One of Tulsa’s premier Route 66 attractions was the giant Blue Whale sculpture, in the suburb of Catoosa, northeast of Tulsa along the stretch of the old road that runs from I-44 exit 240. The park, built as an animal-themed tourist attraction in the 1970s by Hugh Davis, a curator at the Tulsa Zoo, closed down long ago and was left to crumble. Unlike so many other long-suffering Route 66 landmarks, however, the Blue Whale has been lovingly restored by the family of its original creators (with a little help from the Hampton Inn brand of Hilton Hotels).
Catoosa, surprisingly, is also a major port, linked, by way of impressively engineered improvements to the Arkansas River system, to the Gulf of Mexico. Even more surprising may be the presence in Catoosa of the 20-story Hard Rock Casino (800/760-6700), where there are three acres of gaming, a 24-hour Route 66 Diner, and 454 plush rooms, plus big-name entertainers performing in the state-of-the-art concert hall.