Diehard old-roads fans will be pleasantly surprised to know that Route 66 across Los Angeles still exists, almost completely intact. Heading east from Santa Monica—and now marked by prominent beige road signs as Historic Route 66 1935–1964—old Route 66 follows Santa Monica Boulevard through the hearts of Beverly Hills (where Will Rogers once was mayor) and West Hollywood. In Hollywood itself, Santa Monica Boulevard runs past the cemetery-cum-theme park Hollywood Forever (daily; free; 323/469-1181) where such luminaries as Rudolf Valentino and Mel Blanc are entombed, overlooked by the water tower of legendary Paramount Studios. It’s a unique experience by day, and even more so on nights when the cemetery is host to “Midnight Movies,” outdoor screenings of its residents’ works. East from Hollywood, Route 66 merges into Sunset Boulevard for the long winding drive to downtown L.A., ending up at the historic core of the city: Olvera Street and the Plaza de Los Angeles State Historic Park.
East of downtown L.A., you have your choice of Route 66 routings. You can hop onto the Pasadena Freeway (Hwy-110) for a trip back to freeways past: Opened in 1939, when it was called the Arroyo Seco Parkway, this was California’s first freeway and featured such novel (and never repeated) concepts as 15-mph exit ramps and stop signs at the entrances. Or, you can follow Figueroa, which in L.A. lingo is known as a “surface street,” running parallel to the freeway past some fascinating pieces of Los Angeles new and old, including the concrete-lined Los Angeles River, hilltop Dodger Stadium, and the nifty Southwest Museum (closed Mon.; $6; 323/221-2164), an extensive and unusual collection of Native American art and artifacts from all over western North America, from Arizona to Alaska.
Los Angeles is a stop along our Pacific Coast route.