Las Vegas: Top 10 Sites to See When Driving There from SoCal
Places to Stop & See on the Drive from Barstow to Las Vegas
Our company (FoxFury Lighting Solutions) is located in Southern California. We drive to Las Vegas, a 300 mile trip, a few times a year. The directions are easy....take the 15 North until you hit Vegas. The challenge sometimes is in keeping our sanity because the final half of the trip looks like the picture here to the left.
Nestled in the 100 miles of desert (most of it is the Mojave Desert) are some neat landmarks and fun places to see and restaurants. The goal of this lens is to let people know about some of these hidden treasures and give a little bit of history where possible. This list encompasses places to stop and see from Barstow to the Nevada border. These are ranked according to physical location (from west to east). We'll start in Barstow, CA and end up in Primm, NV.
1. Barstow Station (Barstow, CA)
You know you're halfway to Vegas when you hit Barstow, Barstow is the first larger city (about 22,00 people) you'll come across on the I-15 after you drive 30+ miles of desert past Victorville. It's a welcome site since you can eat, shop and refuel here....and use a bathroom.
One of the most popular places to stop in Barstow is Barstow Station. It's been around for years. Gas stations are nearby along with places to eat and stores to shop at. You can also watch BNSF Railway trains periodically pass through Barstow Station.
As far as food places go, there is a Panda Express, Popeye's Chicken and a McDonalds. I note the McDonalds because you can actually eat in a railroad car. I think that's a neat experience and possibly worth stopping by to see.
Barstow Station is located at at: 1611 E Main St in Barstow, CA
Fun Fact: Barstow is home to Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow
Fun Fact #2: Barstow is named after William Barstow Strong, former president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
Fun Fact #3: The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and Burlington Northern Railroad merged into the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway and is known as the BNSF Railway.
Drive around 11 miles beyond Barstow and you'll get to...
2. Peggy Sues 50's Diner (Yermo, CA)
The next city after Barstow is Yermo (an Indian word meaning "Desert Flower"). There is a US Marine Logistics base in Barstow. There is a Yermo Annex, which that encompasses 1850 acres that is primarily used as a storage and industrial complex. You can see all kinds of military vehicles in and around the area,
The top attraction in Yermo has to be Peggy Sue's 50's Diner. Peggy Sue was a Hollywood actress who did over 100 movies and commercials. She left the industry to live a simpler life in the desert where she opened Peggy Sues. Built in 1954, this is an original roadside diner that used to only have 9 counter stools and 3 booths. This is a 50's diner that boasts burgers, sandwiches and more. The food here is quite good.
What truly sets this place apart is all the memorabilia. Once inside Peggy Sue's, you'll be able to see James Dean, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. There are jukeboxes in here along with several dining rooms. It's a fun, nostalgic vibe in here that can take your mind off the drive.
Peggy Sue's 50's Pizza Parlor is located on-site as well. You can dine-in or order take-out pizza. They also have video games here that you can play while you wait for your pizza pies to bake. Their phone number is 760-254-2222 if you want to order takeout pizza.
Peggy Sue's is located at 35654 West Yermo Road in Yermo, CA.
Directly behind Peggy Sue's 50's Diner is....
3. Diner-Saur Park (Yermo, CA)
This is a great place to come if you have kids. The smart folks at Peggy Sues built this beautiful park in the back of their property.
It's called a Diner-Saur park because it's...well it's located behind the diner. There are some big, beautiful metal dinosaur sculptures that will make little and big kids drool. While a tad small, this is a true park complete with a duck pond, picnic tables and grass. There are several different sculptures here and they're all fun to look at. If you're really into dinosaurs, they have a little gift shop in the back with all kinds of little toys to help your kids survive the car ride...or to buy a gift for any little tikes that were left back home.
You can feed the ducks here and can also check out the water turtles as they bask in the sun.
Fun Fact: The King Kong statue is 18 ft tall. The tallest statue there is the 25 ft tall brontosaurus
After you leave here there is not much else to see on the I-15 until 10 miles later. Then, on the north side of the freeway you'll find...
4. Abandoned Waterpark (Newberry Springs, CA)
For years I've wondered "Who the heck would build a waterpark with absolutely nothing around it?" I've always assumed it was either a mob hideout, drug ring or place where black market items like illegal exotic animals, contraband firearms or unlicensed Justin Bieber merchandise was sold to the highest bidder.
Turns out I was dead wrong. This now defunct desert oasis was America's first waterpark. Bob Byers originally developed the property for use by his extended family. As popularity in the area grew, he opted to open the Lake Dolores Waterpark in 1969. It was literally an oasis in the middle of the Mojave desert. The park was very popular from the 1970s to the mid 1980s. Popularity declined in the late 1980s and Byers sold the property in 1990.
The park re-opened from 1998 to 2000 but the new owners racked up $3 million in debt in that time. To make matters worse, a park worker was paralyzed in 1999 after using one of the slides after hours. He was awarded $4.4 million in damages. Needless to say the debt and legal fees were too much to overcome and the park shut down in 2000.
In 2002, new owners re-branded the park as "Discovery Waterpark." It was open seasonally but it closed for good in 2004.
It's a shame this beautiful facility has been closed ever since. Be sure to check out the link below for a little more history and some great before and after pics of the waterpark: http://bitesnbrews.com/2011/07/rock-a-hoola-waterp...
After passing this abandoned relic, you drive more around 30 miles miles until you come across...
5. Zzyzx (Zzyzx, CA)
OK. There is nothing here save for a sign that says "Zzyzx Rd"...or so I thought. This is a 4.5 mile road (part paved) in the Mojave desert.
You can see this famous sign from the 15 freeway in either direction. Our guess is that 99.5% of people who see it think to themselves "What the heck kind of name is that and why is there a road here?" The other 0.5% either never see the time or know of Zzyzx's mysterious history.
The area was named Zzyzx in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, a fascinating American radio evangelist, self-proclaimed medical doctor and Methodist minister. Springer used the land there for 30 years and ran the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa there. Some claimed that the local springs there were a sort of "fountain of youth." The US Government wasn't so sure...nor was the American Medical Association who labeled Springer "King of the Quacks" in 1969.he US government charged Springer with squatting on the land and had him briefly imprisoned. This area has since also been known as Camp Soda and Soda Springs. Today, this area is home to the Desert Studies Center (run by California State University), which is located miles off the 15 Freeway.
The next time I see the Zzyzx Rd sign, I'm exiting and going to check out the Desert Studies Center and see what remains of the spa that Mr. Springer built.
Fun Fact #1: Zzyzx was proclaimed as the final word in the English language
Fun Fact #2: If "Zzyzx" were a valid Scrabble word, it would be worth 40 (or 120 if it came on a Triple Word Score box).
7 miles after passing the famous Zzyzx sign you'll come across....
6. The Mad Greek (Baker, CA)
If you loved the décor in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you'll love this place. This is a cheeky Greek restaurant in the middle of the Mojave desert with a healthy dose of humor inside and out. Sure there decorations are a little dated but it's a fun place to visit and eat some good food before hitting the road again.
They are known for their gyros but they offer several other greek items (including falafel and kabobs) as well as traditional fare (burgers, sandwiches, etc.). They also offer shakes (the strawberry one is supposedly terrific), smoothies and a greek pastry section.
They have locations in Nevada but this is the original and is filled with lots more character. If you're in a rush, they offer a drive through as well.
If you're hungry and looking for a fun place to visit, then give The Mad Greek a try.
You can quickly and easily walk to the next site on this list....
7. World's Tallest Thermometer (Baker, CA)
The surest way to tell you're in Baker is the large thermometer. It's a 134-ft.-tall, symbolic of the record high temperature (134 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Death Valley area back in 1913.
"Big Boy" is written on the thermometer along with the words "Baker, CA Gateway to Death Valley." A Bob's Big Boy juts up against the building.
Fun Fact: strong winds knocked it down years ago and it was rebuilt and eventually filled with concrete. It's now ridiculously strong and all-weather resistant.
You can see this beauty from miles away on the freeway. To see it up close, go to 72155 Baker Blvd in Baker, CA and park in the Bob's Big Boy parking lot.
It is a short walk or drive to next site....
8. Alien Fresh Jerky (Baker, CA)
This place gets style points for all their funky décor inside. They've taken the alien motif and ran with it. They sell all kinds of beef jerky (including Carne Asada, Abducted Cow Teriyaki and Colon Cleaner Hot) and stuffed olives. They also offer a plethora of energy drinks, hot sauces and other refreshments for the drive.
The decorations here are fun to check out. They have some large aliens along with a good size Yoda. They also sell lots of little alien knickknacks. I didn't get a chance to try but they have an alien ride right outside the store.
They are open M-Th from 8 am to 9 pm and Fri-Sun from 8 am to 10 pm. Their address is 72242 Baker Blvd in Baker, CA
It's about a 50 minute drive to get to the NV state border from here where you'll find...
9. Fashion Outlets Las Vegas (Primm, NV)
This one is for you bargain shoppers out there. Just past the Nevada border is the awesome Fashion Outlets Las Vegas. In our view, there are few deals to be had while on the Las Vegas strip. Not so here. This is a large center with over 100 outlets / stores and a food court including a Subway and Hot Dog on a Stick.
Among the many wonderful stores here:
Banana Republic Factory Store
Neiman Marcus Last Call
Nike Factory Store
Old Navy Outlet
Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store
Williams Sonoma Marketplace
The outlet is open from 10 am to 8 pm. The address here is 32100 Las Vegas Blvd. South in Primm, NV.
Drive or walk 0.5 miles and you'll get to...
10. Desperado Roller Coaster (Primm, NV)
What? A roller coaster? Yup. At one point it was the tallest, fastest, steepest and longest (5,843 ft) steel roller coasters in the world. While it no longer has that distinction, it's still a lot of fun. This is a very tall and very fast roller coaster that reaches speeds in excess of 70 mph. It has a 225-foot drop down a 55-degree descent. If you like thrills, you really should stop by.
It costs $10 a ride. The ride is closed Mon-Thu but is open Fri-Sun from 12:15pm-9:45 pm. It's located at 31900 S. Las Vegas Blvd in Primm, NV and is part of the Buffalo Bill's Hotel and Casino.
Fun Fact: It was designed and built by by Arrow Dynamics of Utah.
Fun Fact #2: It's actually considered a hypercoaster.
Once you leave here, it's a 40 mile drive to the Las Vegas Strip
We hope this lens has been helpful. Please let us know what you think. Thanks.