My guess is if your a parent with little boys you've seen the film. If you haven't then find a way to, its a must see. But, I'm not going to go into the story line a whole lot, so hopefully no spoiler alerts here.
The basic plot is that a self-absorbed race car gets lost via an accident and ends up trapped in a small town called Radiator Springs. Radiator Springs is a small town located on Route 66, the "Gateway to the Ornament Valley", presumably in Arizona or California.
First of all I have to say as a Route 66 enthusiast I love the movie, and I love Radiator Springs as an omage to Route 66 landmarks and towns. At the same time though in its quest to condense the spirit of Route 66 into one town the movie gives those who know very little about the route a few misconceptions like everything in the town is based of real sites, or the all sites like those in the movie can be found in one town, or that the sites are purely figments of the animators imaginations.
With that said here we go:
By now common sense should tell you there is no town called Radiator Springs. I have a few candidates though as to what town it is actually based on. The first two that come to mind are Newberry Springs, CA and Peach Springs, AZ. Both like Radiator Springs are middle of no where desert towns. Another suspect is Holbrook, AZ home of the Wigwam Motel, and like Radiator Spring a short distance from the Monument Valley, painted desert, and petrified forest.
Ramones House of Body Art is a real place, but it is called the U-drop Inn and it was a gas station and restaurant. It is located in Shamrock, TX.
Flo's V-8 Cafe as cool as it is, and even cooler in toy form doesn't exist. Sorry I know it would be cool.
Luigi's Casa del La Tire also doesn't exist but many auto repair shops had giants (muffler men) in front. The closest place to Luigi's I can think of is a Leaning Tower of Pisa half size model in Niles, IL which isn't on Route 66, but is a roadside attraction.
Lizzys Curio Shop is a real place as well but it is called the Jackrabbit and located in Joseph City, AZ. It's a Route 66 classic.
Sally's Cozy Cone is based on three different places. Design wise the first two are obviously the Rialto and Holbrook Wigwam Motels, but it's based a bit more on the Rialto location. In name though there was a Tiki themed trailer park in Kingman, AZ named that Cozy Corners.
Sarge's, Filmore's, Maters, and Docs are all stereotypical buildings you will see on Route 66. Quonset Huts and geodesic structures are pretty common as are old garages and sheds. However the character of Filmore is loosely based on the VW Microbus of Bob Waldmire a true character and Route 66 artist. Mater is based on a rusted out tow truck found in Kansas, but there are many others like it along the way. Sarge is obviously based on the Jeep in military form, Jeeps are still made in a similar appearance and are symbols of the American adventurous spirit. As for Doc, Hudson Hornets like Doc where among the first NASCARS, but this is fairly obvious in the movie.
The Wheel Well Motel outside of Radiator Springs has nothing it can really be compared to on Route 66. The closest I can come is the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, NM but there are a lot of unique motels on Route 66.
Behind Radiator Springs you will see the Cadillac Range. This looks like the tail ends if Cadillacs in rock, and is based on the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.
If you haven't seen the movie please do. It will inspire you and help excite your kids as to what they will see on a Route 66 adventure. Also be sure to pay attention to what you see and be prepared make the comparisons to what you actually see on the road. Also check out the book "The Art of Cars" it gives great insight into the films production and inspiration.
I hope Planes is as eye opening, and I'm looking forward to it.