Can You Visit Radiator Springs in Real Life?
Radiator Springs is a fictional town from the Pixar movie “Cars.” It was full of cleverly named places like Tow Mater Towing, Ornament Valley, and Carburetor County.
It’s a paradise for the animated cars. But is there a similar place for humans?
Let’s start our engines and explore!
About Radiator Springs and the Movie ‘Cars’
In the movie “Cars,” Radiator Springs was founded by a steam car named Stanley in 1909. Over the years, it became a popular rest area for traveling cars to fuel up. The town dwindled when I-40 was built. Later, a retired race car moved there and became mayor, judge, and CEO.
Radiator Springs finds a resurgence in the movie when up-and-coming racer Lightning McQueen destroys the road. He’s sentenced to rebuild the road and ends up rebuilding the town.
Where Is the Real Radiator Springs?
Cars’ Radiator Springs was based mainly on Seligman, a small town along Route 66 in northern Arizona.
The decision to base Radiator Springs on Seligman came after filmmakers talked to longtime Seligman barber Angel Delgadillo. He knew the history of the town and Route 66, and his stories inspired the producers.
Pro Tip: Cruisin’ down Route 66? We found the 9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Arizona.
What Other Real Places Inspired the Movie?
Many locations throughout the Southwest inspired scenes in cars. The history of Route 66 plays a big part in the towns and businesses chosen for the movie.
Tucumcari, New Mexico, inspired some of the small-town charm. Their 4,000 ft mountain inspired the mountain in “Cars.” The Blue Swallow Motel is a real place there, complete with the famous “100% Refrigerated Air” sign.
In the movie, there’s a mountain named Radiator Springs. That real mountain is a 4,000 feet high peak in Tucumcari. The whole town of Tucumcari has much of the small-desert-town charm that inspired Radiator Springs in the movie.
Firewall Falls is a waterfall in “Cars.” It’s where Lightning McQueen and Sally Carrera go for a romantic date. The real-life waterfall that inspired it would make for a different outing–it’s in the Grand Canyon!
Havasupai Falls has gorgeous turquoise water and rugged rockface surrounding it. It’s part of the Grand Canyon, but it’s not on Grand Canyon National Park land. Instead, it’s on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, and visitors must obtain a permit from the tribe before visiting the falls. That hike is very, very steep.
The beautiful Ornament Valley is the place that motivates Sally to stay with Lightning in the movie.
The Cadillac Range is a mountain line resembling the tailfins of old cars. The real-life Cadillac Ranch, an art installation alongside Route 66, inspired the mountains.
Pro Tip: The Grand Canyon is high up on many peoples bucket lists. To help it live up to the hype, we found The 9 Most Beautiful Areas of the Grand Canyon.
What Real-Life Car is Lightning McQueen?
Lightning McQueen is a Corvette. Filmmakers based him on a combination of the Chevrolet Corvette C6 and Corvette C1.
Things To Do Near the Real Radiator Springs
Visit the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is always a breathtaking sight, and it contains numerous trails and overlooks. The North Rim is more rugged than the South. The South Rim holds many more notable features, such as the Yavapai Geology Museum and the incredible views from Maher Point.
Throughout Grand Canyon National Park, there are many trails and pathways and just as many ways to see them. Consult with the visitor’s center to determine what you’d enjoy most and whether you prefer self-guided or guided tours.
Entry for a single person is $20. A vehicle with up to fifteen people can enter and park for $35.
Explore the Kaibab National Forest
The Kaibab National Forest is 1.6 million acres (!) and borders the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon. The forest has three districts. All parts of the park have a lot of high-elevation sites (ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 ft), but there’s still plenty to see at lower levels.
The National Park Service maintains the Kaibab NF, and they made sure to fill it with plenty of activities. There are spaces for picnics, sightseeing, hiking, camping, and doing snow sports. There’s also scenic beauty, such as the Sycamore Canyon Falls.
It’s mostly free to use the land and services offered by the park. However, some things, such as camping, require a fee. Before visiting, be sure to check with the park to confirm visitor policies.
Best Camping Near the Real Radiator Springs
Historic Route 66 General Store & RV Park
There are plenty of excellent RV parks and campgrounds between Williams and Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon area. However, the Route 66 General Store and Park has the best camping in Seligman. We recommend an overnight stop there with days left open for the Grand Canyon and Kaibab National Forest.
The general store stocks basics and also offers souvenirs of the area. The RV park itself is small, having 15 sites. All sites are gravel and come with full hookups.
Reviewers say this was a clean, low-stress place to spend a night but also note that it doesn’t offer much out of the ordinary. Current rates are around $35.
Coconino Rim Road Dispersed Camping – Grand Canyon National Park
If boondocking near the Grand Canyon sounds like an incredible vacation to you, make it happen here.
Campers rave about the peaceful camping here. The sites are far apart, it’s tranquil, and the views are stunning. They do add that the road going in is quite bumpy.
These campsites have a good mix of shaded areas and open spaces where you can charge your devices via solar panels. A nearby cell tower ensures good reception department security patrol the area during the day.
Camping here is free, but you must pay the Grand Canyon entrance fee ($30) to access the sites.
Is a Road Trip to the Real Radiator Springs Worth It?
If you want to see the sights of “Cars,” may we suggest a road trip? The landscapes and history of the Southwest, especially Seligman, inspired Radiator Springs. But there’s far more to see.
Once you take in the actual Firewall Falls, Cadillac Range, and, of course, the Grand Canyon, we think you’ll be inspired too!
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Sunday 19th of December 2021
I’m sure the accuracy of your posting is correct. However, one key aspect to the movie Cars is missing. The inspiration for the characters for the movie. Visit Galena Kansas to see the inspiration for TowMater and the other characters. The film makers visited there for their inspiration. Nice souvenir shop run by local volunteers who can tell the story first hand. Galena is on Historic Route 66 just west of Joplin Missouri. See all the characters in person. It is worth the side trip.