Lined with iconic landmarks, restaurants, and motels, Route 66 is one of the most unique road trips you can take with your family. Throughout the years I’ve enjoyed portions of the famous route, but most recently I headed to Oklahoma where I discovered the blue whale, Route 66 attraction that is among the most popular stops in the country.
Are you heading out on a road trip this summer or later this year? In addition to all the Route 66 fun I’ll be posting, be sure to check out the best lighthouses to visit in the United States.
*Affiliate links in post where a small commission may be earned for any purchases made at no cost to you.
Blue Whale Route 66 Attraction
Unlike some Route 66 attractions which might not excite young kids too much, the Blue Whale looked promising. We were about to find out.
Kid-Approved Route 66 Oklahoma Fun
We were heading into both Oklahoma and Arkansas for some summer fun with family, a visit to see all things “The Pioneer Woman,” and a few surprises along the way. I knew that Route 66 was on my to-do list. Having been to Oklahoma City, I knew that Route 66 ran right through town. I discovered the same would be true of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
One of the most iconic attractions visited each year along the famed road includes a darling blue whale located in what was at one time a swimming hole. It seems that the former director of the Tulsa Zoo, Hugh Sterling Davis, created this landmark upon his retirement in the 1970s as an anniversary gift to his wife. I can only hope my retirement would be as ambitious!
Though the attraction closed a decade or so later, renewed interest in the Blue Whale had residents and city officials from Catoosa making plans to revitalize it.
Today, families from all over the world benefit from that renewed interest.
These days the Blue Whale of Catoosa is open along Route 66. Read on to discover where you can find this hidden gem and what you are able to do there.
Is there Admission to Visit the Blue Whale?
No admission. It’s free to all.
Where is the Blue Whale on Route 66?
The official address is 2600 U.S. Rte 66, Catoosa, OK 74015.
The Blue Whale is located off Interstate 44 just minutes from Tulsa’s Hard Rock Cafe Hotel and Casino. It is a quick stop on your way traveling from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Fayetteville, Arkansas.
I’ll be soon sharing more stops and landmarks I encountered while in Tulsa, but this one, the Blue Whale, is found just outside of town.
A fun sign welcomes you as you walk inside the attraction and lets you know how far it is to other scenic destinations along the historic route. The end of Route 66 for example, Santa Monica, CA, was 1505 miles away.
Once driving along the historic Route 66, it’s easy to spot the Blue Whale of Catoosa. An official looking Route 66 landmark is spotted just off the road and a gravel parking lot is ready for visitors.
I was pleasantly surprised that so many families were visiting. A stop at the Blue Whale doesn’t take too long, but in summer there was a steady stream of families coming and going, though I wouldn’t consider it to be crowded. We just waited patiently for a few minutes and had the entire whale to ourselves for photos.
Blue Whale of Catoosa – Things to Do
The one thing you cannot do at the Blue Whale Route 66 attraction is swim. Though it is a former swimming hole, one look at the water and it’s not very inviting. You can have fun watching all the turtles enjoying the water though. Don’t let the ladders and slides off the whale fool you into thinking you can grab your swimsuits here. Not allowed. Keep an eye on young ones.
Let’s talk about what you can do during a visit.
Bring a Picnic Lunch – Grab your lunch and enjoy the picnic tables under the trees with a close view of the whale. Or grab a snow cone on-site (see more about this below.) Yes, there are restrooms, though I didn’t go inside to check them out.
Take a Photo at the Entrance of the Whale’s Mouth – Whether you take a selfie, ask another visiting family to take your photo, or both, don’t miss this Instagram-worthy photo op.
Walk Through the Whale – Watch the little ones during this adventure, but take a walk through the whale! The only thing similar I can think of is at Disneyland, when you take the Storybook Land Canal Boats ride through the whale’s mouth. Kids will love this. Older kids might like to climb the ladder just inside the mouth where they can go “upstairs.”
Climb up on the Whale’s Tail – There is a ladder in the very back where you can take turns climbing up on the tail.
Grab a Snow cone On-Site – In the gravel parking lot you’ll see a blue snow cone stand. Grab one to enjoy on a hot day either before or after your visit to the whale. You’ll find traditional flavors like cherry and grape along with unique fun flavors like dill pickle and cappuccino. Local favorites include:
- Barbie – Bubblegum and Cotton Candy
- Boomer Sooner (a nod to University of Oklahoma fans) – Cherry and Vanilla
- Deere John – Green Apple and Banana
- Frog Leg – Cotton Candy, Grape, Blue Raspberry, and Strawberry
- Nemo – Cherry and Orange
A sign on the building also has some Route 66 snow cone trivia, asking if you know where you can find certain flavors along the historic road.
Support Local. Step inside the Gift Shop – Support this local on-site gift shop while you are there, especially since a visit to the Blue Whale is free. It’s an incredibly small shop right at the entrance and you’ll find everything from ornaments and trinkets for kids to books and t-shirts. My daughter fell in love with a Route 66 baseball cap that was only $15 and I spied incredible books about Route 66, including a very popular one for kids, Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Family Vacation.
Notice the ARK – Yes, I said ark. When you pull into the parking lot, before you even get close to the whale, you’ll notice an old, closed-off wooden ark right behind the snowcone shack. A little research and I discovered that the ark was also built by the same Hugh Sterling Davis who built the blue whale. It was an ark called A.R.K. (Animal Reptile Kingdom) and housed some zoo animals back in the day.
We loved our Route 66 stop just outside Tulsa. The Blue Whale of Catoosa landmark is fun, quirky, and just the thing to make the kids smile. Add in a snow cone, kids running around on the grass, and climbing all over a whale and you have yourself the making of summer memories.
Stay tuned as I bring you more from our Route 66 stops.