Missouri Route 66: 1-Day Road Trip Itinerary

Last updated on April 21st, 2024 at 04:45 pm

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Buckle up for a nostalgic journey through the heart of America on Missouri’s iconic Route 66. This legendary highway, once a lifeline for weary travelers, now beckons with its neon signs, quirky roadside attractions, and small-town charm. In just one day, you can experience a slice of Americana that’s as timeless as it is captivating. There’s so much to explore on Missouri Route 66 that it would be easy to get lost among the attractions and fill a two-, three-, or even seven-day agenda with the plethora of things to see. But, if you have limited time, this Missouri Route 66 1-Day road trip itinerary is for you.

Our one-day itinerary whisks you away from the ordinary, immersing you in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Route 66. From St. Louis’s Gateway Arch to the whimsical murals of Cuba, from Meramec Caverns’ natural wonders to Springfield’s vibrant culture, prepare to be surprised and delighted at every turn.

If you only have 24-hours in your travel itinerary to drive all the way through Missouri, from St. Louis to Joplin, you might have to spend more time on the highway than the byway. At about 300 miles, it will take you around 4 hours and 25 minutes of pure driving time, and that is with taking the higher-speed highway! So plan to leave early, arrive late, and prioritize the stops and experiences that are most meaningful to you. Keep in mind that when you are traveling in the bigger cities on the route, like Springfield and St. Louis, that rush hour traffic can add to your time on the road!

Buckle up and explore our Missouri Route 66 1-Day road trip itinerary to make the most of your exploration along this historic highway.

Missouri Route 66: 1-Day Road Trip Itinerary

There are plenty of Missouri Route 66 attractions to see as you traverse the state from St. Louis to Joplin. 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 Missouri 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.

Donut Drive-In

After checking out of your St. Louis hotel, start by grabbing breakfast to go at Donut Drive-In, an unpretentious bakeshop that has been serving classic doughnuts since 1953. With a belly full of coffee and pastries, it’s time to continue heading west.

The Gateway Arch

If you didn’t get a chance to explore the The Gateway Arch the day before setting off on your Missouri Route 66 road trip, stop by before you leave the city. Even if you don’t have time to hop out of the car, you can’t miss seeing this famed attraction from your rearview mirror.

St. Louis Arch - Photo by Tiffany Cade on Unsplash
Meramec Caverns in Sullivan, Missouri

Meramec Caverns

Meramec Caverns in Sullivan, Missouri is the collective name for the 4.6 mile cavern system that runs through the Ozarks near Stanton. At 400 million years old, it’s probably the oldest attraction in Missouri, though it has only been open as a tourist attraction since 1933.

A guide will lead you through the breathtaking natural formations, which are intricately lit one room at a time, so you can appreciate their beauty. Stops include the Mirror Room with a stream of reflective water and the Wine Room with a 6-foot tall onyx table. The guided tour of the limestone caves takes around an hour and twenty minutes, so it might cut into your timeline if you only have a day, especially if you have to wait a bit for the next tour. But, if your itinerary allows, this Missouri attraction is worth seeing.

Route 66 Mural City

Cuba, Missouri is known as the town “where art meets history” and you can see the spirit of that moniker on nearly every street corner. The Route 66 murals in Cuba depict historic scenes with both local and national themes. Created between 2001 and 2007, the public art in this “Route 66 Mural City” memorializes celebrity visits from Harry S. Truman, Amelia Earhart and Bette Davis; revisits the Civil War; and celebrates the golden age of travel on The Mother Road.

Route 66 Mural City in Cuba, Missouri - Academy Award winning actress Bette Davis stayed at the Southern Hotel in Cuba in November, 1948. A photographer snapped their photo against their will and was chased by Davis’s husband. He got away and the photo appeared in the Cuba News and Review. (Cuba Free Press Building, E. Washington) (artist: Ray Harvey)
Route 66 Rocker in Cuba, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Route 66 Rocker

In 2008, the “World’s Largest Rocking Chair” was erected on historic Route 66 outside the Fanning Outpost General Store in Cuba, Missouri. Though the official title has since been relinquished, and it is now known as the Route 66 Rocker — it’s still the biggest rocking chair on Route 66!

Stop here to admire this Route 66 roadside attraction and step into the shop for some souvenirs and a Route 66 soda for the road.

Uranus Fudge Factory And General Store

If you’re looking for a unique roadside attraction on Route 66, you’ve got to pick Uranus. Uranus, Missouri that is. Visit all the fun stops in the “town,” pick up fudge or souvenirs at Uranus Fudge Factory and General Store, and check out all of the weird roadside attractions and oddities while you’re there!

Uranus, Missouri and the Uranus Fudge Factory and General Store in St Robert, Missouri
Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri Route 66 Motel

Munger Moss Motel

The Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri was built in 1946. The site originally operated as a filling station and restaurant (Munger-Moss Sandwich Shop) and the motel was added on after the business relocated, though it is the only part of the business that has survived today.

Since you’re driving across Missouri in one day you won’t be staying here. But the iconic neon motel sign beckons travelers to pull over to take photos regardless of their reservation status.

Missouri Route 66 Welcome Center Rest Area

If you need to pull over for a bathroom break or some vending machine snacks, there is no better place than the Missouri Route 66 Welcome Center Rest Area in Conway. This Route 66-themed rest stop in Missouri features a sign modeled after the Munger Moss Motel, picnic areas made to look like classic businesses, bathrooms, vending machines, and an information center.

Missouri Route 66 Welcome Center Rest Area in Conway, Missouri
Burger and Fries at Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Drive In Restaurant

Red’s Giant Hamburg

By the time you reach Springfield, you’ll probably be hungry for lunch, and Red’s Giant Hamburg is the perfect spot.

Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri first opened its doors on Route 66 in 1947 and was allegedly the world’s first drive-through restaurant. For decades the restaurant served locals and Route 66 travelers. But, in December 1984, three years shy of its 50th anniversary, Red’s closed its doors for good. In 2019 a new and improved Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant opened in Springfield, Missouri. The diner menu features familiar items like hamburgers, fries, and local root beer along with hot dogs, chili dogs, chili fries, chili cheese fries, pork sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, and more. There are even vegan burger and gluten-free bun options.

And, of course, there is a drive-thru window if you want to take your meal on the road.

Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park

After eating at Red’s Giant Hamburg, go see another replica of its famous sign at the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park.

Springfield, Missouri is officially recognized as the birthplace of Route 66 and while at the park that celebrates its title you can meander down a small walking path, see a Route 66 sign, or have your lunch at a picnic table.

Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction
Chef Muffler Man in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Springfield Roadside Attractions

Springfield, Missouri has so many attractions to explore. If you have room for an extra day in your Missouri Route 66 one-day road trip itinerary to make it into two, consider spending the night in Springfield.

Whether you spend the night here or not, find some time to stop by some of the best Springfield roadside attractions, like the Chef Muffler Man and the World’s Second Largest Fork, the Hubcaps on Route 66 Sculpture, or the Route 66 Car Museum.

Route 66 Visitor Center

While driving through Springfield, stop by the Route 66 Visitor Center for information on all the best things to do in Springfield and on Route 66 or to pick up a souvenir.

Gary’s Gay Parita

One of the best roadside attractions on Route 66, Gary’s Gay Parita is a recreation of a 1930 Sinclair gas station. The attraction features original fuel pumps and other Route 66 memorabilia.

Gary's Gay Parita in Ash Grove, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction
SuperTAM on 66 Ice Cream Parlor And Superman Museum in Carterville, Missouri Route 66 Attraction

Supertam On 66

Top off your afternoon on Route 66 with a sweet treat. SuperTAM on 66 in Carterville, Missouri is a small ice cream parlor and Superman museum. Come in for a scoop of chocolate, strawberry, or Superman.

Route 66 Mural Park

Route 66 Mural Park in Joplin, Missouri celebrates the town’s history with the Mother Road with two murals and the perfect selfie photo op.

The top mural, called Cruisin’ into Joplin, is a tribute to Joplin itself, and the city’s ties to Historic Route 66. The bottom mural is officially called “The American Ribbon” and is a map of the entirety of Route 66. Attached is a bright red replica of a 1964 Chevrolet Corvette that juts out of the wall and the mural.

Route 66 Mural Park in Joplin, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

After a long day of exploring, you’ve made it to Joplin, the furthest west Missouri city on Route 66. Settle into your hotel for the night and get dinner at one of these local restaurants: Red Onion Café, Undercliff Grill & Bar, or Wilder’s Steakhouse.

Where to Stay in St. Louis, Missouri

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River, once served as a symbolic crossing for Route 66 travelers leaving Illinois and entering Missouri. While you can now only cross the bridge on foot, for anyone traveling west on The Mother Road, St. Louis, the city on the other side of that bridge, is still their first stop in Missouri.

It’s a popular city, for road trippers and vacationers alike, with plenty of landmarks and museums to see. While you can certainly drive through St. Louis and bypass the city completely, if you really want to experience it all, you might need a place to spend a night or two.

While there aren’t any specific Route 66 hotels St. Louis, there are a lot of hotels with a history as long as the road. For a special stay, book a room at one of these downtown hotels with a past and add one of these St. Louis Route 66 hotels to your travel itinerary.

St. Louis Union Station Hotel

1820 Market St, St. Louis, MO 63103

An icon since 1894, the St. Louis Union Station is a vintage gem wrapped in elegant archways and décor. Admire the famous Grand Hall, experience all the on-site attractions, enjoy 3D light shows and a 100-foot waterfall, and access the fitness center and seasonal outdoor pool. All just a mile from downtown St. Louis and a short drive to Meramec Caverns on Route 66.

Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at The Arch

If you want to find a hotel close to the Gateway Arch, you can’t do any better than the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at The Arch. This St. Louis hotel is located less than a five-minute walk to the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium, at the heart of downtown. Enjoy 37-inch flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, an indoor pool and hot tub, and a free hot breakfast.

Magnolia Hotel St. Louis

Listed on the National Historic Register, Magnolia St. Louis was originally built in 1924 as the Mayfair Hotel by Charles Heiss, with a hospitality and sophistication in mind. This hotel is known as the birthplace of “chocolates on a pillow,” a tradition influenced by actor Cary Grant’s tryst within his suite.

Want more St. Louis Route 66 hotels? Explore more here and peruse reviews.

Where to Stay in Joplin, Missouri

Joplin isn’t home to any famous Route 66 motels, but you can find plenty of chains to choose from. Or consider driving a little less or a little more today to stay at the Boots Court Motel in Carthage or one of the unique accommodations in Kansas.

Boots Court Motel

The Boots Motel in Carthage, Missouri opened in 1939. This historic Route 66 motor hotel hosted actor Clark Gable numerous times.

Map of Missouri Route 66

Explore our full map of Route 66 in Missouri 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 21, 2024
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