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Experience Route 66 in California with Best Western® Hotels & Resorts!
Ah, California dreamin'… many Route 66 travelers have been doing that since 1926, traveling across the nation on the Mother Road in search of opportunity in the West. Route 66 enters California on the Interstate 40 Bridge after crossing the Colorado River. The Colorado River is the lifeline for Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles being the primary source of water for these three gargantuan cities.
Route 66 follows today's I-40 for the first few miles into California. From there, you hit the first town, Needles. There are a few former sections of Route 66 between the bridge into California and Needles, Needles was named for "the Needles," a group of pointed rocks on the Arizona side of the river. Founded in 1883 when the railroad crossed the Colorado River, Needles became an important stop for the Santa Fe railroad and served as an icing station for fruits and vegetables being shipped out of California.
Following either Route 66 or Interstate 40, you reach the apex of the western Mojave Desert, Barstow. Barstow essentially began in 1886 after a local post office named Waterman Junction changed its name to Barstow. However, the area had been settled for decades prior to its location in the "Mormon Corridor", which stretches from southern California up through Utah and into Wyoming.
Founded by Mormon pioneers in 1851, San Bernardino proved to be an important trading center and an ideal place for growing citrus fruit, especially oranges. Route 66 travelers would be welcomed by orange groves as they entered town.
San Bernardino is the dominant city in the San Bernardino-Riverside metropolitan area, often referred to as the "Inland Empire”, which holds about 1.5 million people. The area even has pro baseball, the Inland Empire 66ers; class "A" affiliates of the nearby Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
A relatively new city in the area, Rancho Cucamonga formed in 1977 from three unincorporated towns: Alta Loma, Etiwanda, and Cucamonga. "Cucamonga" will be familiar with Jack Benny fans, which made the town's name part of a running gag – usually voiced by Mel Blanc (which is why you've probably also heard the name in Bugs Bunny cartoons).
Glendora features several points of interest along Route 66, including the Golden Spur Restaurant, which has been around almost as long as Route 66 itself. Similarly, you'll find an Arco Station with a "retro" look to reflect the early days of Route 66 along Southern California.
Pasadena is a beautiful city, which epitomizes the California lifestyle. Cruising through on Colorado Boulevard on a sunny day with the palm trees arching overhead makes you want to drive this stretch over and over again. It is famous for being home to the Rose Bowl and the Tournament of Roses Parade, which puts the city on TV across the country every New Years' Day. The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1890, held to showcase the city's "paradise" in winter when residents knew much of the country was buried in snow.
From Pasadena, Fair Oaks Avenue turns into the Arroyo Seco Parkway – which becomes the Arroyo Seco Freeway, the oldest freeway in California and among the oldest in the United States.
Down the Arroyo Seco Freeway, you enter the city of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S. and the traditional "end point" for the Route 66 "Chicago to L.A." theme. The city itself is huge; it sprawls out over 468 square miles.
L.A. is quite the sports town, as you’d imagine. Year round, you’ll find NBA and NHL games hosted at the Staples Center, MLB action at Dodger Stadium, and, once again as of recently, NFL football at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Santa Monica Boulevard is, like Sunset, an iconic road through Los Angeles and Hollywood. What was Route 66 is now California Route 2 – you follow it through the heart of Hollywood and into West Hollywood, which formed in 1984.
The West Hollywood section of Route 66, like some of the small towns we've driven through across the country, has traditionally featured businesses heavy on the neon signs. A display of this, known as the "On Route – 66 Lights" was developed in collaboration with the Museum of Neon Art, located in Glendale, CA.
Finally, Historic Route 66 enters Santa Monica. Unlike many of L.A.'s suburbs, Santa Monica was always an independent city in its own right, having established itself as a resort town in the early 1900s.
Today, it's still popular with tourists, as well as being a skateboarding mecca, both on the Three Street Promenade, a three block-long pedestrian mall filled with shops, and on the beaches, which connect all up and down the coast.
Route 66 follows Santa Monica Boulevard almost to the ocean; technically, the road veers south for a few blocks on 4th Avenue before turning west again onto Lincoln for the final few blocks.
During the final years of Route 66, it angled south on 4th Street to Lincoln, where it turned west for the final push to Santa Monica Pier.
The world-famous Santa Monica Pier was built in 1909. The amusement park on it, called Pacific Park, was added mostly in the 1920s. The Looff Hippodrome went up in 1916 and contains the famous Carousel. There are tons of other gift shops, restaurants, and assorted things to do and see on the Pier, and the walkway under the Pier along the beaches also offer a variety of shops, bars and opportunities to watch those who skateboard or roller blade for a living do their stuff.
Read more about this historic road as it passes through the following states