Classic Neon Signs to Look For When Travelling Along Route 66
Although Route 66 is no longer, road-trippers and sojourners still hit all the famous spots along the roadway, riding Route 55 out of Chicago to 44 into Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico; Route 40 through Arizona; and Routes 15 and 10 in California. Here are nine of the coolest neon signs to look for along the way.
1. Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket
“Get your Chicks on Route 66.” This slogan is on the front page of Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, a famous first-stop restaurant for Route 66 travelers. When you go inside, you’re walking into the same building as when it opened its doors in 1946. Dell Rhea’s has been mentioned in Route 66 documentaries, newspapers, and even the National Register of Historic Places. The sign is classic Americana, and a beauty to see in person.
2. Munger Moss Motel
The Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, sports a “Historic Vintage Auto Court,” an area out front where you can take a selfie next to a collection of mid-20th-century cars under one of the coolest Route 66 neon signs you’ll ever see. The neon lights are on board with jagged, Mid-Century Modern edges that look like they’re straight out of a museum – and you’ll feel like you’re smack-dab a different time.
3. Waylan’s Kuku Burger
In Miami, Oklahoma – NOT Florida – you’ll find Waylan’s Kuku Burger, one of what was once a chain of over 200 Kukus! That was in the 1960's. As you can probably guess, McDonald’s won that fight.
The burger joint sports a neon sign bearing its namesake, along with a glowing neon cuckoo clock light, a bright neon yellow bird, and a red neon ice cream cone. It’s definitely out of the ordinary, and worth stopping in on your trip.
4. Tower Station
On to Texas: The Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe (that’s a mouthful), located in a town called Shamrock, was originally built almost 100 years ago, in 1936, along the original Route 66. The site is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and appears to have been used as inspiration for a scene in Pixars' Cars. It’s known for its distinctive architecture.
The original Tower Station and U-Drop was famous for its neon lights before it fell into disrepair. When the U-Drop became a historic site, the city restored it. Then, in 2013, a hailstorm destroyed the lighting. Unfortunately, the parts that were damaged had to be replaced with LED lighting. Although it’s still gorgeous, sadly, many people think the U-Drop just isn’t the same without the full neon lighting effect it used to have.
5. Dog House Drive-In
Albuquerque, New Mexico sports the Dog House Drive-In, featuring corn dogs, chili dogs, and Frito pies. The Dog House offers “car-hop service,” which is hard to find nowadays. In other words, the waiters and waitresses bring food to your car after you order it, which is totally awesome. But the neon sign is even better: a neon Wiener dog wagging its tail. The tail moves up and down as the lights flicker on and off. It’s eating neon wieners, which is only a little disturbing. Near the dog, the sign reads “DOG HOUSE” in green and red. If you like neon lights that make a moving picture, this is the pit stop you need to take.
6. Tee Pee Curios
Tee Pee Curios is a souvenir shop in Tucumcari, New Mexico. They sell moccasins, Indian Jewelry, rugs, and more. It features a large cement tee pee out front that you can’t miss. It features a bright green cactus neon light behind a tee pee. The neon lighting designs on the tee pee zigzag around in a design that denotes indigenous art.
7. Galaxy Diner
In Flagstaff, Arizona, not far from the Barringer Crater, you’ll find a Route 66 restaurant called the Galaxy Diner. The building itself dates back to the 1950's, and the neon sign (and interior décor) reflect that. The shooting stars in the logo really make it stand out.
8. Delgadillo’s Snowcap
Delgadillo’s Snowcap, serving burgers, malts, and shakes, has used neon signs in combination with other lighting to create a truly alluring atmosphere! Creams and cones light up the block in bright, wiry pinks and yellows. Underneath the logo, which is back-lit in white - “SNOW CAP” - the eating area and decorated wall are back-lit by bright green and yellow light. Look for Delgadillo’s in Seligman, Arizona.
9. Santa Monica Pier
When you eventually get to the end of the line, you’ll find the Santa Monica Pier in California. What a wonderful way to end your journey! The pier is free to visit, and its main features are fully lit up with marvelous neon lighting! The Ferris wheel glows against the dark sky as it spins around at night. The rails of the roller coaster are lit up with brilliant neon lights as well. And the best part? Santa Monica Pier admission is free! Be especially sure to visit at sunrise or sunset.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey of neon lighting sights to see all along the old Route 66. If you want to bring a bit of retro to you home, hang a Route 66 neon sign in your family room, bar or garage. Happy trails!