All the Interesting Stuff You'll See Driving Between Las Vegas and LA

Roadside attractions, restaurants, and weird destinations in the middle of the desert.

Peggy Sue's 50s Diner
Peggy Sue's 50s Diner | Photo by Rob Kachelriess
Peggy Sue's 50s Diner | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Las Vegas offers plenty of convenient, road trip inspiration. Maybe you crave a drive to Boulder City to see the Hoover Dam, Lake Havasu to zip around on Jet Skis, or St. George to hike scenic state parks. Then again, you might just want to get lost in your thoughts in Tecopa, where you can drink beer, eat steaks, and jump naked into a hot spring. All of those destinations are just a short drive from Sin City, but when somebody mentions "Vegas" and "road trip," nine times out of ten, they're talking about Los Angeles. There's really only one way to travel by car between the two cities—by channeling your inner Hunter S. Thompson and taking a drive through the desert on Interstate 15. The journey is at least three hours and more than 200 miles, but whether you're coming or going, it's far from boring. Check out all the cool, strange, and sometimes confusing things you'll see along the way.

seven magic mountains
Seven Magic Mountains | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Near Jean, Nevada
About 15 miles south of Las Vegas, you may spot something odd in the distance from the highway. No, it's not a hallucination. It's Seven Magic Mountains, a rainbow-colored assortment of rocks stacked in columns more than 30 feet high. The art installation was created by Ugo Rondinone and commissioned by the Nevada Museum of Art (in Reno, actually). Is it beautiful? Depends on your perspective. But it's definitely a photo spot and conversation piece. The exhibit isn't super convenient either, which is probably by design. Seven Magic Mountains is between two interstate exits and at least a five-mile drive from either of them. In other words, you have to care enough to go out of your way to see it. Visitors are encouraged to check out Seven Magic Mountains between sunrise and sunset, since there aren't any lights around it at night. The installation, unveiled in 2016, was originally only meant to be in place for a couple years, but has settled in as a long-term piece of the desert scenery. It's estimated more than 300,000 people visit Seven Magic Mountains each year.

Terrible Herbst (Terrible's Road House)
Terrible Herbst (Terrible's Road House)

Jean, Nevada
Make a pit stop off Exit 12 at Terrible's Road House—the "World's Largest Chevron Station"—with 96 gas pumps and 60 restrooms. So whether you're here to fill up on gas or take a leak, there's almost zero chance of a wait. There's also 50,000 square feet of retail space with a White Castle, Candy Village, phone-charging lounge, and a small aircraft that hangs from the ceiling. Don't leave without taking a photo with the 13-foot-tall Sasquatch statue. There's even an in-house Autozone in case you need a spare part or two to keep your trip moving along without issue.

The Pioneer Saloon
The Pioneer Saloon | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Goodsprings, Nevada
There's all sorts of things to love about the Pioneer Saloon. The oldest bar in Southern Nevada has great steaks, stiff drinks, and tons of history. Originally ordered from a Sears catalog (you could get anything from a department store back in those days) the saloon opened in 1913 and continues to thrive more than a century later. Clark Gable hung around the bar in 1942 while awaiting news on the fate of his wife Carole Lombard, who was killed in a TWA plane crash on nearby Potosi Mountain. According to legend, you can still see the marks in the bar counter where he stamped out his cigarettes in frustration. You'll also see bullet holes in the wall, supposedly related to a dispute over a poker game. The Pioneer Saloon remains a symbol of the Old West spirit that defined the gold and silver era of Nevada's early growth, but has expanded over the years to include a dining room and BBQ courtyard.

The Desperado Roller Coaster
The Desperado Roller Coaster | Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Primm, Nevada
Don't get too excited when you see the Desperado roller coaster, which twists and turns through the skies of Primm and passes through Buffalo Bill's resort and casino. It's been closed since at least the onset of the pandemic. No rides allowed. Buffalo Bill's itself has been closed too, but reopens sporadically for special events (like the upcoming Los Huracanes del Norte concert on September 10) at the Star of the Desert arena. The Desperado was the tallest roller coaster (excuse me, hypercoaster) in the world when it was first unveiled in 1994. It's still an imposing sight from the Interstate with its track wrapping around the resort.

Bonnie & Clyde's Death Car
Bonnie & Clyde's Death Car | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Primm, Nevada
Just north of the state line between Nevada and California, you can pull over at Whiskey Pete's to fill up on gas, grab a coffee at Starbucks, and check out the Bonnie & Clyde Death Car—and yes, that's exactly how it's billed. Sitting in the middle of the casino floor like any old slot machine is the same Ford V8 Deluxe the gangster couple used for their notorious Midwest crime spree, riddled with bullets from the shootout that brought everything to an end in 1934. The car is on display behind a glass case (which unfortunately, adds a glare to most photos) and flanked by two Bonnie and Clyde mannequins. The "death car" toured state fairs and found itself in and out of different museums for decades before settling in at Whiskey Pete's for more than ten years now. Plans have been in the works for a while to expand the display into a larger full-blown Bonnie & Clyde museum. Enjoy it now while it's still free.

World's Tallest Thermometer
World's Tallest Thermometer | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Baker, California
It's easy to spot the small town of Baker—basically an oasis of gas stations and fast food restaurants—by its pride and joy: the World's Tallest Thermometer. It not only stands at 134 feet tall, but also reads temperatures up to 134 degrees, which happens to be the record heat recorded in nearby Death Valley back in 1913. The goofy roadside attraction was erected in the early '90s as a companion piece to the Bun Boy burger joint. The restaurant didn't last, but the thermometer is still there, although an early version was blown over by heavy winds. Its sturdier replacement was made with nearly 77,000 pounds of concrete. The thermometer was sold a couple times and the digital display went dark for a few years. Don't even ask about the electric bill on this thing. It was eventually renovated by YESCO (the company responsible for many classic Vegas neon marquees) and has been fully operational as of 2014. A gift shop near the base of the structure helps cover operating costs, so make a point to stop by. Do you really want to pass through Baker without buying a "World's Tallest Thermometer" t-shirt?

the Mad Greek Cafe
The Mad Greek Cafe | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Baker, California
Okay, time to eat. The Mad Greek is a rare chance to get fed with real food while bypassing all those fast food chains. The family-owned restaurant has been around for nearly three decades, serving Greek favorites like fresh-sliced gyros, babaganoush, and saganaki (fried cheese) 24 hours a day. In recent years, the menu has expanded to include Mexican cuisine and a deep lineup of sandwiches and burgers. The variety is a bit odd, but seems to fit the diner format of the place with Greek statues on display to keep the image from straying too far out of bounds. Skip the soda and try a fresh watermelon juice instead. Just save room for an apple pie sundae or baklava milkshake. The wait can get a little long at times, but you need to stretch those legs anyway.

zzyzx road
Zzyzx Road | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Zzyzx Road

Zzyzx, California
The exit sign for Zzyzx Road is responsible for drivers saying "What the hell is that?" for decades. The name is so odd, it even inspired a song by Stone Sour and a movie starring Katherine Heigel. So what's the story here? The road is less than five miles long, passing by little of note as it winds into the Mojave National Preserve. At the end, you'll reach a small lake and an abandoned resort and spa that's now repurposed as a desert research facility by California State University. The guy who built the old getaway in the '40s was basically squatting on the land under a mining claim in what was then known as Soda Springs. He renamed the town Zzyzx, hoping to have the last word in the English dictionary. Today, you're welcome to park and explore. Just don't interfere with anyone busy doing work. The site is a bit creepy with an old swing set and empty swimming pools gathering dust, although you might spot a few bighorn sheep. Cars used to pull over on the Interstate to place stickers on the road sign, but those were cleaned up long ago.

lake dolores waterpark
Lake Dolores Waterpark | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Lake Dolores Waterpark

Newberry Springs, California
Speaking of which… is there anything more creepy than an abandoned amusement park? Well, maybe a few things. Lake Dolores opened in 1962 as an entertainment complex in the middle of the desert with rides, attractions, and a campground. Over the years, it developed into more of a waterpark, thanks to a lagoon fed by underground springs. The property changed ownership a few times and tried to reinvent itself under the names Rock-a-Hoola and Discovery Waterpark before closing for good in 2004. Today, its ruins remain in clear view of drivers on Interstate 15. Urban explorers can have a field day with the place, typically entering through a dip in the fence that runs alongside Hacienda Road. The post-apocalyptic vibes are strong. Whatever is left of waterslides, pools, a lazy river, and gift shops are now covered in graffiti and long stripped of anything that might be valuable. We don't recommend hanging out here at night (and for the record, we don't recommend entering the property at all). It's hard to believe now, but the park was actually used for an early version of the Electric Daisy Carnival before the dance music event would become popular enough to fill stadiums.

Original Del Taco
Original Del Taco | Kent Kanouse/Flickr

Yermo, California
Want to see a piece of fast-food history? Take a detour off the Interstate to Yermo and head to Tita's Burger Den, the site of the original Del Taco, which opened in 1964 with 19-cent tacos and tostadas. Today, the roadside burger stand is a bit of a dive, but has a certain charm with its own take on tacos as well as burgers, wings, and sandwiches. A couple things to know: Tita's Burger Den only accepts cash and is strictly open weekdays. If you're tight on time, go with the drive-thru window.

Eddie World
Eddie World | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Yermo, California
The idea behind Eddie World is simple: make a gas station feel like an attraction. The biggest clue is the 65-foot-tall ice cream sundae that sits out front. Head inside and you'll find rows of self-serve candy and surprisingly good, fresh-made food, including hand-rolled sushi and pizza cooked on the spot in artisanal ovens, all under the supervision of an "executive chef." The bathrooms are probably the largest and nicest on the interstate and gentlemen can even control video games with urine flow. Fun, huh? The biggest surprise, however, is the in-house museum dedicated to the L.A. Lakers with jerseys, photos, and a chunk of hardwood from the Great Western Forum where the team won four NBA championships. Eddie World also promises the lowest gas prices between Yermo and Las Vegas and even hands out disposable gloves by the pumps, 'cause who wants to eat that sushi with dirty hands? Whoever you are Eddie, we thank you.

Liberty Sculpture Park
Liberty Sculpture Park | Julie Jordan Scott/Flickr

Yermo, California
After filling up on gas at Eddie World, you may catch sight of the Liberty Sculpture Park, which is a political statement as much as a roadside attraction. The outdoor art installation features the work of Weiming Chen, a Chinese dissident whose large-format sculptures are critical of the oppression caused by the communist dictatorship back home. You'll see a lifesize student standing tall in the face of tanks, recreating a famous standoff during the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, and a 30-foot-tall bust of Chinese President Xi Jinping, depicted as a partial skull with COVID protein spikes for hair. An original version of the latter was actually burned down by arsonists last year before being replaced by a stronger version in June, underscoring the gravity of the message and the courage that often comes with protesting through art. Another bust of Chief Crazy Horse symbolizes a different struggle against oppression closer to home. The park is visible from the Interstate, but offers plenty of photo opportunities for those who pull over during daytime.

calico ghost town
Calico Ghost Town | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Yermo, California
Calico is an old mountainside mining town that was abandoned when the 19th-century Silver Rush dried up. Its buildings were preserved and restored by the same family behind Knott's Berry Farm, who reopened it to the public as Calico Ghost Town. Drive in, pay a small fee at the gate, and explore what it was like to live in the late 1800s—give or take. In between the wooden signs and wagon wheels, you can explore an old schoolhouse, barbershop, and other businesses from back in the day. A few attractions cost a little extra, like the self-guided mine tour and the Mystery Shack, an optical illusion of space and perspective where water runs uphill. Take everything in on the Calico Odessa Railroad, a train that circles the park in about eight minutes. Calico Ghost Town is open daily 9 am-5 pm, with three different ghost tours rotating on Saturday nights. If you want to stick around longer, a campground has spaces for tents and RVs.

Peggy Sue's 50s Diner
Peggy Sue's 50s Diner | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Yermo, California
You'll see so many signs for Peggy Sue's 50s Diner on the I-15, it's hard to not feel pressured into stopping by for a bite. The restaurant first opened in 1954 as a routine truck stop, but was later bought and expanded in the '80s by a couple who reinvented it as a dining destination heavy on nostalgia. The place is surprisingly large with a number of themed dining rooms. One features a collection of TV and movie memorabilia. Another is modeled after a vintage Five and Dime store. The menu is heavy on burgers, fries, and other forms of comfort food, including throwbacks like malts, shakes, and chocolate Coke (which yes, is a thing and way better than it sounds). The pizza parlor in the back is a nice touch, especially if you want to grab a pie to go. The ability to eat and steer at the same time is a required skill for any daytripper. The oddest thing about Peggy Sue's is the collection of dinosaur sculptures in the backyard park. Just roll with it. They're pretty cool.

barstow station
Barstow Station | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Barstow, California
Think of this place as a food court and flea market rolled up in one. It's also a bus station and liquor store. Opened alongside the train tracks in 1975, Barstow Station is actually built out of old train cars, three of which are used to full effect in the McDonald's dining room. At last check, there was also a Subway, Panda Express, and the first-ever Dunkin' Donuts in California (if you don't count one for the troops at Camp Pendleton). To quote David Lee Roth, if you need "a bottle of anything and a glazed doughnut to go," this is probably your destination. Throw in a few more bucks for a burger, lotto ticket, and phone charger and you'll be in great shape for at least the next 100 miles. Barstow Station isn't pretty, but it's more interesting than the Starbucks across the street.

Original Del Taco Barstow
Original Del Taco Barstow

Oldest Operating Del Taco

Barstow, California
Didn't get enough Del Taco history back in Yermo? Well, you're in luck. Head west on Main Street from Barstow Station, turn north on 1st Avenue, and you'll come across the oldest operating Del Taco in the world. It looks rather routine from the outside, but those in-the-know can order a few special items. Ask for the Original Barstow Taco, with a tomato added as a single slice on top instead of diced, or the Bun Taco, which replaces a regular shell with a hamburger bun. Dating back to 1964, it's one of just three Del Tacos still owned and operated by founder Ed Hackbarth, who sold off the rest of the chain decades ago. Even now, he's often seen in the dining room shaking hands and saying hello to guests.

California Route 66 Museum
California Route 66 Museum

Victorville, California
If you're on a road trip, it only makes sense to pull over and visit a museum about road trips. The California Route 66 Museum chronicles the famous "Mother Road" between Chicago and Los Angeles, ushering in a new wave of westward migration during the Dust Bowl and road trip vacations in an era when widespread car ownership was relatively new. The museum, open Friday–Sunday, is a glorified gift shop with lots of photo opportunities including a hippie-worthy VW "love bus," 1917 Model T Ford, classic American diner setup, and if you want something really fun, an outhouse as your backdrop. Admission is free with donations welcome.

D'Vine Wine Bar
D'Vine Wine Bar | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Victorville, California
Why bother with fast food when you can pull over for a glass of wine and cheese plate? D'Vine Wine Bar has been around for nearly 15 years and is currently owned by Brian Wilson. No, not the Beach Boy. He's a second-level sommelier who loved the bar so much, he and his wife bought it. Wilson studied in Chile, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic, with an affection for Malbecs and even the occasional Petit Bordeaux reflected in the wine list. Despite making a point to not carry anything commonly sold in grocery stores, D'Vine Wine Bar isn't snobby or pretentious. The atmosphere is loose and social. There isn't a TV in sight, but you may catch some live entertainment here and there. The small lounge is an unexpected treat in Victorville, a working-class hodgepodge of shopping plazas before the San Bernardino sprawl emerges while heading into L.A.

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Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than eight years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. He can drive to L.A. and back on the same day. No biggie. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.