There isn’t much to do right in Kingman; the town’s three paying attractions can be visited on one combination ticket, costing $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for ages 12 and under. Right by the visitor center, the Historic Route 66 Museum, 120 W. Rte. 66 (www.kingmantourism.org; tel. 928/753-9889) has exhibits on the history of not just Route 66, but also the roads, railroads, and trails that preceded it. A great collection of old photos taken during the Depression, and even an “Okie” truck, are on display. You’ll also see a Studebaker Champion and mock-ups of a gas station, diner, hotel lobby, and barbershop. Hours are daily from 9am to 5pm. You can get a taste of local history (including plenty of Andy Devine memorabilia) at the Mohave Museum of History and Arts, 400 W. Beale St. (www.mohavemuseum.org; tel. 928/753-3195), open Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturday 1 to 5pm. At the museum, you can pick up a walking tour map of the town’s many vintage buildings, some of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Bonelli House, 430 E. Spring St. (tel. 928/753-1413). This two-story stone home, built in 1915, is furnished much as it may have been at that time. It’s open Monday through Friday 11am to 3pm (last tour starts at 2:30pm).
When you’re tired of the heat and want to cool off, head southeast of Kingman to Hualapai Mountain Park, 6250 Hualapai Mountain Rd. (www.mcparks.com; tel. 928/681-5700), which covers 2,300 acres at elevations between 4,984 and 8,417 feet. The park offers picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, camping, and rustic rental cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Daily admission is $7 per vehicle.
Located 30 miles southwest of Kingman on old Route 66, the busy little mining camp of Oatman is a classic Wild West ghost town full of tourist shops selling tacky souvenirs. Founded in 1906 when gold was discovered here, Oatman quickly grew into a lively town of 12,000 people and was an important stop on Route 66. In 1942, when the U.S. government closed down many of Arizona’s gold-mining operations, Oatman’s population plummeted. Today the once-abandoned old buildings have been preserved and the historic look of Oatman has attracted numerous filmmakers over the years; How the West Was Won is just one of several movies shot here. Famously, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned in Oatman in 1939, and the Oatman Hotel (181 Main St.; tel. 928/768-4408) claims that the couple’s ghosts still haunt the place. You can’t stay in the hotel these days, but you can grab a bite in its restaurant, which is pretty good if touristy.
One of Oatman’s biggest attractions is its population of feral burros—descendants of pack animals used by gold miners—that roam the streets begging for handouts. Be careful—they bite!
Annual events staged here are among the strangest in the state, including January bed races, a Fourth of July high-noon sidewalk egg fry, and a Christmas season bush-decorating competition. Saloons and restaurants provide options for a meal and a chance to soak up the Oatman atmosphere for a while. For more info, contact the Oatman Chamber of Commerce (www.oatmangoldroad.org; tel. 928/768-6222).
Get Your Kicks on Route 66
It was the Mother Road, the Main Street of America, and for thousands of Midwesterners devastated by the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, the road to a better life. On the last leg of its journey from Chicago to California, Route 66 meandered across the vast empty landscape of northern Arizona, and today, much of this road is still visible.
Officially dedicated in 1926, Route 66 was the first highway in America to be uniformly signed from one state to the next. Less than half of the highway’s 2,200-mile route was paved, and in those days, the stretch between Winslow and Ash Fork was so muddy in winter that drivers had their cars shipped by railroad between the two points. By the 1930s, however, the entire length of Route 66 had been paved, and the westward migration was underway.
In the years following World War II, unprecedented numbers of Americans took to Route 66 for a different reason: Postwar prosperity and affordable cars made leisure travel accessible to the middle classes, who set out en masse to discover the West. Motor courts, cafes, and tourist traps sprang up along the highway’s length, increasingly using eye-catching signs and billboards to lure passing motorists. Neon lit up the once-lonely stretches of highway.
By the 1950s, Route 66 just couldn’t handle the traffic. After President Eisenhower initiated the National Interstate Highway System, Route 66 was slowly replaced by a four-lane divided highway. Many of the towns along the old highway were bypassed, and motorists stopped frequenting such roadside establishments as Pope’s General Store and the Oatman Hotel. Many closed, while others were replaced by their more modern equivalents. Some, however, managed to survive, and they appear along the road like strange time capsules from another era, vestiges of Route 66’s legendary past.
The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is one of the most distinctive Route 66 landmarks. Built around 1940, these concrete wigwams (actually tepees) still contain many of their original furnishings. Also in Holbrook are several rock shops with giant signs—and life-size concrete dinosaurs.
Flagstaff, the largest town along the Arizona stretch of Route 66, became a major layover spot. Motor courts flourished on the road leading into town from the east. Today, this road has been officially renamed Route 66 by the city of Flagstaff, and a few of the old motor courts remain. Downtown Flagstaff has quite a few shops where you can pick up Route 66 memorabilia.
About 65 miles west of Flagstaff and 24 miles west of Williams, you can find the longest remaining stretch of old Route 66. Extending for 160 miles from Ash Fork to Topock, this lonely blacktop passes through some of the most remote country in Arizona (and goes right through the town of Kingman). In Seligman, at the east end of this stretch of the highway, you’ll find Delgadillo’s Snow Cap, 301 E. Rte. 66 (tel. 928/422-3291), which serves up fast food amid outrageous decor (closed in winter). Next door at Angel & Vilma Delgadillo’s Route 66 Gift Shop & Visitor’s Center, 217 E. Rte. 66 (www.route66giftshop.com; tel. 928/422-3352) you’ll be entertained by the descendants of the late founding owner Angel Delgadillo, one of Route 66’s most famous residents. The walls of Angel’s old one-chair barbershop are covered with photos and business cards of happy customers.
After leaving Seligman, the highway passes through such waysides as Peach Springs, Truxton, Valentine, and Hackberry—and some stunningly beautiful country. Keep your eyes open for condors, part of the population introduced into the Grand Canyon a couple of decades ago. Before reaching Peach Springs, you’ll come to Grand Canyon Caverns (p. ###), once a near-mandatory stop for families traveling Route 66. In Hackberry, be sure to stop at the Hackberry General Store & Visitor's Center, 11255 E. Ariz. 66 (www.hackberrygeneralstore.com; tel. 928/769-2605), which is filled with Route 66 memorabilia and other old stuff from the 1950s and 1960s. At Valle Vista, near Kingman, the highway goes into a 7-mile-long curve that some claim is the longest continuous curve on a U.S. highway.
After the drive through the wilderness west of Seligman, Kingman feels like a veritable metropolis; its bold neon signs once brought a sigh of relief to the tired and the hungry. Today, it boasts dozens of modern motels and is still primarily a resting spot for the road-weary. Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, a modern rendition of a 1950s diner (housed in an old gas station/cafe), serves burgers and blue-plate specials. Across the street at 120 W. Rte. 66, a restored 1907 powerhouse is home to the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona (www.azrt66.com; tel. 928/753-5001), the Historic Route 66 Museum, and the Powerhouse Visitor Center. Each year over the first weekend in May, Kingman hosts the Historic Route 66 Fun Run, a drive along 150 miles of old Route 66 between Topock and Seligman.
The last stretch of Route 66 in Arizona heads southwest out of Kingman through the rugged Sacramento Mountains. At the base of the mountains, before the road climbs up into switchbacks that stymied many an Okie’s jalopy back in the day, stop in at the Cool Springs Station (www.route66coolspringsaz.com; tel. 928/768-8366) for a soda and a browse through the quirky gift shop.
Route 66 then passes through Oatman, which almost became a ghost town after the local gold-mining industry shut down and the new interstate highway pulled money out of town. Today, mock gunfights and nosy wild burros entice motorists to stop, and shops playing up Route 66’s heritage line the wooden sidewalks.
After dropping down out of the mountains, the road once crossed the Colorado River on a narrow metal bridge. Although the bridge is still there, it now carries a pipeline instead of traffic. The Oatman-Topock Highway now runs south, intersecting with I-40 at the California border.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.