"The Mother Road" was established on November 11, 1926, and ultimately stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. Starting in Chicago, westbound travelers traversed a series of towns in Illinois before arriving in St. Louis.
Route 66 across Missouri stretched 317 miles and connected a variety of large cities and small towns, traversing rolling hills and valleys. Heading westbound the route traveled through these cites and towns in Missouri: St. Louis, Cuba, Rolla, Lebanon, Springfield, Carthage and Joplin.
The Mother Road followed much of the Kickapoo, or Osage, Trail, an Indian trail that later became the Old Wire Road.
Like other Route 66 segments, the actual alignment varied over the years as engineering improvements were constructed.
We've driven much of Route 66, including multiple segments across Missouri.
|Historic U.S. Route 66 Byway in Missouri
Now let's head west on The Mother Road, where we will make stops at these 16 locations on Route 66 in Missouri, starting at St. Louis and ending at Joplin near Oklahoma:
|Route 66 State Park
|Halltown & Spencer
The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
The historic Chain of Rocks Bridge spanning the Mississippi River on the north edge of St. Louis, Missouri was opened in 1929. The eastern end of the bridge is on Chouteau Island, (part of Madison, Illinois), while the western end is on the Missouri shoreline.
The bridge was part of U.S. Route 66 and linked two states: Illinois and Missouri. The bridge is short and narrow, only 1 mile long by 24 feet wide. It towers more than 60 feet above the water, and features a unique 30-degree turn midway across the river.
Construction cost of the bridge was over $2.5 million, twice its original estimate. The bridge had beautifully landscaped approaches. A park-like setting around a pool and a large, ornate toll booth anchored the Missouri end. On the Illinois side, 400 elm trees lined the approach. The bridge brought travelers into St. Louis by way of the picturesque Chain of Rocks amusement park on the Missouri hills overlooking the river. The bridge became an official part of the Route 66 experience in 1936, when the Mother Road was rerouted over the bridge.
In 1966, the New Chain of Rocks Bridge was built immediately to the old bridge's north in order to carry I-270; the old Chain of Rocks Bridge was closed in February of 1970.
The bridge is currently open daily for pedestrians and biking; permits are required for automobile traffic for special events.
Vintage view of the Chain of Rocks Bridge
|Bridge entrance in Illinois
|Old Route 66 signs on the bridge
St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River is the world’s tallest arch, and the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, “Gateway to the West,” administered by the National Park Service (NPS).
More than a million visitors ride to the top of the 630-foot Arch each year. It's a favorite stop for travelers on Historic Route 66!
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
Located at 6726 Chippewa in St. Louis, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard has been selling frozen custard for over 80 years. They are also famous for their Christmas trees, for over 50 years.
With the motto, “Our Business Is Service”, Ted has inspired four generations of family members and employees to work hard, and succeed. A not-to--be-missed attraction in St. Louis! And just down the street is the Donut Drive-In at 6525 Chippewa Street.
St. Louis Car Museum
The St. Louis Car Museum is the premier classic and collector car showroom of the Midwest, offering a variety of services that cater to all things motor-related! Since 1994, the packed automotive museum has been a Go-To destination where car enthusiasts from around the world can reminisce alongside 100+ classic & collector cars, vintage signage, rare pedal cars, and memorabilia, all while listening to popular music!
The museum hosts many car clubs throughout the year, and is a popular stop for Route 66 enthusiasts. It is located at 1575 Woodson Road in St. Louis.
Other Things to See and Do in St. Louis
Read about other attractions and things to do at the
Hotels and Dining
Route 66 State Park
Travel through history on The Mother Road at Route 66 State Park, near metro St. Louis. Sample a slice of Route 66 history at the park's visitor center, which has displays showcasing the road. The visitor center is the former Bridgehead Inn, a 1935 roadhouse that sat on the original Route 66. Picnic sites and trails are sprinkled throughout the park.
Included in the historical Route 66 display area are articles and information about the former town of Times Beach. Exhibits highlight the history of Times Beach as a summer resort area on the Meramec River.
Efforts are now underway to fund the restoration of the park's historic 1,000 foot long Route 66 Meramec River Bridge completed in 1932. For more information, visit the SaveThisBridge.org website.
Big Chief Roadhouse
The historic Big Chief Roadhouse has a celebrated history dating back to its establishment in 1929. It is one of the last remaining full service restaurants still operating on Historic Route 66.
Big Chief was originally built by Willimam Clay Pierce as part of the Big Chief Highway Hotel to serve transcontinental travelers on the now famed Route 66. Today, the Roadhouse boasts a diverse, from scratch, menu with dishes ranging from classic comforts like Country Fried Steak and Chicken Pot Pie, to modern takes on classics like Toasted Lasagna and Smoked Port Chop.
The Roadhouse is located at 17352 Manchester Road, Wildwood, Mo 63038 ... Phone 636.458.3200
For more information, visit the Big Chief Roadhouse website
The City of Pacific, Missouri, formerly the town of Franklin, is located in Franklin and St. Louis Counties. St. Louis is 30 miles northeast of Pacific. Pacific is located along Historic Route 66, also called Osage Street. The City calls itself "Train Town USA". Interstate 44 cuts through the northern part of the city. It is home to more than 7,000 residents.
U.S. 66 arrived in Pacific in 1932. The city soon developed a number of businesses to cater to the new traffic through the town. One of the first was the Red Cedar Inn, which continues to stand today. The Inn was built by James and Bill Smith in 1934, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, but closed in 2005.
In 2017, the City of Pacific purchased the building and is developing it as a new Welcome Center/Museum, opening in August of 2023. See the photo below showing the Route 66 sign outside of the Red Cedar Inn and the new Welcome Center.
A popular stop on Route 66 today is the town of St. Clair, situated west of St. Louis. It features a rich Route 66 history, attractions and other things to do.
St. Clair was established in 1843 as Traveler’s Repose, a stagecoach way station from St. Louis to Springfield. It had a hotel and a post office. Transportation to St. Louis grew with the opening of Highways 30 and upgrading of U.S. Route 66 (now I-44).
Today, St. Clair today is a thriving community with over 15 major industries and 200 retail establishments. The population of the city is about 4,700, with 15,000 people living in the school district.
In addition to Route 66 attractions, a number of other area St. Clair places and businesses are popular with residents and visitors.
Beneath the fertile rolling hills of the Meramec Valley near Stanton and Sullivan, Missouri, lies a complex of mineral formations and color as rare and unique as they are beautiful. These jewels of nature which took thousands of years to grow, are preserved in the spectacular sights of Meramec Caverns. Guided tours by trained rangers are conducted along well-lighted walkways. Take Exit 230 on Interstate I-44 ... GPS address 1135 MO-W, Sullivan, MO 63080
|Classic barn advertising along Historic Route 66 in Missouri for Meramec Caverns
Sullivan, Missouri ... On Historic U.S. Route 66
Historic Route 66 Mural in Sullivan, Missouri
The Shamrock Court in Sullivan, Missouri
The Shamrock Court in Sullivan was built in 1947-1948, and was owned and operated by one family for much of its 73 years on Route 66. With very few alterations, the motel retains most of its original design and appearance, including native stone construction known as the “giraffe rock” style.
Since the passing of its owners, the property has been vacant and undergone significant deterioration. With demolition on the horizon, a new owner has stepped in to rescue and stabilize the buildings, with plans to bring the Shamrock Court back to life as a functioning motel.
The new owner is Rich Dinkela, who is the president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri. Also known as "Roamin’ Rich", he has been a strong advocate and publicist for any and all things about the community of Route 66 and other old US highways. Read more about Rich at HookedOnRoute66.com
Grant funds will assist stabilizing the building through restoration of the subfloors, dormers, roof, gutters, HVAC system, electrical system, and plumbing system.
|Vintage postcard of the Shamrock Court
|Present-day sign at the Shamrock Court
Historic Route 66 Byway traverses across Missouri from St. Louis at the Illinois state line to Joplin near the Kansas state line. Route 66 is a historic trip down memory lane and a destination unto itself. The construction of the highway, the width of its lanes and shoulders, the design of its bridges, and the appearance of its traffic signs all allude to a slower, less congested time.
Travelers today have so much to see along the Historic Route 66 Byway between St. Louis and Springfield, with interesting stops in places like Fanning, Cuba and Rosati!
Cuba, Missouri - Mural City
Shown below is a staff photo of the Prosperity Corner mural, in Cuba, Missouri, on Historic Route 66. Cuba was designated the "Route 66 Mural City" by the Missouri Legislature in 2002. Read about other attractions and things to do at the Visit Cuba Website
Downtown Cuba, Missouri, on Historic Route 66
Today, twelve officially commissioned murals have been painted around the town, the result of the Viva Cuba organization.
Other murals can also be seen around town. The Cuba Chamber of Commerce offers a well done walking tour brochure.
The Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba
The Wagon Wheel Motel has been a historic landmark on Route 66 in Cuba since the 1930s. Seen here are current, and vintage, views of the Wagon Wheel Cabin Court, located on east side of town on Highway 66.
Rolla offers a number of popular attractions, such as Fugitive Beach, the Mule Trading Post, the Mark Train National Park, Historic Phelps County Courthouse, the Totem Pole Trading Post and more!
It also offers a number of lodging and dining options for Route 66 travelers.
For detailed Rolla travel information ...
Established in 1870 and named after a bad bend in the Big Piney River, this "devil of an elbow" in Pulaski County was made famous by Historic Route 66. This small community is located on the old 1926 to 1943 Route 66 alignment.
Missouri State Highway 14, later Route 66, brought new visitors in automobiles to discover the idyllic beauty of Devil's Elbow. The iconic steel bridge was constructed as a Highway 14 improvement in 1923. The bridge was refurbished in 2013 and re-opened to traffic May 2014.
Today, Devil's Elbow, an unincorporated community, is on many Route 66 bucket lists of must-see locations along the Mother Road. Travelers and tourists stop to admire and photograph the famous bridge and Elbow Inn.
Near Devils Elbow is the 90-foot deep Hooker Cut on Route 66, opened in 1945. A four-lane segment, part of the rationale for its construction was to serve nearby Fort Leonard Wood.
|Vintage postcard view of the Hooker Cut
|Current day view of Hooker Cut
Uranus is a tourist attraction in unincorporated rural Pulaski County along the former U.S. Route 66. "It's Not a Town, It's a Destination."
And in 2021 a 20-foot "Muffler Man" was installed ... the Mega Mayor of Uranus!
Waynesville is located on Historic Route 66 between Rolla and Lebanon in Pulaski County. It offers a number of interesting stops for travelers on the Mother Road. Visit the vintage buildings around the square, the Old Stagecoach Stop, Frog Rock and of course the famous Route 66 shield (see photo below).
Also, be sure and check out the Clark Motel, Bell's Cafe & Sinclair Gas Station, the nearby Roubidoux Bridge and the Bell Hotel.
Gasconade River Bridge
This historic Route 66 bridge is located about 15 miles west of Waynesville, near Hazelgreen, Missouri. It was built circa 1923, and remains intact, but was permanently closed to traffic in 2014, pending restoration as a pedestrian bridge.
In 2019, a 750-foot bridge was built between I-44 and the historic bridge. This new bridge allows Route 66 travelers to continue their Mother Road journey, without having to exit and travel on I-44 for a distance. It enables drivers to experience about another eight miles of Missouri Route 66.
|Sign at the famous Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon
|Neon at night at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon
|Route 66 mural with a 1957 Chevrolet, in Lebanon, Missouri ... "Drive our town"
|Laclede County Missouri ... surrounding Lebanon
If you are traveling westbound on I-44 between Lebanon and Springfield, be sure and stop at the Conway Rest Area. It features a very nicely done Route 66 Welcome Center, picnic tables, walking trails, restrooms, and lots of Route 66 references! Located near Mile Marker 110. Map and directions at Google
Springfield, Missouri, Route 66 Visitor Center, at 815 E. St. Louis Street
"66" Hubcap Sculpture in Springfield, Missouri
Museum on the Square in Springfield
With one of the largest Route 66 timelines and maps in the country, this gallery is a must-see for any Americana enthusiast.
Hop into the turquoise blue '57 Chevy Bel Air convertible at the John T. Woodruff Theater and learn about the Springfieldian who helped give Route 66 its name.
The History Museum on the Square is located at 154 Park Central Square on Historic U.S. Route 66 in the heart of downtown Springfield, Missouri.
Gay Parita Sinclair Filling Station
The original structure on this site was built in 1930 by Fred and Gay Mason. Fred named the station "Gay Parita" after his wife Gay.
The station burned in 1955, and never reopened. It was later lovingly recreated by Gary and Lena Turner in 2005. Gary passed away in 2015, and the site is commonly known today as "Gary's Gay Parita". Barbara Barnes, Gary's daughter, and George Bowick continue to operate the station today.
It is located between Halltown and Spencer, Missouri, about 25 miles west of Springfield, and 3 miles west of Halltown. Route 66 roadtrippers always make a stop at this station, at 21118 Old Highway 66, Ash Grove, Missouri (see map below). Highly recommended!
Spencer, Missouri Phillips 66 Service Station
The General Store was the first building built on this site in 1926. The garage was completed in 1927 and the café / barbershop in 1928. It is located only 1.6 miles west of Gay Parita on all original Route 66 concrete.
In June of 2022, Ed Klein of Route 66 World purchased the property and buildings to further continue the restoration and preservation of the buildings and property. His plans are to open it up to the public on a limited basis as his schedule allows.
Avilla is a rural village in Jasper County in western Missouri, between Spencer and Carthage. It is the fourth-oldest settlement in Jasper County, founded in 1856. When driving Route 66 through Avilla, be sure to check out the circa 1915 Post Office and Route 66 murals!
One of the first concrete-paved portions of Missouri’s highway system was the stretch of road west of Carthage to Joplin, laid in 1920. In 1926, this route became part of Route 66.
Along the route today travelers find Kellogg Lake, Powers Museum, Carthage Municipal Park, Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre, 66 Drive-In and the 1939 Boots Court (photo below).
Read about other attractions and things to do at the Visit Carthage Website
|66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage, Missouri
Red Oak II, northeast of Carthage
Route 66 Mural Park - Joplin, Missouri
Shown here is the mural in downtown Joplin, Missouri at Pearl Brothers Hardware Store. This is only one of many murals painted throughout the downtown area.
The Route 66 Mural Park in Joplin features two nostalgic murals and an oversized 45-record imprint of "Get Your Kicks on Route 66". The upper mural is called "Cruisin’ into Joplin", and showing a vintage Buick arriving in Joplin on Route 66 from the west.
The lower mural is called "The American Ribbon", tracing the route of the Mother Road from Chicago to Los Angeles. Jutting out in three dimensions from the mural is a mock 1964 red Chevrolet Corvette. This is a favorite stop for Rouge 66 travelers in Missouri for photo-ops! The mural is located at 619 S. Main Street in Joplin.
Read about other attractions and things to do at the Visit Joplin Website
Click to read more about
Route 66 in Joplin
Leaving Missouri, and Entering Kansas
We have included below a sampling of our collection of vintage travel postcards dealing with Missouri and Route 66.
What was Route 66 like in its earlier years, as visitors drove around and across Missouri? What did all the service stations, motels and public buildings look like when they were new?
What did the traveling public experience on the Mother Road? We wonder such things when we travel Route 66 today.
Those earlier times in the 1930s, 40s and 50s were not always captured on film. But the use of colorful postcards was common in those decades.
These portray the historic road in its prime and help us to visualize, and appreciate, "earlier times" as we drive Route 66 today across Missouri.
|Little King's - Joplin
|Munger Moss Motel - Lebanon
|Ranch Courtel - Mt. Vernon
|Bell Hotel - Waynesville
|Rock Village - Springfield
|Kel-Lake Motel - Carthage
|Bob Miller's - Joplin
|Union Bus Depot - Lebanon
|The Keystone Hotel- Joplin
|Blue Bonnet - St. Louis
|Trav-O-Tel Court - St. Louis
|Nelson Tavern - Lebanon
|Koronado Kourts - Joplin
Need help and ideas when planning your road trip on Route 66? Here are travel guides and reviews by state...