9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Missouri

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9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Missouri

Route 66, also known as “the mother road,” is an essential road trip for any American interested in the history of automobiles. This iconic road has worked its way into movies, songs and literature.

In fact, you’re probably already familiar with much of it (thanks to movies like Cars, Thelma & Louise, and Easy Rider)!

Spanning from Illinois to California, there are hundreds of must-see stops along Route 66. Today we’re focusing on the Missouri stretch of the road.

A Little Route 66 History

One of the United States’ original federal highways, Route 66 was built in 1926, mostly over existing roadways, and wasn’t completely paved from end to end until 1930. The road’s history goes back farther than that, though.

When road designers laid out its path, they did so in part by connecting sections of existing routes. These included Native American “traces” as well as parts of a government-built wagon trail that had been commissioned in 1857. In some areas, the new federal highway ran parallel to railroads or took over the paths of privately-owned “auto trails” that had become popular in the early years of the automobile.

The original idea was for it to start in New York, which would have made Route 66 a literal cross-country artery and would have extended its length by another thousand miles. But some strong lobbying efforts from the city of Chicago moved the start of the road there instead. (And by the way, the original end point was in Los Angeles, not Santa Monica.) 

Route 66 caught on pretty quickly as America’s fascination with traveling by car took hold.

It was flat, fairly straight, and easy to navigate, so it became popular with truckers, too, and this steady stream of traffic gave rise to businesses like motels, restaurants, and service stations.

During the Dust Bowl crisis of the 1930s, many farming families from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas saw Route 66 as a means of escape. Their mass western exodus helped to build California’s agricultural empire – and it wrote another chapter in Route 66’s storied history.

When World War II broke out, equipment that was needed for the war effort was moved along Route 66 to and from military-related plants and bases in California.

In just a few years, the highway would experience its golden era as post-war families had the prosperity to enjoy their vacation time like never before.

As Americans traveled from around the Lower 48 to enjoy sights like the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyland, there were plenty of mom-and-pop operations along the way welcoming them with open arms.

9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Missouri

Chain of Rocks Bridge 

Price:  Free

Why You’ll Love It:  If you’re a fan of Route 66 in Missouri, you don’t want to miss this historic bridge.  Nowhere else will you find a mile-long bridge over the Mississippi River with a big 30-degree turn in the middle!  Bring your bike instead of your car, as Chain of Rocks Bridge is now a part of the 300-mile long bike path.

Address:  3328 W. Chain of Rocks Road, Granite City, IL  62040 

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Trip Advisor stated, “We were there on a sunny day in September and all on our own. You have to walk two thirds of the bridge to get to the famous and unique ‘bent’ in the bridge but it is worth it.”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:   8/10

Nearby Campground:  For a campsite as close to downtown as possible, the Casino Queen RV Park is your best bet.  It’s got huge pull-through sites almost on the river, with a beautiful view of the Gateway Arch and the St. Louis skyline. 

Chain of Rocks Bridge on Route 66 in Missouri

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, St Louis 

Price:  $3 to $7

Why You’ll Love It:  Ted Drewes is a Route 66 tradition!  Back in the heyday, travel enthusiasts would cruise the Mother Road through downtown St. Louis in a convertible on a hot summer night, then stop in at Ted Drewes for a concrete or a plain frozen custard. 

Today visitors can still replicate that evening tradition, even though The Route has been decommissioned.  The shop even looks just as it did back then, and it’s always packed!

Address: 6726 Chippewa Street, St. Louis, MO  63109 

What’s the Word:  A recent reviewer on Yelp extolled, “Not much else to say. If you don’t like Ted Drewes, I don’t want to be your friend. They’ve been around forever and it’s always packed. The entire city can’t be wrong…”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  9.5/10

photo of person holding ice cream

Meramec Caverns, Sullivan 

Price:  $23

Why You’ll Love It:  Come hang out where Jesse James once hid his robbery stash!  Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in Missouri, where it was once used as a gunpowder plant during the Civil War, and was reputedly a stop on the Underground Railroad. 

Venture through amazing underground passageways, then take a zipline tour through the forest canopy above.

Address: 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO  63080

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Trip Advisor commented, “Beautiful and entertaining cavern tour. The walk is moderately hard but really only one part is a bit of a climb and if you are unable to it can be bypassed. If you are in the area, don’t miss this gem!”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  9/10

Nearby Campground:  Camp on the river at Meramec State Park, with 200 campsites to choose from.  Everyone from tenters to RVs requiring full hook-ups has room to enjoy a private space, and utilize the clean facilities.

Route 66 Rocker 

Price:  Free

Why You’ll Love It:  Truth be told, who doesn’t like gigantic rocking chairs?  And if you’re traveling down Route 66 in Missouri, this chair will literally beckon you to stop, take some photos, then come on inside and pick up some fine Show Me State fudge for the rest of your trip!

Address: 5957 Hwy ZZ, Fanning, MO  65453

What’s the Word:  A recent reviewer on Trip Advisor exclaimed, “Just southwest of Cuba on Route 66. Previous world record holder (largest rocking chair); go during the first weekend of August to ride a bucket loader up and “sit” on the tall rocker!  Yee-haw!”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  9/10

Image Source: Wikipedia

Route 66 Drive In Theater

Price:  $8

Why You’ll Love It:  This classic drive-in lies along Old Route 66 in Missouri and looks just as it did back when transportation by automobile was celebrated.  Their movie selection, however, is up-to-date, along with the snacks you’ll find at the concession bar!

Address: 17231 Old 66 Boulevard, Carthage, MO  64836

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Trip Advisor touted, “Excellent classic Drive-In movie theater on Historic Route 66 in Carthage, MO!”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  9/10

Nearby Campground:  The Big Barn RV Park in Carthage may not have a ton of amenities, but one thing it has cornered the market on is peace and quiet.  With grassy, spacious sights and sparkling clean facilities, campers will find a comfortable home for their rigs while they visit southwestern Missouri.

Uranus, Missouri

Price:  Free

Why You’ll Love It:  Pun lovers will find this location out of this world.  So will kids of every age, as there is something for everyone, from unique museums to outdoor outfitters to ice cream and funnel cakes.  And the fudge in Uranus is to die for!  Who knew Route 66 could be so much fun?

Address: 14400 Highway Z, Saint Robert, MO  65584

What’s the Word:  A recent reviewer on Trip Advisor teased, “If you need a break and a good laugh, stop here. You are greeted as soon as you walk in the door, Welcome to Uranus!”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  8.5/10

Nearby Campground:  Camp in the midst of the Ozarks at Boiling Spring Campground.  You’ll have your choice of sites with full hook-ups available.  And when you’re finished setting up camp hop on a river float trip on the Big Piney.

Modern Brewery St Louis

Price:  $10 and up

Why You’ll Love It:  Grab a stein of local brew and enjoy the enthusiasm in one of St. Louis’ newest tasting rooms.  The beers are unique and you are sure to leave with your own favorite.  Located in an industrial part of the city, Modern Brewery is pouring up great stouts and IPAs from their warehouse digs.

Address: 5231 Manchester Avenue, Saint Louis, MO  63110

What’s the Word:  A recent review on Yelp stated, “Modern is required as a place I take my family and friends as a part of my ‘breweries of STL’ tour. They have a cozy tasting room and friendly service to go along with killer beer. Don’t miss out on this place. Prost!”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  9.2/10

women holding glasses having toasting

St James Winery

Price:  $16 and up

Why You’ll Love It:  You may not think of the Ozarks as the epicenter of great winemaking.  But St. James produces some wonderful vintages from a unique growing region.  Check out their knowledgeable staff in the tasting center, where you’ll find everything from sumptuous seasonal and specialty wines to fruity selections.

Address: 540 State Rte B, St. James, MO  65559

What’s the Word:  A recent reviewer on Trip Advisor said, “This is a must stop if traveling though the area. Very friendly staff to help you with your wine choices. Plenty of flavors for tasting. Even juices available to be sampled. Highly recommend even for families.”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  8.8/10

alcohol bar blur celebration

Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba

Price:  $72 and up

Why You’ll Love It:  What excursion along Route 66 in Missouri would be complete without a stay in the oldest continually operating motel along the Mother Road? 

Yes, the Wagon Wheel may have been built long ago to accommodate travelers, but it has been updated in all the right places.  With hardwood floors and steam registers, you’ll think you’ve returned to the 1940s, but the modern amenities are top-notch!

Address: 901 E Washington Boulevard, Cuba, MO  65453

What’s the Word:  A recent reviewer on Trip Advisor commented, “My husband and I began our first planned tour of the Original Rt 66 road.  By far our best overnight sleep was here at The Wagon Wheel Motel. We loved the simplicity of the entire place. It was peaceful, charming, and the host very friendly.”

Route 66 Missouri Vibe Score:  9/10

Image Source: https://www.wagonwheel66cuba.com/

Plan Your Route 66 Trip to Missouri

Route 66 is one of the best destinations in America that mass-tourism hasn’t ruined. Plan your trip before that changes!

If you’re traveling with an RV, trip-planning is essential.

We use RV Trip Wizard to route our cross country trips.

It allows us to avoid steep passes, tolls, and tunnels – making travel day way less stressful! Try RV Trip Wizard Free for 7 Days.

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