The romance of Route 66 still captivates people worldwide, as a piece of Americana stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles and makes a few pit-stops right through Arizona. If you want to get your kicks on Route 66, how about a road trip?
Kingman is an important part of pop culture that even includes Hollywood. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married there, Frank Sinatra and other members of the Rat Pack liked to pop in for a bite on their way in and out of Las Vegas, and even John Wayne spent a little time in the town. One of Kingman’s very own is a Hollywood legend himself, and hence Kingman’s main drag was renamed after him.
“Andy Devine Avenue” was named after a local folk hero whose acting career happened by accident. Devine was standing on a street corner in Hollywood when he was “discovered.” Once they heard Andy’s squeaky, raspy voice, he became a studio favorite and would go on to make more than 400 film and TV appearances.
Driving into Kingman, vacationers will pass by plenty of 66 kitsch. Gift shops, gas stations, motels and diners line both sides of the main drag. Pull into Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. Nostalgia is front and center in this fun bubble gum pink and mid-modern blue malt shop, complete with its 50s vibe. Burgers, fries, splits and shakes are perfect for rocking around the clock to the oldies. Mr. D’z serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all day long; be sure to try the Creamy Carmel Root Beer, a fan favorite.
The Mohave County Historical Society has a great walking tour map highlighting historical buildings, architecture, public art and murals. The Arizona Route 66 Museum was built inside this old powerhouse.
Since Kingman sits in the heart of what is now the longest remaining stretch of Route 66, this is where the history of the Mother Road – from the dust bowl migration to its pop-culture resurgence – is traced and celebrated.
Check out the award-winning Desert Diamond Distillery while you’re here, too! They offer tours and a place where you can belly up to an old Las Vegas Strip bar that was once a favorite hangout of the Rat Pack. The tasting flight comes with a keepsake glass.
Guests can grab a bite at the Last Rail Car Restaurant, a historic #30 Pullman for all the train buffs. According to the reviews, this is a place that attracts people from across the globe.
Hualapai Mountain Park offers ten miles of great outdoor trails for hikers and mountain bikers to explore. Situated atop the Hualapai Mountains, this trail system began because of Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1936 and was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Trails can take hikers to elevations from 4,984 to 8,417 feet (about the height of Mount St. Helens), so check the weather and dress accordingly. These elevations let guests experience different mountain inhabitants, including elk, deer, raccoon and fox.
I am not sure whether it is the allure of Route 66, its historic charm, Hollywood history, scenic outdoor beauty, restaurants, or Americana kitsch that makes Kingman unforgettable. I know this: it is truly one of those great Arizona towns with an amazing story for you to discover.
– Robin is the host and executive producer of the Arizona HighwaysTelevision, Saturdays and Sundays on CBS.