While it may not be the oldest highway in America, Route 66 is certainly the most iconic. Connecting Chicago and Los Angeles via 2,448 miles of asphalt, Route 66 summons images of mid-century travel when a road trip wasn’t just trendy, it was a way of life. A drive down Route 66 included classic cars, roadside cheeseburger stands, and meandering highways that passed through those beloved purple mountain majesties and fruited plains. A sign proudly proclaims Santa Monica the final stop on Route 66.
If you were to take the journey (and it is highly recommended that you do) you would eventually find yourself standing upon the historic Santa Monica Pier. Here, a sign proudly proclaims you have made it to “The End of the Trail.”
Originally built in the early 1900s, thousands of people soon swarmed to the Pier to enjoy the amusements it offered. One could fish straight from the Pier, listen to live music, and even experience the novelty of walking above water.
Travelers can celebrate many of the same traditions today. At Pier Burger, a “Route 66” concrete custard shake is quite popular. A charming Ferris wheel and roller coaster ride pay perfect homage to the original amusement park that once stood here—the 1920s carousel is still here as well. There’s even a souvenir shop where friendly staff members will award you a certificate for completing Route 66.
Santa Monica is the perfect terminus for America’s classic road, with its neon signs and an architecture that doesn’t just accept its mid-century heritage, but embraces it.
A Blast from the Past: Santa Monica’s Mid-Century Hotels and Motels
Established in 1958, the Googie style Ocean Lodge Hotel would have certainly been The Jetsons hotel of choice had they vacationed in Santa Monica. It boasts not only mid-century charm but a convenient location just a few blocks from the pier. It is also steps away from one of Santa Monica’s most iconic mid-century architecture restaurants, Chez Jay. Famous for its celebrity clientele, Chez Jay is also the alleged site where the Watergate scandal broke. The Pentagon Papers are said to have been handed over to a New York Times journalist at one of its most venerated tables.
This low-rise hotel dating back to the 1950s embraces its vintage charm. It beckons travelers with its seafoam green neon signs, old school room keys, and retro style. Exit one of its rooms and you are greeted by a charming pathway that leads straight to the beach. With room rates starting in the mid $80 range, affordable mid-century charm doesn’t get much better than this.
One of the swankier hotels in Santa Monica, the Shangri-La still relishes in its boutique charm. Its 1930s Streamline Moderne architecture sets it apart from other more ostentatious peers along Ocean Boulevard, and the interior design has been thoughtfully arranged to match. The rooftop pool and bar area might be one of the most beautiful in all of Los Angeles.