Though you actually meet the beginnings of the urban sprawl in San Bernadino, from there forward, it gets even more congested. From San Bernardino to the Santa Monica Pier, much of old Route 66 has disappeared as roads changed and Los Angeles and its suburbs continued to build and expand.
When Route 66 began, it’s purpose was to connect the small towns between Chicago and the Pacific Coast and at that time, many of the Los Angeles suburbs were small towns, filled with mom and pop diners, motels, roadside fruit stands, and curio shops.
But in the rush to California, for which Route 66 was partially responsible, the area boomed as travelers escaped the dust bowls of the Midwest, attracted to the climate and opportunities that the Golden State provided.
However, die-hard Route 66 fans can still travel along various alignments of the “original” road, as the path continues to exist along a number of throughfares all the way to Santa Monica , snaking through suburbs that pass seamlessly one into the other. From Pasadena, Route 66 is eighty miles of city streets through a number of Los Angeles suburbs and streets variously known as Foothill Boulevard, Colorado Boulevard, Huntington Drive, Sunset Boulevard, and Santa Monica Boulevard until you reach the western end of the Mother Road at the Santa Monica Pier. If you plan to drive the original route, estimate a full day of frustrating traffic bogs and traffic lights before reaching your destination.
On the other hand, if your goal is just to make the end of America’s Main Street USA, you can take I-10 from San Bernardino all the way to Santa Monica. Or, better yet, try a combination of streets along the outskirts, transferring to a highway when your frustration level has reached its peak.
If continuing the original route towards Pasadena through the suburbs of Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Azusa, Monrovia and more, there are several remaining vintage icons, if you know where to look between the strip malls and fast food restaurants.
As you begin your trek along the old route, you’ll first come to the San Bernardino of suburb Rialto that was once known for its many lemon groves. At the city’s edge is the infamous Wigwam Motel, that used to rent its rooms by the hour with a sign displaying “Do It In a Teepee.” Serving Route 66 travelers since 1947, these teepee style cottages have recently gone through a total makeover, including improvements to both the buildings’ interior and exterior as well as the motel’s landscape. The Wigwam Motel is located at 2728 W. Foothill Boulevard.
Continuing along, you will soon reach the suburb of Fontana that presents a couple of vintage roadside peeks. At the southwest corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sultana Avenue sits a classic Italian restaurant called Bono’s. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Bono’s is closed and the building is for rent. Right next to it, however, you can see the last of many orange juice stands that once dotted all of California’s Route 66.
Rancho Cucmonga was once known for it’s many vineyards and orange groves which have since been replaced by numerous businesses as the city has become one of the fastest growing suburbs in the metropolitan area. However, this suburb does provide a couple of Route 66 era opportunities. At Haven Avenue is one of California’s oldest wineries, the Virginia Dare, and at the northwest corner of Foothill Boulevard and Archibald sits the 1920s Richfield Oil station. Dating back to time when Route 66 passed through nothing but country side and vineyards, this place stands out among the more modern views of the road.
Rancho Cucamonga also sports the historic Sycamore Inn that once stood as a San Bernardino Stage stop. Located at 8318 Foothill Boulevard, this old place has been offering great food and friendly service for almost 150 years. While in Rancho Cucamonga also be sure to visit the Route 66 Visitors Center and Museum at 8916 Foothill Boulevard.
Soon you will arrive at Upland, which features the vintage Buffalo Inn where buffalo burgers have been served since 1929. Here, in this frontier saloon atmosphere, you can enjoy a burger and brew in a laidback atmosphere before continuing your journey westward. The Buffalo Inn is located at 1814 W. Buffalo Boulevard.
Next you’ll come to the city of Claremont, where you can can see the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden on the right side of Route 66 just before the intersection with Indian Hill Boulevard.
As you continue on, pay attention as Foothill Boulevard curves slightly to the right entering Pomona, California, home to vintage Wilson’s Restaurant at the northwest corner of the intersection with Garey Avenue.
From here, the route takes you through La Verne and San Dimas, before arriving in Glendora. In Glendora is the Golden Spur Restaurant that has a history dating back more than eighty years. There is also a 1940’s gas station at the intersection of Alosta Avenue and Loraine. Glendora also sports a quaint downtown district where several of its buildings haven’t changed for more than a century.
As you continue along Route 66 you will soon come to Azusa, home to the vintage Foothill Drive-in Theatre. The last historic drive-in on Route 66 west of Oklahoma, the vintage theatre was designated as a California historical resource in 2002.
As you continue on, you will pass through Irwindale and Duarte, before arriving at Monrovia which provides numerous views of yesteryear. One block north of Colorado Boulevard on Shamrock is a vintage gas station left over from an earlier alignment of Route 66.
Next you will pass through Arcadia, California where a 1930s art-deco building stands at Santa Anita Racetrack just beyond 1st Avenue. Designed by Gordon Kaufmann, architect of the Hoover Dam, the horse track was opened in 1934, hosting a number of famous attendees, such as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby.
During World War II, the track was used as a detention camp for 20,000 Japanese Americans awaiting relocation to internment camps. Today, the track still serves racing fans and tourists alike, with several restaurants. Also in Arcadia is the historic windmill atop the Denny’s restaurant that was saved from demolition by preservationists. The windmill dates back to the days when this building was an old Van de Kamp eatery.
The next thing you know, you have entered Pasadena, where you can plan on being in congested traffic, if you haven’t already. Foothill Boulevard becomes Colorado Boulevard as it moves west into Pasadena. Along this route several vintage views can be spied amongst the modern buildings, such as the Astro Motel, a 1950s futuristic design that looks a little like a launching pad for a rocket. Also along this stretch can be seen the stone Holliston Church, and the Pasada Motel.
Pasadena’s 22-block historic district showcases more than 200 historic buildings where art deco and 19th century architecture mingle to form a colorful eclectic collection. The original center of town has been completely restored and now serves as one of Southern California’s most popular nightlife, shopping, dining and entertainment districts. One delightful view is the Fair Oaks Pharmacy which opened its doors in 1915 and through the years has served Route 66 tourists with thousands of sodas, ice cream floats and cherry rickeys. The Fair Oaks Pharmacy is located at 1526 Mission Street.