Traversing St. Louis, Route 66 changed course a few times, so there are multiple roads that you can cruise. Purists will want to travel all of them!
As you make your way along the route(s), there are a few must-see places that we’re going to dive into here.
Visit the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, which spans the Mighty Mississippi on the north edge of St. Louis. This was the original Mississippi River crossing on Route 66, and although cars no longer run across it, you can! The one-mile-long pedestrian bridge has a dramatic 22-degree bend at the middle of the crossing, making it possible to spot wintering bald eagles if you’re in town at the right time.
No trip to St. Louis is complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch. Standing at 630 feet, it’s the tallest monument in the U.S. and a gleaming symbol of the country’s collective wanderlust. Take a tram ride to the top for panoramic views of the surrounding area. From this vantage point, you can see thousands of motorists below, following the route of the pioneers.
An irresistible icon along the original Route 66 – and a St. Louis institution – Ted Drewes has served hot fudge sundaes, ice cream sodas and creamy “concretes” for more than 90 years. Created in 1959, the concrete is a malt or shake so thick that it’s served upside down! Don’t miss this landmark custard stand along your journey. Oh, and pick us up the Cardinal Sin – a concrete with tart cherries and hot fudge – would you?
Want to drive something different along the original Route 66? Victory Raceway has electric go-karts that reach speeds up to 45 miles per hour on the indoor racetrack. There are no two-seaters, so everyone can get behind the wheel.
Give your trip an artsy twist. At Laumeier Sculpture Park, you can enjoy more than 60 sculptures al fresco. Meandering along the walking trail through the 105-acre, open-air museum and sculpture park, get up close and personal with a huge eyeball, a larger-than-life deer and a pile of massive, crumpled cylinders. Laumeier Sculpture Park also offers rotating exhibitions for a consistently fresh experience. Like so many of the magical places in St. Louis, it’s free and open to the public.
In Maplewood, every day feels like Small Business Saturday. Walking through the historic downtown, you’ll find everything from locally made crafts to artisan chocolates and independent bookstores to internationally recognized breweries. While you explore, look for plaques along the 7200 and 7300 blocks of Manchester Avenue that pay tribute to the businesses that served travelers along Route 66 from 1924 to 1933. Ranging from a bank to a hardware store to a bowling alley, the seven businesses are still family-owned and -operated.
At Amp Up Action Park, there’s guaranteed fun at every turn. Zip around a custom-built track in the most technologically advanced indoor kart in the world and complete a heart-pounding adventure in the three-level, black light-lit laser tag arena. There’s also an elevated ropes course, axe throwing, arcade games and pickleball. Play as you go or purchase a two-hour pass, and when you get hungry, stop by the Filling Station Cafe or Trackside Tavern for bar bites, pizza, sweet treats and more.
In between the old and the new Route 66, you’ll find the National Museum of Transportation. Encompassing more than 190 major exhibits, it has one of the largest and best collections of transportation vehicles in the world. Can you think of a more fitting pit stop for a road trip? Check out the Union Pacific #4006 – known as “Big Boy,” it’s the largest successful steam locomotive ever built. Ooh and aah at a 1901 automobile – built by the St. Louis Motor Carriage Co., it’s the oldest of only nine such cars still in existence. And marvel at Virgin Hyperloop’s Pegasus pod, which can transport cargo – and eventually people – at airline speeds with zero direct emissions.
Heading west along I-44, the modern-day replacement for Route 66, stop at the World Bird Sanctuary. Founded in 1977, the sanctuary aims to protect and preserve all manner of winged friends through conservation, rehabilitation, education and advocacy. The World Bird Sanctuary encompasses more than 305 acres and houses more than 200 birds, offering a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience. Meet a proud eagle, talk to a colorful parrot, encounter an emu and learn to appreciate vultures. This is one attraction along Route 66 that you shouldn’t miss, and we recommend planning ahead to join a guided tour.
On the same wild detour as the World Bird Sanctuary, Lone Elk Park offers forested hills and frequent wildlife sightings. Drive through the 546-acre wildlife management area for up-close encounters with white-tailed deer, elk, bison, wild turkey, waterfowl and more animals in their natural habitat. If you want to stretch your legs, you can also follow the White Bison Trail, a 3-mile loop with twists and climbs.
Arguably the best-kept secret in the St. Louis area, the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka aims to help save and protect wild canids by reintroducing Mexican wolves and American red wolves – the two most endangered wolves in the world – into the wild. Want to see the wolves for yourself? The Endangered Wolf Center offers a variety of daytime tours as well as nighttime howls. Education coordinator Jimmy Parsons can imitate each howl, and you might be lucky enough to hear the wolves howl back while learning more about wolf communication. Visiting the center, you’ll also meet other species of canids, including South American maned wolves, African painted dogs, fennec foxes, arctic foxes, swift foxes and a melanistic red fox named Cooper.
Walk back in time at Route 66 State Park. The park’s visitor center – a former Route 66 roadhouse – teems with memorabilia, road signs and vintage photographs, while the gift shop stocks themed collectibles, clothing and souvenirs. The state park also boasts seven miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. Giddy up!
Small, family-friendly amusement parks were staples along Route 66. Today, I-44 leads you to Six Flags St. Louis, which has modernized that brand of fun. Located in Eureka, the amusement park boasts nine exhilarating rollercoasters (six steel and three wooden) with more than 22,000 feet of combined track, and it continues to add attractions, appealing to thrill-seekers of all ages. Need to cool off? Head to Hurricane Harbor, a waterpark inside Six Flags St. Louis, where you can experience zero gravity on the Typhoon Twister, compete for first place on the Wahoo Racer and set sail on Gulley Washer Creek.
If you’ve previously driven Route 66, you might recall the plethora of billboards that lure travelers to Meramec Caverns. The famous cave – and the billboards – are still there, and we encourage you to journey underground to see the astounding formations, including glistening stalactites, magnificent stalagmites, an ancient “wine table” and a seven-story “mansion,” at the oldest tourist attraction on Route 66. The buried oasis is a cool 60 degrees year-round, and you can supplement the spectacular experience with ziplining or a scenic excursion on the Meramec River aboard a canopy-topped riverboat.
Looking for more Route 66 information? Check out this illustrated map.
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