Old Route 66 crosses the Interstate (a.k.a. the Will Rogers Turnpike) again at Vinita, where the region’s Native American heritage is brought into focus at the Eastern Trails Museum (215 W. Illinois Ave., 918/256-2115, hours vary, free), next to the public library. The exhibits center on the Cherokee Trail of Tears, which brought the tribe here after a forced march from North Carolina in the 1830s, but the museum also covers the general history of the surrounding area.
Vinita is home to the Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo, held here each August since 1935, the year he died. Rogers attended secondary school in Vinita after growing up near Claremore. Vinita also hosts the annual World’s Largest Calf Fry Festival and Cook-Off in late June. (Calf fries are prairie oysters, otherwise known as beef testicles. Just so you know.) Contact the visitors center (918/256-7133) for details on any of these.
Vinita also has a great old Route 66 restaurant: Clanton’s Cafe (319 E. Illinois Ave., 918/256-9053), right at the center of town. “Oklahoma’s oldest family-owned and -operated restaurant,” Clanton’s has been famous for its chicken-fried beefsteak, served here with mashed potatoes and slathered in peppery white gravy, since 1927. Clanton’s also has good burgers and, in case you miss the festival, calf fries. (See above for a disclaimer.)