You will not find many Southern Californians who recommend the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas as a great one for sightseeing. In fact, it's a trip that most natives make by plane. Missed opportunity alert! There are adventures to be had along the way... okay, not a lot of them, but certainly a few worthy of being checked off a bucket list.
The key here is to slow down. Relax, buddy – Vegas isn't going anywhere. Attempting the LA-to-Las Vegas run in record time has its own dangers, including an eager Highway Patrol looking for speeding scofflaws: one wrong step and you could be a big money loser before you even sit down at your first casino table.
Take your time, enjoy the beautiful weather (if not the bland scenery) and hit these stops along the way to your rendezvous with Sin City destiny.
Photo by Suzanne - neusuz5/Flickr.
You only need get as far as Arcadia for your first taste of big time gambling. Santa Anita Race Track is a brief 5-mile detour from the 10 Freeway, and it's actually on your way if you're coming from the Valley on the 210 Freeway. In season, the track has live horse racing 4+ days a week, with live simulcasting year round. Your best bet: begin your Vegas trip at a leisurely pace, grab lunch at Santa Anita and warm-up with a couple wins at the track.
Photo by LoadStone/Flickr.
The 15 Freeway crests the Cajon Summit, however take the 138 Freeway east for a couple miles and you'll traverse the Cajon Pass, which is where the San Andreas Fault splits the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges. One side rests atop the Pacific Plate, the other is on the North American Plate, choose wisely where you park: if The Big One hits, you could be stranded on the brand new island that is California!
Photo by uhhhhlaine/Flickr.
Welcome to Barstow, you're halfway there! This is not the first Del Taco but merely the oldest one still in continuous operation. DT has always toiled in the shadow of Taco Bell in popularity, but true connoisseurs of fast food will tell you that its charms are superior. Just hit the drive thru, Del Taco's tacos are practically bite-size and optimized for travel. And is there a more satisfying feeling than at the end of your Vegas weekend finding a soft taco wedged beneath your seat that you had completely forgotten about? As Larry the Cable Guy says, "Them's good eatin'!"
Photo by slworking2/Flickr.
Just shy of Baker is a sign familiar to veterans of the Los Angeles-Las Vegas run: "Zzyzx Road." For such a notable and curious sign, few people have exited the freeway to investigate further. Don't be those people. Go five miles down Zzyzx Road and you reach what remains of a crackpot health resort, busted by the feds years ago for selling snake oil. Currently, the site is the Desert Studies Center established by the California State University, but some of the abandoned fountains, pools and derelict, bulldozed buildings are available for spooky wandering.
Whiskey Pete's is about 500-feet across the border in Nevada and it's your first taste of "Vegas" on the way to the real thing. It's not at all sexy or hip, but Whiskey Pete's does provide the perfect place for a final pick-me-up before the home stretch. Practice your Vegas A-game, without the pressure of the real deal. Drop a roll of quarters into the slots. Bet red on the roulette wheel. Stuff yourself at the buffet. Buy something cheap and stupid at the gift shop. Don't you feel better now? Congratulations, in less than an hour you'll be on the Strip – welcome to Las Vegas!