Get Your Kicks (and Use Your Points) on Route 66

These hotels along America's iconic highway offer a bit of history, and you could stay for almost free with points.

Ramsey QubeinAugust 12, 2020
Get your kicks (and use your points) on Route 66

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Legendary Route 66, often called the Main Street of America, draws tourists from around the world. These days, Americans are embracing the summer of road trips, and there are plenty of attractions to see and explore on this authentic “Americana” drive that stretches more than 2,000 miles through eight states. Plus, if you’re looking to redeem hotel points, there are opportunities galore.

Part of the charm of Route 66 is the iconic roadside motels and neon signs that hearken to the days of pulling over when you’re tired. Today, however, travelers are ready to redeem points that they have been saving up over the past several months. These travelers are planning specific stops along their journey.

Route 66 stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles, and the major cities on the route have plenty of well-known hotel properties. But there are some lesser-known properties that should be on every Route 66 road-tripper’s radar. Some capture the Route 66 experience or history. Others are convenient to popular detours and major attractions that many families will appreciate. So here’s your guide to some hidden gem lodgings along Route 66.

President Abraham Lincoln, DoubleTree by Hilton, Springfield, Illinois

The warm chocolate chip cookie you get when you arrive isn’t the only great perk. The location of this hotel is another. It is in the heart of downtown Springfield, the capital of Illinois. The President Abraham Lincoln Springfield is within walking distance of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and it is a short drive to reach the Illinois State Museum. Visitors can also easily visit the Lincoln Tomb by car.

DoubleTree by Hilton participates in the Hilton Honors program, and guests can redeem points for a free night. Hilton Honors does not have an award chart but instead, it prices rooms dynamically, meaning the points rate varies depending on the night. We found rooms in early November starting at 28,000 Honors points per night.

Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, Springfield, Missouri

Continue along the highway to another Springfield (this one in Missouri), home to the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center. The Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven also boasts photographs and antiques depicting this famous road. It is best known for its Elvis-themed guest room where guests can sleep in a pink Cadillac bed. It costs 16,000 Best Western Rewards points for a free night at the hotel.

Marriott’s Willow Ridge Lodge, Branson, Missouri

Another detour from Route 66 takes drivers to Branson, which is a popular destination for people looking for family entertainment and Ozark hospitality. Branson is known as the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World.” Marriott’s Willow Ridge Lodge puts guests in the middle of nature, but close to the action. It is a Category 4 property with a free night costing between 17,500 and 30,000 points.

The resort is surrounded by nature but is also not far from the Branson Ferris Wheel, which was transported from Chicago’s Navy Pier in 2015, and the famous 76 Country Boulevard with its numerous entertainment venues. Route 66 fans often make the trip for the many quirky attractions along the way. The world’s largest roll of toilet paper is at the nearby Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum.

The Skirvin Hilton Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

A historic hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, The Skirvin is more than a century old and has hosted major events and visitors over the years. It is a member of the Historic Hotels of America group. These days, its interiors pay homage to Old World glamor, and tourists will appreciate its proximity to city attractions like Bricktown and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Considering much of Route 66 passes through small cities, this is a great place to mix in some big-city fun while redeeming your Hilton points. We found rooms in March starting at 50,000 points per night. But you’ll have to search your dates to find out how many points you’ll need. As always, Hilton Honors American Express cardholders earn bonus points when paying with their card. Terms apply.

Courtyard by Marriott Amarillo Downtown, Amarillo, Texas

Located in a restored historic building, this downtown hotel puts travelers close to the Old San Jacinto district. This is where travelers will find Wild West-themed shops and galleries, plus all kinds of dining options. The Courtyard by Marriott Amarillo Downtown is a Category 3 property, which means a night costs between 12,000 and 20,000 points. Coming soon to downtown, The Barfield, an Autograph Collection property, is projected to open in January 2021. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out how many points a free night there will cost.

Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque, Curio Collection by Hilton, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hilton Hotels founder Conrad Hilton was from New Mexico, and this is the fourth of his hotels that would eventually become the Hilton Worldwide, which is known for its Hilton Honors program. Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque is located in downtown Albuquerque and boasts Andalusian decor from Spain.

Most visitors will want to explore Albuquerque’s Old Town, which is a short drive from the hotel. Hilton Honors prices rooms dynamically with the rate varying by night. Don’t leave your camera in the room here as the hotel has some beautiful architecture worth exploring.

La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa, a Tribute Portfolio hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

For Marriott Bonvoy members, New Mexican architecture, design and style await at La Posada de Santa Fe. The resort is a Category 6 property with a free night ranging between 35,000 and 60,000 points. In addition to a wonderful spa, the artwork, fire pits and overall layout really give guests a great sense of place. Throughout the year, the hotel has a roster of free activities like wine and cheese tastings, yoga on the lawn and s’mores by the fire. Bonus points are a nice perk of paying with a Marriott Bonvoy credit card.

Or, there's a top-of-the-list destination and short detour from what is now Interstate 40 (that makes up much of the track Route 66 once took). For travelers who want to be in the heart of Old Town, the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza is close to everything, from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and New Mexico Museum of Art to great shopping.

The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel, Williams, Arizona

This Xanterra property is in a perfect spot for visiting one of the region’s most famous attractions: Grand Canyon National Park. Families will love The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel's Western-themed activities and railroad accents.

When booking through programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards® or American Express Membership Rewards, opt for a rate that lets you use points to pay for add-ons, like train rides into Grand Canyon National Park (a nice alternative to joining the onslaught of cars entering the park) and meals at the hotel.

Rather overnight in the park? El Tovar is another Xanterra property that gives guests up-close views of the Grand Canyon from its South Rim location.

Sunset Marquis Hotel, West Hollywood, California

As a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, the Sunset Marquis Hotel has some notable rock ’n’ roll history for visitors to explore. The NightBird recording studio in the basement of the hotel has attracted numerous DJs, recording artists and musicians over the years, making it a popular place to visit. The property is close to the world-famous Sunset Strip, which is just off of the Route 66 map and a great place to enjoy live music, live comedy and people-watching.

I Prefer members can redeem points for gift certificates to apply toward a free night. You don’t need to save up enough points for a free night, however, as you can redeem points for cash off the paid rate (meaning there is never a need to search for award availability). For example, 50,000 I Prefer points are equal to $100 and 125,000 points are good for a $250 gift certificate.

The Huntley Hotel, Santa Monica, California

As the final city on Route 66 before reaching the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica and its ocean views are a reward for driving through so much arid land. While there is no shortage of hotel options here, The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, is a welcoming retreat where I Prefer members can redeem points for a gift certificate toward a free stay.

Photos courtesy of Hilton, Marriott, Best Western, Preferred Hotels & Resorts and the Xanterra Travel Collection.  

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