Road Trip Los Angeles – Las Vegas: 20 Best Things to do Along the Way
Embarking on a road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas promises an unforgettable journey filled with iconic sights, natural wonders, and thrilling experiences.
Embarking on a road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas promises an unforgettable journey filled with iconic sights, natural wonders, and thrilling experiences. Covering a distance of approximately 270 miles, this popular route takes you through deserts, ghost towns, and breathtaking landscapes that will leave you in awe. In this article, we highlight the best things to do and see along the way, so buckle up and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
First on our list is the Mojave National Preserve, a vast and diverse expanse of desert wilderness that spans 1.6 million acres. Located about halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the preserve is home to Joshua trees, sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, and a rich variety of wildlife. Explore the Kelso Dunes, the third tallest dunes in North America, where you can climb to the top and marvel at the panoramic views of the surrounding desert (2). Don’t forget to visit the historic Kelso Depot, which houses the visitor center and offers informative exhibits about the area’s history, geology, and ecology (3).
Take a step back in time by visiting Calico Ghost Town, a former silver mining town that has been restored as a historical park. Established in 1881, Calico once boomed with over 500 silver mines and a population of around 1,200 people. Today, you can stroll the wooden boardwalks, explore the old mines, and learn about the town’s rich history through guided tours and interpretive exhibits (5). While in Calico, don’t miss the chance to try your hand at gold panning, where you can sift for real gold and experience a piece of the Wild West.
One of the most unique and visually stunning attractions along the route is the Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. Located about 20 miles south of Las Vegas, these vibrant, 30-foot tall limestone boulders are stacked into seven colorful towers, creating a striking contrast against the desert landscape. This public artwork has become a popular stop for travelers seeking a moment of inspiration and a perfect photo opportunity. Be sure to add this must-see attraction to your itinerary as you make your way to Sin City.
As you approach Las Vegas, indulge your need for speed at Exotics Racing, located at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This thrilling experience allows you to get behind the wheel of some of the world’s most exclusive supercars, such as Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Porsches. Under the guidance of professional instructors, you can unleash your inner race car driver and take these high-performance vehicles for a spin around the track. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or a first-time racer, this adrenaline-pumping adventure is sure to be a memorable highlight of your road trip.
Another fascinating stop along the route is Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, an eclectic outdoor art installation created by the late artist Elmer Long. This whimsical attraction features over 200 metal “trees” adorned with colorful glass bottles, creating a forest of shimmering colors and sounds. Located on historic Route 66, the Bottle Tree Ranch offers a delightful, offbeat experience for travelers seeking a unique and memorable stop. Take some time to wander through the captivating display and appreciate the creativity and dedication that went into this quirky roadside gem.
For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, consider a visit to Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Healing Center, also known as the Zzyzx Desert Studies Center. Located within the Mojave National Preserve, this intriguing site was once a health spa established by Curtis Howe Springer in the 1940s. Today, the center is managed by the California State University Desert Studies Consortium and serves as a research facility. While the mineral springs and spa facilities are no longer in operation, visitors can still explore the remnants of this peculiar desert oasis, including the historic buildings, palm tree-lined walkways, and a serene man-made lake.
As you journey through the desert, be sure to stop at the World’s Tallest Thermometer, a quirky roadside attraction in Baker, California. This towering, 134-foot tall thermometer was built in 1991 by Willis Herron and stands as a tribute to the record-breaking temperature of 134°F (56.7°C) recorded in nearby Death Valley in 1913. The thermometer is visible from miles away and provides a fun photo opportunity for travelers, as well as a chance to stretch your legs and enjoy some refreshments at the adjacent gift shop and diner.
For a nostalgic dining experience, make a pit stop at Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner, a classic American diner located in Yermo, California. This charming eatery is decorated with authentic 1950s memorabilia, including vintage jukeboxes, neon signs, and life-size statues of iconic characters like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. The menu features classic comfort food, such as burgers, milkshakes, and homemade pies. Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner offers not only a tasty meal but also a delightful step back in time, making it a must-visit spot for travelers seeking a taste of Americana.
If you’re willing to venture slightly off the main route, the Valley of Fire State Park is a breathtaking detour worth exploring. Located about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, this stunning park is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, spanning over 40,000 acres. Known for its striking red sandstone formations, the Valley of Fire offers numerous hiking trails, scenic drives, and opportunities for wildlife viewing. Be sure to visit iconic landmarks within the park, such as the Fire Wave, Elephant Rock, and Atlatl Rock, where you can see ancient petroglyphs left by Native American tribes.
Finally, for a quirky and extraterrestrial-themed pit stop, visit Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, California. This unique store offers an extensive selection of flavored beef jerky, as well as novelty items, souvenirs, and alien-themed merchandise. The store’s exterior is adorned with alien statues and a UFO-themed mural, making it a fun and eye-catching stop for road trippers. Don’t forget to snap some photos with the otherworldly inhabitants before continuing on your journey.
Another beautiful natural attraction to explore is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, located just 17 miles west of Las Vegas. Renowned for its striking red sandstone cliffs and unique geological features, this conservation area offers over 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing opportunities, and scenic drives. The 13-mile scenic loop drive is a must-do, providing access to numerous trailheads and overlooks with breathtaking views of the colorful rock formations. Keep an eye out for native wildlife, such as desert bighorn sheep and wild burros, as you explore this stunning landscape.
As you reach Las Vegas, take some time to explore the rich history of the city’s iconic neon signs at The Neon Museum. This outdoor museum, also known as the Neon Boneyard, showcases over 200 retired and restored neon signs from Las Vegas’s past. Take a guided tour to learn about the history and design of these dazzling signs, which once illuminated the famous casinos and hotels along the Strip. The museum also offers a nighttime experience, “Brilliant!”, a mesmerizing light and sound show that brings the vintage signs back to life.
For a deeper dive into the history of America’s most famous highway, stop by the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow, California. This museum is dedicated to preserving the history and nostalgia of the iconic Route 66, which once stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica. Exhibits feature vintage cars, photographs, maps, and memorabilia from the golden era of American road trips. As you explore the museum, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the role Route 66 played in shaping the American road trip experience.
Before leaving Los Angeles, consider visiting The Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, a hidden gem for automobile enthusiasts. This museum houses an impressive collection of over 250 meticulously restored vintage and classic cars, as well as antique musical instruments and other rare mechanical artifacts. Notable vehicles on display include a 1937 Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson Locomotive and a 1913 Mercer Model 35J Raceabout. Admission is free, but it is recommended to reserve a guided tour in advance to fully appreciate the remarkable history and craftsmanship of the collection.
For a sweet and unexpected detour, stop by the China Ranch Date Farm, located in Tecopa, California, near the southern edge of Death Valley National Park. This family-owned working date farm is nestled in a hidden desert oasis and offers visitors the chance to sample and purchase a wide variety of delicious, locally grown dates. Take a leisurely stroll through the date palm groves, explore the on-site bakery and gift shop, or hike the nearby trails that showcase the area’s unique geology and flora. The farm’s famous date shakes are a must-try for a refreshing treat during your road trip.
As you arrive in Las Vegas, take a break from the glitz and glamour of the Strip to visit The Pinball Hall of Fame. This one-of-a-kind attraction houses over 200 classic pinball machines and arcade games from the 1950s to the 1990s, all in working order and available to play. The non-profit museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of these vintage games, with all proceeds going to charity. Spend an afternoon reliving your childhood or experiencing the joy of pinball for the first time in this nostalgic and entertaining arcade.
For thrill-seekers looking to add an adrenaline rush to their road trip, consider skydiving in Las Vegas. Skydive Las Vegas offers tandem skydives, allowing you to jump from an airplane while securely attached to a highly experienced instructor. As you freefall at speeds of up to 120 mph, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Las Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and the surrounding desert landscape. This unforgettable experience will leave you with lasting memories and a unique perspective of the area.
To explore the history of Southern Nevada, visit the Clark County Museum in Henderson. This 30-acre outdoor museum complex features a range of exhibits, including restored historic buildings, a ghost town, a nature trail, and a timeline exhibit that chronicles the development of the region. Take a guided tour to learn about the rich history of the area, from Native American settlements to the construction of the Hoover Dam and the development of Las Vegas. The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the past and a deeper understanding of the region’s history.
For an unusual and striking art installation, visit The International Car Forest of the Last Church in Goldfield, Nevada. This unique outdoor exhibit features over 40 painted and decorated vehicles, including cars, buses, and trucks, half-buried nose-first in the ground or stacked on top of each other. The brainchild of artists Chad Sorg and Mark Rippie, this one-of-a-kind attraction is a must-see for art enthusiasts and road trippers looking for a truly offbeat experience.
For a serene nature retreat, visit Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, located in the Red Rock Canyon area just outside of Las Vegas. This historic ranch, once owned by millionaire Howard Hughes, is now a peaceful park offering a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Explore the picturesque grounds, including a historic ranch house, a blacksmith shop, and a barn, or take a guided tour to learn about the area’s unique history and natural beauty.
Section 2: Calico Ghost Town
Section 3: Exotic Driving Experiences
Section 4: Seven Magic Mountains
Section 5: Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
Section 6: Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Healing Center
Section 7: World’s Tallest Thermometer
Section 8: Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner
Section 9: Valley of Fire State Park
Section 10: Alien Fresh Jerky
Section 11: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Section 12: The Neon Museum
Section 13: Route 66 Mother Road Museum
Section 14: The Nethercutt Collection
Section 15: China Ranch Date Farm
Section 16: The Pinball Hall of Fame
Section 17: Skydive Las Vegas
Section 18: The Clark County Museum
Section 19: The International Car Forest of the Last Church
Section 20: Spring Mountain Ranch State Park