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DAY 1 - Direct flights from London to Chicago - After clearing US customs and immigration you should make your way into Chicago and the  Congress Plaza hotel located in downtown Chicago,The remainder of the day is at leisure to enjoy the sights and attractions of the Windy City. Overnight at the Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago.

Route 66 Express Tour Itinerary

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DAY 2 - Chicago to Saint Louis, MO (265 miles) - AM transfer to the Alamo Car Rental depot in Chicago to collect your rental car. Most of today will be spent traveling through Illinois farmlands on your way to Springfield, the Illinois State Capital, is Abraham Lincoln country. He left here to serve as President of the United States during the most awful period in American history, the Civil War and returned as a fallen hero, a casualty of the same war. New Salem where Lincoln lived and worked for six years has been reconstructed. Costumed interpreters bring the village alive. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is the centrepiece of a four block historic neighbourhood. The President's Tomb, Presidential Library and original law office are also open for touring. After enjoying some time in Springfield it's only a couple of hours drive to St Louis, the crossroads where highways from Chicago, Kansas City, Memphis, Nashville, and Indianapolis meet. As you cross from Illinois into Missouri you'll be crossing the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge. Be sure to stop at Ted Drew's Frozen Custard, serving Route 66 travellers since 1929. In St. Louis, the original Route 66 tracked through town very near the Gateway Arch and we definitely recommend riding the elevator inside Arch to the top of the 630 foot structure. Spectacular views of the Mississippi River await. In the evening, you can catch up with the St. Louie Blues, which were born right here and taste the fruits of Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer The city was originally the focal point of Indian trails that ran all across the US and the jumping off point for Lewis and Clark's Expedition of Discovery to open the West through the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. It will also be your jumping off point to points south and west, as you begin your journey through the wide open spaces. Saint Louis is one of the largest cities in the USA with a metropolitan population of over 2.8 million. Overnight at the Best Western Kirkwood Inn, St Louis, MO

DAY 3 - The day at leisure in St Louis - Founded in 1764 Saint Louis became a major port on the Mississippi River and even hosted the Olympic Games in 1904. The Gateway Arch commemorates the settlement of America's West and it was from here that countless pioneers set out to conquer the wild frontier. Stop at Ted Drewes, an Iconic Route 66 attraction, and try a ‘Concrete’ a thick milkshake made from vanilla frozen custard. Overnight at the Best Western Kirkwood Inn, St Louis, MO

DAY 4 - St Louis to Springfield, MO (210 miles) - Route 66 from St. Louis to Springfield, Missouri takes you through the lush rolling hills of the Missouri Ozark Mountains. The road follows the Great Osage Trail, a major Indian path across the state and a route used by Jess James, of famed James Gang fame, who locals knew as 'just a nice Missouri boy!' One of the most famous attractions on Route 66, Meramec Caverns was also used by the James Gang as a hideout when escaping the law. Lester Dill who owns Meramec Caverns started the American advertising institution, the bumper sticker, when he gave away portable advertising to all who stopped by to visit. Much of the rural Ozark region, punctuated by the second oldest mountains in the world, looks much as it did when the first settlers arrived. Springfield has been bustling since the St. Louis-San Francisco railroad arrived in 1870. Even though most of Route 66 through here is now Interstate-44, remnants of the old road are everywhere just off the highway. Interestingly, Springfield is considered the mother of the Mother Road itself. It was here that Cyrus Avery of Oklahoma who fought for a route through Oklahoma met with John Woodruff of Springfield, to plan and promote the idea of an interregional link that would bring trade and access to the area. In honor, Springfield has preserved much of the old highway frontage along St. Louis Street as well as the 'Chestnut Expressway.' If you're a fan of western lore, delve into the 'Wild' Bill Hickock legend surrounding his fellow gambler Dave Tutt. There are so many different stories no one really knows what happened. Overnight at the Best Western Plus Coach House, Springfield MO.

 

DAY 5 - Springfield to Oklahoma City, OK (310 miles) - Oklahoma was the home of Cyrus Avery, who came to be known as the 'Father of Route 66.' After he was appointed to head the commission that reviewed the routes of new national highways, he fought for several years to bring a major highway through his home state, knowing it would boost the economy. Ultimately, he was successful in the choice of a route that followed the National Old Trails Road in 1925, which just happened to cross right through the middle of Oklahoma. Woody Guthrie of 'This Land is Your Land' fame who hailed from Oklahoma, illustrated the icon which Route 66 had already become in a song that told of the plight of the Okies fleeing to California. The Los Angeles police stationed themselves at the Arizona border in 1934 to stop the flood of Dust Bowlers looking for a better life. Southwest of Springfield, you'll begin to see why they would leave, as the landscape changes from the rich crop raising Midwest into the American southwest; red, dry and dusty. During the1930s, more than 15% of Oklahoma's population took Route 66 to escape the constantly blowing sand. They picked up their belongings, their families, their hopes and their dreams and headed west. After World War II, the pretty Oklahoma City referred to by the Nat King Cole in 'Get Your Kicks on Route 66' rose to new heights during the oil boom (the State Capitol is the only one in the country with an oil well on the grounds), only to suffer a dramatic decline at the end of the 1980s. Since then, the city has gone through an astounding transformation which continued during the re-building which followed the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The monument to the victims is very moving and an adjacent museum tells the story.  Overnight is at the Best Western PLUS Saddleback Inn.

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DAY 6 - Oklahoma City to Amarillo, TX (260 miles) - For the traveller going west on Route 66, Texas is Cowboy Country. It is here that some of the most wonderful icons of Route 66, those 'functional simple buildings that were adorned with all manner of exterior signs promising all things larger than life, still exist. Two headed snakes, reptile farms, alligators, wondrous caves and petrified mummies all vied for the attention of the vacationer in a unique side show that would have made P. T. Barnum proud. The tales carried home from these vacations would entice and amaze the neighbourhood for months. Amarillo is one of the last places on earth where the Old West is just minutes away or depending on where you are, could be closer than that. The vast ranches of the Texas Panhandle, some numbering in the millions of acres are just outside of Amarillo. Shortly after being discovered by Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado in 1541, the area became a magnet for cattlemen and sheep herders from all points of the compass looking for fresh grazing grounds. As the Dust Bowl farmers headed to California, more cattlemen and cowhands moved in to claim the same territory for ranching. Step into 'The Real Texas' as the locals say. Today, Amarillo and the surrounding Panhandle area is still a unique blend of the Old West and the New West, populated by American cowboys, roughnecks and self-made millionaires and the ever present oil derricks. Working ranches, essentially unchanged from the day-to-day operations of the late nineteenth century peacefully coexist with a vibrant twenty-first century economy powered by petroleum. More than 2 million cattle are still shipped out of Amarillo each year. Make sure to drive Amarillo Boulevard which is the original Route 66 that is still lined with block after block of strip shopping centres and roadside motels straight out of the 1950s. Overnight at the Best Western Santa Fe, Amarillo.

DAY 7 - Amarillo to Albuquerque/Santa Fe, NM (290 miles) - On your way between Amarillo and Tucumcari, New Mexico, be sure to stop at Cadillac Ranch to see the ten tail- finned Cadillacs buried in the sand. Once nicknamed 'Six-Shooter Siding,' Tucumcari, New Mexico got its start in 1901 as a rowdy railroad camp filled with saloons and outlaws. Soon, it became one of the many small railroad towns in the southwest with a flagging economy and diminishing population. Today, Route 66 is critically important, since it was the new businesses that were established along Route 66 which allowed Tucumcari to hang on, when other towns failed completely. Realizing that they have one of a handful of authentic roadside towns still intact and thriving has promoted a renaissance and revival among the gentlemen and businesses who just refused to let this wonderful piece of Americana and the American 'road trip' pass away entirely. Next up, Albuquerque, New Mexico's capital city. Younger than its more northerly counterpart, Santa Fe, Albuquerque was founded in 1706 by a group of Spanish colonists who were granted permission by the King of Spa in to establish a new city on the river. Old Town Plaza was the result of Spain's Laws of the Indies which required setting a plaza at the centre of any city. The Santa Fe Trail also criss-crossed the region in 1821. Today, both routes are National Scenic Byways and All American Roads. Historic neon signs still glow on the old Route 66 through Albuquerque which is now Central Avenue. The famous Route 66 continues to guide visitors through Albuquerque from the volcanoes on the city's far west side past the Rio Grande Botanical Garden and the Albuquerque Aquarium through the historic Old Towns and Downtown business districts and continuing eastward through trendy Nob Hill, where you'll find many of the city's best restaurants, distinctive shops and boutiques. Overnight is at the Best Western Rio Grande, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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DAY 8 - Albuquerque/Santa Fe to Flagstaff, AZ (320 miles) – Todays route takes you via Gallup, the largest Indian centre in the Southwest and the ceremonial capital of Native America. By far the most numerous are the Navajo, who are today widely regarded for their achievements in wool, with original Navajo rugs and blankets (both new and antique) sought by private collectors and museums throughout the world. From Gallup attractions include The Petrified Forest National Park, located about 25 miles east of Holbrook, Arizona it is a fascinating place to visit abundant with geographical history. The Painted Desert is adjacent to the Petrified Forest, so you’ll have the opportunity to visit both historical sites. Located just minutes from Interstate 40 in Northern Arizona near Winslow, Meteor Crater is the breath-taking result of a collision between an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour and planet Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. Meteor Crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep. It is an international tourist venue with outdoor observation trails, air conditioned indoor viewing, wide screen movie theatre, Interactive Discovery Centre, unique gift and rock shop, and Astronaut Memorial Park at the Visitor Centre located on the crater rim. Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff, Arizona.

DAY 9 – Flagstaff to Kayenta/Monument Valley, AZ (290 miles including scenic loop) - So it's not on the original Route 66, but it's so close it would be a crime to pass it by! Monument Valley provides perhaps the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. The isolated red mesas and buttes surrounded by empty, sandy desert have been filmed and photographed countless times over the years for movies, adverts and holiday brochures. Because of this, the area may seem quite familiar, even on a first visit, but it is soon evident that the natural colours really are as bright and deep as those in all the pictures. The valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, interrupted by the crumbling formations, known as Mittens, rising hundreds of feet into the air, the last remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region. Other attractions in the area include; Four Corners monument, the only place in the United States where four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) come together at one place. The Valley of the Gods, a spectacular sandstone valley featuring stunning geologic formations. This geological masterpiece, though a quarter of the size of its celebrated neighbor, Monument Valley, boasts a royalty of rich colors and fantastic formations. Mexican Hat, a small settlement named after a curious formation nearby consisting of a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill and close by are the overlook at Muley Point and the entrenched river meanders at Goosenecks State Park. Overnight at the Monument Valley Inn, Kayenta, AZ

DAY 10 – Kayenta/Monument Valley to Grand Canyon, AZ (155 miles) - The Grand Canyon is an iconic symbol of the desert Southwest and a spectacle not to be missed. This incredible natural wonder is difficult to comprehend, even as you stand at the rim or hike down into the canyon. Carved over several millennia, this massive wonder of nature is 445 kilometres (277 miles) long, up to 29 kilometres (18 miles) wide and over 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) deep. Snaking through the canyon floor is the mighty Colorado River, which runs 2330 kilometres (1450 miles) through seven US states and two Mexican states. Overnight at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Hotel

DAY 11 - Grand Canyon to Needles (225 miles / via the Oatman Highway) – Today you’ll pass through the historic Route 66 towns of Williams, Seligman and Kingman on the longest original intact section of Route 66. Williams was the last town on Route 66 to be by-passed and here, history buffs can explore more than six blocks of historic buildings and shops bursting with memorabilia. Seligman retains all the flavour of the old road, and reflects a trip back in time to the days when Route 66 truly was the Main Street of America. Kingman is known as ‘the Heart of Historic Route 66’ and one of the hidden treasures of Arizona. Its historic charm, great cafes and restaurants, and the allure of Route 66 combine to make Kingman a remarkable destination. From Kingman Route 66 takes you on the Oatman Road, and the amazing Sitgreaves Pass, a narrow mountain road located in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona. The road climbs the Sitgreaves Pass, at an elevation of 3,550ft and the highest point on Route 66. Overnight at the Best Western Colorado Inn, Needles

DAY 12 - Needles to Santa Monica, CA (100 miles) - Departing Needles after breakfast, today sees you making the penultimate journey Route 66 to Santa Monica. Route 66 today takes you south via the Cajon Valley to San Bernardino, the gateway to the Greater Los Angeles Metopolitan area, from where it's just 76 miles via Claremont, Glendora, Pasadena & Sunset Boulevard to Santa Monica. Please note: Traffic in and around Los Angeles can be extremely busy so give yourself plenty of time for this journey. Santa Monica is where the Mother Road meets the Pacific Ocean at the Pier and many a dream has begun and ended on these sun-soaked beaches. Don't forget to visit Santa Monica Pier and have your photo taken an the 'End of the Trail' sign. Overnight at the Double Tree Suites by Hilton, Santa Monica

DAY 13 - Morning at leisure in Santa Monica - Afternoon transfer to Los Angeles Int'l Airport (10 miles) to return your rental car

(if applicable) before checking in for your flight back to London

 

DAY 14 - Arrive London

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