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Route 66: Vinita, Oklahoma

Vinita, seat of Craig County, Oklahoma, it is the second oldest town in Oklahoma. Its best-known landmarks are: Historic Hotel Vinita, the McDougal Filling Station, the Clanton's Cafe (the longest continually family owned restaurant along the whole of Route 66) and the McDonalds bridge-restaurant, the biggest in the whole world.

Vinita OK

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About Vinita, Oklahoma

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 699 ft. (213 m). Population: 5,743 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Vinita, is the county seat of Craig County, Oklahoma, in the northeastern tip of the state, close to Missouri and Kansas in the "Green Country" region of Oklahoma, where the forested Ozark Highlands blends with the prairie.

Downtown Vinita

Downtown Vinita, Oklahoma
Downtown, in the 1920s, Vinita, Oklahoma
by The White Pelican

The Historic Route 66 crosses the town from North to South.

Vinita's History

This part of America has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. The Native American people were hunters and gatherers. The current Cherokee population in Oklahoma is the result of their "Removal" from their original homeland east of the Mississippi by the U.S. government.

In the early 1800s, the Federal government swapped their lands in Georgia for other land west of the Mississippi River. Treaties were signed and the Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress in 1830.

The natives relocated in what is now Oklahoma and set up the Cherokee Nation with its capital, Tahlontiskee (near present Gore, OK) in 1839 after a terrible migration (the "Trail of Tears").

There were two battles near Vinita during the American Civil War, at Cabin Creek:

Battles of Cabin Creek

Cabin Creek is about 30 miles from the Kansas state line and was the point where the Old Military Road , coming up from Texas, split off from the Texas Trail. A large double plank cabin was built here, and it would give its name to the trail, the creek and a also -though much later- to a nearby town.

There were two battles fought here: the first battle took place on July 1 - 2, 1863, and resulted in a Union victory. It was the first in which African American troops (the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry) fought alongside white soldiers. The Second battle (Sept. 17, 1864) was a Confederate victory.

Vinita's Eastern Trails Museum has relics of the battles. Which are reenacted every third year (next one is in October 2016).

The Cherokee Nation in the late 1860s granted permission for the laying of railways through their territory. The first tracks were those of the Missouri - Kansas - Texas Railroad Company (or MKT or "Katy"), who builtits line southwards down the "old Texas Road" towards Texas.

Lavinia Ellen Ream

Lavinia "Vinnie" Ellen Ream. Public Domain

Katy's attorney and mixed-blood Cherokee Col. Elias C. Boudinot II, chose a spot next to Cabin Creek for the location of a townsite. He set up a tent town there. He knew that this would be the point for a junction between MKT and another railroad, the Atlantic and Pacific Line (A&P). He named the town Vinita.

A&P was building a line that crossed the country in a diagonal from St. Louis to Vinita and intended to head west towards California (it reached Needles, CA in 1885, after being purchased by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880).

But A&P had negotiated with some Cherokee leaders that opposed Boudinot, and moved their tracks so that the junction would not fall within Boudinot's land. Instead the junction was to be located about 3 miles further north.

Both railways met and a town was laid down in 1871 by Joseph Vann, Dr. Miller and Joseph Thompson (who became its first Mayor and built its first building). Its original name was Downingville after Lewis Downing, the main Cherokee Chief at that time.

Boudinot's Vinita

Boudinot named the town after his lady friend Lavinia "Vinnie" Ream.

Lavinia Ellen Ream Hoxie (1847 - 1914). American sculptor best known for the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

Boudinot's town was short lived, but the name prevailed, Downingville became Vinita (though for many years it was known as "The Junction") and was incorporated under Tribal laws in 1873.

The town grew and the railway junction allowed cattle-shipping to St. Louis and to Kansas City.

Between 1898 and 1906, the Federal Government curtailed the authority of the Cherokee Nation and in 1897 Congress nullified tribal laws and in consequence Vinita was incorporated in 1898.

The tribal government was dissolved, the reservation terminated and Oklahoma admitted as a state of the Union in 1907, and Craig County was established.

Vinita Trivia

Phil McGraw, TV personality "Doctor Phil" was born in Vinita, and Will Rogers, actor, singer, politician, cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator was, despite being the local celebrity, born 40 miles away in Oologah, Oklahoma.

In the meantime, telephones were installed in 1897 year and electricity in 1899 (it was the first city in Oklahoma with electricity).

When the national highway system being discussed in the 1920s Vinita lobbied effectively to have some of them pass through the town: US highways 59, 60, 66, 69 and 73 were all aligned to cross the town.

Vinita is...
  • The second oldest town in Oklahoma
  • The first town in the state with electricity
  • The oldest incorporated town on Oklahoma's Route 66

Its economy received a boost from travelers driving down Route 66 during the Great Depression and the World War II period. However the road became unsafe and too small to handle the growing flow of vehicles. By 1957 the Will Rogers and Turner turnpikes had replaced it between Joplin and Oklahoma City.

Typical Motel sign, Vinita, Oklahoma

Inn in Vinita, Oklahoma
Vinita Inn, Vinita, Oklahoma.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels in Vinita. Alternatively you can also lodge in the neighboring towns along Route 66 in Oklahoma:

Lodging Nearby:
Book your Route 66 hotel now
Book your Hotel along Route 66

>> There are two RV campgrounds in Vinita.

Weather in Vinita

Average annual rainfal is 43 inches (1.090 mm) and it rains about 91 days per year, mostly during late spring and summer. Sunny days are the most frequent: 226 days yearly.

The average high temperature in July is 93°F (33.9°C) and in January the average low is 24°F (-4.4°C).

It snows in Vinita during winter and about 11 inches (28 cm) fall between Nov. and March.

Tornado Risk. Vinita is located inside Oklahoma's "Tornado Alley and experiences about 8 to 9 Tornado watches every year.

Read more about: Tornadoes on Route66.

Route 66 and Miami Oklahoma
Location of Vinita, Craig Co., Route 66

Getting to Vinita

Vinita is 45 miles southwest of the Kansas state line and 30 miles south of Miami and 15 miles east of Afton.

To the west along US 69 - Route 66 are Chelsea, Claremore, Catoosa and Tulsa (65 mi.).

Map of Vinita and Route66

in Oklahoma.

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment; Red line: Interstate highways, where they overlap the old alignment.

  Click to See the Western Oklahoma alignment

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Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary to Vinita

Route 66 logo

Route 66 in Oklahoma

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across Oklahoma.

Vinita, OK: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

Town Attractions


Vinita is a great example of "small town" America: Route 66 is its Main Street, and it has its share of historic hotels, diners, filling Stations and buildings; history and nostalgia together on Route 66.

Route 66 enters the town from the east as E. Illinois Avenue and then takes a left along S. Wilson St. to head out of town.

First National Bank of Oklahoma

102 W. Illinois Ave. Vinita

It was founded in 1892 and is celebrating its 125th anniversary during 2017. The bank also provides live webcams showing Route 66 in Vinita: check them out here:

Hotel Vinita

Historic Vinita Hotel

Historic Hotel Vinita, Abe Ezekowitz

106 West Canadian, Vinita, OK.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

The historic hotel was built in 1930 and, unlike previous hotels which were built to cater to the railroad passengers, this one was especially built on Route 66 to serve those traveling down the highway.

Although it may seem a box-like building, its design included elements fof the Baroque and Spanish Colonial styles.


Randall Tire Company

Historic Randall Tire Co. Vinita

Historic Randall Tire Co. Vinita, Abe Ezekowitz

237 South Wilson, Vinita, OK.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

It was built in 1931 and has a distinctive facade with irregular stone that gives it a castle-like appearance, with sawtooth parapet and all. Its windows are framed by bricks.

Former location: Spraker Service Station

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

240 South Wilson, now demolished.

It was built in the cottage style "Tudor Revival" typical of the Conoco gasoline service stations of the 1920s. It was built in 1927, but was demolished after its listing.

Clanton's Cafe

319 E. Illinois, Vinita, Oklahoma. (918) 256-9053.

It is the longest continually family owned restaurant along the whole of Route 66, and has been operated by four generations of the same family.

The Cafe opened in 1927 and serves the best of Southern cuisine (burgers, steaks, fried calf and more).

Site of the Lewis Motel

Old sign of the Lewis Motel

Old sign of the Lewis Motel, by A. Whittall.

On the north side of East Illinois, just across from Clanton's is the old motel's site (it was demolished in 2006).

Eastern Trails Museum

215 W. Illinois, Vinita OK.

Exhibits of the early days of Vinita, native artifacts, pioneer's objects. And re-created settings: a post office, general store and doctor's office.

Monday-Friday 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and Saturday 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Admission is free.

Local Events

Don't miss the two main events:

World's Largest Calf Fry & Cook-Off

The World's Largest Calf Fry Festival is held every year (36th Annual event in 2015).

It began in 1979 and is now sponsored by the the Vinita Area Chamber of Commerce. It is a typical rural and ranching community delicacy.

The highlight is the "calf frying competition" and the beans, salsas, cobblers and breads cook-offs.

Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo

This is a week-long event in memroy of Will Rogers, born in 1879 and killed in a plane crash in 1934. He attended school in Vinita. His death took place two days before a Rodeo in Vinita he was going to attend, so it became a memorial event in his honor.

It consists of an opening parada, the All Settler's Day event and rodeo events including barrel racing, bronc riding, bull riding, roping and more.

Four day passes available. More information at their website:

Tours & Itineraries

There are some very interesting landmarks, sights and scenic places close to Miami:

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Visit the nearby towns of Afton (15 miles east) and Miami (30 miles northeast), with their typical Route 66 attractions.

McDougal Filling Station

443956 East State Highway 60 (and S 4440Rd.), 4 mi. east of Vinita.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Historic McDougal Gasoline Station, Vinita

Old McDougal Filling Station
Old McDougal Filling Station, Vinita, Oklahoma

This independent gasoline station was built in 1940. It was designed to look like a house: red shingled roof, brick chimney and home-like door and windows. It has a sandstone veneer which alternates dark and light stones in a style found in the region and known as "Giraffe Stone".

It operated until I-44 bypassed it in the late 1950s.

See its Google Street View

Summerside Vineyards Winery & Meadery

441251 E. Historic Route 66, Vinita. (888) 508-9463.

Located close to the I-44 exit, southeast of Vinita is this winery established in 1999 and located here in 2003. You can enjoy mead too!

The winery grows its grapes on a four-acre vineyard in Ketchum, Oklahoma and at the main estate in Vinita.

Bistro and gift shop. Open year-round.

Little Cabin Creek Bridge

Cabin Creek Bridge

Little Cabin Creek Bridge, Vanessa Ezekowitz

US 60 - 69 and Little Cabin Creek, 2 mi. east of town

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

It was built in 1934-5 to carry Route 66 across the Little Cabin Creek. It now carries US 60 & 69. It is located about 1 mile to the southeast of I-44.

It is 388 ft. long and is 24 feet wide between curbs. It consists of 8 steel stringer I-beam approach spans and a central 95-foot Parker Pony Truss.

McDonalds bridge-restaurant

On I-44 and S420Rd.

This "bridge-restaurant" spans the Will Rogeres Turnpike (Interstate 44) just south of Vinita. It is known as the Glass House McDonald's.

It surface area of 29,135 sq. ft. (2,706.7 m2) make it the biggest McDonald's in the world.

After being refurbished in 2013, it reopened on Dec. 22, 2014 and was renamed as the "Will Rogers Archway".

McDonalds, Vinita
Will Rogers Archway, I-44 Vinita Oklahoma
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

US Highway 66

Historic Route 66 alignment

Learn more about alignment of Historic Route-66 through Oklahoma.

The Historic 9-foot wide Ribbon Road segment of US 66 is only 15 miles east, at Afton.

Natural Attractions

National & State Parks

Vinita, Oklahoma, combines the prairie and the forested Ozark highlands. It has several areas nearby that are great for outdoor recreation and enjoying nature along the Grand Lake State Park:

Grand Lake State Park

The Grand Lake O' The Cherokees has a surface area of 45,000 acres and boasts 1,300 miles of coastline. The park is known as the "Crappie Capital of the World" and is ideal for swimming, walking and enjoying water activities.

Cherokee Area

16.5 miles southwest of Vinita.

Leave Vinita (mile zero), eastbound along U.S. 60 - 69 (Route 66), towards Afton. When you reach the intersection with OK-82, turn right and follow it till it meets OK-28 north of Langley. Keep south along Hwy 28 and pass the town, head east into the Park.

It is set on the shores of the Grand Lake O' The Cherokees. Great fishing and an ideal place for water sports. There are picnic areas, campsites and RV sites. There are other areas in the park: Riverside, Grand Cherokee and Grand View.

Read more at the official website.


Official town's website:

Image and Image by The White Pelican, under their CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Image, Image and Image, by Abe Ezekowitz, under their CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Image by Vanessa Ezekowitz, under its CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Original Image from Stefan, 2004. Transformed by A. Whittall

Oklahoma Historical Society Route 66 Mobile Tour Stop List.

Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License

Map Icons by Nicolas Mollet under its CC BY SA 3.0 License