Stretching from Wilmington, North Carolina to Barstow, California, U.S. Interstate 40 is one of the great cross-country thoroughfares. Every day, millions of vehicles make their way along I-40, cutting down the time it takes between major cities along the route like Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Nashville, and Raleigh.
Within the Great Plains states, Interstate 40 (or I-40) runs from the Oklahoma border near Fort Smith to Santa Rosa, New Mexico – and it overlaps the vast majority of this 600+ mile route with historic Route 66. As you can imagine, that means there are some great roadside attractions along I-40!
In this post, you’ll learn some of the best roadside attractions along this storied route, whether you call it I-40 or Route 66. From historic sights to funky pitstops, there are plenty of interesting things to see along I-40 no matter which direction you’re driving.
1. Woody Guthrie Statue & Murals
If you find yourself driving through downtown Okemah, OK, don’t miss the Woody Guthrie Statue & Murals. Okemah was Woody Guthrie’s birthplace, a legendary and influential folk artist whose music inspired Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Johnny Cash.
His hometown decided to pay homage to Guthrie with this fabulous little pocket park. The small park has a sculpture and memorial plaque dedicated to Woody Guthrie’s legacy. The artist behind the bronze statue was Dan Brook, a Creek Indian, whom the Woody Guthrie Coalition commissioned to sculpt the statue in 1998.
2. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is one of the stops worth making along I-40. The museum is a memorial honoring the victims, survivors, and rescuers of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. They have informative pamphlets and interactive videos to truly understand the events.
Visitors have two options to explore this sad chapter of American history: indoors are (paid) and outdoors (no charge).
3. Stafford Air & Space Museum
Located in Weatherford, Oklahoma, Stafford Air & Space Museum is one of the top I-40 roadside attractions if you have an interest in space. There are a lot of impressive displays for being a museum in a small town in Western Oklahoma, from a recreation of the Wright Brothers glider to spacesuits that astronauts wore in flight. There are 3,500 artifacts and objects on display about space exploration, aviation, and rocketry. They even have a Titan II rocket! So when you’re driving through Weatherford, be sure to check this place out!
4. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
You can’t drive through I-40 and not stop by the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. There are plenty of roadside attractions along I-40 that speak of the importance of this route. However, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is the perfect spot to understand how Route 66 became one of the most famous roads in the United States. This museum is just off the highway and has exhibitions with old cars, gas pumps, and displays on old diners, drive-ins, and motels. The staff has done a magnificent job designing the museum’s layout, making guests feel like they’re traveling through the Route’s glorious past.
Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for students (6-18), free for kids five and under, free for veterans and military with ID, and $18 for families.
5. Tower Conoco Station & U-Drop Inn
One of the most iconic roadside attractions along I-40, Tower Conoco Station & U-Drop Inn, is a remaining symbol from the Mother Road heydays.
The Tower Station and U-Drop Inn, or The U-Drop Inn as most people know it, was a hotspot that served initially as a gas station and diner along Route 66. Located in Shamrock, Texas, J. C. Berry designed the building in 1936, drawing inspiration from the image of a nail stuck in the soil. The building is quite exotic, flaunting an art deco style. Today, it houses Shamrock’s Chamber of Commerce, but you can still see the old pumps out front, the Studebaker truck in the bay, and the booths and counters in the diner.
6. Cadillac Ranch
The line of vintage Cadillacs is another icon from the glory days of Route 66. Located in Amarillo, Cadillac Ranch was the work of art of the Ant Farm in 1974, a group of art-hippies from San Francisco. The piece of public art consists of ten Caddies buried nose-down and pays tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Today, Cadillac Ranch is a salute to the spirit of Route 66 and a ritual stop for those who travel the Mother Road. Make sure to hit this place up on your drive through Amarillo!
7. Tee Pee Curios
If retro beauty is more your speed, make a stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Sitting on the historic 66, Tucumcari is home to Tee Pee Curios, one of the only remaining curio shops in New Mexico.
Tee Pee Curios is an ode to the 1950s aesthetic, with its neon signs and concrete teepee out front. It is also an excellent place to stretch your legs and do a little shopping. Tee Pee Curios has a great assortment of souvenirs, fun statues, and murals for photo opportunities on the inside and outside.
8. Blue Hole of Santa Rosa
Not all roadside attractions along I-40 are museums or former gas stations. You can also explore natural marvels, like the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa. The Blue Hole is a gorgeous bell-shaped natural spring located along Route 66 east of Santa Rosa, New Mexico. It is one of the most popular destinations in the US for scuba diving and training. Its waters are cold as heck (61-62 degrees), but swimming in such a beautiful place isn’t something you can enjoy regularly. So, bring your swimwear and jump in the waters for a refreshing splash!
Those are some of what I consider to be the best roadside attractions along I-40; do you know of others? Let me know in the comments!