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Route 66 through Kansas: Only 11 Miles but So Much to See!

Kansas might have the shortest stretch of Route 66 among the 8 states that it traverses, but it packs a punch. With only 11 miles of road, Kansas has two small towns, a historic bridge, and a charming general store in its Route 66 portfolio. Even though you could cruise through the whole state in about 20 minutes, you’re definitely going to want to make a few stops. Here are my favorite Route 66 Kansas attractions: 

The Best Route 66 Kansas Attractions

Galena

Traveling east to west, the first town you’ll come to is Galena. There’s a pretty charming main street and a couple things to see, but Galena’s claim to Route 66 fame is being the home of Mater. Yep, the character “Tow Mater” from the Pixar movie Cars was inspired by a rusty tow truck that sat in front of an old filling station in town. 

The town has embraced their contribution to the movie (which has done a lot to restore public interest in Route 66), and you’ll find several cars from the movie on display in the town. 

Cars on Route

When I stopped in Galena, there were three different places to see the cars. They’re all on Main Street, which is your first right hand turn coming into town (you can’t miss it). 

Mater (the tow truck) and Red (the fire engine) sit in front of a restored Kan-O-Tex station that’s been renamed “Cars on Route.” There’s a small gift shop inside, but it was closed when I visited. 

Take a right at the station (onto Front Street which is an alternate Route 66 loop) and drive 100 feet or so and you’ll see Sheriff and Luigi. Sheriff (a 1949 Mercury Police Cruiser) is posted up kind of high (probably to keep a lookout) and Luigi (a 1959 Fiat 500) is set up for a nice little photo op. Don’t miss the tractor cows in the background! 

The last spot to see the cars is at the restored Texaco station in the middle of Main Street. Here you’ll find Doc Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet). This station has been restored so well and there’s a cute little curio shop in the office, but unfortunately it was closed when I stopped. 

Galena Main Street

Downtown Galena (all 2 blocks of it) is the kind of place I like to poke around. It has a few restaurants and a couple of shops, but feels like a town that the interstate left behind. Some of the buildings are abandoned, but the architectural details and patina are pretty rich. There are quite a few old ghost signs and new ones as well. 

Have a photo op at the Galena City Jail and stop at the Route 66 Howard “Pappy” Litch Park to read the informational signs. They have great information about Route 66 and the town’s mining history. 

Galena History Museum

Speaking of mining, if you have an interest in that or the town’s history, stop by the Galena Mining and Historical Museum. It’s not a must do, but if you’re a museum person, this is one of the few you’ll find along Kansas’ portion of Route 66. 

Riverton

Riverton isn’t so much a town as it is a blip. But it’s home to what I would say is the #1 don’t miss stop in Kansas. 

Old Riverton Store

It’s gone by many names…originally the Williams Store when it was built in 1925 then the Eislers Brothers Old Riverton Store and now Nelson’s Old Riverton Store (but still with the original signs), the store is on the National Register of Historic Places and doesn’t look like it’s changed much since it opened. 

This place is a gem. It’s the kind of place you hope to find when you set out on Route 66. Frozen in time, friendly owners who seem to just be waiting for you to stop in and chat, and interesting things to see absolutely everywhere. 

Sure you can grab a bottle of pop and some snacks, but the real hit here is the deli. Several locals came in to grab lunch from the counter and that tells you everything you need to know. 

Also don’t miss the back room that’s packed with Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs. It’s a really great collection and they have a documentary about the making of Cars playing in the background. This is one of the places that the creators visited to get inspiration for the film!

Baxter Springs

Baxter Springs is a much bigger town than Galena with plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you busy for a couple of hours. 

Rainbow Bridge

Before you drive into Baxter Springs, you’ll want to detour to an older route to see the Rainbow Bridge. You’ll make your first turn at the Field of Dreams baseball complex, but put the location into your GPS because it’s not very well marked. The bridge is the only remaining concrete Marsh arch bridge on Route 66 and you can actually drive across it. It’s one way and there’s a place where you can pull over to view it as well. I don’t know much about bridges, but it’s definitely a worthwhile detour (only a couple of miles).

 

Downtown Baxter Springs

As soon as you come into town on your left, you’ll see the old Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station which has been converted into the Kansas Route 66 Visitors Center. 

“Downtown” has a good 2-3 blocks that have been revitalized. I was pretty impressed with the antique stores and flea markets. Good finds with better prices than you’ll find closer to a big city. I stopped in the Baxter Flea Market and Somewhere in Antiquities and would recommend both. 

Also, I drove through in the daytime, but would love to come back through at night because there were quite a few nice looking neon signs. 

Before I headed out of town, I stopped at the Monarch Pharmacy & Soda Fountain. This is NOT the soda fountain in the middle of downtown (that’s actually an after school program center!), but it’s a few blocks further down the road. It’s really cute inside and they made a great chocolate shake!

After you leave Baxter Springs, you’ll drive through the country a bit before crossing into Oklahoma near Quapaw. Keep on cruising and check out my huge post on the best Oklahoma Route 66 attractions.

More posts about driving Route 66:

My Route 66 Travelogue: All the Details of My Road Trips

Route 66 Missouri Attractions: Everything You Need to Know about the Mother Road in Missouri

Route 66 in St Louis: What to See & Do in the Largest City Mid-Route

Meramec Caverns: The Best Route 66 Roadside Attraction in Missouri

Livin’ on Tulsa Time: The Best Route 66 Stops in Tulsa

The Best Route 66 Attractions in Oklahoma