In Amarillo, there is nothing really unique as far as hotels so we just stayed somewhere inexpensive. Dinner was at the Big Texan Steakhouse which is a big tourist restaurant, but then again, we’re tourists.
In the morning, you can stop at the Cadillac Ranch before it gets too crowded. They actually encourage people to spray paint the cars which we hid from the kids until we got there. There’s nothing as fun for children as society-endorsed vandalism.
We then drove to Holbrook, Arizona and stayed at the Globetrotter Lodge which is a Route 66 motel. A lot of people stay across the street at the Wigwam motel but the TripAdvisor reviews were much better for the Globetrotter Lodge which included breakfast – and you can see the Wigwam motel right across the street to get some photos. Plus the vintage pool complete with Astroturf is a nice touch. I will note, this is a very desolate area of town (and Holbrook is not that big anyway) so we’d recommend just picking up some fast food and calling it a night once you get there.
Along the drive, we stopped at the Midpoint Café to get a photo of the half way point on Route 66. The café gets great reviews so it would have been a good breakfast stop and slice of pie, but they are only open in Summer between April and August when the classic car crowd comes through, so a picture of our family at the halfway mark was enough for us.
Next stop was Russell’s Travel Center. This is a large travel center with a great free museum of old cars (at least twenty cars from the 50’s to 70’s in vintage condition) and old memorabilia (Big Boy statues, juke boxes, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis). You’re going to need gas anyway and the museum is a great way to start your trip down Route 66. They only ask for a donation so we left a few dollars for a nice ten minute break.
Next stop is the Route 66 Monument in Tucumcari which is just a short drive off the highway. The girls had a great time climbing the monument; stretching their legs and getting some photos.
Lunch was at the 66 Diner in Albuquerque. It is five minutes from the highway but was probably the most talked about meal of our trip. The burgers are good and the fries like everything in New Mexico come topped with green chilies and cheese. Shakes are their specialty. Everything from PB&J to Caramel Apple. However, the crowd favorite was the Grasshopper. And another photo in the parking lot in front of their large wall of road signs.
Back on the road to the Indian Market which notes you’ve passed the Continental Divide. There is a gift shop of cheap jewelry, moccasins and arrow heads where you can buy the kids something small to remember the drive.
We arrived in Arizona before sunset so you can drive through the northern side of the Painted Desert. The pass lasts 24 hours, so we were able to see the area at sunset – driving around to a few of the lookouts to walk. This area is comprised of five lookouts which makes it easy to cover in an hour.
The next morning, we had a small meal at the motel and signed our daughter’s names with a Sharpie to the large Route 66 Sign attached to the motel (more sponsored vandalism). It was then a quick drive to see the southern portion of the Painted Desert which included the Blue Mesa and Petrified Forest. It only takes an hour or so to see but the pass is still active and a quick walk down into the Blue Mesa and badlands is worth your time. Note, we would recommend making this stop on your drive to the Grand Canyon and not on the way back. While it is beautiful, it will seem much smaller in comparison to what you will see later.
And for more details on surrounding areas see our full itineraries for Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, New Mexico/Arizona or Moab/Dunton Hot Springs or destination notes for the Sedona, Grand Canyon, Zion/Bryce Canyon, Amangiri/Slot Canyons, Route 66, Arches, Canyonlands, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Tucson, Phoenix, and Albuquerque.