Friday, September 25, 2009

National Park Service Spotlights Route 66

This week, the National Park Service (NPS) launched an intriguing new Route 66 mini-site. Now, this isn't the same NPS Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program site that has been around for several years, and which doesn't offer much in the way of useful free travel info. The new site, co-funded by American Express and the World Monuments Fund's sustainable tourism initiative, is more user-friendly, especially for armchair historians and curious travelers who haven't gotten their kicks on Route 66 before. It's part of a larger nationwide project of free history-themed travel itineraries designed to connect the dots between National Register of Historic Places sites, anywhere from Shaker settlements to Underground Railroad stops to Florida shipwrecks.

The new NPS Route 66 mini-site, subtitled
'Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary,' offers historical essays; abbreviated state-by-state lists of historic motels, diners and other attractions; and links to local tourism agencies and nonprofit Route 66 preservation associations. While the mini-site will give first-time travelers a basic orientation to the Mother Road, it isn't as detailed or comprehensive as some other free Route 66 travel websites. That said, the background information on select Route 66 gems is refreshingly in-depth. For example, check out this history of Lou Mitchell's, an iconic coffee shop in Chicago's downtown Loop neighborhood. I happened to visit Lou's earlier this month -- you can't beat the free donuts, ice cream and Milk Duds (although I could've lived without the prune)!

If you're planning a cross-country road trip on Route 66, also check out my recommendations gleaned from years of driving back and forth between Chicago and LA in this free online mini-guide to Route 66.

Photo: Lou Mitchell's, Chicago (Michael Connolly, Jr.)

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