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Missouri’s Route 66

The Missouri stops along Route 66 are as historic and novel as the road itself. While you may now have a few ideas, a true adventure along the Mother Road is all up to you.

Your journey begins in the "Gateway to the West," St. Louis, where the first stop takes you to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. With its signature bend in the middle, it's probably Route 66's most famous Mississippi River crossing. Any stop in St. Louis would be incomplete without a visit to the famous Gateway Arch. You can even ride to the top for a panoramic view 630 feet above the Mississippi. Beneath the Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion is filled with more than 100 years of human history related to the westward movement.

While in town, be sure to stop for a thick and tasty "concrete" treat at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a St. Louis and Route 66 landmark since 1941.

After you've gotten your fill, move on to the Museum of Transportation where more than 300 different vehicles are on display. You can even see a unit from the notorious Coral Court Motel, known as the "proverbial 'no-tell motel' with a definite touch of class," also noted Route 66 art deco-lovers' hideaway.

Just outside of St. Louis in Eureka, you'll find the 409-acre Route 66 State Park. The Meramec River runs through the park, making a scenic spot for runners or bicyclists. The Bridgehead Inn serves as Route 66 State Park's visitor center, where you'll find a collection of Route 66 memorabilia and interpretations of the park's environment.

In Stanton, tour one of Route 66's best stops, Meramec Caverns. The five-story high cavern served as the hideout of the infamous Jesse James, and has enticed visitors since 1933.

For a true nostalgic look at old Route 66, stop by the 1930s-era, Ozark-rock Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba.

Rolla, one of the biggest towns along the middle stretch of Missouri's Route 66, boasts essential stops like Memoryville USA — an auto museum with a gift shop, and an automobile restoration shop where you can view restorations in progress. At the University of Missouri-Rolla, you'll see a unique half-scale replica of Stonehenge, created using water jet technology.

While there, be sure to visit the limestone Experimental Mines and explore the depths below on a specially guided tour. Before departing, stop by the Route 66 Motors & Gift Shop, with a vintage auto, converted filling station and restaurant.

Make plans to experience Devil's Elbow. A 1923 steel-truss bridge over the Big Piney River, it's considered by many to be the most scenic spot on Route 66. For a truly unique dining experience, visit Caveman Barbecue and Steakhouse, a restaurant within a cave located high in a river bluff overlooking the Gasconade River. Pulaski County also features several historical sites of interest including the Old Pulaski County Court House, built in 1903, and the restored Old Stagecoach Stop.

Lebanon is home to Barrels of Fun, where you can see how white oak whiskey barrels are manufactured and enjoy wine tastings.

The marvelous 1940s Munger-Moss Motel is another Route 66 landmark. This nostalgic destination originally operated as a sandwich shop specializing in barbecue! Just down the street is Wrink's Food Market, a one-of-a-kind vintage market that has been on Route 66 since 1950.

It is still a great stop for all of your road-trip needs. For something more current, go shopping at the VF Factory Outlet. The local Route 66 Society, dedicated to the preservation of Route 66 history, has opened a museum featuring model motel rooms, diners, and gas stations. Even Route 66 movies are available for viewing.

The next stop takes you to gfieldb, home to several historic motels, including the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel and the Rest Haven Motor Court. You can also visit a restored room in the Kentwood Arms Hotel, now a university dormitory, which opened in 1926 — the same year as the birth of Route 66. The Landers Theatre, known as Springfield's Little Theatre, built in 1909, is Missouri's oldest and largest civic theater, and the Gillioz Theatre was built in 1926.

Head 40 minutes south to Branson – a must stop in Missouri. Car fans must visit ’57 Heaven underneath the American Bandstand theatre. Home to over 70 authentic American cars all from the year 1957.

Just before hitting the city of Carthage off Highway 96, step back in time and you'll find yourself in Red Oak II, a pioneer Missouri town that's been reassembled 25 miles from its original site. Heralded by roadside Burma-Shave signs, the buildings stand as a credible replica of a crossroads town, circa 1929. A museum tells the story of Belle Starr, the Carthage woman who became a Confederate spy and Wild West gunslinger. Plus Phillips Route 66 Garage is a great photo stop!

Continuing down the highway you'll come upon the idyllic town of Carthage. It's here that you'll find the Precious Moments Chapel, featuring the doe-eyed characters from the greeting card series.

Carthage also holds a genuine Route 66 landmark: the meticulously restored and reopened 66 Drive-In Theatre. Located a mile west of town with a Route 66 alignment running both in front and in back, you can pull in and enjoy Hollywood blockbusters on the big screen.

Just down the road lies Webb City, featuring the Main Street Music Theatre and its Saturday night musical variety shows. Webb City is also home to one of Route 66's oddities – the Praying Hands. The 32-foot, 100-ton concrete-and-steel memorial sits atop a 40-foot-high hill in King Jack Park.

The last stop on Missouri's portion of Route 66 ends in Joplin. The Joplin Museum Complex tells the fascinating story of Joplin history and mining in the Tri-State district. West of Joplin, be sure to follow the original 1920s Route 66 alignment toward Kansas with the sign that reads "Old Route 66, Next Right."