Route 66 in Tulsa

Many people that come to town, whether by car or by plane, don’t quite know what to make of the city.  A lot of folks know that Tulsa is famous for oil, but perhaps they don’t know that Tulsa was literally the Oil Capital of the World at one time.  Route 66 not only runs through the heart of the city but the father of the road, Cyrus Avery, is from here.  Our downtown isn’t huge by any means, but the oil boom prosperity during the Great Depression brought with it great architecture, including one of the largest collections of Art Deco construction in the country.

I’ve given small tours of Tulsa to friends when they visit and thought it would be a good idea to write up a list of ‘To See’ attractions in the city for visitors.  Today’s post will stick to Route 66 directly (with one exception.) I have another post (here) that outlines more of the city (such as our downtown architecture, some great neon signs, and museums).  This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, but should provide a good outline.

For now, enjoy a trip down Tulsa’s stretch of the Mother Road (east to west).

Note:  the current alignment of Route 66 in Tulsa is also known as 11th Street.  The 1926-1932 alignment is also known as Admiral Blvd.

If you’re entering Tulsa from the east (Catoosa) be sure to take 193rd E Ave by the Hard Rock Casino.  Take that road south until you reach 11th Street, then turn right.  If you’re entering Tulsa from the west (Sapulpa) Historic Route 66 merges onto I-44 at the city limits.  Take your IMMEDIATE first exit (49th W Ave), take a left at the bottom of the off-ramp, and then a right onto Southwest Blvd.  You’re back on 66!

East Gateway

66

Route 66 is bookended by Gateway Arches on each end of town. They were built in 2014 to bring attention to the city’s heritage. 11707 E 11th St

Mingo Greenway / Plaza

Mingo Greenway

At the intersection of 11th Street and Mingo Rd, there’s a sign pointing right that refers to the detour as the Mingo Greenway.  This is how you get to the original 1926 alignment of Route 66, which features a few stops that I outline below.  If you take a left, there’s a small plaza with a few historical markers and informational plaques.

Admiral Twin Side Trip (original alignment)

Admiral Twin 2

The Admiral Twin opened in 1951 (as the Modernaire) and was featured in the film ‘The Outsiders’. It burned down in 2010 and was rebuilt in 2012 with a wealth of local support. 7355 E Easton St

Desert Hills

DSC00749

The Desert Hills Motel is another place that I have no insight into the lodging conditions, but they do have a fantastic neon sign that is worth a stop to see. 5220 E 11th St

Tally’s Cafe

Tallys

Tally’s is probably Tulsa’s most well-known Route 66 diner. It was opened in the late 1980s and does a great job at providing that retro diner feel. 1102 S Yale Ave

Golden Driller Side Trip

drilltest

One mile south of the Route stands Tulsa’s most famous landmark: the Golden Driller. He was built for the International Petroleum Exhibition in the 1960s and is the tallest free-standing statue in the world. 4145 E 21st St

The Campbell Hotel

Campbell

A small boutique hotel right on the Route.  They have themed rooms and a great little restaurant – highly recommended! 2636 E 11th St

918 Coffee

918

Great little coffee shop in an old service station — walking distance from the Campbell Hotel! 2446 E 11th St

Kendall-Whittier Side Trip (original alignment)

Circle (2)

In addition to being the first ‘suburban’ shopping district in Tulsa, the Kendall-Whittier district is on the original 1926-1932 alignment of the Route. It boasts Tulsa’s only independent movie theater, the Circle, and several local-owned shops. 10 S Lewis Ave

Rancho Grande

Rancho Grande Mexican Food

El Rancho Grande has good Mexican cuisine and a GREAT neon sign out front! 1629 E 11th St

Meadow Gold

Meadow Gold

My favorite neon sign on the entire route, the Meadow Gold sign towers above the street on a custom building, built when the original home of the sign was demolished. Underneath the awning are several informational podiums. 1306 E 11th St

Warehouse Market Building

Tulsa-8

This Art Deco building originally housed a Warehouse Market grocer and was saved by Home Depot a while back. It now houses a Mazzio’s Pizza, among other businesses. It stands next to a traffic circle that represents the western junction for the current and original Route 66 alignments. 421 E 11th St

Blue Dome District (original alignment)

Storm-7

The Blue Dome District is on the original Route 66 alignment in downtown Tulsa, named for the old service station at the corner of 2nd and Elgin. The surrounding few blocks are full of restaurants & shops and offers some of the best views of downtown in the city. 202 S Elgin Ave

Cathedral District

cath sq

Cathedral Square is a small park that sits in the shadow of four beautiful churches, all showcasing their own unique architectural styles. Foolish Things Coffee is also just a block away. 22 W 10th St

Cyrus Avery Memorial Plaza

66 Avery

Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza features a skybridge, a sculpture, several informational plaques, and a Memorial Bridge for the Father of Route 66. 1324 Southwest Blvd

Howard Park Monuments

monuments-14

A trio of limestone carvings commemorating Tulsa’s transportation history, which is deeply rooted in Route 66.  2500 Southwest Blvd

Route 66 Village

Rt 66 Vill-8

The jewel of Route 66 Village is the Meteor Frisco 4500 locomotive that has been lovingly restored. The park also features an oil derrick, a few train cars. Plans are ongoing for further expansion. 3770 Southwest Blvd

Ollie’s Station Restaurant

4 5 09 (65)

Ollie’s Station is in the heart of Red Fork, the community that gave Tulsa its first oil well. The restaurant is train themed and features model railways throughout the building. 4070 Southwest Blvd

West Gateway

west

The West Gateway not only features an arch but a mosaic sculpture dedicated to the transportation history of the city. 4261 Southwest Blvd

This is the end of Route 66 in Tulsa’s city limits.  Off the route, there are many things to see and places to experience.  I wrote a second post outlining those stops here.  I highly encourage checking it out, as there’s some great neon & architecture in this town that isn’t on the Mother Road.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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8 Responses to Route 66 in Tulsa

  1. Phyllis Grey says:

    You have opened my eyes. May just visit Tulsa on a seg-a-men-tal journey! I have passed it by having heard in the past that it was void of its 66 heritage.

  2. yogiabb says:

    I thought I knew all the Tulsa must sees but obviously not. I’ll have to check out the Mingo Greenway, the Desert Hills sign, and the western Gateway. I’m thinking that the “Outsiders House” renovation would be a great addition.

  3. Pingback: Sights in the City of Tulsa | Rhys' Pieces

  4. Ed Wagner says:

    I have a few photos of the Campbell Hotel while it was being renovated. When it was built, it was on the eastern end of town.
    https://goo.gl/photos/KQPKQh69ruFnKFs9A

  5. Lane Stripe says:

    Just for clarification on Frisco steam locomotive #4500. “FRISCO” was the nickname of the OWNER of the locomotive; i.e, the “St. Louis & San Francisco” railroad. It’s CLASSIFICATION was 4500. That is to say, the No, 4500 was the prototype for all locomotives of that class, of which there were twenty-five (25) total.

  6. Pingback: Tulsa Highlights | ROUTE 66 – 66 days on and off Route 66

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