Real Route 66 Locations that Inspired ‘Cars’

in Disney, Travel


Credit: Disney-Pixar

Do you want to “get your kicks on Route 66?” You have parked in the right place! Cars debuted in 2006, and its chrome is still as shiny as ever. From Lightning McQueen to Tow Mater to Filmore, everyone’s a character – and the movie has a character for any Disney fan to connect with.

When I watch Cars, I want to travel across the highways of America, with the wind in my face and adventure in my heart. I have wished I could get cozy at the Cozy Cone Motel or get an over-the-top makeover from Ramone. If you want to feel like you rolled into Radiator Springs, take a stroll through the “cutest little town in Carburetor County” at Disney’s California Adventure at Cars Land. However, if you want to experience an authentic Route 66 road trip, check out these amazing, real Route 66 locations that inspired Cars!

Cozy Cone Motel

Sally’s Cozy Cone was actually inspired by a few real Route 66 Locations. Sally’s neon signage and office are inspired by the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. It embodies all that classic Radiator Springs homeyness that Cars fans love.

Cars Land at night
Credit: ITM Reporter Rebekah Barton

The other two locations that inspired this iconic motel are the two locations of the Wigwam Motels. One is in Holbrook, Arizona and the other one is in San Bernardino, California. It looks like Tow Mater is resting for a spell at the Wigwam Motel in Arizona!

Radiator Springs Landscape

That classic mountain that looks like a radiator cap is inspired by a real natural landmark. The real Route 66 location that Inspired Cars is called the Tucumcari Mountain. So if you wanted to visit the Blue Swallow Motel, now there’s even more reason to visit Tucumcari and admire its natural beauty.

Also, the Cadillac Mountain Range spotted in Cars is actually inspired by two locations. To see both, visit Arizona’s Black Mountains and the Cadillac Ranch sculpture in Amarillo, Texas.

Cadillac Ranch
Credit: Route 66 News

Lizzie’s Curio Shop

I don’t know about you, but I love having souvenirs and merchandise to remember my travels. If you go on a real Route 66 journey, stop by Hackberry General Store in Hackberry, Arizona. They have all the eccentric sorts of collectibles you would expect to find at Lizzie’s Curio Shop in Radiator Springs. Maybe, you can get some amazing bumper stickers like our favorite racing sensation, Lightning McQueen. We see you, Stickers. Ka-chow!

Radiator Springs

Hackberry General Store
Credit: Route 66 News

Wheel Well Motel

When you travel the Mother Road, you’ll likely want to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. I can picture an easy day at the Wheel Well Motel that Sally takes Lightning to visit, though its glory days are over. The real motel that inspired this sweet gem in the film is the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri. It’s still up and running, so mosey on over and stay for a while.

Cars Wheel Well Motel
Credit: Disney-Pixar and Pixar Fandom

Sally and Lightning McQueen’s Drive

I think the moment Lightning really falls for Sally is when they “just go for a drive” to the Wheel Well Motel. There are some beautiful locations in that scene and many of them are real, at home on Route 66. The bridge in that scene is inspired by the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Cyrus Avery Bridge
Credit: Route 66 News

Next, the waterfall Lightning and Sally see looks like Havasu Falls, which isn’t on Route 66, but it is at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, which you will want to see when you motor west.

Ramone’s Shop

Ramone’s body-art shop is inspired by the real U-Drop Inn, which is a gas station and restaurant in Shamrock, Texas. So, wear your most flashy outfit and grab a bite to eat while you’re there. You’ll make Ramone proud!

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Flo’s V8 Café

Flo’s V8 Café is a “good to have you back, honey” kind of place to be. Since we can’t get a quart of oil from Flo’s, there’s just the place to make you feel like you can visit the real Flo’s. It’s called Midpoint Café in Adrian, Texas. Sit for a while at these 50’s style diner, and get some classic American food to chow down on.

Flo's Cafe

Radiator Springs Downtown

If you can only visit one place that inspired Cars, take a trip to a small town in Galena, Kansas. The whole town embodies their real Route 66 history. Not only did Galena inspire Cars, but Cars inspired Galena. There are many nods to the film throughout the town. Don’t just take my word for it. If you want to see more photos and get more details about this charming town, check out our article all about it!

Galena KS
Credit: Cars on the Route on Facebook
Galena, KS
Credit: Cars on the Route on Facebook

There are too many nods to the real Route 66 locations that inspired Cars to discuss in just one article! If you want to see more, check out this article by Route 66 News, who helped us discover some of these awesome locations. The only way to see them all is to take a drive down Route 66 yourself.

“Life is a Highway” and you should experience all you can. Wander down Route 66 to discover some amazing sights, find all the references in Cars, and maybe learn something about yourself along the way.

in Disney, Travel

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