California Route 66: 1-Day Road Trip Itinerary

Last updated on April 25th, 2024 at 07:59 am

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Get ready to cruise through time on a journey along California’s legendary Route 66! This iconic highway, once the Main Street of America, winds its way through some of the Golden State’s most diverse and captivating landscapes, from sun-drenched beaches to towering mountains and quirky desert towns. There’s so much to explore on California Route 66 that it would be easy to get lost among the attractions and fill a multiple-day agenda with the plethora of things to see. But, if you have limited time, this California Route 66 1-Day road trip itinerary is for you.

Whether you’re a history buff yearning for a taste of Americana or a thrill-seeker chasing roadside oddities, California’s Route 66 has something for everyone. And the best part? You can experience the essence of this legendary road in just one epic day!

Below we’ve mapped out the perfect one-day California Route 66 road trip itinerary, taking you from the Arizona border to the Santa Monica Pier. So, grab your shades, crank up the tunes, and prepare to make some memories that will last a lifetime!

California Route 66: 1-Day Road Trip Itinerary

There are plenty of California Route 66 attractions to see as you traverse the state from Needles to Santa Monica. So much so that you’ll wish you had more than 24 hours to make the journey. But if you only do have one day, you’ll want to make the most of it!

Below is a California Route 66 1-Day road trip itinerary that calls out some of the highlights worth pulling over for. Depending on when you leave in the morning, how bad the traffic is, and how long you spend at each location, you might not have time to explore them all. But whether you love roadside attractions, history, museums, nature, or food, there’s something here for everyone to love.

We’re starting this California Route 66 1-day road trip itinerary off in Needles, California. Located on the scenic Colorado River just across the bridge from Arizona, Needles is known as the gateway to California. Check out of your hotel in the morning and get ready to start exploring!

El Garces Hotel and Train Station

The highlight of Needles, California is the El Garces Hotel and Train Station. The structure was originally built in 1908 as El Garces, a Harvey House and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway station. 

Roy's Motel & Cafe

Roy’s Motel & Cafe

Head to Amboy, California to find Roy’s Motel & Cafe is a Route 66 institution and one of the most photographed sites on the Mother Road. While it has fallen into disrepair over the years, the property is slowly being restored, with the giant neon sign brought back to life in 2019.

Ludlow Cafe

If you’re looking for a classic diner experience when traveling on Route 66, consider a stop at Ludlow Cafe. Enjoy classic diner fare in a friendly travelers atmosphere.

Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum

This California Route 66 museum displays artifacts, memorabilia, and historic photographs related to the Mother Road and the Mojave Desert Communities.

Bottle Tree Ranch

Visit a garden filled with tree-shaped sculptures made from glass bottles, pipe, and other vintage items. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is the work of the late Elmer Long, who opened this Route 66 must-see attraction in 2000.

California Route 66 Museum

The California Route 66 Museum is located in historic Old Town Victorville and is devoted to both the historic and contemporary aspects of the Mother Road in the state. The 4,500 square foot museum features interactive exhibits, rotating displays, and fun photo ops.

Original McDonald’s Museum

The first McDonald’s restaurant opened on December 12, 1948, in San Bernardino, California. In 1971, that building was bulldozed. Many years later Albert Okura purchased the property and turned it into a shrine to the birthplace of the chain. The unofficial McDonald’s museum features artifacts including the original sign and cookware, a giant Hamburglar, and old-school Happy Meal toys.

Wigwam Motel

The Wigwam Motel franchises were constructed in the 1930s and 40s. Wigwam Village Motel No. 7, the last one ever built, started as a Route 66 destination and still beckons Mother Road travelers today. While the tee-pee-shaped motel went through a transitional period where it was outfitted with waterbeds, rented by the hour, and advertised “Do it in a Wigwam,” these days, it’s been restored to its former glory and is a family-friendly Route 66 attraction.

Cucamonga Service Station

The Cucamonga Service Station is a historic gas and automobile service station located in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The station was built in 1915, later abandoned, and then restored and reopened as a Route 66 museum in 2015.

Chicken Boy Statue

Chicken Boy was originally installed on the roof of L.A.’s Chicken Boy restaurant in 1969. The customized International Fiberglass muffler man was all man below the neck and all chicken from the neck up. When the restaurant closed in the 1980s and the building was set for demolition, artist Amy Inouye, a great admirer of the fiberglass bird boy, rescued it from demise. She kept this iconic California roadside attraction safe in storage until 2007 when she found “The Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles” a new home, on top of a building she owns right on Route 66.

Santa Monica Pier

You’ve made it! You’ve made it to the end of Route 66! Celebrate the end of your California Route 66 1-day road trip with a visit to the Santa Monica Pier, take a photo with the End of the Trail Sign, and stop by 66-to-Cali for a commemorative souvenir or certificate of completion!

California Route 66: 1-Day Road Trip Itinerary

Check into your hotel for your last night on the road and have a celebratory dinner at Chez Jay, Connie and Ted’s, Dan Tana’s, or The Albright!

Where to Stay in Needles, California

Nestled along the iconic Route 66, the charming town of Needles, California, beckons travelers with a unique blend of history and modern comforts. This destination has been a vital stop for road trippers since the heyday of the Mother Road, when it became a pivotal rest stop, providing weary travelers with a place to recharge, refuel, and rejuvenate before continuing their cross-country journey.

Today, Needles continues to embrace its heritage, with a range of hotels and motels that pay homage to the town’s rich history. These lodgings offer a warm welcome to modern travelers while retaining the nostalgic charm of Route 66.

Rio Del Sol Inn

Rio Del Sol Inn is a Needles motel with designed for comfort and convenience. The property features an outdoor pool, cable TV, free high-speed WiFi, microwaves, mini-fridges, and coffee makers. The free parking lot can accommodate cars, trucks, and RVs and there’s an outdoor pool, a hot tub, and a steam room for guests to enjoy.

Where to Stay in Santa Monica, California

Los Angeles, California, has a storied history and immense significance on Route 66. As the western terminus of this iconic highway, it marked the culmination of countless cross-country journeys, embodying the American dream of westward expansion. LA’s thriving culture and entertainment industry, including Hollywood, made it a magnetic destination for travelers. The city’s vibrant neighborhoods, landmarks like the Santa Monica Pier, and its diverse population all contributed to Route 66’s enduring allure. Los Angeles, with its blend of urban energy and coastal beauty, remains an iconic endpoint on the historic route, symbolizing the dreams and adventures of road trippers for generations.

Whether Los Angeles is your last stop on Route 66 or your first, plan to spend the night in one of these iconic Route 66 hotels.

The Georgian

The Georgian Hotel has been serving the Hollywood greats since 1933 and is recognized as one the most visually stunning and iconic establishments on the California coast. Spend the night in a stylish suite with an ocean view, dine on their famed coastal cuisine, and have the beach right at your doorstep.

Sonder The Beacon

The Beacon is an Old Hollywood hotel built in 1928. Conveniently located right across from Santa Monica Beach, you can head to the sand or stay in to enjoy the hotel’s art-deco glamour along with the hot tub, cabanas, soaking bathtubs , fitness room, and Roku TV.

Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows

Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows was developed in the 1920s on the site of a 19th-century estate. Over the years this Santa Monica hotel has hosted a variety of Hollywood stars, including Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. Stay in an ocean-view room or enjoy one of the charming 1930s bungalows.

Hotel Figueroa

Hotel Figueroa is one of the longest-standing hotels in downtown Los Angeles. The 1926 Spanish Colonial hotel has been restored and features 268 rooms and suites spread over 14 floors and a relaxing pool.

Palm Motel

Just a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier and the end of Route 66, Palm Motel is a budget-friendly Santa Monica hotel free Wifi, free parking, fresh linens, and daily coffee and cookies.

Rest Haven Motel

A simple motel located just one mile from Santa Monica Pier. Rest Haven Motel was built in 1938 and features a large courtyard.

Santa Monica Motel

Santa Monica Motel offers a good mix of location, value, and comfort. The simple motel is located one mile from Santa Monica Pier and offers self-parking, cable TV, and WiFi.

Want more Los Angeles Route 66 hotels? Explore more here and peruse reviews.

Want more Santa Monica Route 66 hotels? Explore more here and peruse reviews.

Route 66 California Map

Explore our map of Route 66 in California below. For easy browsing it is categorized and color-coded by category: roadside attraction, dining, landmark, museum, outdoors, mural/sign, accommodation, shopping, and tour/excursion.

Plan Your Route 66 Road Trip

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Last modified: April 25, 2024
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