Route 66 is synonymous with the classic American road trip, and that carefree spirit is still alive in Flagstaff today. When Route 66 became a highway in 1921, Flagstaff was established as a popular stop on the iconic highway. Famous musical acts making their way to Los Angeles would stop at the Museum Club for a gig, and the Eagles’ classic “Take it Easy” was written by musician Jackson Browne after he found himself “standing on the corner in Flagstaff, Arizona” when traveling Route 66 to California. Winslow, Arizona was easier to sing and made the final lyrics, but Route 66 nostalgia is abundant around Flagstaff. Construction of the modern interstate may have relegated it to “Historic Route 66,” but modern travelers can still enjoy that iconic experience.
The history of the road that would become Route 66 through Flagstaff begins in 1857 when Lt. Edward Beal led an expedition through this region to build a wagon road to California. This road was followed by many emigrants, and then by the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad in 1882. Between 1880 and 1916 bicyclists who were not happy with road conditions in the United States began the Good Roads Movement. This led to a Federal Act in 1916, and the creation of a system of U.S. highways. One of these, The National Old Trails Highway, stretched from Maryland to California. Originally the highway was to swerve south into Phoenix, but a delegation from Flagstaff was able to convince the builders to bring the road through Northern Arizona. In 1921 a second Federal Highways Act led to an improved system, and the actual designation of the highway running from Chicago to Santa Monica as Route 66.
Now Route 66 has become firmly established in the annals of Americana. The lore of the road paints romantic pictures of a simpler time. It conjures images of weary travelers in classic cars resting for the night at rustic auto courts in quaint little towns where Mom and Pop still ran the soda fountain and a dime store sold things for a dime. It quietly reveres the sad lot of those people who were displaced from their homes and driven along by the ravages of the Dustbowl and the Great Depression. It beckons to the adventurer with the promise of new experiences and excitement beyond each turn.
THINGS TO DO
Historic Route 66 runs right through Downtown which is Flagstaff’s hub of dining, nightlife, shopping and art galleries. Stroll the quaint streets or take in one of the many events and live performances in Heritage Square. You’ll walk through streets lined with sandstone brick buildings built in the 1890s, and through “newer” structures built during the roaring 1920s to early 1930s. You can find a list of downtown’s historic buildings here.
1 E. Route 66
Located on Route 66 in the historic downtown Santa Fe passenger train depot, the Flagstaff Visitor Center is your resource for personalized travel information, free guides, maps and brochures. The gift shop features a wide selection of Flagstaff and train-themed souvenirs and clothing, books, maps, Route 66 memorabilia locally-crafted items and “made in the USA” gifts. Bring your pennies for the souvenir penny smasher and carry memories of Flagstaff in your pocket. Open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Historic Route 66 Walking Tour
Also known as “The Mother Road”, Route 66 continues to bisect Flagstaff today, and the road is lined with relics from the route’s heyday. Travel along the original alignment of the Mother Road through Flagstaff’s Southside Historic District. This self-guided tour begins at the Historic Train Station, passing by classic drive-in motels and Flagstaff landmarks of old. Pick up the walking tour brochure “Flagstaff’s Route 66” at the Visitor Center or download here. (You can find a list of downtown Flagstaff’s historic buildings here.)
Route 66 Passport
Your passport is a snapshot of the many wonders across Arizona’s stretch of Route 66.This is an ongoing program, so if you don’t collect all 10 stamps this visit, there will be time to visit Route 66 again! Each stamp collection stop along the way is also the perfect place to get more information on your particular interests as well as recommendations for local eateries, lodging, and attractions. The stamp collection stop in Flagstaff is at the Visitor Center (in the historic train station, 1 E. Route 66). You can also pick up and redeem your passport there.
EagleRider Motorcycle Rental
Live your dream and rent a Harley Davidson®. EagleRider’s experienced staff will assist you with all of your needs, including apparel and accessories. Your tour from Flagstaff starts on the scenic roads of Route 66 and avoids “big city” traffic. Guided day tours are also offered.
Flagstaff is a partner in the Historic Arizona Route 66 Geocaching Project. This project offers visitors a new way to explore the Mother Road across the state. With nearly 100 caches along Arizona’s portion of the route, travelers are able to explore secrets from the past with a GPS unit or geocaching app. There are multiple caches from this project to be found in Flagstaff. Each cache includes a log book and historic information about where the cache is hidden. For more information on the Historic AZ 66 caches, go to Route 66 Association of Arizona, and for more on the growing phenomenon of geocaching, go to www.geocaching.com.
NOSTALGIC DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
218 S. Milton Rd.
Granny’s is a family owned and operated restaurant and sports bar on Route 66. It was built around 1960 as the Paul Bunyan Café, then became the Lumberjack Café. The wooden lumberjack on the south wall is a reminder of those days, and also a memorial to a bit of Route 66 history that no longer stands here. They feature a wonderful 40-item soup and salad bar along with hand-cut steaks, Italian dishes, burgers, wings and cold beer.
931 W. Route 66
Fifties fun and fantastic food on historic Route 66. Breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, salads, steaks, chicken, pasta and old fashioned shakes, malts and sundaes from the classic fountain. Step into the 1950′s at Galaxy Diner. Remember the film stars of your youth-or your parent’s youth-Like Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, James Dean, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne! See our walls of fame with over one hundred pictures and movie stills from the Golden age of film. Enjoy a fun atmosphere and a home cooked meal to the jukebox tunes of Bobby Darin, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley and more! The Route 66 Cruisers meet at the Galaxy Diner every Friday night—see classic cars at their finest! Swing Dance on Saturday nights with free lessons.
The Museum Club
3404 E. Route 66
The Museum Club is a historic landmark built in 1931 and one of the largest log cabins in the Southwest. Today it plays host to national acts as well as regional bands. It has a 1880s back bar, live music on stage, a real wood dance floor and is a true step back in time. See Willie Nelson’s contract and experience the only honky tonky country bar in Flagstaff.