Route 66 in Galena, Kansas

Last updated on April 21st, 2024 at 09:14 am

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Galena, Kansas, holds a special place in the history of Route 66 – the iconic “Main Street of America.” Though Kansas itself holds the shortest section of Route 66, with only 13 miles of The Mother Road, it is packed with things to see. And Route 66 in Galena, Kansas is at the heart of it all.

Nestled in the southeastern corner of Kansas, Galena is a charming town with a rich history deeply intertwined with the legendary Route 66. Founded in 1877 after the discovery of lead, Galena boomed into a bustling mining town, reaching a population of 30,000 at its peak. In 1926, the arrival of Route 66 brought a new wave of prosperity, transforming Galena into a vibrant stop for weary travelers.

If Route 66 didn’t put Galena on the map, the 2006 Pixar movie Cars certainly did. The beloved film featured locations and character based on familiar sites from Galena and, today, the town celebrates this claim-to-fame in a multitude of ways.

As you explore the charming streets, vintage landmarks, and the Kan-O-Tex service station, you’ll find yourself immersed in the nostalgia of a time when the journey was as important as the destination. So, rev up your engines and embark on a journey through Galena, where the past comes to life on the iconic Route 66.

Galena, Kansas & Route 66

Galena’s history dates back to 1871 when a railway was built through the area that would later be the town. In 1876, lead was discovered there and, in 1877, Galena was incorporated, making it the oldest mining town in Kansas. Lead mining proved prosperous for the area and, at its height in the early 1900s, Galena’s population soared to 30,000.

Route 66, established in 1926, was one of the original highways in the U.S. highway system, stretching from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. Galena became an essential stop along this historic route, serving as a vital pitstop between Joplin and Tulsa for travelers, truckers, and adventurers making their way west.

Two alignments of Route 66 converge in downtown Galena. The original route that folloqs modern-day Front Street and the 1961 alignment that follows 7th.

The town’s streets are lined with vintage structures, providing visitors with a nostalgic glimpse into the heyday of Route 66. Galena’s commitment to preserving its historic landmarks ensures that today’s visitors can experience the charm and character of this bygone era.

Galena, Kansas & Cars

Pixar’s animated film Cars, released in 2006, captivated audiences with its heartwarming story and vibrant characters. The majority of the film takes place in an eclectic town named Radiator Springs. While Radiator Springs is a made-for-TV town, the movie drew inspiration from real-life locations along Route 66, including Galena. The film’s creators traveled along the historic highway, taking notes and photographs to authentically capture the essence of the towns they encountered.

Galena’s iconic Kan-O-Tex service station played a significant role in inspiring the character of Tow Mater, the lovable tow truck in “Cars.” The rusty charm and quirky personality of the real-life tow truck, parked at the service station, left a lasting impression on the filmmakers. Visitors to Galena can see the real-life Tow Mater and explore the Kan-O-Tex service station, immersing themselves in the cinematic history that unfolded on these very streets.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt (Actors)
  • John Lasseter (Director) – Dan Fogelman (Writer) – Darla K. Anderson (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Things to See on Route 66 in Galena, Kansas

The town of Galena, Kansas embraces its ties to both Route 66 and the movie Cars. Pull over in town to explore all the museums, roadside attractions, murals, vintage structures, and more. Be sure to add all these attractions to your Kansas Route 66 Road Trip Itinerary.

Luigi Cars replica at Luigi's Pit Stop in Galena, Kansas Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Luigi’s Pit Stop

205 E Front St, Galena, KS 66739

Pull over for a pit stop at Luigi’s Pit Stop in Galena, Kansas. The Kansas Historic Route 66 Association built this attraction to capitalize on the town’s ties to the movie Cars. Here you’ll find fun and colorful murals along with replicas of the cars and characters from the movie. Find a facimile of a 1949 Mercury police car (the Sheriff of Radiator Springs), Lightning McQueen, and Luigi!

At one point you could have found Frecs the Miner, a towering muffler-man-esque sculpture, here but, sadly, it burned down in 2022. You might still catch a glimpse of his boots in place on the road but it looks like a new version will be erected in town soon!

Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Cars on the Route

119 N Main St, Galena, KS 66739

The historic Kan-O-Tex gas station in Galena first opened in 1934. Now, the old service station is known as Cars on the Route and has been converted into a cafe where you can find sandwiches, snacks, and Route 66 and Cars souvenirs.

The character of Tow Mater from Cars was partially based on an old 951 Harvester International Tow Truck that stands outside.

Howard “Pappy” Litch Park

500 S Main St, Galena, KS 66739

While exploring downtown Galena, pop into this small roadside park dedicated to Howard “Pappy” Litch, an avid Galena historian. Also look for the single iron-barred cell marked “Galena City Jail.”

Gearhead Curios in Galena, Kansas

Gearhead Curios

520 S Main St, Galena, KS 66739

This historic 1939 Texaco gas station is now restored, operating as Gearhead Curios. Veteran Aaron Perry, of Wakarusa, Kansas bought and began to restore the old Texaco station in 2018. Stop in to shop for souvenirs or admire an American flag made from antique Kansas license plates, an awning made from car hoods, a 1951 Hudson Hornet painted to resemble ‘Doc Hudson’ from Cars, and, coming later in 2024, a brand new muffler man!

Greetings from Galena Mural in Galena, Kansas

Greetings from Galena Mural

700 S Main St, Galena, KS 66739

The Galena Route 66 mural was designed by Images in Tile in 2013. Made from over 400 15-inch ceramic tiles, the mural depicts a powder blue 1957 Chevrolet pulling onto Main Street alongside some of the famous Kansas Route 66 stops in town.

Coca Cola Mural

101 E 7th St, Galena, KS 66739

The Coca-Cola Mural in Galena, Kansas is a new work of art based on vintage designs. The 16 by 60 foot mural was completed by Mythiq Art & Mural from Joplin, Missouri and sponsored by the soda company in 2019. It can be found on the Schwartz Building on the corner of Route 66 and Main Street.

Galena Mining and Historical Museum

319 W 7th St, Galena, KS 66739

The Galena Mining and Historical Museum is housed in the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas train depot and showcases tools, equipment, specimens, photographs, and other artifacts and items from the town’s history in lead and zinc mining.

Schermerhorn Park

3501 S Main St, Galena, KS 66739

The draw of Schermerhorn Park in Galena is a cave that was rumored to have served as a hideout for Jesse James.

Where to Stay in Galena, Kansas

Most Route 66 road trippers opt to book a hotel in Missouri or Oklahoma, and don’t spend the night on Route 66 in Kansas. But if you’d like to find where to stay in Galena, Kansas, here are some options for Kansas Route 66 motels.

The Mollie Retreat on Route 66

513 S Main St, Galena, KS 66739

The Mollie Retreat on Route 66 is modern apartment set in a 19th-century building. It’s perfect for a couple traveling Route 66, with one bedroom, a fully equipped kitchenette with a microwave and a toaster, and a bathroom with a walk-in shower.

Galena Motel & Suites

918 E 7th St, Galena, KS 66739

A budget motel with daily and weekly rates, Dish TV, and free WiFi.

Map of Route 66 in Galena, Kansas

Use the map below to explore all the best things to do in Galena, Kansas. Or, download our full Kansas Route 66 map to your phone!

Plan Your Route 66 Road Trip

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Last modified: April 21, 2024
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