Public interest in Route 66 tourism has dramatically increased in recent years. Car clubs, motorcycle rally enthusiasts and motor home caravan organizers always seem to hold Route 66 destinations at the top of their list for summertime events. Many foreign tourists from around the globe plan their entire excursion abroad around Route 66. This is all because Route 66 is the best for experiencing the nostalgic past from back in the days when automobile touring was number one!
The allure of the Route 66 experience revolves around the opportunity to relive the golden era of automobile travel, back when big comfortable cars were the king of the road. The nostalgia is captivating, especially when tracing the footprints of the many legendary stars that immortalized the Route 66 lifestyle. The rock ‘n’ roll music, the old fashioned food, the roadhouse saloons and the tourist traps made traveling this long road an entertaining adventure like no other. The little old motels with unique themes and big neon signs still capture the hearts of road weary travelers in this modern age. Old Route 66 truly was a unique vacation experience that was left for dead when this road was bypassed by Interstate 40, but thanks to modern tourism trends, The Mother Road will never fade away!
Flagstaff, Arizona, is one of the few towns that faired well back when Route 66 was bypassed. The reason why Flagstaff survived when so many other small cities along Route 66 turned into ghost towns is easy to see. Flagstaff is where the two classic western tourism crossroads meet. From Flagstaff by car, travelers can easily reach the Grand Canyon National Park, Phoenix to the south, a multitude of National Monuments in the local area and several famous Route 66 towns east or west. Flagstaff was a hub for vacation adventures in this region back in the old days and this still holds true.
In modern times, Flagstaff is where I-40 and I-17 meet, but these two freeways are like a thorn in the side of Route 66 fans. There still are a lot of hard feelings concerning the detrimental effect of the Interstate Freeway System on local businesses and families that once thrived on old Route 66. When Route 66 was bypassed, it was like the ruling elite intended to banish the counterculture that this road represented. With this in mind, it is easy to see why so many folks prefer to take the road less traveled to support the rebirth of Route 66 with heartfelt sympathy in modern times. It is as if one feels obligated to patriotically spend money at places along this road, in order to help keep the Route 66 culture intact.
Thanks to local historical societies that strive to preserve items of cultural significance, Route 66 is still very much alive in Flagstaff. The entire downtown area of Flagstaff is literally like a Route 66 preservation hall. The billboards, street signs and business marquis all promote The Mother Road in one way or another. Old original buildings from the peak of the Route 66 era still stand and the towering motel signs touch the sky.
There are historic landmarks along Route 66 in Flagstaff that have been around since long before the age of the automobile came to be. These old west landmarks still draw the attention of tourists just like these places did back in the old days, but with a modern touch. Historic downtown Flagstaff has several old Route 66 motels that have been converted into modern boutique motels or bed & breakfast businesses. A college is located downtown, so many of the old Route 66 watering holes in this area now cater to students and tourists alike with a laid back atmosphere.
The old Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Depot is a historic building located on Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff that was preserved for all posterity as tourism visitor center. The Railroad Station Visitor Center offers a wealth of information about things to do and sites to see in this town. Another nearby historic site is the old Orpheum building, which has been standing since 1911 and this old theater now hosts concert venues. While strolling around historic downtown Flagstaff it is easy to see the significance of the old buildings and the antique neon signs. Flagstaff is where classic old west prosperity met Route 66 culture.
Heading east from downtown, the old Route 66 Strip harbors many of the classic Route 66 era theme motels that still have the original big neon signs. There are a few classic diner restaurants from the bygone era that still offer great dining value along this section of the Mother Road. A little further east on Route 66 is where The Museum Club can be found. The Museum Club is a registered historic landmark, which happens to be the biggest log cabin building in the entire west. This old building is stocked full of old west antiques and Route 66 memorabilia. The Museum Club is a unique place to visit and rumor has it that this place is haunted, so there is some paranormal tourism in Flagstaff too. Unfortunately, The Museum Club closed recently and it is awaiting new owners to open the doors once again. Hopefully it will be soon, because The Museum Club is a must to experience when doing the Route 66 tour of this town.
Of course there are more things to do in Flagstaff than old Route 66 tourism. The historic Lowell Observatory has been around since 1894 and this is where the planet Pluto was discovered. The Lowell Observatory offers tours and every visit offers a new educational experience. The Riordan Mansion State Park is yet another historic site that is well worth checking out. This classic western style mansion hosts social events and guided tours too. Humphrey’s Peak hovers 12,000 feet tall over Flagstaff and this mountain is a hikers paradise with trails that lead to unique points of interest. Nestled on the mountain by Flagstaff is also a place called the Arizona Snowbowl, which is an alpine ski area that caters to the snowboard crowd.
As mentioned earlier, there are several National Parks and Monuments within a short drive from Flagstaff. The Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano and Walnut Canyon National Monuments are all just a few miles away from Flagstaff. Wupatki and Walnut Canyon both have some of the best preserved ancient pueblos and cliff dwellings in the region. The lava flows and cinder cone at Sunset Crater look as fresh as yesterday, even though this volcano blew its cork about 1,000 years ago. One can spend at least a full day exploring each of these scenic places and there are campgrounds in this region too. The Grand Canyon is the biggest draw in this region and Flagstaff is a good choice for a basecamp for adventures in this vast wilderness area.
As far as wild west vacation destinations are concerned, it does not get much better than Flagstaff! This Route 66 town offers old wild west historic sites, mountains to climb, slopes to ski, lakes to splash in, an observatory to explore the heavens, ancient archaeological pueblos, volcanoes and a gigantic haunted log cabin, which is a difficult combination to beat! It is easy to see why Flagstaff has always been one of the most popular destinations to be found along the Mother Road!
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