This post is part of a series I’ve done on Route 66. In 2022, I drove the entirety of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. 2500 miles, 8 states, countless stories, and an endless stretch of small towns, neon, diners, motels, and roadside attractions. Read through all of my Route 66 posts here. They’re also linked at the end of this post. If you’re planning your own Route 66 road trip, either the whole thing or just a part, I hope these help you out. Enjoy the drive!
Kansas might have the shortest stretch of Route 66 among the 8 states that it traverses, but it packs a punch. With just shy of 12 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.
Route 66 Kansas Attractions
Read this post for a full stop by stop itinerary from Springfield, MO to Tulsa, OK (including all of Kansas), but here are a few of my favorite Route 66 Kansas attractions:
Cars on Route: Galena, KS
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.
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 History Museum: Galena, KS
If you have an interest in mining 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.
Old Riverton Store: Riverton, KS
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!
Rainbow Bridge: Baxter Spring, KS
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).
Antique Shopping in Baxter Springs, KS
Baxter Springs has several top notch antique stores downtown (right across the street from one another). It’s worth carving out an hour or two to poke around. Something to know: one of the big ones made me leave my bag in a locker at the front desk.
Planning a Route 66 road trip? I’ve got all of the info you need!
I’ve written about my cross country road trip pretty extensively section by section. Read them all here: Part 1 (Chicago), Part 2 (Chicago to St. Louis), Part 3 (St. Louis), Part 4 (St. Louis to Springfield MO), Part 5 (Springfield, MO), Part 6 (Springfield, MO to Tulsa), Part 7 (Tulsa), Part 8 (Tulsa to OKC), Part 9 (OKC), Part 10 (OKC to Amarillo), Part 11 (Amarillo), Part 12 (Amarillo to Albuquerque), Part 13 (Albuquerque), Part 14 (Albuquerque to Flagstaff), Part 15 (Flagstaff), Part 16 (Flagstaff to San Bernardino), Part 17 (Los Angeles).
I’ve got the scoop on where to stay including the best Route 66 motels recommendations.
And finally, my final trip recap where I spill the beans on how many days you need, the best itinerary, my favorite don’t miss spots, and other tips.