Historic Route 66 stretches from Chicago to LA and runs through some of America’s most iconic cities, and it’s celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Driving the length of the road gives you a broad cultural cross-section of America. In the prime of its life, Route 66 was a part of the U.S. highway system. Much of the original road is no longer maintained, and many of its segments are worn dirt roads now. To travel the entire length of the road would require some off-road capabilities, but some of the wildest and most engaging destinations are extremely accessible.
Galena’s Murder Bordello in Galena, KS
You read that headline right. There is a murder bordello that was built in 1890 located along the route. It functioned as a brothel for 40 years. Legend has it that the customers who visited the bordello were killed and their bodies were dumped nearby. If you plan on taking a visit, you can get a tour of the house for a small fee. Of course, you may end up seeing more than you anticipated as the place is also rumored to be haunted.
Visitors report unexplained events and often report doors slamming shut and opening on their own. Objects are reported to move across shelves, and lights often flicker on and off while people are in the room. Some more extreme reports note unexplained figures and sightings of frightening shadows against the walls. This is an ideal attraction to visit during the cooler fall months.
This attraction, known as Staffleback House, is located at 203 N Main St., Galena, Kansas. You’ll be able to learn about the history and find out how the mining industry helped this family murder its victims. Up to 30 people were killed while staying in the hotel, and many of the bodies were said to be dumped down mine shafts to make the murders look like an accident. This attraction boasts one of the most historically significant and creepy stops along Route 66.
Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
It’s not exactly a ranch, but this attraction along Route 66 gives you a view of old, used and junk Cadillacs. The vehicles are half-buried in dirt up to the windshield with their noses pointing down. The installation of Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 by Chip Lor, Hudson Marquez and Dough Michels.
You’ll be able to see a timeline of Cadillacs that span models ranging from 1949 to 1963. The vehicles were reportedly buried to simulate the angle of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The installation wasn’t originally located along the path of Route 66. In 1997, it was moved by a local contractor to a cow pasture that was situated along the route on Interstate 40.
While the ranch is located on private land, you can visit the establishment by driving along a frontage road and entering through a gate that remains unlocked. People are encouraged to spray-paint the vehicles since the vehicles no longer have their original finish. This insane attraction has given rise to many references in popular culture by Bruce Springsteen, the animated film Cars, the TV satire King of the Hill and others.
Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma
Ol’ Blue is one of the most recognizable icons located along Route 66. The attraction was built in 1972 as an anniversary gift. It quickly turned into a popular summer spot for locals, and families began migrating in the summer to leap off its tail and slide along its fins. The site is now a picnic, swimming and fishing destination.
In its heyday, people would arrive at the whale between the hours of 11 a.m. until dusk to enjoy gathering with family and friends. It was closed in 1988 when the owner was unable to keep up maintenance due to crippling arthritis. Since 1997, the Blue Whale has undergone extensive renovations, and it’s now possible to come by and visit this iconic attraction and take a picture with the whale in the thickly forested area.
Totem Pole Park in Foyil, OklahomaThis attraction sits just three miles off Route 66, but it’s one of the strangest sites you’ll see along the route. A retired teacher moved to Foyil, Oklahoma, and decided to create a giant totem pole that is over 90 feet high. The totem pole sits on the back of a cement turtle, and it’s just one of the 10 other totems located throughout this 14-acre park.
Visiting Totem Pole Park is a great way to spend the day and experience some of the strangest attractions that America has to offer. In case you were wondering, the totem pole is the largest totem pole in the world. It’s often featured in articles and lore dealing with Route 66. The architect, Ed Galloway built the park as a monument to the American Indians.
While you’re there, you can visit the nearby Fiddle House that showcases some of the architect’s handmade fiddles as well as many inlaid wood artifacts. You’ll be able to enjoy a picnic in the park at various roadside tables designed for travelers to stop and take a load off.
The Amboy Shoe Tree in Amboy, CaliforniaBring an extra pair of shoes for your trip to the Amboy Shoe Tree. At first glance, you’ll see this odd-looking tree that acts as the only sign of life in the vicinity. As you get closer, you’ll notice the tree is decorated with hundreds of shoes from travelers who left their shoes adorning the tree. This attraction is near the end of the route in California.
This tree is the only natural shade in the area, and you’ll see it as you cross the Mojave Desert. The tree is about one-quarter mile East from Roy’s Cafe, which is another iconic stop along the way. As new travelers place additional shoes on the tree, it continually bends and changes its form to support the new additions.
This tamarask tree can sometimes be seen wearing hats, jewelry and scarves. If you do plan to visit the tree, make sure you exercise caution. It’s possible to walk right up to the tree, and there is no barrier to protect you from falling shoes. People manage to get shoes all the way onto the top boughs of this tree, which is no small feat considering its height.
The greatest attraction along Route 66 is the route itself. Being a part of a historic road that defines America is well worth the price of admission. All you need is a car, a will to drive and the ability to relax and enjoy the wide expanses of land that make this route so ingrained in the American psyche. Along the route, you’ll find old cafe’s, historic landmarks and the natural beauty of the open road that takes you through expansive areas like the Grand Canyon. Traveling along the route and seeing some of the more unusual sites can spike your creativity. It may also start you on a path that functions as both a historical and spiritual journey.
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