JOPLIN, Mo. (KODE) — Route 66 is one of the most important highways in history.
It extends from southwest Missouri into southeast Kansas, then dips into northeast Oklahoma.
The first stop is in Carthage, Missouri. It is home to the earliest full-scale Civil War battle on July 5th back in 1861 preceding Bull Run by 11 days.
The maple leaf city is also home to the Boots Court Motel, an icon on the route.
And, the beautiful Carthage courthouse on the square is iconic, built in the 1890s, known as the second most photographed building in the state of Missouri.
The square features art galleries, eateries, and even a bowling alley.
From Carthage, it is a 15-minute drive down Route 66 to Joplin.
You’ll find history in every corner of town, including the oldest home in Joplin build in the late 1800s.
The Julius Fischer home is nestled among a few dozen historic homes in the Murphysburg district.
Grab some dinner at Wilders or head across town to the History and Mineral Museum.
Without mining, Joplin and the surrounding area wouldn’t be what it is today.
Next, it is west to Galena, Kansas.
The first stop, ‘Tow-Mater’, one of the inspirations for the movie “Cars.”
Galena prides itself on that connection.
Next, Riverton is known for an infamous tourist stop called the Old Riverton Store.
“The store’s been here since 1925, that’s 96 years. One of the main things about the store is it’s a survivor. It survived all these years, and it’s still in operation, still doing what we did 96 years ago, and not many people can say that,” said Scott Nelson, owner.
The mother road then leads to Baxter Springs, a city full of history.
The Rainbow Bridge was completed in 1923.
It sits just off Route 66 now, but it holds a piece of the original Mother Road, and it’s a photographer’s favorite.
And while you’re in Baxter Springs, stop at the old gas station that’s now the local visitor center.
And then there’s Fort Blair, another piece of Civil War history right on Route 66.
“It’s right on up there on the hill. They’re going to have a Civil War re-enactment first weekend in October,” said Dean Walker, Route 66 expert.
Northeast Oklahoma is a quick drive further south.
Enter Miami to find the gateway to Route 66.
Oklahoma is even referred to as “the birthplace of Route 66.”
The route is packed with history from the Coleman Theater to early 1900’s buildings.
“Take Old 66, go and have a ball, that’s all you’ve got to do,” said Walker.
Route 66 continues for around 1,500 miles after it leaves the four-state region, but the towns on our piece of the mother road hold the highway close to their hearts.