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!
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
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. [EDIT: As of early 2018, the large marker in the median has been destroyed by a vehicle.]
Admiral Twin Side Trip (original alignment)
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
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 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
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
A small boutique hotel right on the Route. They have themed rooms and a great little restaurant – highly recommended! 2636 E 11th St
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)
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
El Rancho Grande has good Mexican cuisine and a GREAT neon sign out front! 1629 E 11th St
Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios
Local entrepreneur Mary Beth Babcock renovated an old service station on 11th Street to open a new gift shop offering unique Route 66 gifts and other items. 1347 E. 11th Street
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
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)
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 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
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
A trio of limestone carvings commemorating Tulsa’s transportation history, which is deeply rooted in Route 66. 2500 Southwest Blvd
Route 66 Village
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
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
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.