Whether is it called the Mother Road, the Road West, or by its real name, Route 66, is the place to get your kicks…at least a few of them. The highway west gave travelers a path from the heartland to the west coast through small and large towns alike, long before the interstate system decided to go around. Given the choice, Clark Griswold would have chosen to take the family truckster down Route 66 as the family headed west to Wally World.
Route 66 Road Trip
The famous highway passes through the original downtown of Springfield, Missouri. It passes right through the town square, and with history as a backdrop, this small big town is credited with being the birthplace of the Mother Road. For a time, like many of the smaller cities along the way, Springfield prospered in the path of progress. Now paying tribute to those golden days, the city celebrates with the ‘Birthplace of Route 66 Festival’, a three day event that includes concerts, art displays, a tribute to history, and of course a car and motorcycle show.
Places To Eat In Springfield, MO
The event has grown to include several blocks of the downtown extending out from the city square, the center of the activities. Across three days, there is a lot of walking, but my tour guide, Susan Wade of Springfield CVB knew the best places to re-charge, like our lunch destination the Springfield Brewing Company, the oldest craft brewery in town.
Located a few blocks off of the town square, the brewery has a full service restaurant that was a welcome addition to the reemerging downtown area. Their menu features craft brews, a range of hamburgers, and full entrees for the dinner hour. For those saving their calories for the beer, there are lighter items like the grilled chicken salad that includes a host of fresh ingredients.
Every Route 66 Road Trip needs some sweets, check out ‘Hurts Donuts Company’ on College Street, where locals and tourists lineup to grab a cup of coffee and see what is new on the changing menus. With names like ‘little tummy’ or ‘cosmic brownie’, there is a super wide variety of items to choose from, including bacon donuts for the breakfast crowd. Be sure to check out the restrooms, just make sure you look close at the sign so you don’t end up in the ‘wrong’ place…just say’n…
Straying out of the downtown town area, there are several other Route 66 related areas worth a visit. A few blocks west of the town square is ‘Bud’s Tires’, easily recognized by the large drive-in movie mural on the side of the building. The tire and wheel store has been a fixture on Route 66 since 1958, and Bud still hangs around the store.
Need a place to stay overnight? Why not check out the ‘Rail Haven Motel’, now a Best Western brand that maintains the layout and much of the room décor from a time gone by. Fun fact, Elvis Presley crashed in room 409 at the Rail Haven back in the day, and now the hotel is listed on the National List of Historic Places. When checking in, be sure to grab a picture at the old service station pumps near the office.
Shopping & Sightseeing in Springfield, MO
Of course, there’s plenty to see and do in Springfield, MO, other than Route 66. Springfield is nestled in the Ozarks, which runs from Arkansas through Missouri, so there is plenty of hiking, biking, and watersports in the area. You can find everything you need to explore the outdoors at the original Bass Pro Shop (almost 500,000 square feet)!
Also on the edge of town is the Fantastic Caverns, a unique underground experience. This is not the biggest of caverns, but it does have an interesting and unique background, that ranges from moonshiners to the civil war, and even some pretty cool music history. Visitors can learn all about the colorful history by riding in a Jeep powered tram. The Fantastic Caverns is the only cave in North America to offer a completely ride-through tour, which lasts 55 minutes.
Want to plan your own epic Route 66 Road Trip? Be sure and visit the Springfield CVB for a list of events, things to do, and more inspiration.
A big thank you to the Springfield CVB and Susan Wade for hosting In Deep H2O contributor Michael Marrs.