Instaworthy Route 66: 10 Great Photo Ops

You’re not the only one doing it for the ‘gram. Earlier this year, Hertz surveyed British travelers, asking them which road trips were the most Instagram-worthy in the world. Guess which one nabbed the top spot? Route 66. The 2,448-mile adventure from Chicago to Santa Monica is chock-full of sights—from kitsch Americana to stunning natural landscapes—that tempt photographers from all over. Here are a few of my favorite Route 66 photo ops.

1. Cloud Gate, Chicago, IL

Grab a photo with Chicago’s skyline reflected in The Bean. Photo courtesy of Instagram user alanbenjamin.

Affectionately known as “the bean,” this stainless steel sculpture is selfie central. You’ll find it in Chicago’s Millennium Park, usually with a crowd of tourists surrounding it. Angle your camera just right and you’ll capture the city’s famous skyline in the sculpture’s mirror-like surface.

2. Muffler Man, Atlanta, IL

statue of a man holding a hotdog with a red classic car parked in front
You can’t miss the Muffler Man. Photo courtesy of Instagram user mary_chgd.

He’s strong. He’s stoic. He’s 20 feet tall and he’s holding a hot dog. Meet the Muffler Man, a towering fiberglass statue watching over the small town of Atlanta. During Route 66’s heyday, dozens of these statues dotted the highway, acting as eye-catching advertisements for businesses.

3. Blue Whale, Catoosa, OK

woman wearing black holding a dog in front of a constructed blue whale in Oklahoma
Strike a post with the Blue Whale of Catoosa. Photo courtesy of Instagram user aimeereese.

Where else can you snap a pic from inside the mouth of a whale? This pipe-and-concrete structure in the shape of a friendly-faced whale stretches over a tranquil pond; in the 1970s, it served as a dock and diving board for the once-popular swimming hole.

4. Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

Spray painted cars sprout out of the ground at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.
Cadillac Ranch. Photo © Jessica Dunham.

You can’t miss Cadillac Ranch. This public art installation celebrates the Mother Road’s car culture in a surreal way: 10 big-finned Cadillacs stick straight up from the ground, noses buried in a wheat field and the Texas horizon looming beyond.

5. Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, NM

The recognizable classic Blue Swallow Motel sign in Tucumcari with a classic car parked beneath it.
Photo © Jessica Dunham.

Retro neon signs abound on Route 66, and this is one of the best. The Pixar film Cars even featured Blue Swallow’s “100% Refrigerated Air” slogan in the movie’s Cozy Cone Motel sign.

6. Abandoned Shell Station, Tucumcari, NM

A decaying Shell gas sign is one of the many abandoned businesses along Route 66
Photo © Jessica Dunham.

After the Mother Road’s decommission in 1985, many of the businesses along Route 66 were forced to shutter their doors. Today you’ll encounter abandoned storefronts, empty gas stations, and weathered signs—frozen-in-time relics of Route 66’s past.

7. Standin’ on the Corner Park, Winslow, AZ

A giant Route 66 marker is painted in the intersection made famous by an Eagles song in Winslow
Photo © Jessica Dunahm.

There’s no better on-the-road photo than that of the Route 66 sign painted on the pavement at this Arizona spot made famous by The Eagles song, “Take It Easy.”

8. Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, AZ

A classic car in front of teepee shaped motel rooms at Holbrook.
Catch a perfect pastel sunset at Holbrook. Photo © Jessica Dunham.

This 1950s motel is made for Instagram. The perky teepees stretching skyward, vintage cars in the parking lot, and a neon sign that blinks all night. If you arrive at dusk, capture the glow of the Arizona sunset, a perfect photo backdrop.

9. Roy’s Motel & Café, Amboy, CA

woman in a black hat posing in front of a faded hotel sign on route 66 with blue sky in the background
Grab a selfie with the Roy’s Motel & Café sign. Photo courtesy of Instagram user natalia_tl_27.

The Googie-style sign of Roy’s pops against Death Valley’s bleak landscape, and its bold colors and geometric lines beg to be photographed.

10. End of the Trail, Santa Monica, CA

End of the Trail sign for Route 66 at the Santa Monica Pier.
Start or end your Route 66 journey at Santa Monica. Photo © Jessica Dunham.

On the busy Santa Monica Pier that juts out over the Pacific Ocean, proud Route 66’ers clamor for a selfie in front of this sign. Proof of an epic journey now concluded.

author Jessica dunham

Jessica Dunham

About the Author

Jessica Dunham lives in Phoenix with her husband and two spunky dogs, but inherited a family summer home on Lake Champlain in Vermont. This seemed heavenly to her, until she tried to imagine getting there from halfway across the country. Then it required some effort and a little imagination. The only way to transport the herd from one place to another was to pile into a Jeep and drive. That's is how she came to know and love the Mother Road, and became an expert on the ins and outs of Route 66. 

She's since driven from Phoenix to Vermont and back again six times, traversed the Southwest portion of Route 66 hundreds of times, napped in leafy parks, slept in a wigwam and at a Best Western, camped in tents, dined at mom-and-pop eateries, met strangers, and made friends in almost every town dotting the famed highway. She's seen the sun rise over Illinois cornfields and watched it set over the Pacific Ocean. After all this, she considers the beating heart of blacktop from Chicago to Santa Monica home.

Formerly a travel guide editor at Madden Media, Jessica is now a freelance travel writer. Her writing has been featured in PHOENIX magazine, Valley Guide, Phoenix Travel Guide, Arizona Visitor's Guide, Midwest Living, Phoenix New Times, Modern Luxury, Annapolis Visitors Guide, Connecticut Visitors Guide, Runner's World, Jane, Discover South Carolina, and more. Jessica is also the author of The Open Road: 50 Best Road Trips in the USA.

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