Route 66 is such a legendary road from the past that it sometimes seems to be from another time.
But the truth is that the old route is still very much there, both in places with lots of people and in places with less people.
When you drive the old Mother Road today, you’ll go through urban jungles and dusty landscapes, cruise the streets of huge, modern cities, and pass by ghost towns that the old route left behind.
Not a single city or town along Route 66 is exactly what it used to be (there weren’t many Starbucks and EV stations back then), but many Route 66 towns still have their old-timey charm, taking you back in time as they take you west.
If you’re starting a Route 66 road trip, these are the cities and towns where you can get gas, fill up your cooler, and soak up some of that old road atmosphere.
Route 66 Major Cities List
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget says that a metropolitan area has at least 50,000 people, but most big cities in the U.S. have a lot more people than that.
So, we’ll divide our list of cities along Route 66 into two groups: the Big Cities Along Route 66 and the Small Cities Along Route 66.
For our purposes, a “Major City” is any city with more than 100,000 people and all the services you could want. A “Smaller City” is any city with more than 50,000 people but less than 100,000 people.
We’ve also added big suburbs (with more than 50,000 people) so you can see what you’ll be driving through.
Now, let’s get going.
Major Cities Along Route 66
Along the old Route 66, these are the major cities with 100,000 or more people:
Route 66 Major Cities in Illinois
Chicago Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
Route 66 Major Cities in Missouri
Route 66 Major Cities in Kansas
Route 66 doesn’t go through any of Kansas’s big cities.
Route 66 Major Cities in Oklahoma
Oklahoma City Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
Edmond (on its eastern edge)
Route 66 Major Cities in Texas
Route 66 Major Cities in New Mexico
Route 66 Major Cities in Arizona
In Arizona, Route 66 does not go through any major cities.
Route 66 Major Cities in California
Rancho Cucamonga is a city in California.
San Bernardino Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
Los Angeles Suburbs You’ll Pass Through (with 50,000 or more people)
Smaller Cities Along Route 66
These are the smaller cities along the old Route 66 with 50,000 to 99,999 people:
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Illinois
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Missouri
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Kansas
In Kansas, Route 66 doesn’t go through any smaller towns.
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Oklahoma
Route 66 doesn’t go through any of Oklahoma’s smaller towns.
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Texas
Route 66 doesn’t go through any small Texas towns.
Route 66 Smaller Cities in New Mexico
Santa Fe (southernmost edge)
Route 66 Smaller Cities in Arizona
Route 66 Smaller Cities in California
Notable Towns on Route 66
Route 66 goes through a lot of rural areas, so you won’t always be in a city. However, you will also go through a lot of small and large towns.
Even though most of these towns are known mostly for being on Historic Route 66, there are a few that stand out on their own.
These are the towns along Historic Route 66 that are known for something other than being stops on the Mother Road:
Notable Route 66 Towns in Illinois
Lincoln, Illinois (It’s named after Abraham Lincoln because he worked as a lawyer there before he became president.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Missouri
Uranus is a town that was built by people to be a roadside attraction. Part of Robert, MO, but not really.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Kansas
Galena (Oldest mining town in the state.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, Route 66 doesn’t go through any towns that are well-known.
Notable Route 66 Towns in Texas
Groom (Home to both the Leaning Tower of Texas, a misaligned water tower, and the largest freestanding cross in Texas.)
Glenrio (Considered one of the finest ghost towns in the U.S.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in New Mexico
The “Gateway to New Mexico” is Tucumcari.
Pecos (Home to Pecos National Historic Park.)
Continental Divide (Home to the Continental Divide along Route 66.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in Arizona
The Eagles’ hit song “Take It Easy” brought a lot of attention to the town of Winslow.
Williams (Gateway to Grand Canyon National Park.)
Kingman (A 20th Century railway town and starting point of the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66, which rolls through Kingman and continues on Oatman Highway.)
Notable Route 66 Towns in California
Spike, Snoopy’s brother, lives in Needles in the Peanuts comics.
West Hollywood (Even though it is inside the city limits of Los Angeles, it became its own city in 1984. Often thought of as the first gay city.)
Even though Beverly Hills is inside the city limits of Los Angeles, it became its own city in 1914. One of the most expensive parts of L.A., where celebrities live and Rodeo Drive is.)
Santa Monica was once outside of the city limits of Los Angeles. In 1886, it became its own city. It is the second oldest city within the city limits of Los Angeles.
Disney’s Cars Route 66 Town
We can’t talk about towns along Route 66 without mentioning the Disney-Pixar movie Cars. It may have done more to bring attention to the abandoned towns along the old road than anything else in the nearly 40 years since Route 66 was officially shut down.
Even though the fictional town of Radiator Springs is a mix of towns along Route 66 from many of the states it went through, the movie sets it right in Arizona.
On a map shown in the movie, Radiator Springs is near a county line that looks a lot like the line between Coconino and Yavapai counties. This means that Cars’ Carburetor County is the same as Coconino County.
And even though Radiator Springs is north of I-40 and Williams is south of it, Williams is the closest town to where the fictional Radiator Springs is located if you follow the county line. Our thoughts.
This is, of course, up for debate, and some people have put Radiator Springs in other towns.
But we say Williams because of where it is.
In interviews, Cars director John Lasseter has said that the story is mostly based on the life of a barber in Seligman, Arizona, which is 43 miles west of Williams on I-40.
So, based on where it is, it seems like Williams, but based on how it makes you feel, it might be Seligman.
You’ll have to decide.
Riding the Route
We’ve reached the end of our list of cities and towns along Route 66.
All that’s left is for you to get going.
Good luck, stay safe on the road, and enjoy your trip!