Carthage, Missouri: Route 66 Drive-In


As I reached the outskirts of Carthage, I was thinking that the day was nearly done, and all that was left to do was to find a motel.  If I was lucky, I would find a place to take a nice picture of the sunset.  Remarkably, I found a great spot, just moments before sunset, when I pulled up to Kellogg Lake, northeast of downtown.

The old alignment of Route 66 breaks away from MO Rte. 96 near Kellogg Lake.  It’s tough to spot the turn, but you should watch for County Route 118, make a left, then an immediate right, to end up on Old 66 Blvd.  The old road runs south of Kellogg Lake, while Rte. 96 runs north of it. 

Kellogg Lake is a popular fishing spot for locals.  It’s also not a bad place to picnic on your Route 66 trip…

… or watch the sunset.  I snapped a few pictures before the sun disappeared, then drove on into town.

At the center of Carthage is the beautiful Jasper County Courthouse, built in 1895 using stone from local quarries.  From what I’ve read, the courthouse was famous in its early days as the site of public hangings — people would come for miles around, and enjoy a picnic as criminals were put to death.

Here are a few more random facts about Carthage:
-Carthage was home to the first major land battle of the Civil War in 1861
-Carthage was once home to more millionaires than any other U.S. city
-A native of Carthage is called a Carthaginian

After visiting downtown, I had to call it a day.  There are several motels along US Hwy. 71, just west of downtown, and south, towards I-44.

Carthage has one more notable tourist attraction, that will appeal to any knick-knack collector.  It’s the Precious Moments Chapel, designed around those wide-eyed porcelain dust-collectors.  The chapel is decorated with paintings depicting scenes from the Bible, played out by the Precious Moments characters.   It’s all free, as a “thank you” from the Precious Moments creator, Samuel Butcher.  You’ll find plenty of signs to direct you to the chapel and surrounding park, south of Carthage and north of I-44.

Day 3 Begins…

I had considered driving back into Carthage’s downtown before heading west on Day 3.  It looked like there are plenty of local businesses still in operation in the square surrounding the Jasper County Courthouse.  But, I hit the road too early in the day.  Knowing that everything would still be closed so early in the morning, I found my way back to Route 66, and continued west.

Headed west out of Carthage, Old Route 66 follows Oak Street briefly, then (as you pass the golf course) the old road veers to the left, following Old 66 Blvd. It’s not well marked, unfortunately.

On the outskirts of Carthage is the beautiful old 66 Drive-In, complete with a neon sign out front, and an absolutely HUGE billboard sign behind the big screen.

If your route 66 drive includes an overnight stop in Carthage or anywhere else nearby, you’d be crazy not to catch a flick at the 66 Drive-In.  It is closed during the winter months, and in 2008, re-opened for the season on April 4th.

Just about everything at the 66 Drive-In Theatre is original: the 66 foot high screen, the ticket booth made of glass block, the neon sign out by the roadway.

The 66 Drive-In premiered its first movie September 22, 1949.  During the years that the theater was in disrepair, it was used as a junkyard.  Restoration was completed in 1998, and a grand re-opening ceremony kicked off the theater’s second life.  You can see historical pictures at the 66 Drive-In website.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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