Whether you’re a kid or an adult, everyone loves Disney movies and we’ve all imagined what it would be like to experience these fictional towns in real life. Have you ever asked yourself, “Where does Cars take place?” Even though the town of Radiator Springs in Disney’s “Cars” is a fictional town, Tucumcari is a real desert town on Historic Route 66 in New Mexico. Tucumcari played a big role in inspiring the movie “Cars” from the neon light hotels to the expansive desert mountains in the backdrop. Let’s take a look at some things to do in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and what parts of the town look a lot like Radiator Springs in real life so you know where to go next time you visit this charming New Mexico desert town.

Did you know that New Mexico’s own Tucumcari inspired so much of this famous Pixar movie? It’s our very own Radiator Springs on Route 66. What are your favorite spots to see? We’d love to hear all about your thoughts in the comments!

While you’re visiting, and looking for other things to do in Tucumcari, New Mexico, take a little trip to this unassuming general store that also has some of the most amazing barbecue in the state.

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Where Does Cars Take Place

Where does Cars take place?

If you've ever found yourself wondering "Where does "Cars" take place?" the answer is multifactorial. While it's true that our very own Tucumcari inspired several buildings and other landmarks in the film, it isn't the only town that Radiator Springs is based on. Several small towns along Historic Route 66, including Peach Springs, Arizona, Shamrock, Texas, and Baxter Springs, Kansas, all played important roles in creating the fictional desert outpost we could all recognize anywhere.

Is there a Radiator Springs in real life?

"Is there a Radiator Springs in real life?" is another question you might have asked yourself while watching "Cars." The answer is both yes and no. While Radiator Springs is not a real town, as outlined in the article above, it isn't entirely make-believe, either. Bits and pieces of actual Route 66 towns are featured in many different scenes of the film. Let's take the town of Galena, Kansas, for example. Here, you'll find an old gas station called Cars on the Route, and the iconic character "Mater" was inspired by an L-170 truck that used to sit out front. Often, cars painted like the other main characters show up at the station and they're more than happy to pose for photo-ops!

What are the best small towns in New Mexico?

Tucumcari isn't the only quirky small town in New Mexico. In fact, Hatch was named among the best small towns in New Mexico by Smithsonian Magazine in 2021. This charming village of around 2,000 is known as the Chile Capital of the World - hence the name "Hatch." Foodies, in particular, will fall in love with Hatch — from world-famous cheeseburgers to stores that sell nothing but chile products, there's something to please every palate here. If you're a diehard chile fan, don't miss the Hatch Chile Festival during Labor Day Weekend! The festival celebrates the annual hatch chile harvest, attracting more than 30,000 attendees each year.