Route 66 is only one of nearly a million places where one could get their proverbial kicks on, but it’s certainly the most iconic: mostly because it’s a really big place, a highway that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica, lovingly known as "The Mother Road," it’s the vein of America. And fittingly, littered down the way are remarkable and oversized roadside attractions, greasy-spoon diners, astonishing scenic byways and even patches old brick from the original highway. So if you ever plan to motor west…
Well, if there’s ever been any confusion as to whether it’s "Ketchup" or "Catsup," then this 170-foot bottle planted by the side of the highway in Collinsville, Illinois, crushes it. The largest bottle of ketchup (or, more correctly, catsup) in the world is actually a water tower proudly looming over the Collinsville skyline. Built in 1949 by a bottling company for Brooks original catsup, the bottle is now in the National Register of Historic Places and hosts an annual World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival in the summer.
A classic Route 66 story: Pete Adam, a Greek immigrant, founded the Ariston Café in 1924 in Carlinville, Illinois, but after two moves, settled along Route 66 in 1935. Between 1924 and now, the café has been in the same family, and has found a home in the Route 66 Hall of Fame. Typically, the crowd inside is a mix of local families and bikers and drivers whipping along the old road – it’s one of the few roadside diners one can find a quality and heaping plate of Roast Beef, and their Sunday brunch is always a huge hit with the locals.
Drivers getting their kicks in Illinois will be greeted by a peculiar sign greeting them at Lincoln, Illinois: not a regular metal sheet on a highway pole, but rather a 40-foot long covered wagon with Abraham Lincoln sitting at the helm, reading a book. Draped over the side of the wagon is a sign welcoming new arrivals. Weighing in at five tons and standing 24 feet tall, this is the largest covered wagon in the world.
What started as an elaborate anniversary present from a loving 60-year-old family man to his whale-loving wife is now a community and hometown legacy. Located in Catoosa, Oklahoma, along the original Route 66, the Blue Whale was built in the ‘70s and provides tons of pondside fun for families who want to stretch their legs while making like Jonas. Visitors can walk around the whale's belly and mouth or enjoy a picnic at the colorful fish-shaped tables and chairs right on the grounds.
Don’t blink while you’re driving down the Oklahoma City stretch of Route 66 because you won’t want to miss this: the Milk Bottle Grocery is a tiny 350-square-foot triangular building of red brick right in the middle of a thoroughfare at an old streetcar stop. But it’s not the building itself that’s remarkable, it’s the oversized milk bottle built out of sheet metal in 1948 perches right on top of the building, advertising the local dairy industry. While visitors can no longer stop in and purchase a bottle of milk for the road, they can grab a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich from Saigon Baguette, which calls the Milk Bottle Grocery home.
Built in 1927 in the remarkable Art Deco-Pueblo Revival architecture style, the KiMo Theatre is bound to be one of the most striking building on the route. Located in downtown Albuquerque, it opened with Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length talking movie. There are myths surrounding it, whispers of the ghost of six-year-old Bobby Darnall who died in 1951 in the lobby of the theater. However, visitors will most appreciate the colorful three-story stucco building plastered with indigenous art and unique architectural elements.
How classically Americana would it be to sleep in a reappropriated Native American icon on the most famous highway of all time? For the record, it’s actually a teepee that guests stay in, not wigwams, but that doesn’t stop the Wigwam Village Motel #6 in Holbrook, AZ, from being a totally recognizable roadside attraction. Built in 1942, the grounds of this motel feature vintage automobiles and the interiors of all the teepees are paneled with Native American art and eccentric furnishings and southwest-style bedding.