 Mariposa Rd) which has been in business since 1952. You will find an authentic testimony of the golden age of Route 66, with a sort of open-air museum including old means of transport and remains of old gas pumps. Inside the restaurant you can also enjoy local specialties such as the buffalo burger.

San Bernardino

Route 66 California Los Angeles

As you approach San Bernardino, you’ll notice that the scenery begins to change completely: you’re entering the area known as Greater L.A., the suburbs of Los Angeles that merge together to form one big city. Particular attractions in San Bernardino are the Original McDonald’s Museum (1398 N E St) which, as you can guess from its name, celebrates the famous fast food chain that opened its first restaurant here in 1948; also noteworthy for its architecture and history is the California Theater in Spanish missionary revival style that has been in operation since 1928.

On the way to Los Angeles, 21 miles after San Bernardino, you will arrive in Rancho Cucamonga: be sure to visit the colorful Cucamonga Service Station (9670 Foothill Blvd, Rancho Cucamonga), recently restored to its former glory.

Rialto

If you were impressed by the Wigwam Village Motel in Arizona, here you will find its close relative with the difference that the Wigwam Motel in California was completely restored in 2004 and for this reason offers some more comforts without neglecting its particular charm. If you are interested in spending a night here take a look at this page.

Upland

History buffs may consider stopping by the Planes of Fame Air Museum (7000 Merrill Avenue) near Chino Airport and admire its collection of World War II aircraft and historical artifacts.

Claremont

If you’re passing through Claremont in the springtime, you may be able to attend the annual folk music festival sponsored by the Folk Music Center Museum, which is known for its extensive collection of musical instruments collected over its more than fifty-year history.

Monrovia

where is route 66 in california

In spite of its age (it was inaugurated in 1925 at the same time as Route 66 was opened), the Aztec Hotel (311 W Foothill Blvd) still has its particular charm, so much so that it finds space in the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel is worth a visit just to see its exterior details. If you want to stretch your legs after so many hours of driving, consider stopping by the Old Town where you can wander around small stores, theaters, galleries and restaurants.

Pasadena

where does route 66 end in california

Pasadena is a lovely city to consider for a stop before entering chaotic Los Angeles. Definitely worth a visit is the Gamble House (4 Westmoreland Pl) an architectural gem designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908. If you are one of those who will never forget the evening of July 17, 1994, consider a visit to the Rose Bowl (1001 Rose Bowl Dr), the stadium where Roberto Baggio missed the last penalty shot of the 1994 USA World Cup final. If you want an excuse to involve your better half in this visit, then you should know that every second Sunday of the month outside the stadium there is one of the most famous flea markets in the United States, where you can find literally anything.

Like most southern cities, Pasadena has an Old Town with plenty of stores and attractions for tourists. Pasadena is also known to hold two curious records: the first is the Old Mill, also known as Molino Viejo , which is the oldest commercial building still existing in California, and the second is to have “given birth” in 1924 to the first cheeseburger in the world in Pasadena’s Rite Spot Restaurant.

Los Angeles / Santa Monica

Route 66 California santa monica

Santa Monica Pier jutting out into the Ocean with its large, picturesque sign is symbolically considered the end of Route 66 since the official end, though only a few feet away, is certainly not as photogenic. Entire articles have been written on the attractions of Los Angeles and its surroundings on this website and to make a summary of them now would be almost impossible and time-wasting. You can instead take a look at our travel guide to Los Angeles.

This article concludes our tour to discover the most beautiful and particular attractions of Route 66. Whether you started your trip in Chicago, or Texas, or you have only traveled a short stretch of the Mother Road, we hope that the atmosphere that accompanies this road has left you with emotions that are hard to forget. 

Where to Stay Along Route 66 in California

If you want some advice on the best hotels and motels along this stretch of Mother Road you can read the section dedicated to where to stay along Route 66 in California in our in-depth article.

Discover typical accommodations along Route 66

Travel resources

Here are some guides you can rely on

If you’d like to delve into the individual attractions of each city, each has its own institutional website, where you can find all the additional information you’ll need.

Previous stops on the route…

Here are the routes of the previous states:


Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

filippo nardelli
Filippo Nardelli

I have a degree in History of North America and have always been fascinated by the United States.

2 thoughts on “Route 66 California: What to See Along the Way”

  1. Baratown—the Route 66 Mother Road Museum (681 N 1st Ave), full of interesting memorabilia (update January 2022: unfortunately, the museum has closed)

    PLEASE CORRECT, THEY ARE OPEN. THEY’RE OPEN ON FRI, SAT, AND SUN. PLEASE CALL THEM TO CONFIRM AND CORRECT ARTICLE. EVERYTHING ELSE IS GREAT! GREAT ARTICLE. THANK YOU.

    Reply

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