You may recall that my older son, Grayson is a little obsessed with Disney Cars and Lightning McQueen (see this blog post on his Cars themed birthday party for evidence). So when we had the opportunity last summer to make a drive back to my home state of California, we thought it would be fun to add a little time to the drive back to Texas by following Route 66, and seeing some of the places that inspired the Disney movie. It was a lot of fun, and Grayson still refers to the things we saw on Route 66. Very cool!
At the time, Grayson was 3 1/2, and Sawyer about 15 months. They both did really well. My only advice on doing a long road trip with kids this age is to bring lots of toys and activities (an iPad really helps, as they can even watch cartoons on the Netflix app), and to stop as often as you need to for the little ones to stretch their legs and burn some energy. Fast food "play places" are great playgrounds that you will often find pretty often on a road trip.
Here are some of the places we hit along the way, in case it helps any of you plan your own Route 66 road trip, whether with a Cars theme or not.
The first thing I recommend is an app called Road Trip 66. You can use it to pre-flag spots you want to see on the route, and also to mark the spots you did see. It also shows you tons of landmarks by category so you can see what is coming up as you drive, along with some history and descriptions for each. Well worth the 99 cents, as this will be your family's road trip companion!
The other things I found helpful in my planning were these articles on the real places and people of Route 66 that inspired Disney's Cars (though we noticed that you can also learn a lot more by talking to the employees at some of these places along the way, as they had great stories to tell about their relation to the movie). The first article is The real Route 66 inspirations behind Disney's Cars Land, and A Route 66 guide to the “Cars” movie was really helpful as well.
Note that I am mainly focusing on the Cars-related landmarks in this blog post, but there are many other great sights to see along the whole route, with so much history. The app mentioned above will help you learn more about those. In general, there are so many cool old businesses and ghost towns, as well as a lot of cool old neon signs.
Shoe tree in Amboy, California. Not Cars-related, but a cool sight to see, and for me, a great opportunity to ditch a pair of boots that absolutely tore up my feet in Dublin during our trip to Ireland.
Hackberry General Store in Hackberry, Arizona (the inspiration for Lizzie's curio shop in the movie). Lots of cool curios and souvenirs, and lots of old cars similar to movie characters to see and take photos with.
Grayson posing with a Route 66 sign in the very Radiator Springs-esque town of Seligman, Arizona, where they have lots of old cars reminiscent of Cars characters on display. The Snow Cap Drive-In is also a great place for lunch!
Jackrabbit Trading Post in Joseph City, Arizona (inspiration behind some of Lizzie's store and other signs in Radiator Springs).
Wigwam Village in Holbrook, Arizona (inspiration for the "Cozy Cone").
Joe and Aggie's Café in Holbrook, Arizona (we stopped here despite the word "Aggie" in the name) has a fun amount of unique Cars memorabilia, and was a delicious stop for dinner. The restaurant has been in the same family for generations, and they seemed happy to share Route 66 and Cars history with us (apparently the restaurant was a favorite stop for John Lasseter and others while planning the film).
Ortega's Indian Market in Lupton, Arizona (inspiration for "Filmore's Taste In"). We didn't get a good photo since we drove by it at night on our way to Albuquerque (where we were staying for the night).
66 Diner in Albuquerque, New Mexico (one of the places that inspired "Flo's V8 Café").
Tucumcari Mountain in Tucumcari, New Mexico (inspiration for some of the scenery around Radiator Springs in the movie). Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of this one.
Not Cars-related, but a cool Route 66 monument sign to see and photograph in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
Midpoint Café in Adrian, Texas - the halfway point on Route 66 between Los Angeles and Chicago (another place that inspired "Flo's V8 Café" for the movie). Also a great place for lunch, to pick-up some Cars or Route 66 souvenirs, and talk to the staff about Route 66 history.
Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas (inspiration for the "Cadillac Range" in the movie).
There were two places we didn't make it to before cutting south towards Austin. The first is the leaning water tower near Groom, Texas (the inspiration for the "leaning tower of tires" at "Luigi's Casa Della Tires"), and the second was the U-Drop Inn gas station and restaurant in Shamrock, Texas (the inspiration for "Ramone's House of Body Art"). We'll have to hit that another trip!
Looking forward to the next family travel adventure!