I ate the best burger of my life on Route 66 this fall.
That’s not hyperbole. It was the best burger. It was a meat symphony of deliciousness. The McMillan in Flagstaff, Arizona: God bless the chefs, the menu, and the servers.
I could wax poetic about the burger for an embarrassingly long time. I won’t do that, even though I want to. The point is that Route 66 is magical for a variety of reasons and driving it as a family or a couple is a trip that you will never forget.
For military families, Route 66 can be a perfect trip during a PCS or an easily accessible vacation for those stationed in the southwestern US. Here are a few of my favorite places that you’ve just got to check out:
The Rainbow Basin Natural Area, Barstowe, CA
Get a feel for the Mojave Desert by taking a trip off Route 66 and hiking or driving around this natural phenomena. If you visit in summer, you’ll want to make sure your air conditioning works first.
The McMillan, Flagstaff, AZ
This delicious restaurant is where I ate the best burger ever. (They have a burger night too, so if you’re lucky you might even score a cheaper burger.) Grab their homemade brownie for dessert, too. It’s enough for at least two people. If you have kids, you’ll want to order more than one… unless it’s right before bedtime.
Lulu Belle’s, Ash Fork, AZ
Off the beaten path, but still very accessible, you’ll be treated to delicious barbeque in a restaurant that is dripping with southwestern authenticity. Stop by for dinner or lunch while you’re going or coming from seeing the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Did you really tour Route 66 if you don’t stop at the Grand Canyon? The Southern Rim is where 90% of visitors travel to every year, and it’s accessible from Route 66. Plan ahead– during busy times, you might not be able to find lodging at the drop of a hat, or it may be very expensive.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, AZ
This was my favorite surprise along Route 66. Canyon de Chelly is in the Navajo Nation and is a treasure of history, anthropology, and archaeology. The national monument protects a beautiful red canyon and treasures hidden in the walls– ancient Native American cliff dwellings. Take a hike to the White House, down more than 900 vertical feet. Want to grab some Navajo fry bread or other tasty specialties? Stay a night at the Thunderbird Lodge and eat in the camp’s cafeteria.
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, AZ
Stretch your legs at this National Historic Site and learn about race relations in the southwest during the 1800’s. You’ll also tour the oldest continuously working trading post in America. Be sure to stop by the visitor’s center– it has an excellent children’s museum section that offers hands-on exhibits.
El Patio, Alburquerque, NM
If you drive through New Mexico, do yourself a favor and eat yourself (almost) sick on New Mexican cuisine. A plate of enchiladas, Christmas-style will get you ready to check out Petroglyph National Park. (More on that later.) And for dessert? You’ll get a complimentary basket of sopapillas and the end of your meal. Bite the corner off this little fried pocket of dough, dump in some honey and go town.
Petroglyph National Monument, Alburquerque, NM
Walk through an open air museum of human communication. More than 25,000 ancient petroglphys left on basalt rocks by Native Americans are protected in the park. Take a stroll through three different hiking trails and get inches from our country’s past.
Ready to take a trip? Make sure that you check out the benefits of Government Vacation Rewards. It’s the only program out there that lets you use your Military Star Rewards Card for all kinds of travel bookings (including airfare). When you enroll, you’ll receive $150 saving credits instantly. Then, you’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend and use GVR. You can use those reward points towards free vacations. GVR also promises the best price on travel bookings, no booking fees or black-out dates, email offers with additional savings, and excellent service.
You’re eligible if you’re active duty, retired, a veteran, part of a military family, a government employee or civilian contractor, a fireman, or part of law enforcement or the FBI. Soon, teachers will also be able to join GVR. MOAA, MWR, the American Legion, and other military-affiliated groups work with GVR as well.