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11 Route 66 Museums You Must See

11 Route 66 Museums You Must See

Route 66, or ‘The Mother Road’ as you may see it called, is an incredibly long road. You knew that, though. Or at least we hope you did. You don’t want to tackle Route 66 without having some idea about the scale of things. Route 66 was one of the best driving routes for crossing the United States for decades. Millions and millions of people made the journey over the years. While the popularity of Route 66 has long since dwindled (you can thank planes for that), there is no denying that the route is an essential part of American culture.

If you have made the decision to drive Route 66, then we have no doubt that you want to experience as much of the history of this beautiful drive as possible. Along the way, you’ll see countless Route 66 attractions, old motels, towns that used to survive on Route 66 tourism, etc. However, for us, the best way to see the history of Route 66 is to check out one or two of the Route 66 museums.

There are plenty of famous museums along Route 66. These museums will introduce you to the history of the route, the way it was built, and the people who traveled it, and you may even get to see a couple of cars that would have been used for the journey. When we recommend people travel Route 66, we suggest they check out at least one museum in each state they pass through. It is the best way to get an overview of the history. If you can’t do that, choose one of the following 11 museums. We’re sure you’ll have a ton of fun!

Famous Route 66 Museums

1. Arizona Route 66 Museum – Kingman, AZ

Arizona Route 66 Museum - Kingman, AZ
Arizona Route 66 Museum – Kingman, AZ | Dreamstime/Chon Kit Leong

The Arizona Route 66 Museum is one of our favorite museums along Route 66. This museum charts the history of Route 66. You’ll learn about the Native Americans who established trade routes through the area long before the area was even called Route 66. You’ll learn about settlers and the military that crossed the area. You’ll learn about the families that have traversed the route over the years.

The Arizona Route 66 Museum is a hybrid of an art gallery and museum. Much of the museum is decorated with fantastic murals that depict some amazing scenes in Route 66 history. Scattered between these murals, a few dioramas depict the history of the route. We feel that this museum is fantastic for those who want to appreciate the history of The Mother Road.

Address: 120 W Andy Devine Ave, Kingman, AZ 86401

Also Check: Route 66 in Arizona: Popular Stops, Hotels & Map

2. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum – Clinton, OK

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK | Dreamstime/Wisconsinart

This Route 66 museum has to be one of the most beautifully decorated museums on this list. Well, at least from the exterior. When most people think of Route 66, they think of the people that traversed the road in the 1950s. They think of the glitz, the glam, those sexy cars, and those neon-lit diners. The exterior of the Oklahoma Route 66 museum has captured that vibe perfectly.

The exterior doesn’t tell you everything you’ll find in this fantastic museum. Sure, you’ll learn more about the 1950s on Route 66, but you’ll learn about the Dust Bowl Refugees, the laborers who built the road, the bands that played along the route, and the soldiers who traveled the route after fighting in countless wars. You’ll even see a few vehicles from across the various Route 66 eras.

Address: 2229 W Gary Blvd, Clinton, OK 73601

Read Next: Must-See Stops on Route 66 in Oklahoma

3. National Rt 66 and Transportation Museum – Elk City, OK

National Route 66 and Transportation Museum
National Route 66 Museum in Elk City | Dreamstime/StockPhotoAstur

Many Route 66 museums focus specifically on the state in which they are located. The National Rt. 66 and Transportation Museum in Elk City is a little bit different. This museum covers all 6 states that the route passes through. This museum showcases everything great about Route 66. You’ll see examples of old attractions, memorabilia from the route, recreations of old Route 66 towns and, yes, tons and tons of historic vehicles that were undoubtedly driven across the route back in its heyday.

Address: 2717 W 3rd St, Elk City, OK 73644

4. Route 66 Interpretive Center – Chandler, OK

Route 66 Interpretive Center
Route 66 Interpretive Center

One of the exciting things about the Route 66 Interpretive Center is that it doesn’t aim to be the only museum you visit along the route. Instead, it is meant to complement the other museums. As with the other museums, this place will take you on a journey through the history of Route 66. You’ll learn about the people who have traveled the route over the years and the impact that Route 66 had on the communities. Much of this journey will be told through photos and paintings. However, the Route 66 Interpretive Center takes great pride in its ‘Mother Road’ video experience. Through the power of video, you’ll be pulled into the heart of the old Route 66 and learn why the area was so beloved.

Address: 400 E 1st St, Chandler, OK 74834

5. New Mexico Route 66 Museum – Tucumcari, NM

New Mexico Route 66 Museum
New Mexico Route 66 Museum

In our opinion, the New Mexico Route 66 Museum is one of the must-see stops on Route 66. Like most other Route 66 museums, you’ll see memorabilia from the route, plus some of the vehicles that have traveled it over the decades. However, the real highlight is that this museum has the largest collection of Route 66 photos in the world. Here, you’ll see images of families enjoying the route, the building of various sections of the road, and depictions of long-parted businesses. We don’t think there is a better museum for getting an actual feel for the history of the route. After all, nothing is better at looking at the history of a location than seeing it through pictures.

Address: 1500 Rte 66 Tucumcari Convention Center, Tucumcari, NM 88401

6. Route 66 Auto Museum – Santa Rosa, NM

Route 66 Auto Museum
Route 66 Auto Museum, Santa Rosa | Dreamstime/Jon Bilous

This is one of the smaller museums along the route, but it is one of our favorites. This is because we absolutely love classic cars, and this entire museum is dedicated to them. Over 30 stunning vehicles, many of which would have traveled Route 66, are on display here. It doesn’t take long to wander through the museum, but it is more than worth the admission at just $5 to get in. Plus, you can pick up a gift or two from the rather fantastic gift shop.

Read More Details

Address: 2436 Historic Rte 66, Santa Rosa, NM 88435

Read Next: Must-See Attractions on Route 66 in New Mexico

7. Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum – Pontiac, IL

Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum
Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum | Flickr/Prayitno

There are thousands and thousands of pieces of memorabilia and photographs loaded into the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. Here, you’ll learn about the time when Route 66 was seen as the most important route in the US. You’ll learn about the famous people who lived and worked alongside the route, as well as those who came up with the idea of building a road longer than any seen before.  You’ll even hear stories from those who had their life shaped by the route. One of the cool things about this one of the famous Route 66 museums is that it is free to get into. Well, sort of. You are asked to donate when you enter. Donate whatever you feel is fair.

Address: 110 W Howard St, Pontiac, IL 61764

8. Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center – Litchfield, IL

Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center
Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center | Dreamstime/Wisconsinart

The Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center is very small but highly informative. There are a few vehicles on display, plus plenty of photos from the history of the route. If you are in this museum (and we highly recommend that you plan at least an hour to visit if you are in Litchfield), then we suggest that you read through every exhibit. While the museum may be small, so much history is packed into it. History that most other museums don’t even cover, e.g., the average person’s life on Route 66 or the lives of the laborers.

Address: 334 Old Rte 66 N, Litchfield, IL 62056

9. Route 66 Museum – Lebanon, MO

Route 66 Museum, Lebanon
Route 66 Museum, Lebanon | Dreamstime/Wisconsinart

Many people call this one of the best Route 66 museums, and we are inclined to agree. While it isn’t very big (located inside a library), the museum has managed to do a lot with the space. You’ll get to see a couple of antique cars, a recreation of a 1950s gas station and diner, and tons of memorabilia from Route 66’s history. It doesn’t take long to wander around the museum, but you’ll walk away getting a much more solid idea of life along this route, particularly in the 1950s.

Address: 915 S Jefferson Ave, Lebanon, MO 65536

Read Next: Famous Stops on Route 66 in Missouri

10. Mother Road Museum – Barstow, CA

Mother Road Museum
Mother Road Museum | Dreamstime/Wisconsinart

You’ll need to head slightly off Route 66 to get to the Mother Road Museum, but it is worth the trip. Not only is it free to get in, but you’ll also be able to walk through one of the better museums on Route 66. The only downside is that the opening times can be a little bit sporadic since it is entirely volunteer-run.

The Mother Road Museum is quite extensive, and many people who have spent time here claim it to be one of the best museums on Route 66. Here, you’ll see classic cars, trailers, and all sorts of memorabilia from Route 66. The museum is absolutely packed with stuff. We mean packed. If something related to Route 66 was added to this museum. As a result, you get tons of signage, padlocks (yes, really, a display of padlocks), and so much more. We don’t think there is anywhere else that you’ll get a more complete history of the route.

Address: 681 N 1st Ave, Barstow, CA 92311

11. Route 66 Museum and Devil’s Rope Museum – McLean, TX

Devil’s Rope Museum on Route 66

While a good chunk of this museum is dedicated to Route 66, it isn’t the main reason why people visit. Instead, they come to learn about the history of barbed wire. Yes. You read that correctly. Barbed wire. This area is famed for barbed wire production, and this museum charts its history. You’ll find a ton of memorabilia about the industry. Surprisingly, it is pretty exciting, and it is a must-visit. We’ve always said that traveling Route 66 involves learning about the industry and history of the small towns along the way, and learning about barbed wire is part of that.

Address: 100 Kingsley St, McLean, TX 79057

Closing Thoughts

Remember – this is just a small smattering of the various Route 66 museums. If you travel the route, you’ll undoubtedly find dozens of museums to visit. There are multiple museums everywhere along the road (plus a short drive off the route if you head into some of the towns and cities). You’ll want to visit a few of them along the way if only to experience the culture of the towns & cities that have given so much to the history of the Mother Road. Remember – Route 66 isn’t just for driving. It is about the experience of the route. Museums are the absolute best way to get that experience.

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