All you have to do is sing along to Nat King Cole’s classic song, (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 to know that Kingman, Arizona is one of the must-stop places when making the historic trek across the U.S. The city is located in the northwest section of the state just an hour from the California border and a short drive from Las Vegas which is about 120 miles to the north.
Your time is probably limited if you’re driving Route 66 for the first time, so here are some fun things to do in Kingman, Arizona – if you’ve only got one day to spare.
I really liked Kingman and thought it was one of the more enjoyable stops on my road trip to California. Of course it all depends on your interests, but there’s more than enough to keep you busy on a short visit. Part of the Route 66 experience is seeing all of the old signs and murals paying tribute to the mother road’s history. Kingman doesn’t disappoint – from roadside motels to public art – they have great signs everywhere!
Your first stop should be the Kingman Visitor Center. It’s one of the nicest visitor centers/museums of the entire trip. There’s a large gift shop with cool memorabilia and an informative museum which lays out the regional ties to Route 66 along with some local history. A bonus treat is the Electric Vehicle Museum which is located in the same building. The museum is a work in progress with tons of potential – but car lovers won’t care.
Among the vehicles currently on display are the electric golf carts belonging to music legends Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. The two carts sit side by side and it’s easy to spot which one belonged to Nelson. Not only is his name etched into the seats but you’ll find a mini-bar on the back.
Just down the street, the Mojave Museum of History & Arts is worth a quick visit. Lots of local artifacts and a hodgepodge of various exhibits are fun to browse.
Food is always a highlight of road trips and Kingman offers up a good variety of options. Across the street from the visitor center is a beloved diner that travelers have been going to for decades – Mr. D’z. Their specialty is root beer which was quite tasty. They offer the typical diner menu along with ice cream and shakes. During my visit a hail storm descended on Kingman out of nowhere and I was trapped in the diner for an extra 30 minutes or so. It was a perfect excuse to order a strawberry shake, sit on a bar stool, and chat with the locals!
If you read my stories regularly, you know that I love trying new pizza places when I travel. I found a terrific spot in Kingman called Floyd & Company. It’s actually right next door to a popular barbecue joint with the same owner. The pizza was delicious and “old Bill” would have definitely eaten the entire thing in one sitting. (“New Bill” is watching his weight and portion sizes like a responsible adult.) They also offered locally produced flavors on their soda fountain which is always fun.
Kingman is also home to Arizona’s oldest craft distillery if that’s your thing. The area has several wineries as well.
If you’re a fan of roadside attractions, you’ve probably read about the world’s largest Route 66 map being in Kingman. It’s actually a painting along the front of a motel building and it’s definitely worth checking out. You’ll find the 206 foot long depiction of Route 66 at the historic El Trovatore Motel – which stretches across the front door of every motel room. The El Trovatore originally opened as a service station in 1937. Some famous names have stayed here over the years including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Clark Gable.
Train enthusiasts will get a kick out of Kingman’s long ties to railroad history. The town itself is named after Lewis Kingman, an early locating engineer who chose the area as a railroad camp for the Atlantic & Pacific railroad. There’s a cool locomotive park near the Kingman Visitor Center and a miniature train display at the Kingman Train Depot.
If you have additional time or an extra day to spend in Kingman, it makes a great home base for exploring another nearby Route 66 stop: Oatman, Arizona. It takes roughly one hour to reach the mountain top destination, known for mining gold in the early 1900s. The thrilling journey to Oatman is not for the faint of heart and I’m not being overdramatic. If you’re afraid of heights, sharp turns, or winding roads – this is not the adventure for you. (I actually drove up the mountain in the rain and it was horrifying.) The views are really spectacular, though I’d focus strictly on the road while you’re headed up.
Oatman has an assortment of shops and small restaurants. The main attraction may very well be the burros that wander through the streets – as they please. During my visit, I watched as two of them just walked into a gift shop. You’ll see signs up around the main street warning you not to feed or interact with them as they are prone to bite.
If you’re looking for places to stay during your visit to Kingman or other suggestions, check out the website of the local tourism office: Explore Kingman.