Arizona

Route 66 family road trip: Kingman, AZ and other classic stops in the American Southwest

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So why the heck were we in Kingman, Arizona!? Funny you should ask.

This was actually one of the last stops on our route 66 family road trip. We had some wonderful adventures seeing wild burros in Oatman, riding the train from Williams to Grand Canyon, and indulging in art and culture in Santa Fe.

But because this was a road trip, our adventure was also sprinkled with many other interesting stops along the Southwest portion of the historic Route 66.

Kids on Route 66 family road trip

Now, it was time to rest at Best Western Plus A Wayfarer’s Inn and Suites in Kingman, Arizona to enjoy one more evening before heading back home to California. In this article, we provide a detailed review of our stay at the Best Western Plus in Kingman and also highlight some of the lesser known little towns that we visited with kids along the historic Route 66.

Disclosure: We would like to thank and acknowledge Best Western Hotels & Resorts for sponsoring our Route 66 family road trip and providing accommodations along the trip for review, including at the Best Western Plus A Wayfarer’s Inn & Suites. As always, all content and opinions are genuinely our own.

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND OUT MORE IN MY DISCLAIMER

Kingman, Arizona

Kingman is a stopover town for travelers continuing on to popular destinations like Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Phoenix, or those just exploring the historic Route 66.

Things to do in Kingman, AZ

If you are only passing through, I recommend heading to the historic downtown district. This is where you can visit over 40 buildings in the National Registry of historic places as well as immerse yourself in Route 66 nostalgia. It is also a great place to find a place to eat.

Food at Mattina's Ristorante Kingman

Restaurants in Kingman

All the restaurants are basically concentrated in one area, so it is very easy to navigate for travelers.  There are actually quite a few options, but here are some of our picks.

Kingman Italian Restaurant Mattina's

We ate at Mattina’s Ristorante Italiano and it was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend it if you love Italian food. We were all super satisfied with our meals and the atmosphere was elegant, yet cozy, and friendly for families.

If you would like to indulge in Route 66 nostalgia, check out Mr D’z Route 66 Diner. It is a classic 50’s style diner oozing with Americana décor. Other popular Route 66 diners worth checking out include Rutherford’s 66 Family Diner and Hot Rod Café.

We actually almost went to Rickety Cricket Brewing for our one night in town. It has a really cool atmosphere, is family friendly, and they have a great beer selection.

For a fun old west feeling, the Dambar & Steakhouse has a cute county atmosphere complete with sawdust floors and red checkered table cloths.  They are known for their slow roasted prime rib and homemade biscuits. Yum!

Front of Best Western Plus A Wayfarer's Inn Kingman Arizona

Best Western Plus a Wayfarers Inn and Suites in Kingman

The Wayfarer’s Inn and Suites is a Best Western Plus hotel that has been family owned for over 40 years, and it sure feels that way as soon as you step into the lobby. You instantly feel welcomed like you were visiting someone’s home, which was such a nice feeling after a long drive. We had a lovely chat with friendly staff at the front desk, starting off our stay with a smile. Check Rates

Lobby of Best Western Plus Kingman A Wayfarer's Inn

Amenities we love

First off, we really loved the cozy lobby. It had a warm feminine décor with light wooden furniture that kind of made us feel like we were in grandma’s living room (in a good way!). This is also where the complimentary breakfast was served each morning. The entire family was impressed with the quality and selection of breakfast items including a selection of muffins, ingredients to make egg burritos, waffles, biscuits, and all the fixin’s.

Breakfast area of Best Western Plus Kingman

Not many hotels offer family suites, but Best Western Plus A Wayfarers Inn and Suites has them. The Family Units feature two rooms and three queen beds, which is great for large families traveling together.

Although it was too cold outside for us to enjoy, we still appreciated that they have a pool and hot tub. We would have definitely used it had we visited during the right time of year. See more photos and Check Rates.

Pool at Best Western Plus Kingman A Wayfarer's Inn

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman is a small former mining town within the Black Mountains of Mohave County. Although the town blew up after two prospectors in 1915 struck $10 million in gold, it is actually the name of the town that I found most interesting.

View from Oatman Arizona

The town is named after Olive Oatman. She was a young girl traveling out west with her family in 1851 when she was captured by natives and forced into slavery.  Skipping the more gruesome details, Olive was traded to the Mohave tribe where she assimilated as family with the Mohave natives for several years.

Olive Oatman Restaurant Arizona Route 66

Wild Burros

What makes this town a popular stop among travelers is that there are wild burros that roam the town. Growing up in the suburbs of Orange County, our kids were exhilarated to see these large, friendly animals roaming the streets.

Kids with Oatman Burros

They had fun feeding and petting the wild burros. The burros just added a playful ambiance to the town as we roamed around and shopped as a family.

Gallup, New Mexico

Gallup is the largest city between Flagstaff and Albuquerque along the historic Route 66. It is known as the “Indian Capital of the World” due to the town being nestled within Native American lands.

Family at Hotel El Rancho

In fact, a third of the population has Native American roots from the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes. For those interested in exploring this culture, be sure to catch the many Indian Ceremonials held throughout the year.

Hotel El Rancho

Gallup is probably most famous for its Hollywood past. Yes, it was a big deal in the 1940’s and 50’s as film makers flocked to this small town for its rugged terrain.

Many famous Western movies, like Billy the Kid and Escape from Fort Bravo, along with many others were filmed in Gallup, making the Hotel El Rancho one of the city’s most notable landmarks.

Front of Hotel El Rancho in Gallup NM

After all, all those Hollywood stars would have to sleep somewhere while on location and the place they chose was usually the infamous Hotel El Rancho. The list of famous guests includes the names of over 150 major celebrities with some notable ones being, John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Gregory Peck, Lucille Ball, Katherine Hepburn, Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn.

Inside lobby Hotel El Rancho in Gallup New Mexico

It is a really cool looking old hotel trapped in time and definitely worth a stop on your Route 66 road trip. We had a delicious lunch at their onsite restaurant, and we would really like to return to experience a cocktail at the 49er’s Lounge, also inside the hotel.

Madrid, New Mexico

This small community of about 300 people along the Turquoise Trail was once a ghost town abandoned along with the coal mines. Thankfully, the town has recently been revitalized, becoming an artist community where parts of Madrid still lives on today.

Mine Shaft Tavern

If you like good food, live music and history than you will love visiting the Mine Shaft Tavern. Home to the longest standing bar in New Mexico, the tavern was built in the 1800s as a gathering place for miners to grab a cold drink after a long day in the coal mines.

Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid NM

Although it did burn down on Christmas day in 1944, it was quickly rebuilt with the original long bar still standing! And that’s not the only original thing at the Mine Shaft Tavern either. Word on the street is that are few spirits hanging around the joint.

Like we always say, if a place is popular with the locals (dead or alive) then it must be pretty cool!

Holbrook, Arizona

Holbrook, the town once considered too tough for women and churches, was actually one of the main inspirations behind Disney-Pixar’s “Cars.” Yes that is right, the home to infamous Holbrook shootout of 1887 is now mostly associated with a Disney movie. Life is funny sometimes.

Joe and Aggies Café

This little family owned diner is not only a popular spot to grab good grub in town, it was the place that John Lasseter (director of “Cars”) spent hours developing ideas for the film.

Joe and Aggies Cafe Holbrook AZ

We actually decided to eat lunch here on our way back to California, before knowing the cool movie history. When we walked in we noticed a lot “Cars” memorabilia and wanted to know more. We talked with the family and they were excited to share stories about their restaurant, hometown and how John Lasseter found inspiration in these forgotten Route 66 towns.

Wigwam Motel

Probably the most recognizable landmark from Holbrook in the film, “Cars,” is the Wigwam Motel. Yes, that cozy traffic cone motel was inspired by these cute vintage wigwams.

Wigwam Motel Route 66 Classic stop

This wigwam motel is actually one of many properties built between the 1930’s and 1950’s. The property, which consists of a semi-circle of 15 white concrete teepees, was a popular Route 66 stay until the town of Holbrook was bypassed with the establishment of Interstate 40 in the 1970’s.

Classic cars at Wigwam Motel Route 66

The Lewis family continues to own and operate Wigwam Motel No.6, making the office a mini museum.  What is really cool are the awesome vintage cars that are sprinkled around the property that make you feel as if you have stepped back in time. One car in particular will get Disney-Pixar fans really excited. An old tow truck inspiring the character Tow Mator sits on the property of Wigwam Motel No.6, cutely named Mator’s Grandpappy.

Tow Mater Route 66 Wigwam Motel Holbrook

Barstow, California

Barstow isn’t necessarily a tourist destination, but it does get passed through often. In fact several major highways intersect in this very spot, including Route 66. So while you are passing through, why not stop and enjoy a few iconic activities?

Harvey House Route 66 Mother Road Museum

Housed in the historic Harvey House, this museum is a collection of photographs and artifacts from the historic Route 66 and surrounding Mojave Desert. In 2003 it was name an official Route 66 attraction and worth a look for those passing through town.

Oldest Del Taco

Founded in 1964 by Ed Hackbarth, Del Taco has grown into a million dollar franchise over the years with Del Tacos all over the country. Although the second Del Taco to open, the Barstow Del Taco is the oldest one and still run by Ed Hackbarth, himself!!

Barstow Del Taco

Let me just say, it is also the best Del Taco in my (as well as many others) humble opinion. Del Taco #1 is the only place to get the original taco. It is high quality and delicious! They are huge too and I shouldn’t have eaten FOUR on our stop, but I did. Ha.

My dad happens to know Ed, and we were excited to see that he was still working in the back doing dishes and cleaning tables. This is a man that truly embodies grit and hard work. We chatted with Ed for a few cherished moments while shoveling down yummy tacos. I definitely recommend making a taco stop at Del Taco #1 in Barstow the next time you are passing through, and don’t be afraid to say Hi to Ed if you spot him.

That’s a Wrap!

With broad changes to interstate travel over the last 50 years, Route 66 could have languished like many other roads in its time, but in many ways it is still alive and well. Route 66 nostalgia has persisted in America’s culture and consciousness, and it is so heartening to know that these small towns, against all odds, still endure along Route 66. Kingman is a classic place to stop in the Arizona desert and Best Western Plus A Wayfarer’s Inn was a great kid-friendly hotel well-suited for our big family. If you plan a road trip, be sure to check out these historic small towns to bathe in the authentic history of Route 66, and educate your kids about America’s Motor past.

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Route 66 family road trip: Kingman, AZ and other classic stops in the American Southwest

Author

I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".

2 Comments

  1. Love Route 66 ! Hope we get to hop on it again some day sooner than later! Great ideas here. we love driving to Arizona so I’m sure we will!

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