Holding a concentrated dose of old Route 66 character, Holbrook (pop. 5,074) is definitely worth a quick detour off the I-40 freeway. More than the other Route 66 towns in the eastern half of Arizona, it still feels like a real place, with lively cafés and some endearing roadside attractions around the center of town, where Route 66 alternates between Hopi Drive and Navajo Boulevard. Along with the many rock shops—be sure to check out the huge dinosaur collection outside the Rainbow Rock Shop, a block south on Navajo Boulevard near the railroad tracks—and trading post tourist traps, another worthwhile place to stop is the Navajo County Historical Museum (daily, free) in the old Navajo County Courthouse, about a quarter-mile south of I-40 at the corner of Navajo Boulevard (old Route 66) and Arizona Street. The collections are wide-ranging and include a walk downstairs to the old county jail, in use from 1898 until 1976 (the graffiti is great).
Best of all, stop for the night at the marvelous Wigwam Village Motel (811 W. Hopi Dr., 928/524-3048, around $70) at the western edge of town and sleep in a concrete tepee. Based on the original circa-1936 Wigwam Village motor court built in Cave City, Kentucky, Holbrook’s was one of seven franchises across the country; this one opened in 1950 but closed down when the Interstate came through in 1974. The family of original owner Chester Lewis fully renovated the buildings and reopened the place after his death in 1988. Original bentwood hickory furniture, a small curio shop, and a handful of historic American cars parked outside help complete the ambience of classic roadside Americana. Especially if you want to introduce the younger generations to the joys of old-road travel, you should stay here at least once in your life.
After you’ve checked in to the Wigwam, be sure to wander down the road for a friendly, filling Route 66 meal at Joe and Aggie’s Cafe (120 W. Hopi Dr., 928/524-6540).