The only town for miles in any direction since its founding as a railroad center in 1880, Kingman (pop. 27,521) has always depended upon passing travelers for its livelihood. Long a main stopping place on Route 66, and still providing the only all-night services on US-93 between Las Vegas and Phoenix, and along I-40 between Flagstaff and Needles, the town remains more a way station than a destination despite the increasing number of people who have relocated here in recent years, attracted by the open space, high desert air, and low cost of living.
The best first stop in Kingman is The Powerhouse (120 W. Andy Devine Ave., 928/753-9889, $4), a hulking old power plant that’s been inventively reused to house a very good Route 66 museum, with galleries full of enough old cars, postcards, and mementos to occupy you for an hour or more. Best of the bunch is a nifty relief map of the entire path of Route 66 (the many mountain ranges make you realize why old cars needed so many service stations!). The displays do a good job of evoking and exploring the deep romance many Americans seem to feel for the old Mother Road.
Be sure to contact the visitors center (928/753-6106) here to pick up a copy of the town’s very good Route 66 brochure. Then pop across Route 66 for a burger, some fries, and a milk shake at the very good Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner (105 E. Andy Devine Ave., 928/718-0066), impossible to miss thanks to its bank of neon.
The blocks off Route 66 hold Kingman’s most interesting older buildings—Beale Street, north of Route 66, has dozens of 100-year-old railroad era storefronts now housing an array of junk and antiques shops. Besides the usual chain motels along I-40, accommodation options in Kingman include the pleasant Hill Top Motel (1901 E. Andy Devine Ave., 928/753-2198, $45 and up), forever infamous as the place where evil Timothy McVeigh stayed for a week before blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
“To escape the summer heat, Kingmanites head east and south along a well-marked 14-mile road to Hualapai Mountain Park, where pines and firs cover the slopes of the 8,417-foot peak. Hiking trails wind through the wilderness, where there’s a campground and a few rustic cabins ($65-130) built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the New Deal 1930s. Contact the ranger station (928/757-0915) near the park entrance for detailed information or to make reservations.