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.
DAY 2 - The day at leisure in Chicago. Chicago boasts some of the best cuisine, attractions and entertainment in the U.S., including several of the top 100 restaurants in the country, the tallest building in the US, and one of the best orchestras in the world in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. From shopaholics and sports enthusiasts to thrill seekers and foodies, Chicago has something for everyone. Overnight at the Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago.
DAY 3** - Chicago to Springfield, IL (165 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. Overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn, Springfield, Illinois.
DAY 4 - Springfield to St Louis, MO (100 miles) - Enjoy some free time in Springfield in the morning as 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 5 - 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 6 - 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 Rail Haven, Springfield MO
DAY 7 - 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.
DAY 8 - 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 9 - Amarillo to Albuquerque, TX (120 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.
DAY 10 - Day at leisure in Albuquerque - Enjoy a self-guided Historic Walking Tour of Albuquerque, passing from the Old 'Villa Albuquerque' in Old Town, to the Downtown Civic Plaza, created in 1972. In between, you will witness 300 years of history. It will be challenging for you to decide which other places to visit. Sandia Peak Tramway takes you over 2.5 miles to the 10,000 foot peak of the Sandia Mountains. Visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre, Albuquerque Museum and the National Hispanic Cultural Centre to learn more about local culture and history. Petroglyphs at the Petroglyph National Museum and El Morro National Monument reveal the life of ancient peoples who inhabited the area. The National Atomic Museum and Trinity Site, the exact spot where the first atomic bomb was detonated tell the story of this momentous event in American history. Alternatively take a drive north east (approx. 64 miles/1 hour) along Highway 25 to historic & cultural Santa Fe. Overnight is at the Best Western Rio Grande, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
DAY 11 - Albuquerque 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. Overnight at the Rodeway Inn & Suites, Flagstaff.
DAY 12 – 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 20 – Full day at leisure in Santa Monica - Today you can simply relax or why not take a drive on the Pacific Highway to Malibu or an excursion into Los Angeles and Hollywood. Overnight at the Double Tree Suites by Hilton, Santa Monica
DAY 21 - 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 evening flight back to London
DAY 22 - Arrive London
DAY 13 – 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 14 – Day at leisure at the Grand Canyon - In your free time, we highly recommend a scenic flight over the canyon, which offers perspectives that you cannot see when exploring by foot. Also recommended is the film show at the IMAX Theatre, which will give you a good overview of the area and how it developed. There are many walks that you can enjoy ranging from easy to moderate ones. There is also time to shop around for local souvenirs. Overnight at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Hotel
DAY 15 - 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 16 – Needles to Las Vegas (112 miles) – We leave route 66 again, this time for the glitz and glamour that is Las Vegas. Famed for its vibrant nightlife, centred around 24-hour casinos and other entertainment options. Its Main Street and focal point is the Strip, just over 4 miles long, home to an array of themed hotels with elaborate displays such as fountains synchronized to music as well as replicas of an Egyptian pyramid, the Venetian Grand Canal, and the Eiffel Tower to mention just a few. Overnight at the Luxor Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
DAY 17 - At Leisure in Las Vegas - The Las Vegas Strip, now an All American Road and National Scenic Byway, is a sparkling fantasyland at the heart of the city. Its unique blend of exciting entertainment, scenic beauty, and lavishly landscaped resorts take you to a wide variety of exotic realms from a medieval castle to a Parisian sidewalk cafe, a lakeside Italian village, or a pyramid in ancient Egypt. Once you arrive on the Strip, however, you might be surprised to find that it's also an enjoyable walking environment. Whether its pirates plundering, fiery volcanoes spouting or tropical gardens luring the weary, the Las Vegas Strip offers a variety of fascinating visual experiences. Las Vegas is home to some of the most spectacular shopping in the world. The Forum Shops at Caesars is Las Vegas’ premier luxury retail destination offering top retail, dining, entertainment, location and thematic Roman ambiance. And with two distinct locations together featuring 290 designer and name-brand outlet stores, Las Vegas Premium Outlets® is a must stop for savvy shoppers. Overnight at the Luxor Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
DAY 18 - Las Vegas to Victorville/Hesperia (180 miles) - Departing Las Vegas, today you head south via Primm on the state line between Nevada and California where you'll have a chance to do some last minute shopping at the Factory Outlets before continuing on to Calico Ghost Town, California's official Silver Rush Ghost Town preserving one of the few original mining camps in the Old West. One third of the town is original with the rest constructed in the 'spirit' of Calico's Old West past. From Calico you continue to Barstow, once covered by immense lakes ringed with Native American villages. Route 66 is the Main Street through Barstow and just off Main on First Street, you'll discover the original Harvey House which gave rise to hospitality complexes all over the southwest. Rainbow Basin about 15 miles north of Barstow is one of the lakebeds that existed between 10 and 30 million years ago. Finally it's on to Victorville, home to California's Route 66 Museum on D Street between 5th and 6th. Overnight at the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Victorville
DAY 19 - Victorville/Hesperia to Santa Monica, CA (100 miles) - Departing Victorville 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 Metropolitan 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 at the 'End of the Trail' sign. Overnight at the Double Tree Suites by Hilton, Santa Monica
**Please note: on the September tour you will spend 2 Nights in Springfield, Illinois so that you can enjoy the Annual 'Route 66 Festival' making the tour duration one day longer.