Urban Sprawl at the End of Route 66

Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena, California

Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena, California

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.

As the Mother Road continues its westward path from Pasadena, two different alignments passed through here, the first crossing the Colorado Street Bridge, which predates Route 66. Originally built in 1913, travelers crossed this arched span until 1940 when the Arroyo Seco Parkway was opened.

On December 30, 1940, the Arroyo Seco Parkway opened, becoming the new official alignment for Route 66. Connecting Pasadena to Los Angeles, the parkway extends through Arroyo Seco’s Arts and Crafts landscape of the early twentieth century and has now been designated as a Federal Scenic Byway. The parkway is significant as the first freeway in the west, representing a transitional time in history when parkways became freeways.  This scenic drive takes you through quiet parks and bustling urban activity; however, according to a UCLA study, the 22-mile parkway is the site of the most traffic accidents in the Los Angeles area.

7th and Broadway, Los Angeles, 1938

7th and Broadway, Los Angeles, 1938

In Los Angeles, 7th and Broadway was the original end of Route 66 until it was extended to Santa Monica in 1935.  Here, in the midst of downtown Los Angeles, are multiple great examples of 1920s architecture, including the largest concentration of pre-World War II movie palaces in America.  Many of these theatres began as vaudeville stages, where live acts like the Marx Brothers and Sophie Tucker entertained the wealthy families of early Los Angeles. With the advent of film, they were transformed into movie theaters.

Following the last alignment of Route 66 to the Pacific Ocean,  Santa Monica Boulevard travels through Hollywood where you can see its famous sign that has stood for as a landmark for generations.

Importing its name from a town in Ohio, the sign once spelled “Hollywoodland,” for a real estate development in Beachwood Canyon.  Erected in 1923, the sign measures 450 feet long, with each letter rising above the ground almost 50 feet.  After maintenance on the sign stopped, it deteriorated badly.  However, in 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in and offered to remove the last four letters and repair the rest. The sign, located near the top of Mount Lee, is now a registered trademark.

1920s photo showing "Hollywoodland."

1920s photo showing “Hollywoodland.”

While in Hollywood, numerous attractions present themselves including Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios and much more.

Continuing on, you will soon pass through West Hollywood and a theater district filled with trendy shops and boutiques before entering upscale Beverly Hills. While here, you can spend your hard earned cash at its many pricey shops or grab a map and look for the stars. However, you’re more likely to spot their gardeners than you are the stars themselves

Finally, Route 66 ends in Santa Monica at Pacific Palisades Park and the famous Santa Monica Pier where taking a stroll and watching the sunset is a “must” for your final moments along your historic journey.  By now, you no doubt have a camera full of photographs and a mind full of memories that will last you a lifetime.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated July 2019.

Also See:

About California Route 66

Byways & Trails

California Route 66

California Route 66 Photo Gallery