Close up of a sign for Route 66

5 Reasons Why Route 66 Is Overrated

While the classic road trip across America is along Route 66, it’s not for everyone. Some small towns still maintain their charm and iconic neon lights, but many are run-down ghost towns offering nothing for travelers.

Today, we’re discussing why Route 66 is overrated and why you might want to skip this once-iconic highway.

Where is Route 66?

Route 66 stretches from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. The 2,400 mile-highway, or the Mother Road, crosses eight states and three time zones. 

It passes through St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Los Angeles.

Along the way, you can visit popular attractions like Gateway Arch National Park, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, the Cadillac Ranch, the Big Texan, and the Santa Monica Pier.  

Crossroad in Winslow, AZ showing the large Route 66 logo painted in the road.

Why Is Route 66 Famous?

For many Americans, Route 66 is a venture down memory lane. A sense of nostalgia envelops you as you pass famous landmarks and unique roadside attractions. 

As one of the first highways in the U.S., Route 66 has been featured in movies, songs, and television programs since the 1940s. One of the most famous songs is the 1946 hit “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.”

This highway made westward expansion and travel possible for pioneers. Businesses and communities emerged along the route and became prosperous because of the regular highway traffic. 

However, in the 60s and 70s, the interstate highway system bypassed Route 66, leaving this once-thriving road forgotten. People vacated communities, and businesses moved elsewhere as I-40 became the main thoroughfare for travelers.

In the 80s and 90s, states started designating portions of Route 66 as “historic” and began reviving the towns and landmarks that were once stopovers for travelers.

Preservation groups started restoring neon signs and old buildings. In 1999, President Clinton signed the National Route 66 Preservation Bill, providing funding for preserving and restoring these historic features.

Today, restoration projects are still underway. Americans long for the nostalgia of the Mother Road. Younger generations are taking road trips to discover how life used to be. 

The National Park Service sponsors the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. So, although Route 66 doesn’t look anything like it did in its heyday, travelers can now visit diners, browse museums, and stay in classic motels along the Mother Road.

While Route 66 isn’t the most scenic highway in the country, it’s still one of the most famous road trips for RVers. If you’re looking for spectacular landscapes, you’re better off driving the Big Sur Coastal Highway, Blue Ridge Parkway, or Columbia River Highway.

But RVers longing to journey the classic highway across the middle of the country aren’t doing it for beauty. They’re joining the millions of other Americans who have traveled the Mother Road since the 30s.

There’s a sense of community as you venture along Route 66, stopping for selfies at roadside attractions and ordering hamburgers at local diners.

While many roadtrippers don’t travel the entire 2,400 miles, about two million history enthusiasts drive some part of Route 66 each year.

A study conducted by Rutgers, in collaboration with the National Park Service, reports that adventurers come from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries. About 60% of Americans are from the eight states home to Route 66. Half of the travelers are middle-aged or older, but a considerable population of younger folks still make the trip.

A truck camper parked in front a Route 66 signed painted on the side of a building.

5 Reasons Why Route 66 Is Overrated

However, even with the hoopla around Route 66, we think you’re better off enjoying the scenery, history, and culture of other places in the country. Here are our top five reasons we think Route 66 is overrated.

1. The Scenery Is Boring

As we already said, the scenery traveling from Chicago through Kansas and Oklahoma is boring. It gets better once you get near New Mexico, but that’s a long way to travel to see only wheat fields and flat land for much of the drive. 

We prefer scenic drives like the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado or Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming, where the landscape takes your breath away.

2. The Highway Is Poorly Kept

Route 66 has been in disarray for decades. You can’t even travel on the highway in some places because of road closures. Other parts have been broken up, so you have no choice but to divert to I-40.

Although people and organizations have put forth much effort over the last few years to restore this classic drive, it’s still poorly maintained.

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Route 66 logo painted on the ground. The highway has a lot of wear and tear on it.

3. Mostly Decaying Buildings Are Left

You might go 100 miles without seeing any signs of life along Route 66. Many of the attractions are shut down, and the old buildings are run-down and in disrepair.

Some locations are thriving, and a lot of money has been put into restoring the classic feel. But, like the road itself, many places are desolate ghost towns.

The Palomino Motel neon sign lit up at night on Route 66.

4. It’s An Expensive Road Trip

Even if you don’t take a road trip along the entire route, it’s expensive to travel Route 66. The diners, motels, campgrounds, and museums know tourists will stop along the way.

In the summer, rates and tickets are high. Gas is expensive year-round, and there aren’t many working fuel centers along the route apart from the major cities.

5. Summertime Is Busy

Finally, summertime is the season for road trips. But summertime on Route 66 is crowded. If you don’t plan, you may not find accommodations.

You’ll have long wait times at the famous classic diners. People will be stopped at the same roadside attractions like Cadillac Ranch or the corner in Winslow, Arizona, and you’ll have to be patient to get that iconic photo.

A metal sign of the Route 66 sign on a signpost in Oklahoma. A small town in the background.

Is A Route 66 Road Trip Worth It?

We prefer the outdoors and think there are better places to spend our time. However, if you love Americana and want to take the original road trip, you’ll enjoy getting your kicks on Route 66.

We don’t want to discourage nostalgia. We just prefer other types of entertainment and fun.

Will you head down Route 66 for your next road trip?

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