Seligman, Arizona – Birthplace of Route 66!

October 2019 – Back in the early- to mid-1900s, Route 66 was the main highway — the ONLY highway — between Chicago and Los Angeles, and looking back (with not quite 20-20 vision), it seems like it was 2,448 miles of sheer fun.

Earlier this week we stopped in for a visit at Seligman, Arizona, which we found out was the birthplace of Route 66!

Seligman Arizona Birthplace of Route 66

Seligman Arizona – Birthplace of Route 66

Sometimes it’s not easy to trace historical roots accurately, so we’ve since found that Springfield, Missouri, is also considered to be the birthplace of Route 66…!

Either way, the little town of Seligman, Arizona, has just a few stores lining both sides of the main drag, and every single one is dolled up with decorations celebrating Route 66 history. Everywhere we looked we found another fabulous photo op!

Mural in Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Lots of buildings in Seligman Arizona have fabulous murals.

route 66 memorabilia Seligman Arizona-min

Seligman Arizona offers a total immersion in all things Route 66 and early 20th century!

Murals Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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This place is a memorabilia lover’s paradise and a great place to find gifts for loved ones.

Let's all go to the gift shop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Back in the day, Seligman was an important stop for motorists to gas up, and there were several gas stations in town. Nowadays, these gas stations have found new life as boutique gift shops, but the original architecture remains.

Old car and gift shop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

The old gas stations in town are now gift shots, but the architecture remains as it was.

Old gas station Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Old car and Texaco sign Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Visions of another era

There were lots of vintage cars parked here and there, and Mark even found a motorcycle like the one James Dean rode!

Posing with James Dean motorcycle Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Mark found James Dean’s motorcycle!

Then he found James Dean himself. He was having a smoke outside a store.

Posing with James Dean Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Tough guys.

Betty Boop was in town too, wearing a hot outfit and roller skates and serving burgers and drinks.

Betty Boop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Betty Boop!

It seemed that every square inch of town offered a glimpse into times past. Music from the 50s played in the gift shop doorways, and relics from the early 1900s were all over the place.

Looking at our photos later, we even found an original Good Sam Club poster with Sam himself looking quite different than he does today!

Funky Route 66 art Seligman Arizona-min

Good Sam was in his red circle but looked older and less sporty!

Route 66 store front Seligman Arizona-min

You can’t get lost here — you’re on Route 66!

Snow Cap and old cop car Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Of course, there was plenty of history in this area long before Route 66 was built. This was the Wild West, after all!

We turned a corner and suddenly saw a classic old western storefront with a cowboy standing in a doorway on the porch and a few ladies of the night luring visitors to sit with them by the front door.

Old west store fronts Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

A nod to the old Wild West… Seligman BEFORE Route 66!

Obviously, Seligman is 100% a tourist town, and some might call it a tourist trap. But we loved it. And we weren’t the only ones. Several tour buses came in and disgorged groups of people looking for a souvenir and a photo of themselves eating a burger at a classic 1950s diner.

Tour buses Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Lots of tour buses stop by Seligman!

Tour buses and RVs aren’t the only way to get here, though! People come to Seligman in all kinds of vehicles.

As we admired various antiques in one shop, we noticed that all the tourists in the shop were decked out in black Harley Davidson logo motorcycle gear: black leather jackets, black t-shirts, black pants and boots with black leather chaps. And black bandanas on their heads. They’d ridden in on motorcycles and their bikes were parked out front.

We overheard them chatting among themselves, and it sounded like German. But Mark noticed a French flag on one of the bikes. I asked one of the fellows where they were from. “Europe!” he said. I kinda smirked, and he laughed and said, “Europe’s big. We’re from Holland.”

Motorcycles Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

A line of Harleys (all rentals with Montana plates!)

Well, Mark and I hadn’t been too far off! Dutch sounds a lot like German from a distance, and the Dutch flag looks much like the French flag flown sideways and with the colors reversed.

He told me his group of friends rides motorcycles together in Holland. They were on a two week loop tour going from the west coast to the Grand Canyon and back, hitting many fabulous stops along the way and doing it all on wonderfully scenic and swoopy roads ideal for motorcycle riding.

“Are your wives with you?” I asked, since I hadn’t seen a single Harley mama anywhere.

The fellow guffawed and winked at me.

This was definitely a two week trip these guys had dreamed of for a long time, and it had a boyhood sign all over it: “No girlz aloud.”

Foreign tourists traveling between the great American national parks stop in Seligman, Arizona, often, and one gift shop had a colorful spray of foreign currency under glass at the checkout counter. How totally cool was that!

International currencies at gift shop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

People from all over the world come to Seligman!

We wandered the streets and poked our heads in the stores for a while longer. What a fun spot.

Historic Sundries Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Route 66 relics Seligman AZ-min

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Antique truck and gas pump Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Gravestone Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Don’t touch that Edsel!

Life is short Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Good reminder!

Seligman is an easy town to visit while traveling east-west on I-40 in Arizona.

There is an I-40 exit on either end of town, so you can pull off the interstate at one end of town, cruise into town on Route 66, park, walk around and have lunch, and then drive out on I-40 at the other end of town.

Route 66 goes right through the heart of Seligman, so you can also venture down the historic highway a ways, either east or west, and imagine what it was like for Americans travelers crossing the country on this skinny strip of road back in the early 1900s.

Route 66 sign Seligman Arizona-min

Seligman is definitely worth a stop.

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20 thoughts on “Seligman, Arizona – Birthplace of Route 66!

  1. Wonderful pictures, as usual! Springfield, Mo just happens to be our hometown and hosts a huge weekend every August called the Route 66 Festival. It includes a car and motorcycle show, live bands, a 6.6k run, lots of food and drink and many exhibits that showcase the history of the Mother Road. It’s definitely worth seeing if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

  2. Emily,
    Such a colorful town with so much character. Love these shots.
    “More color per square mile than any other town in America!” 😉
    Bob

  3. We stopped in Seligman on our way east in May. Definitely a cute place to stop. There was a storm rolling through and we decided to stay an extra night. We awoke to snow flurries. It didn’t last but the kiddos in the next campsite were enjoying it! We stayed at the KOA at the east end of town.

  4. Interesting place and, as always, great images. If you keep to Route 66 as far as ABQ, NM don’t miss ‘Lupe’s Antojito Restaurant’ in Bernalillo off Exit 242. It’s Mexico City style home cooking and a local hangout for great food just two blocks off the I-25 on Hwy 550. Our current home is up the hill on the opposite side of I-25 in Placitas until March 2020. Thereafter, we leave for the road too. If you are so inclined email me. We’ll buy you that Lupe’s meal.

  5. “Kitsch” at it’s finest – LOVE IT ! “All-American” business savvy – an approache envied (and imitated) in the Old World !!!!

  6. Seligman certainly does provide an extraordinary number of photo opportunities, and you and Mark ended up with a number of extraordinary and colorful photos! It’s citizens have embraced history, allowing the town to remain economically stable due to the influx of tourists. If more towns had been able to do the same, fewer of them along Historic Route 66 would have withered away. A round of applause to the town of Seligman for keeping history alive, benefiting both its residents and its many visitors.

    • So true, Mary. As we travel we’re amazed at how small towns and communities either thrive or fade away over time, often due to circumstances beyond their control.

      We’ve seen ghost towns that were abandoned when the railway line went through a different town a mile away in the late 1800s, and we’ve seen towns with huge high schools that now have only 3 Seniors in the school due to the federal “protection” of all the surrounding ranch land in the 1990s, as well as the removal of their right to pass on their own land to their children in favor of future federal acquisition. Sadly, this is land that they and generations of their forebears relied on for their livelihood for a century or more.

      Usually those decisions are made by people who live far from the towns and villages. The simple stroke of a pen in Congress can displace thousands of good people who live their daily lives two thousand miles away from Washington.

      It is awesome when towns and townspeople can switch gears to become tourist destinations and stay “in business,” but the very fabric of their communities is permanently changed when that happens. Often, the original residents leave and newcomers who want to make a living from tourism move in.

  7. I greatly appreciate all the pics and details of your stopping in Seligman. After a friend of mine passed in 2013, I refocused on life and decided what my biggest regret in life would be if I died that day: it was never having traveled Route 66. So though I didn’t do all of it, I did do about 98%. I remember cruising through Seligman and checking out a lot the stores, but at 55 mph! Been wanting to go back and do the entire Route again and hope to do it this year. Thanks!

    • We were surprised and delighted by the Route 66 spirit in Seligman, Marc. It’s definitely worth slowing down for! I sure hope you do it again and can make it a long trip where you can smell the roses the whole way. You were so wise to ponder your most important dreams when your friend passed. We all get caught up in the day-to-day and the years silently fly by. Good for you for completing 98% of the route. That is amazing! And here’s to your second and slower run along with a pleasant stop in Seligman. Thanks for reading!

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