If you're traveling westwards then you're coming to the final stages of your journey, if your travelling East bound then your Journey on Route 66 has just begun. California is home to many natural wonders, oddities and historical sites. And let's not forget the wealth of tourist attractions that await you in Los Angeles that aren't even listed here - there are enough for a whole list of their own!
Listed in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in California…
Amboy crater is an extinct volcano only 1.5 miles south of Route 66 near the town of Amboy. The crater is estimated to be 79,000 years old with it’s last eruption approximately 10,000 years ago. The drive to get to the crater is astonishing and takes in the most amazing scenery, even if it’s quite desolate at times. Plenty of great photo opportunities and the sunsets are spectacular.
Bottle Tree Ranch in Helendale, California, comprises of an eclectic mix of “bottle trees”, old road signs, retro toys, broken rifles and other assorted odds ’n’ ends all coming together to produce a very quirky experience. The site is open from dawn until dusk, and donations are welcomed but not essential for entry (although highly recommended). Feel free stretch your legs and take photos of the over 200 “trees” – t’s very hard to take a poor photograph in such an inspiring location!
With its 500 mines, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore over a 12-year span. When silver lost its value in the mid-1890’s, Calico lost its population. The miner’s packed up, loaded their mules and moved away abandoning the town that once gave them a good living. It became a “ghost town.” Today Calico is a county park operating mine tours, gunfight stunt shows, gold panning, a restaurant, the Calico & Odessa Railroad and a number of general merchandise stores.
Devoted to the art of soda pop and supporting the small businesses behind each bubbly drink, Galco’s Soda Pop Stop features more than 700 flavors of soda at its Los Angeles storefront and nationwide through its online shop. As you wander through the store you pass through a rainbow of soda colors, most of which are in glass bottles.
There’s not a lot to say about Hollywood that hasn’t already been said many times before. While you’re here make sure to see the Kodak Theatre, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood sign and the stars on the walk of fame. It’s a very touristy area by day and there are plenty of things to see and do with many attractions nearby. Some of the most popular guided tours are the tours of movie star homes. You are also very close to the Universal Studios theme park and Warner Bros Studios Tour.
In 2009 the Route 66 Alliance and the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp got together and declared the end of the Santa Monica Pier to be the western terminus of Route 66. It’s now marked by an upright sign stating “The End of the Trail” and is a popular photo opportunity for travelers at the end of their journey. This is actually a replica of a sign that once stood on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean Ave before it’s mysterious disappearance 50 years ago.
This Route 66 Wigwam Motel is a fun stop and is the final of 7 Wigwam Motels originally constructed (only 3 of which still exist). The motel has been renovated extensively by the Patel Family who were awarded the National Historic Route 66 Federation's 2005 Cyrus Avery Award for their efforts in restoration. The Wigwam Motel is a perfect example of kitsch Americana, and the original "do it in a teepee" sign is still onsite, albeit tucked around the back!
Opened in 1940, this original McDonalds's restaurant changed the face of fast food forever. Packed with original pre-Ray Krok news articles, menus, and memorabilia, the museum does an excellent job of documenting the history of an iconic restaurant. Exhibits representing all corners of the world display thousands of items including Happy Meal toys and historical artifacts. Entry is free.
Ranked #1 of 17 things to do in Barstow (TripAdvisor), the Route 66 "Mother Road" Museum is home to a large collection of historical artifacts of Route 66 and the Mojave Desert communities. The volunteer staff are very welcoming and are eager to ensure everyone enjoys their visit. The retro jukebox is a real pleasure and the gift shop is packed with very reasonably priced books, DVD's and a huge selection of gifts. Entry is free.
The Cucamonga Service Station opened in 1915, closed during the 1970's but was renovated and reopened in 2015 as a museum. A great deal of work has gone into remodeling this historic building, making it well worth a visit if you want to get a sense of how times have changed in the last 100 years. Gas stations certainly aren't built like this anymore!