Route 66 is such a fabled road of the past, it often seems like it exists out of the modern world.
But the truth is the old route is still very much present in both populated and less-populated areas of the country.
When you drive the old Mother Road today, you’ll pass through urban jungles and dusty landscapes, cruise the streets of sprawling, modern metropolises and roll past deserted ghost towns left in the old route’s wake.
Not a single city or town on Route 66’s path is exactly what it was (there weren’t a lot of Starbucks and EV stations back in the day), but plenty of Route 66 towns still retain their historical charm, carrying you decades into the past as they carry you out west.
If you’re kicking off a Route 66 road trip, these are the cities and towns where you can fuel up, fill up the cooler, and soak up some of that old road ambiance.
Route 66 Major Cities List
Statistically speaking, a metropolitan area has 50,000 or more residents (as determined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget), but big cities in the U.S. have far more people than that.
So, we’ll break our Route 66 city list down into two separate categories – Major Cities Along Route 66 and Smaller Cities Along Route 66.
For our intents, we’re considering a Major City any city with a population over 100,000 and all the amenities you could want, and a Smaller City any city with a population over 50,000, but under 100,000.
We’ve also thrown in large suburbs (50,000+ residents), just so you’ll know what you’ll be driving through.
Now, let’s hit the road.
Major Cities Along Route 66
These are the major cities of 100,000+ people along the old Route 66:
Route 66 Major Cities in Illinois
Chicago Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
Route 66 Major Cities in Missouri
- St. Louis
Route 66 Major Cities in Kansas
Route 66 passes through no major cities in Kansas.
Route 66 Major Cities in Oklahoma
- Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
- Edmond (on its eastern edge)
Route 66 Major Cities in Texas
Route 66 Major Cities in New Mexico
Route 66 Major Cities in Arizona
Route 66 passes through no major cities in Arizona.
Route 66 Major Cities in California
- San Bernardino
- Rancho Cucamonga
- Los Angeles
San Bernardino Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
Los Angeles Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
Smaller Cities Along Route 66
These are the smaller cities of 50,000 to 99,999 residents along the old Route 66:
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Illinois
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Missouri
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Kansas
Route 66 passes through no smaller cities in Kansas.
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Oklahoma
Route 66 passes through no smaller cities in Oklahoma.
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Texas
Route 66 passes through no smaller cities in Texas.
Route 66 Smaller Cities in New Mexico
- Santa Fe (southernmost edge)
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Arizona
Route 66 Smaller Cities in California
- Santa Monica
Notable Towns on Route 66
While you will pass through cities sporadically on Route 66 (there’s a whole lot of rural along the route), you will also go through plenty of small and large towns alike.
While most of these towns aren’t known for anything particular, other than being on Historic Route 66, some are worthy of note in their own rights.
These are the towns along Historic Route 66 with a claim to fame aside from just being a stop along the Mother Road:
Notable Route 66 Towns in Illinois
- Lincoln, Illinois (Named for Abraham Lincoln, who worked as a lawyer in the town before becoming president.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Missouri
- Uranus (Man-made town built as a roadside attraction. Technically part of Robert, MO.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Kansas
- Galena (Oldest mining town in the state.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Oklahoma
Route 66 passes through no notable towns in Oklahoma.
Notable Route 66 Towns in Texas
- Groom (Home to both the Leaning Tower of Texas, a misaligned water tower, and the largest freestanding cross in Texas.)
- Glenrio (Considered one of the finest ghost towns in the U.S.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in New Mexico
- Tucumcari (The “Gateway to New Mexico.”)
- Pecos (Home to Pecos National Historic Park.)
- Continental Divide (Home to the Continental Divide along Route 66.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Arizona
- Winslow (Town made famous in the Eagles hit song “Take It Easy.”)
- Williams (Gateway to Grand Canyon National Park.)
- Kingman (A 20th Century railway town and starting point of the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66, which rolls through Kingman and continues on Oatman Highway.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in California
- Needles (Home to Snoopy’s brother Spike in the Peanuts cartoons.)
- West Hollywood (Though within the Los Angeles city limits, incorporated as its own city in 1984. Considered the first gay city.)
- Beverly Hills (Though within the Los Angeles city limits, incorporated as its own city in 1914. Well-known as one of the ritziest areas of L.A., home to celebrities and Rodeo Drive.)
- Santa Monica (Originally outside the Los Angeles city limits, incorporated as its own city in 1886. It’s the second oldest city inside the L.A. city limits.)
Disney’s Cars Route 66 Town
Of course, we can’t talk about towns along Route 66 without mentioning the Disney-Pixar movie Cars, which may have done more to draw attention to the abandoned places along the old road than anything in the nearly 40 years since Route 66 was officially de-commissioned.
While the fictional town of Radiator Springs is a composite of many towns along the old route (from many of the states Route 66 passed through), the film straight-up situates it in Arizona.
On a map shown in the film, the location of Radiator Springs shows a county line that very closely resembles the Coconino-Yavapai county line, which would equate Cars fictional Carburetor County with the real-world Coconino County.
And, although Radiator Springs sits north of I-40 and Williams sits south of I-40, if you follow the county line, Williams is the closest town to where the fictional Radiator Springs is located. In our opinion.
This is, of course, debatable, and other people have situated Radiator Springs in different towns/cities.
But we say, from location alone, it’s Williams.
That said, Cars director John Lasseter has said in interviews the film’s plot is largely based on the story of a barber in Seligman, Arizona, which lies 43 miles west of Williams on I-40.
So, location-wise it looks like Williams, but emotion-wise it might be Seligman.
That’s up to you to decide.
Riding the Route
We’ve made it to the end of our Route 66 cities and town list.
The only thing left is for you to hit the road.
Good luck, drive safe, and happy road tripping!