The drive from palm-clad Los Angeles to the lights of Las Vegas is a must for those exploring the West Coast of the USA. You can reach Sin City in as little as four hours, but why rush your road trip when there are so many incredible places to see along the way?
Your first stop should be Mormon Rocks, situated just off Route 66. These sandstone giants take their name from the Mormon settlers who discovered them on their journey from Salt Lake City to California in the 1800s. The curious and magnificent rock formation is visual evidence of the San Andreas Fault beneath, which runs 1,200 km through the state. A visitor centre and hiking path can be found five minutes off the freeway.
No Los Angeles to Las Vegas road trip would be complete without venturing onto Route 66, America’s most famous of roads. Take the section from Victorville to Barstow to glimpse retro diners, vintage gas stations, antique shops, burger joints and even an ostrich farm. Near Highway 15, you’ll pass one of the few Route 66 museums that’s actually situated on the road itself.
Ever wanted to visit a forest of bottle trees? Who hasn’t? If you drive between Victorville and Barstow, you’re in the perfect place to see one of the kookiest attractions on Route 66. The creation of one man named – you guessed it – Elmer, the Bottle Tree Ranch is basically a huge open air art exhibition, brought to life as the sun shines through the many shades of coloured glass. It’s open from dawn to dusk and if you’re lucky, you may get to meet Elmer himself.
For a memorable sightseeing stop between LA and Las Vegas, step back in time to the Old West at Calico Ghost Town. Founded in 1881 during California’s silver strike, Calico was home to 500 mines and became a major producer of silver ore. The miners packed up, loaded their mules and moved on around 12 years later when silver lost its value, so today it’s been transformed into a gloriously authentic tourist attraction.
Looking for a pit stop around the halfway point of your journey? Peggy Sue’s is the place. It’s a classic diner packed full of kitsch memorabilia from the golden age of Americana, and will serve up a great helping of traditional comfort food. Peggy Sue and her husband opened this legendary trucker stop around 30 years ago and it has gained a massive cult following. Try Peggy Sue’s favourite chicken fried steak served with country gravy – followed by authentic apple pie of course.
Isn’t it funny how something as simple as a road sign can become iconic over a period of time? While it’s sad that many of the good old American road side diners are slowly disappearing, remnants of them still remain. Before you get to Sin City, be sure to stop off and take a picture of the iconic Jenny Rose love heart sign, which famously graced the artwork of American singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow’s debut album.
The last 60 miles of the Los Angeles to Las Vegas route are formed of an awesomely sparse desert, with the passing traffic practically the only sign of humanity. That makes Baker a great spot to stretch your legs and see the world’s largest thermometer, grab a shake at Mad Greek and some beef jerky at Alien Jerky before the final stint of your journey. Here’s a pro tip: this is where you’ll want to stock your hire car with bottled water, as the drive will get very hot as you approach Nevada.
If you pass by a huge queue of people when passing through the town of Primm, NV, odds are you’ve just driven past the famous Lotto Shop, and that’s when you know you’re basically in Vegas. Situated on the border between the LA and Las Vegas, this is where Nevada residents come in droves to try their luck buying California lottery tickets when the jackpot is especially large.
To relax after your long drive and get in the mood for thrills and spills in Sin City, why not call by one of the oldest bars in the Nevada Desert, situated just 15 minutes off the freeway? Frequented by a bevy of A-listers such as Clark Gable back in the golden age of Hollywood, Pioneer Saloon is a great spot for a food and drinks before making your way to the strip.