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Sadly, many of the classic old motels are gone. Some are deteriorating as they sit empty. Some remain in business but are managed by people who have not maintained them well. They're not clean, the showers are not hot, air conditioners don't work, and beds are sagging. Stopping at one can be a roll of the dice. So we've checked them all out. We list here the best of those still in business. We present them in order from East to West. For those who wish to drive the absolute entirety of the road, we list the Congress Plaza Hotel at the very beginning and the Royal Santa Monica Hotel at the very end. Unlike the other Route 66 websites and books, we include the classic old hotels. The more affluent travellers stayed there, and their histories are also important to the Mother Road. Naturally, all of these places are on Route 66, or were at one time before it was rerouted. The spacing is such that you would not stay at all of these on one trip, but with careful planning you could try one set on the way out and another set on the way back and have a good sample.

The Congress (Plaza) Hotel, Chicago, Illinois. The very beginning of Route 66 was the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Jackson Avenue. One block west, Jackson crosses South Michigan Avenue, which is where the Congress Hotel sets. From hotel room windows, you are looking directly down on the corner of Lakeshore and Jackson, then watching Route 66 come toward you as it begins its westward journey. The Congress Hotel was built in 1893 and certainly hosted many of those who had come from West to East on Route 66 to visit, seek jobs or conduct business in Chicago. The hotel has also hosted Republican, Democrat and Bull Moose Party conventions and been visited by presidents, athletes, musicians, actors and executives over the years. It is one of Chicago's grand old institutions. It's a beautiful building with a magnificent lobby and several fine restaurants on site and a dozen more in walking distance. You're only a block from Lake Michigan and rooms on that side have incredible views. Today, Route 66 is split between Adams Street and Jackson Avenue. Jackson is one way coming in Eastward. Adams is one way heading West. So from the Congress Hotel, all you have to do is pull around the block to Michigan Avenue, head North, cross Jackson, drive one more block, turn left on Adams, and head West. If you're coming in from the West, on Jackson, turn right on Wabash and go one block to the hotel entrance.

We promised you we would screen the motels and hotels and only recommend those maintained or updated in acceptable condition. Sadly, we can't find any of those in Illinois. There are some vintage Route 66 motels still renting rooms, but we cannot in good faith recommend them. However, it is an easy day's drive from Chicago to St. Louis. We therefore pick up with our lodging recommendations in Missouri.
Route 66 has had several routings through St. Louis. Its original route along the river, right below what is now Gateway Arch, was moved because of the heavy waterfront traffic. 66 was relocated several times as the city experimented with one way streets and underwent major construction projects. One of those routings took 66 down Pine Street. For two decades it went right past the old Majestic Hotel. The Majestic actually predates Route 66, having opened in 1913. Originally intended as a middle class and travelling salesman's hotel, the Majestic served thousands of Route 66 travellers over the years. With the decommissioning of Route 66 and the building of much larger downtown hotels, the Majestic struggled through the 1990s. Then in 2003 it was totally refurbished and updated. Today, it functions as a small boutique hotel. Its main clientele is baseball fans coming for St. Louis Cardinal games at Busch Stadium, a short walk away. It is also within walking distance of the Gateway Arch, the waterfront, and all the downtown restaurants. There's a restaurant in the hotel which serves great dinners, although its breakfast buffet is pretty weak and only serves until 9 a.m. In its present location, Route 66 is 10 blocks away but we still recommend the Majestic for its historic significance and its great value. However, this is a small hotel with its own devoted customer base, so you do need to call early for reservations, especially during baseball season.
The Munger Moss Motel. Lebanon, Missouri. 417-532-3111. The Munger Moss (named for the first two men who ran it) is a great first stop whether you get on Route 66 in Chicago or St. Louis. It's 502 miles from Lexington or Cincinnati, meaning about an eight hour first day drive. From Chicago, it's 460 miles, or about 7.5 hours. Bob and Ramona Lehman, the owners since 1971, have Route 66 photos hanging in the lobby and rooms. It's one of the most famous motels on the road, having been in operation since 1938. Try to reserve the Route 66 Room, which is even more heavily themed than the rest of the place. Bathrooms are tiny, as was the fashion in the 1950s, but with turquoise/blue tile walls, coral pink sink, and coral mosaic floor tiles, they're definitely nostalgic. Fortunately, they had pools back then, and in the Missouri heat and humidity it's a welcome relief today. Originally there was a Munger Moss Restaurant. It was sold in 1977. There's now Dowd's Catfish and BBQ two miles away. The famous neon sign, a Route 66 icon, was totally refurbished in 2010 with an $11,300 grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Fund. The Route 66 Neon Heritage Committee provided the technical expertise.

The Wagon Wheel Motel. Cuba, Missouri. 573-885-3411. Beautifully restored and maintained Missouri sandstone classic, although the rooms are quite small. During the recent renovation the owners installed flat screen TVs in each room. Everything is very clean, the beds are comfortable, and there's plenty of hot water. One room is a jacuzzi suite. Spotless bathrooms. Hardwood floors. Parklike grounds, set back from Route 66, with plenty of grass and trees. Hicks' Barbeque next door is a great example of old fashioned Barbecue. Historic neon sign still intact and functioning. About five minutes off I-44. The Pixar crew stayed here and recreated it in their film Cars. Connie Echols is a warm and gracious hostess. This is a good motel to stay at for your last night on the road coming home. It's 422 miles from here to Lexington or Cincinnati, meaning about a 6.5 hour drive.

The Meramec Cavern Motel is a 1955 facility three miles off Route 66, so is not mentioned by most of the guidebooks. But the cavern has been a major Route 66 tourist attraction since 1933, and thousands of travellers have visited the cave and stayed at this motel. It has not seen the renovations and updates many of the other vintage motels have. It still has only 32 rooms. There's no wifi, cell phones won't work, tubs are extremely small and the air conditioning is noisy. However, the motel is within a short walk of the cave, restaurant and gift shop. It's in a beautiful wooded setting close to the river, canoeing, boat tours and canopy zip line tour. You would go off at the Stanton exit and follow the signs to Meramec.

The Boots Motel in Carthage, Missouri, is not only in the middle of a thorough restoration but is the home of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce. The rooms that have been restored are beautiful. In 1930s tradition, they include integral carports. Boots was one of the original Route 66 motels and has its share of Clark Gable, Gene Autrey, Guy Lombardo and other stories with photos to prove them. The five rooms that have been restored are in the 1946 wing but have air conditioning, wifi and new beds. In a bid to nostalgia, they also feature state of the art 1939 Crosley radios on every bed table. The Boots opened in 1939 and added the back wing seven years later. The original building, seen here at right, had linoleum floors. The 1946 rear wing rooms featured beautiful oak floors, which have been retained in the restoration. Sisters Deborah and Priscilla estimate that the entire restoration will take three years. Deborah has a masters degree in historic preservation and is making every effort to make sure the motel is restored accurately. The front office has been fully restored to its original appearance. Ron Hart's Route 66 Chamber of Commerce Office is in one of the original 1939 rooms but will eventually be moved to another building on the property. This is one of the most famous motels on Route 66 and with only five rooms available you MUST call for advance reservations : 417-310-2989.

The Lincoln Motel. Chandler, Oklahoma. This is our most tentative recommendation. The Lincoln is a Route 66 tradition, but it has suffered through hard times. Through multiple owners it has been allowed to deteriorate. A couple of remodellings have eroded much of its historical integrity, such that it has been removed from the official registry. Yet it hangs on. The large neon sign out front, a Route 66 landmark, is still there. The current owners have given it a new paint job and freshened up the grounds, so it looks presentable. But the rooms need attention. They're tolerable for those dedicated Route 66 lovers who want to experience all the old classics and want to support the present owners. As long as you arrive with an adventuruous spirit and an open mind, you'll be fine. Chandler is a great Route 66 town, with The Rock Cafe and the newly restored gas station just up the road. But while we wait for a thorough interior remodelling, the Lincoln is the most primitive of the remaining classics.
The Campbell Hotel. Tulsa, Oklahoma. 855-744-5500. The Campbell was built in 1927 as a moderately priced travellers' hotel, catering to salesmen, businessmen and those heading West. Thousands of Route 66 motorists stayed here in the 20th Century. It's still a beautiful hotel, proud of its history, its Route 66 address, and its place on the National Registry of Historic Places. Today it's one of Tulsa's smaller facilities, so it's considered a "boutique hotel," with only 27 rooms. That just means the staff pays more attention to details. Do not expect an old, run down hotel. The Campbell was completely renovated in 2009-11and is very classy. You should reserve the Route 66 Room if it's available. If not, the Cowboy Room, the Oil Baron Room, the Native American Room, or one of the other themed rooms are equally impressive. The Campbell offers a sleek, modern bar but restaurants are down the street. This might not be ideal for kids, but couples will find it very intimate, romantic and a change of pace from the smaller motels along the way.

The Colcord Hotel. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 866-781-3800. In 1910 the Colcord with 12 floors was the first skyscraper in Oklahoma City and the first building in the state with an elevator. Also on the National Historic Register, The Colcord has always been known for its large rooms and magnificent black and white marble lobby. When Oklahoma City embarked on its massive downtown renovation project, the Colcord was the only building not demolished. Renovated in 2006, it will be the centerpiece of the downtown. The in house Flint Restaurant is a cutting edge, three meals a day eatery. Downtown renovation continues, so there's construction noise during the day. But since most Route 66 travellers arrive at night and leave the next morning, this should not be an issue.

Hensley's Motel. El Reno, Oklahoma. 877-537-2062. Just West of Oklahoma City, where Route 66 emerges from under I-40 and runs parallel to it before heading downtown. Hensley's serves the best continental breakfast of any motel on Route 66. Unlike most, this one offers numerous hot foods, such as Sausages, Biscuits, Gravy, Pancakes, Bacon, Toast, etc. Route I-40 and the Santa Fe Railroad are very close, but the rooms are quiet. Charis is another one of those wonderful Route 66 hostesses who takes pride in her work and her motel and greets you with efficiency and professionalism, and John pays attention to every detail and makes sure every guest is satisfied. There are shade trees and a nice play area. The rooms have microwaves, fridges and flat screens. Beds are new and comfortable. The Wifi is a tad slow but certainly usable. A footbridge leads over to a Denny's restaurant.
As you drive west into New Mexico, you have a choice. The original Route 66 curved in a 120 mile arc north and passed through Santa Fe. Later the road was straightened so it went through Albuquerque. I-40 follows the later route through Albuquerque. Much of the original roadway remains on the northern arc and many Route 66 fans prefer that drive because it's more scenic and allows a night in Santa Fe. But if you're in a hurry, the Albuquerque route certainly saves miles and several hours. We have included lodging options here for both routes. The historic La Fonda photograph below is used by permission of the hotel. It shows the building in 1931. The appearance is almost identical today.

The La Fonda Hotel. Santa Fe, New Mexico. 800-523-5002. The La Fonda is the grand dame of Route 66 lodging. When the Spanish founded Santa Fe in 1607, they built La Fonda, or The Inn. The Santa Fe Trail ended here, and through the 1700s and 1800s trappers, soldiers, cattlemen, prospectors, businessmen and politicians mention in letters, diaries and journals staying at La Fonda. The hotel in 1925 was bought by the Santa Fe Railroad and turned over to Fred Harvey. In 1968 Sam Ballen bought it and the Ballen family still runs it. Staying here is quite an experience. You're right on the square. The La Fonda itself contains shops and restaurants, and up and down the street are a hundred more. La Plazuela Restaurant (photo top right) specializes in New Mexico cuisine, and La Fiesta Lounge offers a daily lunch buffet. The fireplace photo third from top shows one of the rooms.

The Andaluz Hotel, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Andaluz was the last of the great Route 66 hotels to be built. Conrad Hilton, a New Mexico native, built it in 1939. Lucia is one of Albuquerque's best restaurants, and there's a rooftop bar where you can admire the sunset or the night sky. Hilton had his rooms built just enough larger he could claim the most spacious rooms on Route 66. But be careful. Those large rooms are on the North side. South side rooms are much smaller. The Andaluz was also the first building in New Mexico and the first on Route 66 to have air conditioning. A 2008 renovation kept all the historical features whil adding touches like internet access and wide screen TVs. The Andaluz is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Among its unique features is a large library, open to guests, featuring excellent History, Architecture, Art, Popular Culture and Southwest Fiction collections. You can relax by the fire and order a drink while you read. The hotel is famous for its massive rooftop solar panels which make it one of the greenest commercial buildings in the country.

The Sandia Peak Inn. Albuquerque, New Mexico. 505-831-5036. Located on Route 66 just West of the central city, only a few blocks from the historic "Old Town" district and the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens. Beautifully renovated 1950s motel with plenty of hot water, comfortable beds, squeaky clean rooms and warm hosts in Pat and Kay, who live on the premises. In a gesture to the 21st Century, they have installed flat screen TVs, fridges, microwaves, WiFi, coffeemakers and hair dryers. Great neon sign out front. Heated indoor pool, good continental breakfast. Tasteful but interesting paint job and traditional Mexican and Native American statuary placed around the parking lot. There's a Jacuzzi Room at a slightly higher price. Route 66, which as it runs through Albuquerque is Central Avenue, is heavily travelled, but the rooms here are quiet. If you stay here, the Route 66 Diner two miles through downtown is a must stop.

The Blue Swallow Motel. Tucumcari, New Mexico. 575-461-9849. John Steinbeck famously said Tucumcari was the Heart of Route 66. If that is so, surely the Blue Swallow is its Soul. Of all the traditional motels along the road, this one is in the best condition. Even the complaints testify to its authenticity. Bathrooms are too small? Sinks have separate faucets for hot and cold water? The phones have rotary dials. Hello? That WAS what motels were like back in the 1940s. The place is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Mattresses are firm and comfortable, the rooms sparkling clean, there's plenty of hot water and thick towels, and you have 1950s Life and Look magazines to browse through. Rooms contain real 1940s furniture, and you can sit in a glider out front. The 65 year old neon sign is in beautiful condition. Each room has a built in garage next door, most of which are decorated with Route 66 murals. There's coffee and donuts in the morning. Current owners Kevin and Nancy Mueller moved out here from Kentucky to become the stewards of this cherished Route 66 shrine and thus far they've proven to be gracious hosts and meticulous renovators. Tucumcari was the town that decided it was NOT going to be rendered obsolete by the new I-40, that if it preserved its Route 66 heritage, the people would keep stopping. It succeeded, and the Route 66 preservation movement spread across eight states.
Motel Safari in Tucumcari is another old classic beautifully maintained and where necessary restored. Built a decade later than the Blue Swallow, the Safari appeals to those wanting a 1950s experience. Free wifi, flat panel TVs, remote controlled AC, and full size luxury bath towels pamper you, but the rooms themselves are still authentic 1950s. Like its two Tucumcari rivals, Motel Safari fills up most nights, so call 575-461-1048 well ahead. Gail is a gracious host and the rooms are squeaky clean.
The Route 66 Motel in Tucumcari is a state of the art 1960 motel with the best views in town of Mt. Tucumcari. By 1960 rooms, and especially bath rooms, were becoming larger. The Route 66 is rich in 1960s era details; it looks quite different than its 1940s and 1950s rivals up the street. The most obvious of those 1960 details is the Full Glass Front Room Walls. No 50s era motel ever had those. Having all three of these classic motels within a mile of each other allows comparisons and a classic history of motel evolution. There's a Circa Espresso Bar with a fully qualified Barrista. Michael and Cathy Fulton have updated the motel with wifi and new blackout curtains but otherwise retained its original style. Like everyplace else in Tucumcari, there are 1950s cars parked around the property.

El Rancho Lodge, Gallup, New Mexico. El Rancho long held its own with the other elite hotels of Route 66. R. E. Griffith built it on the high desert in 1937 to host Hollywood stars filming Westerns. His brother, famous director and producer D. W. Griffith, filmed here and eventually all the studios followed. Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, John Wayne, William Holden, Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, and every other major Western actor, including Ronald Reagan, stayed at El Rancho. They were a demanding clientele, and the hotel, bar, rooms and services were elite. But Westerns lost popularity and Hollywood moved to other locations. The town of Gallup grew up around El Rancho, so it lost its isolated desert ambience. The hotel has changed ownership several times, and it's showing its age. Services are adequate but no longer elite. The hotel is overdue for renovation. Still, it's worth a stay. Rooms are spacious with flat screen TVs and free WiFi. Bathrooms are small and there are few electrical outlets. The lobby is still beautiful with its huge stone fireplace. The restaurant and bar are still very well run. Food is good at reasonable prices. You can spend two hours wandering the halls and lobby looking at the three thousand photographs of famous guests.

The Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona. 928-524-3048. This is the most famous of all the vintage Route 66 motels. You sleep in a concrete wigwam. It's pretty snug inside, with a tiny bathroom and a sloping ceiling. The location is certainly appropriate, surrounded by Petrified Forest National Park, the Navajo, Zuni and Apache Reservations, Hubbell Trading Post and Fort Apache. The wigwams have gas heat, air conditioning and TV. Beds are comfortable, with firm mattresses and soft warm Indian blankets. The Santa Fe Railroad is close by and freight and passenger trains run often, so you'll probably fall asleep and awaken to the sound of the lonely whistle blowing, but it just adds to the general atmosphere. The staff is friendly and efficient and there's a small Route 66 museum and gift shop in the lobby.
The Grand Canyon Hotel, Williams, Arizona is the second oldest lodging facility on Route 66, behind only the La Fonda in Santa Fe. It's also the oldest hotel in Arizona. The Grand Canyon Hotel opened in 1891 as the closest lodging to the South Rim. It served trappers, soldiers, politicians, loggers, ranchers, miners, tourists and businessmen for 80 years. The old guest registers are on display in the lobby and include foreign royalty, U.S. presidents, movie stars, and John Muir on four visits to the Canyon. Once Route 66 was built, the hotel was sold out every night for four decades. Business collapsed when I-40 opened in 1970, and the hotel closed in 1971, remaining vacant for 35 years. Oscar and Amy Frederickson bought it in 2004 and spent a year in complete renovation. With new plumbing, wiring, painting, roofing and room remodelling, they reopened in June 2005. Don't let the modest exterior mislead you. The Grand Canyon is now a boutique hotel, and its 25 rooms are very elegant. There's a fine cafe in house, serving Thai and Vegetarian lunch and dinner. Classic motels and large hotels still stand along Route 66, but this is the only operating example of the small town hotels that once were present on the road.
The Fray Marcos Hotel opened in 1908 as part of the Sante Fe Depot in Williams. It was a Harvey House, with the famous Harvey Girls serving guests. The Fray Marcos was one of the most elegant hotels on the Santa Fe or on Route 66. Today, still part of the Williams Depot, its rooms are used as offices for the Grand Canyon Railroad and its restaurant space used as a gift shop. A new wing, The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, was built. The lobby is shown at right. The GCRH is a serious contender as the most elegant lodging on Route 66. There is a bar, lounge and restaurant in house but downtown Williams also has several worth the short walk. The Amtrak Southwest Chief and Grand Canyon Railroad stop at the depot next door. Rooms are very plush and larger than average. 1-800-843-8724.
--------------If you are using 66 as your route to the Grand Canyon, Williams is where you will turn north and drive into the national park----------

Rio del Sol Motel, Needles, California. 760-326-5660. One block from the Colorado River on Route 66, this is the most modern of the classic Route 66 stops but still qualifies for our list because it's been there since 1955. Renovation in 2005 updated and refreshed rooms and amenities. There's an outdoor pool, hot tub and sauna, but temperatures in Needles hover between 100 and 120, averaging around 111 at sundown, so this may be one of the few places in the world where it's too hot to swim. Rooms have WiFi, but it's the slowest connection on Route 66. You can keep up wirh your email and check Facebook, but don't expect to conduct any serious business or upload any photos. By the time they built the Rio del Sol, motel expectations were rising so these rooms are a bit larger than those in the 1940s era places further East. The renovation added fridges, coffeemakers and microwaves to the rooms. They advertise a continental breakfast but we've never been there when one was actually available. It doesn't matter, though, because the Wagon Wheel Restaurant down the hill is one of the great road houses on Route 66 and serves oustanding breakfasts and dinners. The rooms here are squeaky clean. There are 60 rooms, making this the largest motel we list, so the staff is obviously stretched, but customer service is outstanding.


We would like to list two other lodging options in this area : the famous Oatman Hotel across the river in Oatman, and the El Garces Hotel in Needles. Neither are open for business at this time (although the Oatman first floor restaurant is still serving). Until renovations are complete, the Rio del Sol is the only authentic Route 66 lodging experience between Peach Springs and Pasadena.
Saga Motor Hotel, Colorado Boulevard (Route 66), Pasadena, California. 800-793-7242. The Saga would be a fine place to end your westward trek on Route 66. Built in 1957, it has been incredibly well maintained and refreshed over the decades since. Although it's in the middle of town, it is so constructed that much of that noise and activity are shut out. It has the most beautiful oversized heated pool and garden on Route 66. Its crowning claim to glory is that it's right on the route of the annual Rose Bowl Parade. It's also close to UCLA and to Disneyland. All the amenities are here : flat screen TVs, WiFi, continental breakfast, refrigerators, hair dryers, etc. A dozen good restaurants are in walking distance.
Royal Santa Monica Hotel, Santa Monica, California. Right by the famous "End of The Trail" sign announcing the end of Route 66 at the Santa Monica Pier, the Royal Santa Monica is sort of a cross between a motel and hotel. Still structurally sound, its rooms are in need of renovation and parking is a problem. As with most 1940s motels, the walls are thin and sound carries. It's also not real well insulated, so when the weather turns cold (which is not too often) management issues portable heaters. However, its location on the beach outweighs those issues for a lot of people. The Royal Santa Monica also has the distinction of being the westernmost lodging on Route 66. It is literally The End Of The Road. Notice the covered parking, a common feature of prewar motels.
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