Thousands of tourists travel historic Route 66 through Joplin each year.
Are you one of them?
Sure, over the years I’d utilized Route 66 at some point nearly every single day as I’d take my kids to activities and run errands, occasionally noticing the historic road’s signage when stopped at a red light (which, by the way, seemed to be posted on multiple roads and therefore perplexed me – more about that in a minute).
But I’d never really explored Joplin’s portion of the Mother Road through the unadulterated eyes of a tourist, who travels the highway in order to experience an important part of America’s history.
Me? I’d been using Route 66 as an efficient way to get across town to Target. I finally realized that it was time to rectify that, so I decided to travel Route 66 through Joplin like a tourist.
Remember how I mentioned that I saw Route 66 signage on multiple streets and how that confused me? I did some research and learned that Route 66 was realigned twice after the original construction of the road (click here for more about the history of Route 66 in Joplin).
Here’s a brief summary of the three alignments, coming from Webb City’s Broadway Street and heading west toward Joplin (you can see a map of this by clicking here):
1926: Broadway (Webb City) to Madison/North Range Line to Zora to Florida to Utica to Euclid to St. Louis to Broadway (Joplin) to Main to 7th. This is the portion of the Route that I only recently discovered, and it winds through the Royal Heights neighborhood to Broadway Street (which used to be Main Street when Joplin was known as Joplin City a loooooong time ago).
1937: Broadway (Webb City) to 171 to North Main Street to 7th.
1958: Broadway (Webb City) to Madison/North Range Line to 7th.
Attractions Along – and Slightly Off – the Route
There are some attractions located a block or two off the Route that I think are important to point out.
Joe Becker Stadium (1301 East 3rd Street)
Built in 1913, Joe Becker Stadium is two blocks south of Broadway Street (Route 66), and was once home to baseball great Mickey Mantle when he played for the Joplin Miners in 1950.
Bookhouse Cinema (715 East Broadway Street)
Located on historic Route 66, this entertainment complex features Joplin’s only independent movie theater, as well as a kitchen and pub. Local brews and local foods are featured on the menu here, with items for vegans and carnivores, and everyone in between.
George A. Spiva Center for the Arts (222 W. Third Street)
With national and regional exhibits, art classes and workshops, and a gift shop with one-of-a-kind items, this center is abuzz with creativity and talent.
And there’s a bonus: admission is free! Go see for yourself why Spiva Center for the Arts is the visual arts hub of the Four States.
Murphysburg Historic District (Sergeant Street, from 1st to 7th Streets; and Moffet Street, from 4th to 7th Streets)
The founding fathers of the Joplin built their elegant homes just blocks from Main Street in an area known as Murphysburg. This historic residential district’s tree-lined streets are filled with many houses that represent Queen Anne and Colonial Revival architectural styles.
Park your car, stretch your legs, and take a stroll through this quaint neighborhood. Here’s a walking tour that you can follow.
Downtown Joplin (Main Street, A to 10th Streets)
Joplin boomed during the mining days of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and many of the brick buildings on Main Street were built during that time. Decades later, this area became part of Route 66, ushering in the energetic Mother Road culture.
Today, these buildings house a variety of restaurants, shops, art galleries, and businesses whose owners invite visitors to explore their historic piece of the city.
Once a month, from March through October, the community comes together in downtown Joplin on Third Thursday, celebrating in the streets with music, art, food, and fun.
Joplin City Hall (Newman Building, 602 South Main Street)
I think this is one of the prettiest buildings in Joplin, and I wonder what it must have been like to shop here over a century ago when it was a high-rise department store. Today, the building houses Joplin’s municipal offices, as well as its Convention and Visitors Bureau, which serves as a great resource for tourists (and residents) who are looking for things to do in the city and surrounding area.
As a Mother Road traveler, be sure to stop in the lobby of the Newman Building to look at the incredible painting “Route 66, Joplin, Missouri” by world-renowned artist Thomas Hart Benton, which offers a snapshot of life in Joplin during the height of the Mother Road era.
Route 66 Mural Park (619 South Main Street)
Located across the street from City Hall, this park pays tribute to Joplin’s contribution to the Route 66 culture. With two murals plus an oversized 45 record imprint of “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” this park provides an ideal backdrop for photos of Route 66 sojourners.
Other murals painted on buildings downtown capture bits and pieces of the history and character of our city. If you’re up for it, take a walking tour to get to know Joplin through its public art.
Candy House Gourmet (510 South Kentucky)
This confectionery beckons those with a sweet tooth with its original-recipe toffee, caramel pecan treats (turtles), brittle, fudge, pecan logs, and sea salt caramels to tempt the taste buds.
Arrange to take a tour of the factory to see how the candy is made, then stop at candy shop’s Route 66 gift section to take home a delicious souvenir from Joplin.
Restaurants on the Route
Soul food, gyros, pasta, veggie dogs, and doughnut burgers – did you know that you can try all of these on the Route in downtown Joplin?
You can! Maybe not all of them on one day, though…
If you have a hankering for some made-from-scratch food that comforts your soul, visit MEs Place (1203 Broadway), owned by former Joplin Mayor Melodee Kean.
If you’re craving Greek food, stop at M & M Bistro (612 South Main Street), which serves fresh, flavorful Mediterranean delights, like gyros and hummus.
If wings are your thing, definitely try some of Missouri’s best at Hackett Hot Wings (520 South Main Street), where you can choose from 13 signature flavors.
Both vegetarians and meat-lovers alike achieve sweet bliss after eating at Instant Karma (527 South Main). Here, you can order inventive dishes like the Bio Diesel (a veggie dog served with homemade bleu cheese coleslaw) or the Heavenly Donut (a hamburger served with a glazed doughnut as the bun). Round out your meal with one of the many craft beers on the menu.
Need some something sweet after your meal? Try a scoop of Bear Claw or Red Velvet Cake ice cream from Caroline’s(1027 South Main). Located three blocks off the Route in the historic Gryphon Building, this old-fashioned ice cream shop is worth the slight detour.
Last Stop Before Kansas!
Schifferdecker Park (7th and Schifferdecker)
Named after Joplin businessman and philanthropist Charles Schifferdecker, this park is the last stop on historic Route 66 before the Kansas state line. In addition to being a wonderful place to have a picnic or to let the kids run around on the playground, there are several other activities that you can do here that you just might not know about.
For instance, you can float on a lazy river at the Joplin Aquatic Center, play 18 holes of golf at Schifferdecker Golf Course, catch a performance at Joplin Little Theatre (the longest continuously running community theatre west of the Mississippi), and see a necklace found in Bonnie and Clyde’s Joplin hideout at the Joplin Museum Complex (where you’ll also learn that Schifferdecker Park was once called Electric Park and had a huge roller coaster in it!).
So, my Joplin friends, how many of these places have you been to? If you’ve visited them all, then I applaud you.
If not, here’s your challenge: For one day, be a tourist.
Start at North Range Line Road and trace historic Route 66 solely for the purpose of pleasure and discovery, rather than as a means of getting from point A to point B.
You might even play “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” to get you in an adventurous mood.
If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route 66.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.
*This post was updated on 3/11/19.