Exploring Route 66 in Missouri: A 3-Day Adventure

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gray asphalt road during daytime

Day 1: St. Louis to Springfield

Your adventure begins in St. Louis, where you’ll start your journey along Route 66. Start your day with a visit to the Gateway Arch, an iconic symbol of the city. Take a ride to the top for panoramic views of the Mississippi River and the city skyline. Afterward, head to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard for a sweet treat. This legendary custard stand has been serving up delicious frozen treats since 1929.

Continue your drive west on Route 66 and make a stop in Cuba, known as the Mural City. Take a stroll through the town and admire the vibrant murals that depict the history and culture of the area. Don’t forget to grab a bite to eat at the famous Wagon Wheel Cafe, a classic diner that has been serving up homestyle meals since 1942.

As you continue your journey, make a detour to Meramec Caverns, one of the largest and most beautiful caves in Missouri. Take a guided tour and marvel at the stunning rock formations and underground lakes. Afterward, head to Springfield, where you’ll spend the night. Explore downtown Springfield and enjoy a delicious dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2: Springfield to Joplin

Start your day with a visit to the Route 66 Car Museum in Springfield. This museum showcases a collection of classic cars and memorabilia from the heyday of Route 66. Afterward, head west on Route 66 and make a stop at the Gay Parita Sinclair Station. This restored gas station is a step back in time and offers a glimpse into the past.

Continue your drive and make a stop in Carthage, a charming town with a rich history. Visit the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site, where you can learn about the Civil War battle that took place here. Take a walk around the town square and admire the beautiful Victorian architecture.

As you continue your journey, make a stop at the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage. This unique chapel features beautiful murals and sculptures created by artist Samuel J. Butcher. Take a guided tour and learn about the inspiration behind these heartfelt works of art.

End your day in Joplin, where you’ll find a vibrant arts scene and plenty of dining options. Explore the local art galleries and enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the many restaurants in downtown Joplin.

Day 3: Joplin to Kansas City

On your final day, start your morning with a visit to the Joplin History and Mineral Museum. This museum showcases the history of Joplin and its rich mining heritage. Learn about the lead and zinc mining that shaped the region and explore the exhibits that highlight the area’s natural resources.

Continue your drive west on Route 66 and make a stop at the 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage. This iconic drive-in theater has been entertaining moviegoers since 1949. Catch a movie under the stars and experience a slice of Americana.

As you make your way towards Kansas City, make a stop at the Harry S. Truman Birthplace State Historic Site in Lamar. Take a guided tour of the home where the 33rd President of the United States was born and learn about his early life.

End your journey in Kansas City, where you’ll find a thriving arts and music scene. Explore the historic neighborhoods, visit the museums, and indulge in some delicious Kansas City barbecue before bidding farewell to Route 66.

After exploring downtown Springfield, head over to the Route 66 Car Museum, located just a short drive away. This museum is a must-visit for car enthusiasts, as it showcases a collection of classic cars and memorabilia from the heyday of Route 66. Marvel at the sleek designs and vibrant colors of the vintage vehicles, and learn about the history of automobile culture in America.
If you’re in the mood for some live entertainment, catch a show at the Gillioz Theatre. This historic venue has been hosting performances since 1926 and continues to showcase a variety of acts, from concerts to plays and comedy shows. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the region as you enjoy a night of entertainment in this beautifully restored theater.
For a taste of local history, visit the History Museum on the Square. This museum offers a comprehensive look at the history of Springfield and the surrounding area, from the Native American tribes that once inhabited the region to the growth of the city as a major transportation hub along Route 66. Explore interactive exhibits, view historical artifacts, and gain a deeper understanding of the people and events that have shaped Springfield over the years.
If you’re looking to unwind and enjoy the great outdoors, head to Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park. This expansive park offers a variety of recreational activities, including walking trails, picnic areas, and a lake where you can go fishing or rent a paddleboat. Take a leisurely stroll through the park, breathe in the fresh air, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you.
As the day comes to a close, make your way back to your hotel and relax in the comfort of your room. Reflect on the experiences of the day and plan for the adventures that lie ahead as you continue your journey along Route 66 in Missouri. Tomorrow, you’ll be heading further west, exploring more iconic landmarks and hidden gems along the way. After a restful night at your hotel in Joplin, it’s time to embark on the next leg of your Route 66 adventure. Start your day with a visit to the George Washington Carver National Monument, located just outside of Joplin in Diamond, Missouri. This national monument pays tribute to the life and work of George Washington Carver, a renowned scientist and educator who made significant contributions to agriculture and the African American community. Explore the museum and take a walk along the nature trails to learn more about Carver’s legacy and the natural beauty of the area.
As you continue west on Route 66, make a stop in the charming town of Carthage. Known for its beautiful historic homes and vibrant downtown, Carthage is a great place to stretch your legs and explore. Take a stroll around the Carthage Square, where you’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, and historic landmarks. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Jasper County Courthouse, a stunning example of Second Empire architecture.
After exploring Carthage, make your way to the Red Oak II, a unique outdoor museum located just a few miles outside of town. This living history museum was created by artist Lowell Davis as a tribute to the rural way of life in the early 20th century. Take a leisurely walk through the streets of Red Oak II and admire the beautifully restored buildings, antique cars, and whimsical sculptures. It’s like stepping back in time to a bygone era.
Continuing on Route 66, your next stop is the town of Webb City. Known as the “City of Flags,” Webb City is home to a vibrant arts community and a rich history. Take a detour to the Webb City Farmers Market, where you can browse a variety of fresh produce, homemade goods, and artisan crafts. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a live performance by local musicians or artists.
After exploring Webb City, make your way back to Joplin for a visit to the Joplin History and Mineral Museum. This fascinating museum showcases the rich mining history of the region and features a collection of minerals, fossils, and artifacts. Learn about the impact of mining on the local economy and discover the stories of the people who shaped Joplin’s history.
In the evening, head to the historic district of Joplin for dinner at one of the many local restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for classic American cuisine, international flavors, or something in between, Joplin has a variety of dining options to satisfy every palate. After dinner, take a stroll along Main Street and admire the beautifully restored buildings and vibrant street art. Joplin’s downtown area is a testament to the city’s resilience and creativity.
As the day comes to a close, return to your hotel in Joplin and reflect on the memorable experiences and unique attractions you’ve encountered along Route 66. Tomorrow, you’ll continue your journey westward, discovering more hidden gems and fascinating stories on America’s most iconic highway.

Day 3: Joplin to Kansas City

On your final day along Route 66 in Missouri, start with breakfast at the iconic Granny Shaffer’s Restaurant in Joplin. This family-owned diner has been serving up homestyle breakfast favorites since 2003. Sit down in the cozy, retro-themed dining area and enjoy a hearty meal to fuel up for the day ahead.

After breakfast, make your way to the historic town of Carthage and visit the Civil War Museum. Step back in time as you explore the exhibits that showcase the town’s role in the Civil War. Marvel at the collection of artifacts, including weapons, uniforms, and personal items that offer a glimpse into the lives of soldiers and civilians during this tumultuous period in American history.

Continuing on Route 66, head to the town of Spencer and visit the Route 66 Drive-In Theatre. Embrace the nostalgia of a bygone era as you pull into the parking lot and find a spot to park your car. Roll down your windows, tune in to the designated radio frequency, and immerse yourself in the magic of watching a movie under the stars. Grab some popcorn and snacks from the concession stand and settle in for a double feature or a classic film that will transport you back to the golden age of cinema.

As you approach Kansas City, make a stop at the 18th and Vine District, a historic neighborhood known for its jazz heritage. Take a stroll down the streets that once vibrated with the sounds of legendary jazz musicians. Visit the American Jazz Museum and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of jazz music. Explore interactive exhibits, listen to recordings of iconic performances, and learn about the lives and contributions of jazz legends.

Adjacent to the American Jazz Museum, you’ll find the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Step into the world of African American baseball players who overcame adversity and segregation to make their mark on the sport. Discover the stories of legendary players like Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson, and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they faced and the impact they had on the game of baseball.

End your Route 66 adventure in Missouri with a delicious Kansas City-style barbecue dinner. Kansas City is renowned for its barbecue scene, and there are plenty of acclaimed joints to choose from. Head to Arthur Bryant’s, a local institution known for its smoky, tender ribs and tangy sauce. Alternatively, make your way to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, housed in a gas station and consistently ranked among the best barbecue spots in the city. Indulge in mouthwatering ribs, brisket, and burnt ends, paired with classic sides like baked beans and coleslaw. As you savor the flavors of Kansas City-style barbecue, reflect on the incredible journey you’ve had along Route 66 and bid farewell to the Mother Road with a satisfied stomach and memories to last a lifetime.

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