Top 5: Carpinteria
Carpinteria, Calfornia is a West Coast gem if ever there was one. A small, seaside town, it sits a few miles down the 101 from it's more well-known neighbor, Santa Barbara. If you love the Pacific Ocean but aren't a big fan of the crowds associated with the American Riviera, Carp is the place for you.
1. Carpinteria State Beach
Obviously the beach is the #1 attraction here. Just look at it!
2. Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve
The trails here are well-maintained and easy to follow. You can choose a quicky hike just to glimpse the amazing views from the bluffs or take a longer walk - whatever suits your fancy!
3. Pacific Health Foods
Okay, no extra points for that name (health food?!), but this grocery/deli has the most amazing sandwiches. Try the Avocado and you will not be sorry.
4. Rincon Designs
There's just something about surf shops within earshot of crashing ocean waves. They have a certain romance about them and suddenly you must have that t-shirt, that wet suit, that hoodie that will transform you into a beach person. Plus they have top-notch customer service - win win!
5. Rincon Bike Trail
If spending the day relaxing on the beach isn't your thing, hop on your trusty beach cruiser and head down the Rincon Bike Trail. Your Instagram account will thank you.
6. Harbor Seal Preserve and Rookery
A seasonal activity - check out the baby seal pups (and their mums) from January through May.
7. Best Western Plus
For the biggest bang for your buck, book a room at Best Western Plus (no, we're not being paid to say that). Carpinteria is all about the understated, which means you might not expect their Best Western to be anything extraordinary. Prepare to have your expectations exceeded!
Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn
Only twice have I been tempted to use the term "hidden gem". The first time was when I visited the Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks. The second time was when my friend Jason, a Disney lover like myself, took me to Wal Disney's Carolwood Barn in Burbank.
Walt's Barn was originally built in the backyard of his Holmby Hills home on Carolwood Drive and acted as a workshop for the Carolwood Pacific Railroad (the miniature railroad also built in his backyard). When the home was sold, Walt's daughter Diane saved the barn. In 1999 Walt's Barn opened in Griffith Park along with the 1/8 scale train tracks and Walt's Carolwood Pacific. According to the Carolwood Society website, "Walt spent many hours in the Barn not only working on his trains, but thinking about new projects and ideas. One could day that this Barn is the birthplace of Imagineering."
If you didn't know where Walt's Barn was, you wouldn't know it was there which is what earns it the legitimate title of "Hidden Gem". After you park in the dirt lot at the base of a hillside you walk up a little booth with a friendly docent that gives you a sticker and accepts donations. Immediately to the left is a miniature train track of very small scale that runs through a miniature western town. In case you hadn't figured it out, Walt was enamored with all things train.
The barn itself has been placed inside a ring of train tracks, surrounded by grass and resting comfortably under shade trees. Docents wander here and there to ask questions (including the original model for Tinker Bell!) Inside the barn you find a museum with all sorts of Disney artifacts, from posters to memorabilia to Walt's desk. Right next door you can even climb inside a real life-size train car direct from Disneyland.
If you want to spend a peaceful, Disney afternoon in Griffith Park, this is the best way to do it. Pack a nice picnic, ride Walt's 1/8 scale train, and really make a day of it.
Andersen's Pea Soup
If you're driving up the coast of California on Highway 101 we've got the perfect diversion. And it comes with pea soup!
Pea Soup Andersen's is located in the quiet hamlet of Buellton, just off the 101. If you've done any extensive traveling around California you may recognize their roadside signs with mascots Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee playfully splitting pees and announcing the number of miles to the next location. They're a welcome site for hungry road trippers.
Once you've arrived, you will not be disappointed if Americana is your jam. From the neon signs and the cardboard cut-outs you can put your face in to the pressed penny machines and the mini museum, Andersen's has it all. And that's before you've even been seated in the restaurant! Once inside you are handed a menu as a formality, though why anyone would want to order anything other than pea soup and a Monte Christo sandwich is a mystery.
Filled up on pea soup and nostalgia, it's back on the road for you! Happy and satisfied, thanks to Andersen's.
Photos from peasoupandersens.net
Route 66: Illinois
1. Adams Street in Chicago, IL
You are here - the Official Starting Point of Route 66
2. The Launching Pad in Wilmington, IL
Featuring the Gemini Giant, one of the last remaining fiberglass giants in the US
3. The Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, IL
Order up a slice of apple pie and you won't be sorry
4. The Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield, IL
Home of the "famous hot dog on a stick" and the cutest sign you've ever seen
5. World's Largest Covered Wagon in Lincoln, IL
Driven by none other than Abraham Lincoln, stovepipe hat and all
6. Funk's Maple Sirup in Funk's Grove, IL
Take a detour off the beaten path for this official Roadside Attraction
7. Henry's Route 66 Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL
You'll find both the hopping and the driving kind of rabbits here
8. Soulsby Service Station in Mount Olive, IL
One of the most well-preserved stations on the route
9. Burma Shave signs in Pontiac, IL
An iconic symbol of Route 66 - and fun to read!
10. Route 66 Experience in Joliet, IL
For fans of Route 66 and the Blues Brothers
66 Kicks on Route 66
Imagine that you’re driving down the highway on your way from Chicago out west to California. Maybe you have the top down. Maybe you’re rapping “Going Back to Cali” into your Diet Coke. Maybe Ryan Gosling is riding shotgun and you’re making him read every “Hey Girl” meme on your Pinterest “Funnies” board. Go wherever your imagination takes you.
Now imagine that as you drive you see a big blue whale on the side of the road. Or a fifty-foot-tall spaceman holding a silver rocket. Or a row of spray-painted Cadillacs nose-down in a Texas field. No, Ryan didn’t spike your Coke. You’re not seeing things. These man-made wonders are just a few of the sites along the mother of all highways, Route 66.
Route 66 was established in 1926 and covers 2,448 miles across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, making it one of the most epic road trips in the world. In its heyday, the Mother Road connected the main streets of countless communities across the US, boosted local economies, and provided a means for millions of Americans to experience the freedom of the open road.
Unfortunately, as was beautifully and heartbreakingly documented in the Pixar film Cars, the “Main Street of America” was bypassed in many towns in favor of the newer, more direct Interstates. By 1985 so much of the original road had been replaced by faster, flashier freeways that Route 66 was officially removed from the US Highway System. Progress had won out and many Mom and Pop establishments were forced to close their doors. But don’t think that’s where the story ends. It wasn’t just slabs of concrete that made Route 66 what it was – it was the people. The people that harnessed their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to create giant jack rabbits and barbed wire museums and opened their doors to welcome travelers just as they would old friends. Looking back, it’s probably a blessing that many of these unique, quirky places were passed by the Interstate because now they’re just far enough off the beaten path that they are able to be preserved for future generations of road trippers and freedom seekers without falling victim to progress.
Today Historic Route 66 is known for taking the seemingly average aspects of life and celebrating them. There is no subject too big or too small to be honored and commemorated. But we weren’t kidding when we said that road tripping on Route 66 is an epic undertaking. That’s why we’ve got your back. Whether you’re planning to visit just the sites in your own state or tackle the road in its entirety (which is epically fun), we’ve compiled 66 Kicks that highlight the best of the best so you won’t miss a single one.
Up first, Illinois.
Route 66 Top Ten: Missouri
1. Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard in St. Louis, MO
You really can hold their ice cream upside down!
2. Route 66 Drive-In Theater in Springfield, MO
For the ultimate yesteryear experience
3. Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Eureka, MO
Don't forget to pack a pic-a-nic basket when camping here
4. Meramec Caverns in Sullivan, MO
If you ever wanted to see Jesse James' hideout, now's your chance
5. Stubby Stonehenge in Rolla, MO
Just like the real thing, only tiny!
6. The Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, MO
For the ultimate in roadside accomidations
7. SuperTAM on 66 in Carterville, MO
A gem if you're a fan of Superman (and even if you're not)
8. Circle Inn Malt Shop in Bourbon, MO
Check out their neon sign... classic!
9. Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage, MO
Get your cameras ready - this historic building will knock your socks off
10. The Gillioz Theatre in Springfield, MO
For an old-fashioned movie-going experience right out of, well, a movie!
Route 66 Top Ten: Kansas
1. World's Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, KS
The name speaks for itself! See if you can resist hugging it
2. Galena Museum in Galena, KS
Jam-packed full of Kansas knick knacks and memorabilia
3. Tow Mater in Galena, KS
Stop by the Kan-o-Tex to pose with your favorite tow truck from the movie Cars
4. Rainbow Bridge in Baxter Springs, KS
The sole surviving bridge of its kind on the road
5. Williams' Store in Riverton, KS
The oldest operating general store on Route 66
6. Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum
Check out the Route 66 displays for a bit of history
7. Cafe on the Route in Baxter Springs, KS
Featured in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
8. Greetings From Galena mural in Galena, KS
A perfect photo op
9. Field of Dreams Ballaprk in Baxter Springs. KS
There's just something about driving across Kansas and spotting a sign that says "Field of Dreams"
10. Historic Route 66 Byway
Drive the oldest parts of the original Mother Road
Route 66 Top Ten: Oklahoma
1. Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK
One of the most recognizable attractions on Route 66
2. Old Round Barn in Arcadia, OK
This round barn had a cameo in Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown
3. Will Rogers Memorial and Museum in Claremore, OK
20,000 square feet dedicated to the Cowboy Philosopher
4. Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK
As impressive a facade as you will see on any Route 66 Museum
5. Sand Hill Curiosity Shoppe in Erick, OK
Ecclectic goodness inside and out
6. Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK
We heard that the owner was the inspiration for Sally in Cars
7. The Dilly Diner in Tulsa, OK
Part of the historic Blue Dome District
8. Gold Dome in Oklahoma City, OK
They love domes in OK, especially this brilliant geodesic giant
9. Pop's Soda Ranch in Arcadia, OK
An unxpected delight that you can spot a mile away
10. Commerce Dairy King in Commerce, OK
Home of the Route 66 Cookie! Check out the Conoco Station here too
Route 66 Top Ten: Texas
1. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX
Leave your mark on this true Route 66 icon
2. Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, TX
The official halfway point of the Mother Road
3. World's Second Largest Cross in Groom, TX
Just as impressive from afar as it is close up
4. Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX
If you can finish an entire 72 oz. steak (plus sides!) you get your picture in the Hall of Fame
5. U Drop Inn Cafe in Shamrock, TX
This architectural beauty inspired Ramon'es Body Shop in the animated feature Cars
6. Sign-A-Bug Buggy Ranch in Conway, TX
A miniature tribute to its big brother, Cadillac Ranch - bring your Sharpies here too!
7. Phillips Service Station in McLean
This charming station will take you right back to the earliest days of cross-country road trips
8. Rooster's Restaurant in Vega, TX
Look out for the giant rooster!
9. Devil's Rope and Route 66 Museum in McLean, TX
"Tribute to barbed wire" - need we say more?
10. Glenrio Historic Site
A ghost town on the border of Texas and New Mexico
Route 66 Top Ten: New Mexico
1. Tucumcari, NM
The Blue Swallow Motel anchors this neon wonderland
2. The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, NM
An old fashioned swimmin' hole
3. El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM
One-time celebrity retreat and a shrine to western decor
4. Carlsbad Caverns in Eddy County, NM
Goergeous underground caves
5. Roswell, NM
Even their Walmart and bus stops are painted with aliens!
6. Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa, NM
What could be more appropriate for a museum on Route 66 than an auto museum?
7. Sky City aka Acoma Pueblo, Cibola County
Amazing views from the top of this 367 foot mesa
8. Route 66 Arch in Grants, NM
A perfect photo op for you and your car
9. Motel Safari in Tucumcari, NM
"Best beds in town" (unconfirmed)
10. Maisel's Indian Trading Post in Albuquerque
Pueblo revival building on the National Register of Historic Places offering native curios