Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri, The Birthplace of Route 66

Last updated on April 16th, 2024 at 12:19 pm

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Springfield, Missouri, is more than just another Midwestern city. It’s a place where history hums with the purr of vintage engines and the echo of wanderlust. Springfield is not just on Route 66, it’s the birthplace of Route 66, where the iconic highway’s name was officially christened in 1926. And, today, Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri is still a must-visit, with its its rich history, charming atmosphere, and abundance of Route 66 landmarks to explore.

That legacy of Route 66 permeates the city’s very soul, weaving its way into vibrant murals, quirky museums, and neon-lit landmarks that pay homage to America’s Mother Road. Route 66 runs through Springfield, Missouri from Kearney to Glenstone to St. Louis Street, passing through Park Central Square and Olive and College Streets along the way. Both on the original route and beyond there are a plethora of roadside attractions, parks, restaurants, and motels to add to your road trip itinerary.

So, buckle up, gas up your nostalgia tank, and prepare to cruise through Springfield, Missouri, on a Route 66 adventure!

Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri, The Birthplace of Route 66

The Birthplace of Route 66

It all started back in 1926, when a Springfield businessman named John T. Woodruff and Oklahoma Highway Chairman Cyrus Avery were lobbying for the new highway connecting the East and West coasts. While the initial proposal called for Route 60, then Route 62, Woodruff and Avery knew they needed something catchier. So, during a meeting at the historic Colonial Hotel (sadly demolished in 1997), they declared, “We prefer Sixty-Six to Sixty-Two!” The catchy name resonated with the group, and on April 30, 1926, a telegram was sent, officially christening the Chicago to Los Angeles highway as “U.S. Route 66.” And thus, a legend was born.

Due to that historic achievement, Springfield, Missouri is known as “The Birthplace of Route 66.”

Route 66 Attractions in Springfield, Missouri

As “The Birthplace of Route 66,” Springfield, Missouri comes alive with roadside relics dedicated to The Mother Road. It’s also a vibrant city that goes beyond its Route 66 roots with plenty of attractions to keep everyone in the car entertained. Below are some of the best Route 66 attractions in Springfield, Missouri and more must-see attractions that go beyond The Mother Road.

Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park

The Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park in Springfield, Missouri pays respects to the city’s roots with a small pullover park packed with nostalgia.

The star attraction of this Route 66 park is a replica of the “Giant Hamburg” sign that was once a Route 66 attraction in itself. The original stood outside of a Route 66 restaurant that opened in the 1940s and is believed to be the world’s first drive through. Red’s Giant Hamburg closed in 1984 and the location was torn down, but this replica pays homage to that once famous Route 66 institution.

College Street Great Mosaic Wall in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

College Street Great Mosaic Wall

Across the street from the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park is another Springfield, Missouri Route 66 attraction: the College Street Great Mosaic Wall. These Route 66 mosaics were created by Springfield artist Christine Schilling with the help of local children. The project was dedicated in September 2001 with dozens of mosaic images reflecting on the Mother Road.

Hubcaps on Route 66 Sculpture in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Hubcaps on Route 66 Sculpture

The Hubcaps on Route 66 Sculpture pays homage to the memories of The Mother Road and all the hubcapped cars that have made the journey across it. This roadside attraction displays a giant 66 covered in shiny hubcaps.

Route 66 Visitor Center

The Route 66 Visitor Center in downtown Springfield has information on the city, Route 66, and the surrounding areas along with maps, guides, and driving directions. Stop by for travel information and inspiration or to grab a souvenir.

Chef Muffler Man in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Chef Muffler Man

The Route 66 Food Truck Park opened in Springfield, Missouri in February 2020. The spot featured food trucks with a variety of different cuisines, a full-service bar, and this giant Chef Muffler Man, affectionally named Carl, out front. The roadside attraction was created specifically for the spot by fiberglass artist Mark Cline, who uses molds of original muffler men to create new attractions.

Unfortunately, the food truck park closed in 2022, so you can no longer stop here for lunch on Route 66. But you can still swing by to see this roadside attraction.

Gillioz Theatre

The historic 1926 Gillioz Theatre was built by bridge-builder M. E. Gillioz of Monett, Missouri. It features ornate paintings and detailed architectural elements throughout. Originally the venue served as a hybrid theatre, hosting both vaudeville and film presentations. Today it hosts a variety of film presentations, live theatre, music concerts, comedy, opera, and more.

Crystal Cave

Originally opened in 1893, Crystal Cave is the second oldest show cave in Missouri. Take a guided tour through this spectacular cave to witness stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, waterfalls, and rare helictites formations.

Fantastic Caverns

Fantastic Caverns offers a unique experience with its tram tours through the caverns’ expansive chambers. The only ride-through cave tour in the United States, visitors can comfortably explore this underground realm, marveling at intricate formations and learning about the cave’s rich history. Discover giant floor-to-ceiling columns, glistening minerals, tiny cave pearls, and more.

Historic Rock Fountain Tourist Court Motel

Rock Fountain Tourist Court Motel is a historic Route 66 accommodation that dates back to 1945. Built by Mac MacCandless, the property was constructed in the cottage style with nine rock cabins surrounding a rock fountain. The historic motel is now a private apartment complex, Melinda Court, and not open to the public. But you can admire it as you drive by.

Park Central Square

Park Central Square is a central square designed by renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and his associates in the early 1970s. Find seating areas and an impressive limestone fountain.

Jordan Valley Park

Jordan Valley Park is a 12-acre green oasis in the middle of an urban area. The park features jumping fountains, a shaded picnic area, a walking trail, an outdoor amphitheater, unique children’s play features, and several unique sculptures.

Greetings from Springfield Murals

This fun mural is painted to resemble a vintage postcard and features many local sites, including a Route 66 shield and the road. But this isn’t the only mural in Springfield, Missouri. If you want to find more, check out this great guide or this one!

The Gray/Campbell Farmstead

The Gray/Campbell Farmstead is one of the oldest remaining houses in Springfield, Missouri. The house was built in 1856 and here you can find a log kitchen, a two-crib barn, a log granary, and a one-room schoolhouse. The farmstead is a not-for-profit historic site, dedicated to teaching younger generations about life in the 1860s.

World's Second Largest Fork in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Roadside Attraction

World’s Second Largest Fork

Located in the parking lot of an office complex in Springfield, Missouri is the World’s Second Largest Fork. This 35-foot tall, 11-ton utensil was once the biggest fork in the world. It might have lost the title, but it will still be one of the biggest forks you’ll ever see.

Getaway Golf

For a fun excursion, head to Getaway Golf. This travel-themed entertainment venue lets you experience the world outside of Route 66, showcasing top destinations from the United States and beyond, like the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon.

Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World

While not specific Route 66 attraction, this shop is one of the most visited in all of Missouri. The flagship store for the Bass Pro chain, the business has almost 500,000 square feet dedicated to the beauty of the outdoors. Find waterfalls, aquariums, an indoor firing range, and Tracker Boat showroom alongside a large selection of outdoor, camping, hunting, fishing, and boating gear.

Buc-ee’s

Buc-ee’s is a popular travel center chain that lures travelers in with an impressive fleet of fueling stations, a massive convenience store, and some of the cleanest bathrooms you’ll find on the road. The first Buc-ee’s on Route 66 opened in Springfield, Missouri in 2023.

Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Museums

Learn more about Route 66, Springfield, and beyond at these fun and informative museums in Springfield, Missouri.

History Museum on the Square

History Museum on the Square is located right on historic Route 66 in Springfield. The museum has a range of permanent and temporary exhibits that tell the significant events in Springfield through objects, individuals, and histories. Particularly of interest to those traveling on The Mother Road is a 66-foot-long timeline and map that guides you through a vintage trip along Route 66.

Route 66 Car Museum

This Route 66 Car Museum features a collection of more than 75 vintage sports cars, 1907 to 1980 classic automobiles, and movie and celebrity cars. This privately-owned collection is housed in a garage-style space with a gift shop.

Railroad Historical Museum

The Railroad Historical Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of railroading. Walk through antique train cars, including a 1943-era Frisco Locomotive No. 4524, a Burlington Baggage Car, a Chicago and Northwestern Bilevel Commuter Car, and a Burlington Northern Caboose and find artifacts, equipment, and hands-on activities for children and adults.

Air and Military Museum of the Ozarks

This hands-on patriotic museum features restored vintage military equipment, including aircrafts, jeeps, and uniforms. The museum is dedicated to educating and preserving the country’s military history.

Wonders Of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium

The Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium is a not-for-profit educational conservation-themed attraction in Springfield, Missouri. Spanning 350,000 square feet with over 1.5 miles of trails, Wonders of Wildlife takes you on an educational journey.

Where to Eat in Springfield, Missouri

Long days in the car can make anyone hungry. If you’re stopping for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in Springfield, Missouri. Here are some of the best Route 66 restaurants, diners, and drive-ins to pull over at for a bite to eat!

Burger and Fries at Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Drive In Restaurant

Red’s Giant Hamburg

Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri first opened its doors on Route 66 in 1947. For decades Red’s Giant Hamburg served burgers, fries, and root beer to 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.

Route 66 Steak ‘n Shake

The Route 66 Steak ‘n Shake, also known as the St. Louis Street Steak In Shake, is a historic location of the chain that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 2012. The restaurant was built on Route 66 in 1963. Stop for a meal and a milkshake and check out the vintage original signs!

College Street Cafe

College Street Cafe is one of the original Springfield cafes on Route 66. Originally opened in the 1950s it has gone through several owners over the years, but the restaurant has always served up classic down-home diner fare to hungry travelers.

Black Sheep

A relatively newer option for dining in Springfield, Missouri is Black Sheep. Since 2015 this restaurant has served inventive burgers and fries paired boozy and non-boozy shakes.

Route 66 Hotels in Springfield, Missouri

Spending the night in Springfield, Missouri? There are plenty of hotels to choose from. But if you want the full ROute 66 experience, check out some of the best Route 66 motels in town. Find one to add to your travel itinerary.

Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven

Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel in Springfield, Missouri Route 66 Motel

After a day behind the wheel, stopping at all of the Mother Road’s iconic roadside attractions, museums, restaurants, and more, a good shower and a comfy bed is always a welcome sight. Take that and add modern amenities, vintage charm, and a touch of Elvis, and you have the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven motel in Springfield, Missouri. Book a stay in the iconic Elvis Suite for a unique night!

Rockwood Motor Court

Rockwood Motor Court opened as a Tourist Camp in 1929, just three years after Route 66 was commissioned. Renovated in 2019, you’ll enjoy clean and comfortable rooms themed to eras of Route 66 with vintage décor, furniture, and memorabilia.

Rest Haven Court

Rest Haven Court is a classic motor hotel in Springfield, Missouri. Look for the bright neon sign with the big neon arrow. It was erected in 1953!

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

Plan Your Route 66 Road Trip

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Last modified: April 16, 2024
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