Route 66

17 days Self Drive Tours
  • Chicago
  • St Louis
  • Springfield
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma City
  • Amarillo
  • Albuquerque
  • Santa Fe
  • Gallup
  • Grand Canyon
  • Holbrook
  • Las Vegas
  • Calico
  • Los Angeles

Virgin Holidays' view

In 1938, Route 66 became the first completely paved highway in the United States. Known as the “Mother Road”, it stretched from the Great Lakes to the shores of California’s Pacific Coast. This Historic Route 66 tour takes you on an unforgettable self-drive journey filled with captivating Americana and the history of the old west. You’ll visit Chicago and St Louis, experience the highlights of Las Vegas and Los Angeles and discover the captivating beauty of the Grand Canyon and the vast lands of the Texas Panhandle.

Itinerary

Day 1: Chicago

Arrive at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and transfer independently to your first hotel of stay. Upon check in, please ask the hotel reception for your ATI tour documentation pack which will include your tour essentials. Accommodation stay – 2 Nights at The Whitehall Chicago or similar.

Day 2: Chicago

Step outside today and experience mile after magnificent mile of the Windy City. Stand on the corner of Michigan and Adams, marked as the starting point of Historic Route 66. Enjoy coffee and a big breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s, a Chicago institution since 1923 and a must for Route 66 travelers. Stroll the lakefront, peruse the shops, bike the parks, grab a Chicago Dog, or explore the city’s incredible sights and architectural treasures including Willis Tower, one of the tallest buildings in North America.

Day 3: Chicago – St. Louis

This morning, pick up your rental car and get ready for an unforgettable journey into the then and now of America along Historic Route 66. This legendary old road passes through a variety of pure Americana landscapes and takes in some of the country’s biggest, oldest and most peculiar sites along the way. Begin your journey by following the traditional east-to-west path of Route 66 from Chicago to St. Louis, Missouri, cruising through endless cornfields and fl at prairies. En route, don’t miss Wilmington’s most photographed ‚citizen‛, the larger-than-life green Gemini Giant, and Atlanta’s Bunyan Giant, a 19-foot statue of Paul Bunyan holding a giant hot dog. In Springfield, stop at the Cozy Dog Drive-In, the birthplace of the corn dog, and explore the legacy of Abraham Lincoln with a visit to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Once in St. Louis, the largest city along Route 66, you can follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers by visiting the historic sites found throughout the city, including the Gateway Arch, the nation’s tallest monument. Accommodation stay – 1 Night at the Omni Majestic Hotel or similar. Driving distance 480 kilometres.

Day 4: St. Louis – Springfield

Continue through the Ozark Highlands of southern Missouri to Springfield, recognized as the birthplace of Route 66. En route, stop at Meramec Caverns, an extensive set of natural limestone caves whose formations and colors are as unique as they are beautiful. Adding to the pleasure of exploring the caves is learning that Jesse James used them as a hideout and took advantage of the underground river to escape through the ‚back door‛. Accommodation stay – 1 Night at the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven or similar. Driving distance 340 kilometres.

Day 5: Springfield – Tulsa – Oklahoma City

This morning, cut through the southeastern corner of Kansas on your way to Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma section of Route 66 contains more drivable miles than any other state as well as several miles of the original 9-foot road segment that served Oklahoman families headed west in search of better opportunities during the 1930’s. En route to Oklahoma City, stop to view the beloved 20-foot tall cement Blue Whale in Catoosa, a landmark along Route 66, and the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in Tulsa honoring the ‚Father of Route 66’s‛ memory and connection to the historic highway. Once in Oklahoma City, the state’s capital, be sure to check out the old Route 66 motels, gas stations and numerous vintage buildings. Accommodation stay – 1 Night at the Best Western Plus Saddleback Inn & Conference Center or similar. Driving distance 520 kilometres.

Day 6: Oklahoma – Amarillo

Continue to Amarillo, located in the pancake-fl at plains of the Texas Panhandle. This area of Texas was once the buffalo-rich grasslands of the Great Plains, inhabited by bands of Kiowa and Comanche Indians. Stop at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton where you experience six decades of Route 66 history. See Shamrock’s Tower Station and the U-Drop Inn Cafe whose towering spire is still a reminder of the booming business it once saw. See the first restored Phillips 66 gas station in McLean and in Groom, the leaning water tower and a 150- foot tall stainless steel cross. Once in Amarillo, be sure to stop at Big Texas Steak Ranch where you can attempt their 72oz. steak challenge. Accommodation stay – 1 Night at the Quality Inn or similar. Driving distance 420 kilometres.

Day 7: Amarillo – Albuquerque

Before leaving Amarillo be sure to visit Cadillac Ranch. This unique display of art features a row of ten colorfully painted Cadillac cars buried grille first in the ground. Continue to the Midpoint Café in Adrian famous for its ‚ugly crust‛ pies. From Adrian you’ll follow Route 66 to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a great taste of the Land of Enchantment. Accommodation stay – 3 Nights at the Best Western Plus Rio Grande Inn or similar. Driving distance 450 kilometres.

Day 8: Albuquerque

The state’s largest city, Albuquerque spreads north and south along the banks of the Rio Grande. Spend the day exploring Downtown Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, a treasure trove of Route 66 landmarks. Historic Old Town offers a taste of New Mexico’s Spanish colonial past while the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, owned by the state’s 19 different Pueblo communities, traces the history of the region’s Native American cultures.

Day 9: Albuquerque – Santa Fe – Albuquerque

To get a true sense of the Old Route 66, today you will detour to New Mexico’s state capital, Santa Fe. Founded on the ruins of an abandoned Indian village and steeped in history, Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the U.S., and although it lost its place on Route 66 in 1938, it remains one of the most picturesque cities in the state. At one time this was the end of the old Santa Fe Trail, the earliest trade route linking the American frontier back east with the far west. Plan to visit one of Santa Fe’s famous art galleries, art markets, or museums full of traditional and contemporary art, including works by their own Georgia O’Keeffe, or shop for authentic creations you just won’t find anywhere else. Driving distance 186 kilometres.

Day 10: Albuquerque – Holbrook

This morning, the state of Arizona welcomes Route 66 travelers with an overwhelming display of trading posts. View huge concrete tepees that stand at the foot of brilliant red-rock mesas en route to Petrified Forest National Park, the only park in the National Park System containing a section of Historic Route 66. Here you will come face-to-face with over 13,000 years of human history and one of the world’s largest and most colorful assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures and archeological sites. Catch a sunset over the Painted Desert from the park’s Kachina Point before heading to Holbrook. Once in Holbrook, stop at the Wigwam Motel whose steel and concrete teepees featuring modern conveniences have welcomed guests since the 1950’s. Accommodation stay – 1 Night at the Magnuson Adobe Inn or similar. Driving distance 420 kilometres.

Day 11: Holbrook-Grand Canyon/Williams

Continue to Meteor City, a true vintage trading post whose distinctive dome can be seen for miles along this stretch of Route 66. Pass through Flagstaff and Williams en route to Grand Canyon National Park, a natural wonder that you simply have to see to believe. Spend the day discovering the distinct South Rim of the Canyon. Stop at one of the numerous overlooks, walk part of the Rim Trail or along the historic Hermit Road. Visit a Photo Hot Spot, or climb to the top of a stone Watchtower for panoramic views that extend over 100 miles on clear days. Accommodation stay – 1 Night at the Holiday Inn Express or similar. Driving distance 290 kilometres.

Day 12: Grand Canyon/Williams – Las Vegas

Leave the town of Williams and the Grand Canyon behind as you make your way to Seligman, the first stop heading west on the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66. Continue through Kingman whose old Route 66 cafés and motels still flourish, to one of Arizona’s hidden treasures, Hoover Dam. Considered the largest single public works project in the history of the U.S., Hoover Dam straddles the mighty Colorado River, which forms the border between Nevada and Arizona and brings much-needed water and power to the Southwest. Continue to Las Vegas, Nevada, a city that needs no introduction. Accommodation stay – 2 Nights at the Luxor Hotel & Casino or similar. Driving distance 480 kilometres.

Day 13: Las Vegas

Enjoy a full day Las Vegas style. Walk the famous Strip lined with mega-resorts and flashing neon lights, place a bet at one of the many casinos, dine at world-class restaurants, catch the latest must-see show, shop designer boutiques, ride a rollercoaster, lay by the pool ... the list goes on. With so much to do, 24 hours in a day hardly seems like enough.

Day 14: Las Vegas – Santa Monica – Los Angeles

This morning, set out through the Mojave Desert for Calico Ghost Town, California’s authentic silver mining town and one of the few original mining camps of the Old West. Rejoin Route 66 in Barstow where a collection of historic photographs and artifacts related to Route 66 and the Mojave Desert communities are on display at the Route 66 Mother Road Museum. Continue through Pasadena, Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to Santa Monica for a true Hollywood ending to your cross-country journey. Park and venture the last few blocks on foot to view the ‚End of the Trail‛ sign on Santa Monica’s Pier. This sign official marks the western end of Historic Route 66. Accommodation stay – 2 Nights at the Garland Hotel or similar. Driving distance 470 kilometres.

Day 15: Los Angeles Area

Spend the day strolling along the beaches of Santa Monica or browsing the adjacent indoor/outdoor shops at Third Street Promenade. Or, further explore L.A.’s one-of-a-kind destinations, playgrounds of the rich and famous and architectural gems. Universal Studios Hollywood and Anaheim’s original Disneyland Park are also located within easy driving distance.

Day 16-17: Los Angeles Departure to UK

Return your rental car at Los Angeles International Airport prior to your departure.

 

Meals: This tour is based on a Room only basis

*Denotes local charge - Optional trips and excursions suggested on the itinerary are bookable and payable locally.

This is a set tour itinerary, if you have booked any pre/post or optional tour arrangements please refer to your separate vouchers and final documents.

Dates & prices

The table below shows our escorted tour departure dates.

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Prices are described as Guide prices on this website and may be higher or lower due to availability, flights (if included) and date of departure.

Prices are for departure dates listed, ex-UK and are per adult based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room and with return economy flights where stated, not tour only. Single room and flight upgrade prices are available at a supplement.

Please note some tours are subject to minimum numbers, please call our travel experts or visit your local retail store for full details as well as our latest prices.

Tour information

Please click here to download a pdf of the 2017 tour itinerary and additional tour notes.

Pre/Post Tour information

If you would like to extend your trip or make the tour part of a longer holiday, we can easily add on a pre or post night stays for you. Our Sales Team will work with you to arrange the best connecting flights and book any additional hotel stays. Simply tell us what you’d like and we can arrange it.

Time difference

  • Eastern Time Zone: GMT -5 hours
  • Pacific Time Zone: GMT -8 hours
  • Mountain Time Zone: GMT -7 hours
  • Central Time Zone: GMT -6 hours

Tour inclusions

  • Accommodation listed above
  • Welcome phone call from American Tours International on Day 1
  • Virgin Holidays branded rucksack with tour documentation and Atlas, please ask when you check in at your first hotel for your ‘ATI Pack’
  • Helicopter night flight over the Vegas Strip on day 13

Tour exclusions

  • Flight upgrades and airport transfers in the UK
  • Travel Insurance
  • Car hire and insurance unless this has been booked by the sales consultant
  • Car hire one-way drop off fees (payable locally)
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, tips & gratuities, video camera fees at monuments
  • The required ESTA application
  • Anything not detailed on the itinerary

Dining inclusions

Room Only

Accommodation

Accommodation listed on the itinerary is a mix of 3-4V graded properties. Please note some tours are up to 3 weeks in duration and there may be some nights when staying in remote locations e.g. the National Parks, when the ‘V’ rating may vary. Hotels are subject to change up until 30 days prior to departure, but you will be advised of any changes.

Visa requirements

It's mandatory for everyone travelling to or transferring through the US, under the Visa Waiver Program, to obtain approval to travel no later than 72 hours prior to travel by completing an online process ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) scheme. Failure to obtain an ESTA could result in the passenger being denied boarding by the airline. The cost of an ESTA is currently approx $14 per person and can be obtained by visiting https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Once completed & approved, the ESTA application is valid for two years and allows multiple visits without the need to reapply – simply update your details on the same website. Travelers can apply for an ESTA even if they have no firm plans to travel to the US. If you need any further information on the ESTA or you have any other visa queries, then try the Visit USA Website atwww.visitusa.org.uk where further information on the scheme and up to date fee can also be found. The ESTA is very similar to the automated visa that you purchase to enter Australia and is completely paperless.