Standing on the Corner Park

Standing on the Corner Park
Location: N Kinsely Ave & W 2nd St; Winslow, AZ
Price: Free
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, at the gift shop across the street

This is the smallest park I think I have ever been to.  Embracing the song that made people know their town existed, the small town of Winslow has a half a block park dedicated to the Eagles song “Take it Easy.”  Like a lot of small towns along old Route 66, Winslow has been slowly revitalizing their small town Main Street to attract tourist looking to capture the nostalgia for days gone by.

The park is completely free.  Parking is available along the various downtown streets.  The park consists of a few statues, a mural and a flatbed Ford.  So you can pose for maybe the cheesiest of all photos while living the opening lines of the song.  The park itself will take you at most 15 minutes to experience (and that’s assuming you have to wait a few minutes for other groups to clear out-of-the-way).  We were there early in the morning on a Monday in July and there was one other couple taking pictures.

The rest of town has several gift shops mostly filled with Route 66 and Eagles memorabilia.  There are also a few classic diners around town (we stopped at one for breakfast before coming to the park).  The town is also home to some restored Route 66 hotels.  Winslow has enough options to make a half day visit to town or just pick one or two as your time allows.

Overall:  We spent about an hour and a half in Winslow.  We ate breakfast at a local diner, took a photo with the famous corner, and browsed through a couple of the gift shops.  Having seen it once, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to go back.  However, I do think that this is a must stop for any Route 66 trip.

Standing on the corner
Miss L and Mr B on Route 66

Wigwam Motel

Wigwam Motel
Location: 811 W Hopi Dr; Holbrook, AZ
Price: varies on season
Smashed Penny Machine: No

I don’t normally review hotels but this stay was special because it’s not every day you can stay in a large concrete tepee.  The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is only one of three remaining original tepee style hotels (the other two being in California and Kentucky).  Wigwam Motel does not have a booking website so if you want to stay here you are going to have to go about this the old fashion way: call them.  I do suggest pre-booking your room.  There are only about 20 rooms in the whole complex.  The hotel office also runs some limited hours so you might have to call multiple times before you get ahold of someone to book.  It’s worth the effort to keep trying.

The rooms are set up as individual freestanding tepees.  They are in a semi-circle with the main building that houses the office and a small gift shop in the center.  Each Tepee has a classic car parked in front of it and enough room to park another car or two.  The hotel is also old fashion in that they still give you an actual key to your room.  If you are looking for nostalgia, you are in the right place.  The rooms are not large.  Ours had two double beds, two side tables, a small desk and a small LCD TV on a shelf on the wall.  We had room to set up a pack and play but we were pretty much tripping over luggage when we were in the room.  The bathroom is located in the back of the room, which means the ceiling of the bathroom is sloped.  It’s not a big deal but my 6 foot tall husband did say he had some challenges rinsing his hair in the shower.

One thing we did not plan for was the fact that small town Holbrook acts like a small town.  We arrived into to town about 5:30 on a Sunday evening in July.  Other than fast food, there were only two restaurants open and all of the gift shops along the main stretch were closed.  So after dinner we walked crossed the street to the grocery store and bought some snacks for the kids.  We spend the evening (the temperature became very pleasant as the sun went down) hanging out on the benches in front of our tepee and let the kids run off some energy.

Overall:  Wigwam Motel is not a 5 star spa experience.  This hotel preserves the experience travelers along Route 66 would have had when they stayed during the 50’s (except for the welcomed additions of a TV and AC).  This hotel is perfect to get the feel of old Route 66.  The room was clean and the staff was friendly.  I had read online about the train tracks behind the hotel with the AC running no one in our group heard the trains at night.  If you are going to be traveling Route 66, I think a stay at the Wigwam Motel is a must.

Pop’s Soda Ranch

Pop’s Soda Ranch
Location: 660 W Highway 66; Arcadia, OK 73007
Price: Free
Smashed Penny Machine: No

This was a mix of a gas station, tourist stop and classic diner.  Pop’s is a little ways off the interstate you aren’t going to just see it and decide to pull over.  This stop was probably 20 minutes or so of driving off the interstate down Route 66.  If you like soda (or nostalgia) it’s completely worth the time.

The first thing you see as you pull into Pop’s is the giant soda bottle out front.  This giant statue/billboard is also lighted so I’m sure it’s an amazing site to see at night.  I’m not sure how tall the soda bottle is but its several stories tall.  Make sure you get a photo in front of it.    Pop’s itself is a fairly small building.  The building is split in two parts.  One side is a small classic diner. We did not eat here as it would have been a little late for lunch but too early for dinner.  The food smelled really good though.

The other half of the building is a convenience store that sells almost nothing but soda.  The back wall is composed entirely of coolers so you can get a cold soda of just about any flavor you could imagine.  They have your basic flavors: cherry, orange, grape, root beer from hundreds of different brewers.  They also have slightly more exotic tries: strawberry, chocolate, coffee, black licorice, etc.  There was also a small cooler with a bunch of flavors that just sounded gross such as buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, etc.  I was not brave enough to buy anything from that cooler.

Pop’s is set up so you can buy any bottle individually or you can buy a build your own six-pack.  Each family in our group did a six-pack.  They also sell old fashion candies.  So after getting drinks and a snack, we went back outside and found a shady spot to try a few sodas.  We had a good time sampling what everyone picked.  We used the restroom (they are located on the diner side down a long hallway by the kitchens) and got back on the road.  The whole stop was probably about thirty to forty-five minutes.

Overall:  We had a lot of fun picking out sodas.  We grabbed a few unique ones to take back as gifts for our dog sitter.  The facility is very clean and well maintained.  It was VERY crowded inside though and the entire place is full of glass bottles of soda.  I made sure to hold very tight to the little ones.  The area outside had a large grassy area where they were able to burn a little energy while we sipped sodas.  This was a really neat stop and something I’d highly recommend.

Weird soda selection

Totem Pole Park

Totem Pole Park
Location: Hwy 28A; Foyil, OK
Price: Free
Smashed Penny Machine: No

Totem Pole Park is the definition of roadside attraction.  The park is a little off the beaten path (10 minute drive or so off the interstate) in pretty much nowhere Oklahoma.  The park boasts the world’s largest totem pole.  While the world’s actual largest totem pole is in British Columbia (the area of the world you would expect to find a totem pole), the park was still something worth stopping to see.

The park contains one very large totem pole and several other small ones.  The largest totem pole you can actually walk into.  It has a small sign explaining what the park is and a little about the park’s founder.  The park is not very large so you can see it all in about 15 to 30 minutes.  When we arrived in the afternoon on a Friday, the park was basically empty.  There was our group and one other couple there.  The kids had a great time walking around the totem poles and looking at the carvings.  This was a great place to just let them run and burn off a little bit of energy.

In addition to the totem poles, the park had a few other fun features.  There are several picnic tables spread out around the park so you could bring a lunch with you.  There was a small gift shop on the property.  In addition to having a few books on local and Route 66 history they gift shop also had a large collection of fiddles.  I don’t know anything about fiddles but it was a neat display.  The park also had a restroom available behind the gift shop. There was also a small dog walking area on the other side of the parking lot.

Overall:  It is a fun place to stop and stretch your legs on a long road trip.  It is not a very long stop (unless you are planning to picnic).  We were there less than 30 minutes and we were easily able to enjoy all the park had to offer.  The park is privately run so be sure to drop a few dollars in their collection box on the way out.  This park is exactly what you would expect from a Route 66 stop.

Miss A and Miss L
Adam and Miss A in front of one of the smaller totem poles
Miss A in the large totem pole

Uranus Missouri

Uranus Missouri
Location: 14400 Highway Z; St Robert, MO  65584
Price: Free
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, but it cost $1.01

This was our first stop on our Route 66 part of the trip.  Uranus Missouri is not old enough to have been part of the original Route 66 but it certainly catches the vibe of slightly off the wall road side stop.  The main part of the building is a small gift and fudge shop.  But the location also houses a bar and grill, an outdoor outfitter, an escape room, an archery range, a tattoo parlor and a food truck.

When you first pull into Uranus, you are going to notice the outdoor decor right away.  We spent several minutes getting pictures with all the various statues and photo props that line the property.  The parking lot is fairly large and most of the statues and stuff are over by the food truck and outdoor seating area at the bottom of the hill near the entrance to parking lot.  The buildings are at the top of the hill (with the archery range actually behind the main buildings).  We arrived about 5 minutes after the main gift shop opened so none of the other attractions were open (which is fine we were just there for a small rest stop anyway).

The main gift shop is not overly large but has a good selection of random t-shirts, coffee mugs and oddities along with lots of candy.  If off brand humor is not your cup of tea, then I’d avoid this stop.  Most the novelties played off the name of Uranus and the jokes were a little off-color.  The jokes weren’t so bad as you need a PG-13 rating to come in here but figure your 12-year-old is going to giggle uncontrollably at all the butt and fart jokes.

They also serve fresh made fudge.  We got several varieties for a snack, used the restrooms (which were very clean although a little bit of tight quarters) and got back on the road.  The total length of our stop was probably thirty minutes.

Overall:  It’s a fun place to stop and stretch your legs on a long road trip.  If you were doing a vacation in the general Ozark’s area, it might be neat to try out the food options but I felt like we covered what they had to offer very easily in 30 minutes.  I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to make a stop here but it was fun and quirky.

Having fun with the cutouts
Alex and Mr B with a dinosaur

Alabama Welcome Center

Alabama Welcome Center
Location: I-65 (Southbound lanes only) near Huntsville, AL
Attraction: Saturn IB rocket
Cost: Free

As you are entering Alabama headed south via I-65, your first stop should be the Alabama Welcome Center.  This is cooler than other welcome centers.  Although it does offer all the same amenities as normal rest stop – bathrooms, vending machines, picnic tables, etc, this rest stop features a real life space ship.  At one end of the parking lot stands a Saturn IB rocket.  The Saturn IB rocket was used during the Apollo missions (https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/rocketry/imagegallery/rh_Saturn-1B.jpg.html#.Wylu3KdKgdU).  There is now a safety fence around the rocket so you can’t walk under it anymore but it’s still a pretty cool thing to walk over to see while you stretch your legs.  Inside the information building there are also a few pieces of NASA history (spacesuit, etc) and a cardboard cutout where your kid can get their picture as an astronaut.  This is a great spot for a short stop for a bathroom break and picture op with the rocket.

The family with the rocket

Roadside Attractions

There is just something fun about random roadside attractions.  They are never anything big enough to plan a whole trip around but sometimes that can be a real highlight of the trip.  These are great ways to spend a couple of minutes stretching your legs, using the restroom and getting a fun picture.

Alabama

I-65 Welcome Center  – Saturn IB Rocket

Arizona

Wigwam Motel – Holbrook, AZ

Standing on the Corner Park – Winslow, AZ

Missouri

Uranus Missouri – St Robert, MO

Oklahoma

World’s Largest Totem Pole – Foyil, OK

Pop’s Soda Ranch – Arcadia, OK

South Dakota

Corn Palace – Mitchell, SD

Corn Palace

Location: 604 N Main St
Mitchell, SD  57301
Price: FREE
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes – It was located in the gift shop when we were there.

I am a big fan of random and weird roadside attractions (seriously put up a sign about a giant ball of twine and I’ll make that detour).  The Corn Palace fits that description accurately.  Mitchell is about an hour West of Sioux Falls and about four hours East of Rapid City.  We had spent the morning exploring the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, SD so this made a good place to grab a quick lunch before heading on to Rapid City for the evening.

There isn’t food available at Corn Palace (I believe there was a snack bar but I’m not even sure if it was open).  There were plenty of options in Mitchell especially along the interstate.  We just grabbed some fast food because seating a party of 15 is serious business.  The Corn Palace is just a little ways off the interstate probably about 10 minutes depending on how unlucky you are with traffic lights.  There was a small parking lot adjacent to the building or one across the street.

I’m not sure what Corn Palace is normally used for but it was kinda set up like a concert hall.  On the first floor there were bathrooms (big bathrooms, fairly clean for the number of people there).  The second floor had access to the balcony, a hands on educational room about corn, pictures of the past murals and a gift shop.

The kids had a good time on the hands on exhibits.  The played on pedal tractors, directed a remote control “tractor” and other various corn related activities.  There was a lot of information.  I learned something about corn and that’s amazing because I grew up surrounded by corn.  Naturally the kids had to check out the gift shop which was fairly large and was priced as one would expect.

Outside there is a photo-op with the statue of the Corn Palace’s mascot, Cornelius the Corncob and you can check out the Corn Palace’s mural.  The mural is what the Corn Palace is most known for.  Each year they make a new set of murals on the outside of the building made completely out of grains.  It was fairly neat to see a giant drawing of Willie Nelson done entirely out of corncobs and wheat.

Between the activities, a bathroom stop and taking a few pictures of the mural the whole stop will take you 30-60 minutes depending on how much you really want to learn about corn.

Overall impression: it was worth seeing once

A side note here.  The lady working the gift shop register at the Corn Palace mentioned that since we were headed to Rapid City there was a nice rest area just East of Chamberlain, SD.  What she should have said was: There is this really awesome rest area just before Chamberlain, SD.  It has a huge statue in honor of our local Native Americans and amazing overlook of the Missouri River.  Because that isn’t what she said the car I was in missed this awesome stop.  Luckily we were the first car and a few miles ahead of the other two so they all knew to pull over and check it out.  If you have a few spare moments, I’d highly suggest it.

The kids with Cornelius