Nothing captures the essence of Route 66 quite like an old filling station. These are some of our favorite old gas stations along America’s famed Route 66…
When Route 66 was in its prime, filling stations or service stations dotted the Mother Road. For many in the small towns, these little gas stations offered employment and a chance to meet travelers from all over the country. Then it all changed. The interstate bypassed the smaller towns and most of the filling stations along Route 66 fell into disrepair.
Thankfully, forward-thinking communities and dedicated lovers of Route 66 have restored several to their former glory. Today, these old filling stations may not serve gasoline, but they serve up everything from history to dinner and everything in between.
These are 8 of our favorite Route 66 gas stations:
Ambler's Texaco Gas Station (Dwight, IL)
For folks traveling from Chicago to LA, Ambler's Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, IL is often their first major filling station photo op. Holding the record as the longest running gas station on Route 66, Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station was built in 1933 and served gasoline until 1999.
When still active, the station changed hands several times, eventually becoming an auto repair shop after the gas stopped flowing. The station was eventually donated to the village of Dwight who, with the help of a cost-share grant from the National Park Service, restored the station and made it a perfect photo op and an interesting interpretive center. Be sure to grab a picture of the “last gas pumps” on Route 66.
Standard Oil Gas Station (Odell, IL)
Just up the road from Ambler’s is another Route 66 filling station gem. Built with a similar “house & canopy” design, the 1930s filling station is another must-get photo along Illinois’ section of Route 66. The station was originally just a filling station, but two service bays were added as the station tried to compete with a whopping 9 other service stations in the small area of Odell, IL. (If you’ve been, the fact that 9 gas stations existed in this small town will blow your mind)
Today, the Standard Oil Gas Station offers travelers plenty of gifts and souvenirs in addition to the awesome photo op.
Gary’s Gay Parita (Ash Grove, MO)
We don’t know if we could possibly say enough wonderful things about Gary’s Gay Parita. A re-creation of a Sinclair station that burned down in the 1950s, the Gay Parita quickly became much more than a replica of a filling station. Gary’s friendliness became legendary and to know him became a rite of passage for any road tripper.
Sadly, we lost Gary a while back, but his family is keeping Gary’s memory alive by continuing to greet travelers as they discover one of the funkiest and most eclectic stops on all of Route 66. To travel Route 66 and not visit Gary’s Gay Parita would be like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. This place is what traveling the route is all about.
The Fourway (Cuba, MO)
Originally built as a Standard Oil service station in the 1930s, the station was restored to honor former owner Bill Wallis who originally headquartered the family’s oil business in the station. Once restored, the station became another perfect photo opportunity for travelers, but Joan Weir had even bigger plans for the charming space.
She opened “The Fourway” in the station, a restaurant combining stylish decor with downright delicious food. Honestly, The FourWay may serve the best burger on Route 66. The fact it’s a family affair (her daughter and son work right along side her) make this one of the most heartwarming places to grab lunch on the Mother Road.
NOTE: AS OF MAY 2021, THE FOURWAY IS CLOSED.
Tower Conoco & U-Drop Inn (Shamrock, TX)
Instantly recognizable by Cars movie lovers as "Ramone’s," this place is way more than just inspiration for a movie sketch, it’s a Route 66 icon. Impressive for its architecture and stunning nighttime lighting, the station is also a must-see for its gift shop and restored cafe. While the cafe doesn’t serve full meals yet, you can still see where Elvis ate a meal and grab something to drink on those hot Texas days.
What amazes us about this place is how it changes a little every time we visit… The folks of Shamrock continue to pour their time and efforts into making the Tower Conoco & the U-Drop Inn an unforgettable Route 66 destination.
Hackberry General Store (Hackberry, AZ)
Another business used as inspiration for the movie Cars, Hackberry General Store may be one of the most photographed places on Route 66. Famous for its red Corvette and kitsch, it’s also important for those of us familiar with Route 66 history- Hackberry was reopened and operated for several years by the late Bob Waldmire, one of the most influential people in Route 66 preservation and revitalization efforts.
Cool Springs (Golden Valley, AZ)
These days, we’re pretty spoiled, but imagine traveling across the unforgiving desert only to meet a rugged mountain terrain… now you can appreciate Cool Springs, stuck right in the middle. The victim of a fire, preservationists restored the station, and it now creates a dramatic scene with its stone architecture against the beautiful landscape. (For more on Cool Springs fascinating history, visit their website.)
Roy’s (Amboy, CA)
A victim of I-40, Roy’s fell into disrepair, but is now making a steady comeback thanks to its unique and picturesque setting. You may recognize it from the numerous movies, commercials, and photo shoots that have featured the Route 66 landmark. Why its so often photographed isn’t hard to figure out… All that blue sky and desert with a giant vintage neon sign plopped down in the middle of it all.
Of course, we know there are more awesome vintage filling stations along Route 66. (We're thinking of at least 3 we didn't include on this list.) What's your favorite?