Oklahoma: The Heart of Route 66

A red and orange car sits in front of a gas pump in Oklahoma, the heart of Route 66.

Route 66 is one of the most iconic highways in the United States. Spanning over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, it passes through eight states, one of which is the beautiful state of Oklahoma. Often overlooked as a flyover state, Oklahoma is, in fact, the heart of Route 66, holding the longest stretch of this iconic highway – over 400 miles to be exact – filled with history, attractions and compelling locales. 

History of Route 66 in Oklahoma 

The construction of Route 66 began in 1926, as part of a plan to create a network of highways across the United States. Oklahoma played a significant role in the establishment of Route 66. Cyrus Avery, an Oklahoma entrepreneur and “Father of Route 66,” lobbied for the route to be redirected through his home state, which contributed to the economic growth and development of Oklahoma. Today, Avery’s legacy lives on, with numerous landmarks, memorials and museums dedicated to him and the history of Route 66 in the state. 

Attractions Along the Route 

As you travel along Route 66 in Oklahoma, you will encounter a variety of attractions that showcase the state’s history, culture and natural beauty. Some of the must-visit spots include: 

1. The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton: This museum offers an interactive experience with exhibits on the history, legends and culture of Route 66. 

2. The Blue Whale of Catoosa: A whimsical waterfront structure that has become one of the most photographed attractions along Route 66. 

3. Pops 66 Soda Ranch in Arcadia: A modern roadside attraction featuring a giant 66-foot tall soda bottle and over 700 varieties of soda. 

4. The Round Barn in Arcadia: A historic landmark built in 1898, it is the only truly round barn (the roof is truly round, unlike other ’round’ barns which are actually hexagonal or octagonal) on Route 66. 

5. Totem Pole Park in Foyil: Home to the world’s largest concrete totem pole. 

6. Oklahoma City: The capital of Oklahoma offers numerous attractions such as the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the vibrant Bricktown entertainment district. 

Preserving the Legacy 

Oklahoma has made significant efforts to preserve the legacy of Route 66. Numerous associations, communities and individuals have come together to restore and maintain historical landmarks, roadside attractions and vintage motels along the route. Additionally, the state has installed official Route 66 interpretive markers and has designated parts of the original route as the Oklahoma Route 66 Historic Byway. 

Beyond Route 66 

Oklahoma is a state rich in history, culture and natural beauty. From its Native American heritage, vibrant arts scene and stunning landscapes to its friendly, down-to-earth people, Oklahoma offers a warm welcome to all who visit. Next time you’re planning a road trip, consider taking historic Route 66 through Oklahoma. It’s not just a journey through the USA’s past and present, but also an opportunity to discover the hidden gems of the Sooner State.