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Cadillacs and Crossroads on Route 66

Cadillac Ranch and Downtown Amarillo

Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch wows groups with its blatant eccentricity reminiscent of a modern Stonehenge.

The site pays homage to America’s obsession with cars, the West and the American dream. Onlookers stop frequently, and signs aren’t even necessary to find the turnoff on Interstate 40, which parallels old Route 66. Purists will want to know that the site sits approximately a half-mile south of the original road.

Planted in the ground nose first, a row of 10 Cadillacs face west. Their tail fins cut the horizon line of the barren Texas Panhandle. The first car in the lineup is a 1948 Club Sedan; the last is a 1963 Sedan de Ville.

Cadillac Ranch was envisioned in the 1970s by Stanley Marsh 3, a successful Amarillo businessman; Marsh’s wife; and a San Francisco hippie design firm called the Ant Farm. Now deceased, Marsh wanted to pay homage to the American dream of his youth when everyone he knew wanted to buy a Cadillac and head to Las Vegas or California and become a movie star.

“Visitors can leave their own mark on the Cadillacs with spray paint because graffiti is encouraged,” said Eric Miller, director of communications, Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council. “The art constantly changes.”

In downtown Amarillo, a one-mile stretch of restored Route 66 lies along Sixth Avenue between Western and Georgia streets, where buildings date to the 1920s and 1930s. Several restaurants are in restored 1930s garages and gas stations. Boutiques and antique stores are open for shoppers, and nearly a dozen clubs feature live music on the weekends.


Santa Fe and Albuquerque

New Mexico

Santa Fe’s many charms lie in its walkable streets, abundant art galleries and fabulous restaurants. Groups staying at the classy El Dorado Hotel and Spa will be steps away from the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Celebrating 25 years in business, the school is housed in a 1940s Packard dealership. Hands-on and demonstration classes led by top regional chefs are highly informative and fun. Lunch classes are especially popular because of their generous tasting portions.

“We’re ambassadors for the area and are happy to guide you to great cuisine while in Santa Fe,” said Santa Fe School of Cooking owner and cookbook author Susan Curtis.

Downtown Albuquerque’s intersection at Fourth and Central avenues boasts the only intersection of its kind along Route 66. At that intersection, the original route that traveled through Santa Fe crosses the realigned route that bypassed Santa Fe. Heading east on Central Avenue from Old Town, groups will see preserved motel courts, diners, vintage signs and numerous attractions.

Shoppers in the group will want to stop at Skip Maisel’s Indian Jewelry and Crafts for authentic Southwest pieces. Considered a Route 66 landmark, the store offers wholesale pricing on exquisite jewelry. Maisel buys daily from the various tribes and knows where each piece originated.

“Another popular spot along Central Avenue is the Pueblo Deco-style KiMo Theatre,” said Heather Briganti, senior communications and tourism manager with the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It offers live performances and films in an intimate setting.”

The ABQ Trolley Company offers an entertaining and enlightening 85-minute introduction to Old Town Albuquerque and the surrounding neighborhoods. Humor, history and insider information cover the expected to the unexpected, including movie sites and quirky spots. The Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town, where the tour begins and ends, makes a convenient hub for groups wanting to stay within a stone’s throw of the shops, museums and restaurants of Old Town.

Several of Albuquerque’s family-owned New Mexican restaurants cater to groups. Sadie’s specializes in down-home hospitality. Tequila presentations and chili-roasting demonstrations can easily be arranged. Outside of town, El Pinto’s garden patios beckon diners, and a mariachi band plays on the weekends. Both restaurants make and bottle their own red and green sauces for take-home souvenirs

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.