In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of fun I-40 road trip attractions in the western USA. On this page, you'll discover interesting things to do along Western Interstate 40. Or, if you'd like to view maps of the route, please see the I-40 Maps page of our site.
Western I-40 Road Trip Overview
On this page, you'll get ideas for things to do on your Western I-40 trip. This doesn't mean that eastern I-40 isn't fun, beautiful or important. The eastern part of the route isn't included on this page simply because I'm not very familiar with it. (By contrast, I've been driving over the California-to-Arkansas portion ever since I was a child.)
Western I-40 is both beautiful...and ordinary. It has fun attractions...and long stretches where you'll probably feel bored. Indeed, your Interstate 40 vacation is no time to play "Thelma & Louise" & just go wherever your wanderlust takes you in search of a good time. Without the proper planning, you'll simply see "miles & miles of miles & miles," as the saying goes. Only certain stretches of I-40 offer tourists a chance to get out of the car & do some interesting sight-seeing. Added to this problem is the fact that some tourist attractions have limited hours of operation...especially during the fall, winter and spring months of the year. While I-40 is a very efficient way to get from place to place, turning the route into a fun road trip opportunity will take some advance planning!
Oklahoma City: major stop on Western I-40
Heading westward along I-40 from Arkansas, Oklahoma City is the first major stop you'll reach on your road trip. Oklahoma City has every major service any traveler could want. And, why shouldn't it? It's the state of Oklahoma's largest metro area!
The Oklahoma Bombing Memorial is a major attraction you may wish to see. The tragic event took place on April 19, 1995...at a time BEFORE most Americans included the words "terrorist attack" as a part of their vocabularies. The entire nation was shaken that such an event could happen. It is memorialized by a park, museum and several monuments were you may go to reflect and learn more about the event. Here is the Oklahoma City National Memorial website to aid you in your planning.
Oklahoma City offers family fun in addition to serious reflection. OK City has a major theme park, Frontier City, which kids and teens will love to visit. Frontier City's sister-park, White Water Bay is the area's largest water park. In addition, several good "family fun centers" may be found in the metro area. These include the exciting Celebration Station fun center, which is directly off of I-40 at the Meridian Ave exit/exit 145.
Animal-lovers will enjoy the Oklahoma City Zoo, which is just a bit north of I-40 along Interstate 35. The OK City Zoo is a large city zoo where you'll find all of your favorite animals housed in attractive settings. Here's the Oklahoma City Zoo website, which will fill you in with the details you need for your excursion. Other educational family fun in OK City includes the always-interesting Science Museum Oklahoma, where interactive exhibits prevail...and a domed theater & planetarium add to the fascination. The Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is yet another good idea for an educational outing when you're visiting OK City.
The adults in your group will enjoy Bricktown, one of OK City's originally-settled areas. This area has been attractively updated, and these days Bricktown is a center of dining, nightlife, sporting events and more. Here's the Bricktown website, which will give you some great ideas for attractions to add to your itinerary. And what about the shoppaholics in your group? Local bargain-hunters love to make a beeline to the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City. Why not stop in to enjoy this lovely outlet mall as a rest break?
Oklahoma City I-40 changes: If your road trip will be taking you through OKC, then you may notice a few changes in I-40 if you haven't been there in awhile. Eastbound and westbound traffic will have their own separate routes---and the lanes aren't side-by-side. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, particularly in this case, here's the link to a new OKC I-40 route changes.
I-40...Magnet for Route 66 fans of the "Mother Road"
Are you a "Route 66" fan? Many of us still fondly remember the vacations of our youth along the "Mother Road"...trips filled with natural Western enchantment, as well as plenty of roadside kitsch. Others, much younger, have BECOME Route 66 enthusiasts...and want to catch a glimpse of its glorious heyday.
Route 66 joins Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City. Although I-40 and Route 66 are often used as interchangeable phrases, that's only PARTLY true. Yes; between OK City and California, the two highways parallel each other closely. So closely, in fact, that the original Route 66 roadway is completely gone most of the time. At other points, the old Route 66 diverges from I-40 and segments of the Mother Road remain...and you may drive them! East of Oklahoma City, however, Route 66 veers away from I-40 and heads northeastwards towards Chicago, IL.
You'll encounter your first Route 66 Museum even before leaving the state of Oklahoma! The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK is not very far west of OK City. Here's the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum's website to help you plan your visit. A 2nd tribute to the Mother Road is Elk City, OK's National Route 66 Museum. Touring either one of these fine facilities takes only a quick & easy departure from I-40.
Farther westward in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a great place to start your journey into yesteryear is at the Route 66 Diner. This cafe serves food, of course...but it also dishes up much more! The owners of this humble restaurant have turned their pride and joy into a memorial to the Mother Road---a museum in its own right! (Not to mention that a trip to the Route 66 Cafe is just plain FUN!)
You know that you'll be stepping back in time from your first glimpse of the Route 66 Cafe's exterior. The rounded edges and windows...the frosted glass squares...the old-style neon lights (as you can see in the Route 66 Diner picture to your left)---it all says, "Hey, we're strollin' down memory lane now!"
The old-time diner decor continues on the inside, where you'll see vinyl upholstery on the booths, chrome table legs and napkin holders, a counter & stools looking into an open kitchen...and even a built-in hopscotch grid on the floor! NATURALLY, there's a jukebox filled with oldies that you can play...and enough Route 66 memorabilia on the walls to keep you intensely interested in "seeing it all"---for as long as your growling tummy will let you!
When you order, you'll find that the Route 66 Diner serves all the old diner favorites. You'll find burger & fries combos, a selection of sandwiches with fries or potato salad, and a whole selection of dinner entrees---fried chicken, meat loaf, chicken fried steak, sirloin steak, or enchiladas, for example. (Entrees, including side dishes, are priced about $9-14). The Route 66 Diner prides itself on continuing the tradition of the "blue plate special"...and serves a different blue plate meal every day of the week (priced at $8-12, including sides.)
Of COURSE there are ultra-thick shakes and malts at the Route 66 Diner...along with other favorites, present and past. (You can actually get an "egg cream" or an old-fashioned "ice cream soda" here!) And for dessert, you'll find sundaes, banana splits, cakes, pies and cobblers! What a place!
The Route 66 Diner phone number is 505/247-1421. The Route 66 Diner address is: 1405 Central Avenue NE, Albuquerque, NM. Directions: get on Historic Route 66 (well marked by the government's BROWN signs that designate historic spots.) Route 66 is also called "Central Ave." This address is located between University Ave and I-25. The Route 66 Diner's official website is
Does anyone remember the old Jackrabbit Trading Post near Joseph, Arizona? During Route 66's glory days, the Jackrabbit Trading Post used to advertise from hundreds of miles away...with little jack rabbit signs not only by the roadside, but even on the tops of mountains! When I was a kid, one of the most fun parts of the trip was scouring the landscape to find more of the little rabbit signs!
Well, the trading post is not in the best of shape these days...but the sight of the jackrabbit still pulls on my heart strings. Does it yours? To your right, you see a recent photo of the Jackrabbit statue at sunset. Below, you see an image of the peeling...but still lovable!...Jackrabbit Sign, now standing directly across from the trading post itself. Directions: Just west of Joseph City, Arizona, get off of I-40 at Exit 269. You'll see this famous landmark just south of the freeway. You may view the jack rabbit statue and the iconic jackrabbit sign 24 hours per day. The store itself is open daily, but closes in the late afternoon/early evening. If you're lucky enough to arrive during business hours, you'll find Jack Rabbit souvenirs of all kinds...from T-shirts to license plates, mugs to underwear, postcards, keychains and other fun memorabilia.
Interstate 40 Road Trip Planner
Family Fun in Albuquerque, New Mexico!
In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of the Albuquerque Zoo and Albuquerque Botanical Gardens. You've already seen a few pictures of these outstanding attractions in the slides at the top of this page. Both of these facilities are so large, however, that even after viewing the pictures on this page, you still have only glimpsed a small part of what each one has to offer you!
The Albuquerque Zoo, Aquarium and Botanical Gardens
Albuquerque is a great little city for taking either a rest break from driving...or for as a base for an entire New Mexico vacation. On your left, you see a picture of the attractive Albuquerque Aquarium. Animal-lovers in your family will enjoy the Albuquerque Aquarium...which is a favorite activity for both Albuquerque families as well as tourists seeing the sights along Interstate 40.
You'll be surprised at the comprehensiveness of this small city's aquarium. Fish and other small marine life from a wide range of the ocean's geography are represented here. You'll see tank after colorful tank of specimens...including some "kids favorites"...such as the seahorse, sharks and luminous jelly fish! They even have a clear "tunnel" attraction, which they call their Eel Tunnel.
Adjacent to the Albuquerque Aquarium is the lovely Rio Grande Botanic Gardens. Maybe you don't think your young children would enjoy a botanical garden...and maybe they wouldn't, IF this were just a "regular" botanical garden. But wait before you decide that kids won't enjoy the gardens! The Rio Grande Botanic Garden isn't just a place for strolling past plant collections!
Here, you'll find a barnyard petting zoo where children may enjoy horses, sheep, cows, and other domestic animals. PLUS, there's a historic farm exhibit---called The Heritage Farm---where kids can actively rove and explore, while learning about farm life back in "the olden days" at the same time!
At the Heritage Farm, you will see "living history" demonstrations---like ladies doing quilting work. Or you and the kids may take a horse-drawn buckboard ride! You'll find other types of exhibitions, as well. There's always a visiting exhibit, too...like the "Butterfly Pavilion" exhibit which was shown at the museum in the past. Also, there are nature guides stationed throughout the park to answer questions. And, best of all, there's a train! The train goes to Albuquerque's Rio Grande Zoo...so you can visit both attractions without having to re-park your car, if you like!
Your kids will surely want to include a visit to the Rio Grande Zoo. This nice-looking mid-sized zoo has over 1,000 animals, including a polar bear, seals & sea lions, koalas, a Komodo dragon...and all of the major favorite animals that your family would like to see. There are elephants, rhinos, hippos, chimps, apes, zebras...and on & on. It's a full-service zoo!
In addition to the animals themselves, there are some decorative touches---for example, "African village huts" in the African animals area, and a squirrel-shaped water fountain, to name two. Plus, there are scheduled activities. You'll enjoy the daily polar bear feeding, while seal & sea lion feeding occurs TWICE daily. There are bird shows (1-2 per day) between mid-April and September. From April through August, you may enjoy camel rides 6 days a week (Monday is the "day off.") And during September & October, you'll still be able to ride the camel on weekends. Train lovers get an EXTRA treat! The "Thunderbird Express" circles the park!
Where can you visit Albuquerque's Rio Grande Zoo along with the Albuquerque Aquarium and Botanical Gardens? All 3 attractions are located close to one another just west of the downtown area.
The Albuquerque Aquarium address is 2601 Central Ave NW. The Albuquerque Aquarium phone number is 505/764-6200. The Rio Grande Botanical Garden address and phone number is the same; they're both on the same property.
The Rio Grande Zoo address is 903 SW 10th St, Albuquerque, NM 87102. The Rio Grande Zoo phone number is 505/768-2000.
The website for all three parks is the same (because they're all within the Albuquerque Biological Park system.) Here's a link to their website:
Interstate 40 Road Trip Planner -- Discover intriguing Old Town Albuquerque
Albuquerque has a charming "Old Town" section which you can explore...free of charge! (Well, except for your purchases in the shops and boutiques.) In the photo on your left, you see colorful dried peppers adorning the wooden balcony of an interesting old adobe building. Cute touches, such as these peppers, can be discovered in many of the nooks and crannies in Old Town...and "discover" is just what you must do here. Old Town Albuquerque is NOT a place where you can "drive by and see everything" at a glance! The little surprises are tucked away in a dozen or more scenic courtyards, hidden away from view. Park! Get out of your car! Because if you don't, Albuquerque's Old Town charm will elude you. (Photography lovers---DON'T forget your cameras!)
The wares sold in Old Town Albuquerque vary from inexpensive tees, to pricey jewelry and artwork. Much of Old Town's merchandise is hand crafted by local artists! Foodwise, you can order a simple ice cream cone to eat at a patio table in a charming courtyard (such as in the picture to your right), or you may choose a fine-dining restaurant in one of the historic buildings lining the central square.
After shopping and dining, your family might care to stroll about the Spanish-style square in Old Town, enjoying the shade of its tall trees or its old-fashioned band stand. Or, you group can tour an attractive old adobe church and it's beautifully landscaped grounds.
There is a good website which can give you all the information you need about the various shops and restaurants in Old Town Albuquerque. It can guide you to the area with maps and fill you in about exciting upcoming events in Old Town Albuquerque.
Still more Albuquerque attractions to see on your I-40 road trip!
Cliff's Amusement Park: Your kids from preschool age to teens will certainly want to visit Cliff's if you're visiting Albuquerque from April thru September! You may enjoy New Mexico's largest roller coaster at Cliff's...along with other thrill rides, kiddie rides and water attractions. Here's the Cliff's Amusement Park website, to discover all the details you'd like for planning your outing. Or, to see our pictures & review of Cliff's, please check out our Cliff's Amusement Park pictures and discounts page.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival is the city's largest special event each year. Every October, the sight of colorful hot air balloons fills the air. Perhaps you've heard of this festival---it's one of the largest events of its kind in the USA! So many people have shown an interest in it, that there's a year-round museum devoted to showcasing this popular event! Here's the Albuquerque Balloon Museum and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta websites, for planning your visit to one...or both!...of them.
ABQ Uptown outdoor mall & Coronado Center indoor mall: What's cute, hip...and a great place to shop & dine just a few blocks north of I-40? It's ABQ Uptown! (You viewed several pictures of ABQ Uptown in the slide show at the top of this page.) You can take a stretch break from your road trip to walk along the mall's picturesque sidewalks...and snack or dine at one of its restaurants. Here's the ABQ Uptown website to help you plan your fun side-trip. One block away from ABQ Uptown, you'll find the indoor, climate-controlled Coronado Center Mall. With 4 department stores (Macy's, Kohl's, JC Penney's and Sears,) plus nearly 150 stores, there isn't much you won't find here. Here's the Coronado Center mall's website so you may view the full list of stores.
Will you be vacationing in New Mexico with kids? There are plenty of fun activities and attractions to explore within New Mexico for family vacationers. If you'd like to get New Mexico family vacation ideas for other parts of the state, be sure to see the Things to Do in New Mexico with Kids page of our website!
Arizona I-40 Road Trip Ideas
Discover curiosities of nature at the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona
After leaving Albuquerque & heading west on I-40, you'll pass through some of New Mexico's beautiful red rock formations...and even see a lava field from your car window! You'll pass by the cities of Grants and Gallup, NM...both of which have complete facilities for rest breaks and overnight stays. After leaving Gallup, you'll cross into the state of Arizona in only a few moments.
Before long, you'll reach a one-of-a-kind place to take a break---at Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park. This is the world's largest site for viewing petrified wood laying as it naturally fell during the long course of the Earth's history.
Eons ago, this area was a forest!
Logs fell into a mineral-rich, swampy bath and became embedded with mineral crystals. Lo and behold, the fallen trees didn't rot...they literally "turned to stone" from the hardened--and colorful--minerals inside them! You see in this photo at left, you see an example of a large section of a "petrified" tree trunk. It's beautiful, don't you think?
I'd recommend that you make a stop in the visitor's center, which explains the story of the petrified wood in depth, and with helpful visual aids. (You'll also find out how various colored minerals make up the "paint" of the nearby Painted Desert.) Don't forget to look in the gift shop at the samples of petrified wood. You can buy one as a souvenir! (If you'd like some petrified wood, definitely BUY a sample! It's illegal to pick up specimens from along the Petrified Forest National Park's roadways!)
Now to the "down side" of this national park....namely, not all the specimens are as grand as the one you see in this picture. You'll see many smaller chunks of petrified wood that litter the ground like rocks. Furthermore, the petrified wood in the field has not been "shined up" like the examples in the gift shop, making the "natural" specimens look plainer and less colorful. These factors can mean disappointment for children touring the park...and even for adults, as well.
The Petrified Forest National Park phone number is 928/524-6228. Directions to Petrified Forest National Park: from either eastbound or westbound I-40, take exit #311, which is clearly marked as being the exit for the park. The Painted Desert Visitor's center hours: open from 9 am to 5 pm daily; it's only closed on Christmas Day. Hours for touring the park itself vary by season. There is a $10-per-car entry fee. (If you tour the visitor's center and gift shop without driving along the park's interior roads, there is no charge.) For further information about the Petrified Forest National Park, you may consult the National Park Service's pages devoted to this topic, at the following URL:
Interstate 40 Road Trip Planner -- Arizona's Meteor Crater really looks like the moon!
Farther west down I-40 you'll pass The Meteor Crater, an attraction that I remember enjoying as a kid...and still enjoy, as well! If your kids are old enough to understand about the craters on the moon, they'll be interested to learn that Mother Earth sometimes gets smacked, too!
Arizona's Meteor Crater is the world's best-preserved impact crater. When you're looking at the Meteor Crater, it will SEEM like you're looking at the moon. (The NASA astronauts have even trained here!) You'll also find a museum with interesting exhibits which explain how the Meteor Crater was formed (and other interesting facts about its history), a movie theater (with a regularly-scheduled film about the crater), a gift shop and a snack bar here. A guided tour along the rim, complete with an interesting & informative lecture, is available several times a day. There are definitely enough things to do at the Meteor Crater to keep your family busy for several hours, if you've got the time to explore.
Admission for adults is under $20 for adults, with discounts for military, seniors and for kids 6--17. The Arizona Meteor Crater phone number is 800/289-5898 (offices) or 928/289-2362 (visitor's center.) Directions to Meteor Crater: from either eastbound or westbound Interstate 40, take Exit #233. (This lies between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona.) Follow the signs to the Meteor Crater site, which is just a few miles off of I-40. You can actually see the crater's rim from I-40.
If your family has an interest in visiting the Meteor Crater in Arizona, you'll enjoy viewing the attraction's official website at...
Interstate 40 Road Trip Planner -- The Grand Canyon, Nature's Great Spectacle
As you drive west on Interstate 40, you'll pass several possible turn-offs to The Grand Canyon National Park. You should plan about 1/2 day for your Grand Canyon excursion. This will give you time for driving to and from the canyon, for viewing the scenery, exploring the visitor's center, and taking in the IMAX interpretive movie. However, as you surely know, some people spend a great more time than this at the Grand Canyon. However, a half-day trip will let you enjoy "the basics" until you have time to come back & explore the area in more depth. Please visit our Driving to the Grand Canyon page for complete details about the various routes into the national park.
If you plan to camp as part of your Grand Canyon vacation, you may wish to view our Grand Canyon Camping page. Also, if you'll be visiting with kids or teens, you will find some ideas for giving them the most exciting visit possible on our Grand Canyon with Kids page.
What can I possibly tell you about the Grand Canyon that you don't already know?! It's HUGE; you can see it fairly well even from 'way up in a commercial jet plane! In fact, it's on the flight path from Los Angeles to certain eastern US cities, and is an interesting way to view the canyon.
Arizona's Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River over the course of eons and eons of time...but, you certainly knew THAT tidbit, as well!
The Grand Canyon website mentioned above will tell you about rafting on the Colorado River THROUGH the Grand Canyon; helicopter tours OVER the canyon; mule rides down INTO the canyon's depths; plus general travel and vacation information you'll find useful for your visit to Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon entrance fees: The Grand Canyon is a unit of the US National Park Service. Grand Canyon admission fees have become more expensive over the last few years! The entry fee is now up to $25 per vehicle!
It's a shame for families struggling to afford a vacation that our public natural wonders have to be so darned EXPENSIVE to visit! And yet, it's also absolutely essential that this marvel be maintained. If you'd like to save money on your National Parks visits this year...including the Grand Canyon & Petrified Forest along Arizona's stretch of I-40...you might want to consider buying a National Parks annual pass. For the price of about $80, you may tour ALL of the USA's National Parks, Monuments, Battlefields, Historical Parks...and many of the BLM's natural areas, as well. For more details on the National Parks Pass, here is a link to the National Park Service website.
Which is better: the South Rim or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? Unless you've already seen the Grand Canyon's south rim (the popular area which may easily be reached from I-40), DON'T plan a visit to the North Rim. The South Rim's famous spectacular view just isn't the same when seen from the North Rim.
Yes, the North Rim has its charms. The lodge on the North Rim is rustic and inviting. The crowds are thin. You can hike in peace. But, the view simply isn't as jaw-dropping. And, there the driving time to reach the North Rim is considerably longer, as well. I'd suggest that you save visiting the North Rim for a time when you're well-acquainted with the South Rim & want to move on to something new.
The Grand Canyon National Park phone number is (520) 638-7888.
Directions to the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park: from either eastbound or westbound Interstate 40, take the "Arizona State Highway 64" exit (at Williams, AZ). This exit is clearly marked as being the I-40 exit for the Grand Canyon. There are 2 other routes to the Grand Canyon's south rim, both leaving Interstate 40 from Flagstaff; however, the route leading northward from Williams is the quickest and most direct. (To reach the north rim of the Grand Canyon from Interstate 40, you should take the US Highway 89 exit from Flagstaff, and head north.) The Grand Canyon official website iswww.nps.gov/grca/
Still MORE I-40 Road Trip Fun!
This has been a long, long page...
but it's still not a complete list of attractions and fun things to do along I-40. So, we've got some other pages of our site where we'd like to refer you.
Arizona is the I-40 state where you'll find a plethora of unique attractions found in few other parts of the world. On this page, you've already read about Arizona's spectacular Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and Petrified forest...but that's just scratching the surface of the attractions you can enjoy on an Interstate 40 roadtrip through Arizona! For a list of other places in AZ that you might enjoy exploring (along with maps and photos,) please check out our Things to Do in Arizona page. Also, if you'll be leaving I-40 and heading south to Phoenix, you may wish to view our Fun Things to Do in Phoenix with Kids page...though you won't need children in tow to enjoy many of the suggestions on this page.
From I-40, it's easy to take a side-trip to see the spectacular UTAH NATIONAL PARKS. If you've got the time, you can enjoy Arches National Park, Canyonlands NP, Newspaper Rock, Mexican Hat, and other highlights of nature's Southwestern scenery. For pictures and information on this topic, please visit our Utah National Parks Vacation page.
If you'll be completing your I-40 trip in Southern California, then we have an entire website full of info which may interest you. You'll find detailed info about shopping, outlet malls, theme parks & theme park discounts, family fun centers, water parks, and other places of interest to locals and tourists alike. Here's the home page of our Family-Vacation-Getaways.com website, which has 400 more pages dedicated to helping your family have fun during your stay in California!