The only town for miles in any direction since its founding as a railroad center in 1880, Kingman (pop. 20,069) 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.
Everything that’s ever happened in and around Kingman is documented to some degree at the Mojave Museum (daily; $3; 928/753-3195) at 400 W. Beale Street, right on US-93 a block south of I-40. Besides the usual dioramas and displays on regional history, there’s an extensive section devoted to local Hualapai culture and crafts, as well as samples of turquoise mined nearby. There’s also a display on the life of local boy Andy Devine and a photograph of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who fled Hollywood to get married in Kingman’s Methodist church.
Quite a few of the old Route 66 cafés and motels still flourish alongside the old road, now called Andy Devine Avenue, through town; modern development borders I-40. Among the many places to eat are the very good Mr. D’s Route 66 Diner (928/718-0066), at 105 E. Andy Devine Avenue right downtown and impossible to miss thanks to its bank of neon; and the House of Chan (928/753-3232), at 960 W. Beale Street, on US-93 a block north of I-40, which serves a full menu of American food as well as Cantonese specialties. Besides the usual chain motels, accommodation options include the pleasant Hill Top Motel ($40; 928/753-2198), at 1901 E. Andy Devine Avenue, forever infamous as the place where evil Timothy McVeigh stayed for a week before blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The stretch of Route 66 through Kingman has been renamed in memory of favorite son Andy Devine, who was born in Flagstaff in 1905 but grew up here, where his parents ran the Beale Hotel. One of the best-known character actors of Hollywood's classic era, the raspy-voiced Devine usually played a devoted sidekick, the sort of role taken by Gabby Hayes, whom Devine replaced in the later Roy Rogers movies. He also did the voice of Friar Tuck in Disney's version of Robin Hood, but Devine's most famous role was as the wagon driver in the classic 1939 John Ford western Stagecoach. He remained active in films and TV until his death in 1977.
For more information, or to pick up a copy of the town’s very good Route 66 brochure, contact the Kingman visitors center (928/753-6106), housed alongside a mini museum in an interestingly converted old power plant at 120 W. Andy Devine Avenue.