Rock A Hoola Waterpark
72 Hacienda Road
Newberry Springs, California 92365
Zinc Mine Road
Mountain Pass, California
Ivanpah Solar Farm
Nipton, California 92364
Interstate 15 to Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas! Many Californians at some point make the trek through the desert to arrive at the City of Sin, Las Vegas in Nevada! The majority of people driving will most likely be arriving at Las Vegas by way of Interstate 15. As you make your way down the dusty road through the dry desert, at some point the highways 15, 58, 40, and 247 all come together at the town of Barstow. You probably came up from Los Angeles on 15 or came from Central California on 58. If you're coming up from Los Angeles, you should check out our upcoming Route 66 guide to find fun weird things along your route before now. But, now that we've all arrived in Barstow, let's find out what awesome attractions lay on the road from here to Vegas! The City of Sin is exciting, the journey there should be too!
Barstow is still over 150 miles and more than two hours from the Las Vegas Strip. You might be all, "Wait? What could possibly be exciting about Barstow?", well guess what, there are actually quite a few things that are worth a stop in Barstow. Even if you don't want to pull over, driving down Main Street in Barstow is worth the little detour. You see, Main Street in Barstow is also Route 66! In addition to lots of Route 66 signage, Barstow has placed several murals along the road, most detailing various historical stories about the area. More recently, Barstow has placed up a series of Route 66 pillars along the road, each with a different classic car sitting on top.
Not far off Main Street, you can find two museums, sadly with limited hours. There is the Barstow Route 66 Museum and a Train Museum. Additionally, the NASA Goldstone Visitor's Center is nearby. As Main Street gets down near both Interstates 15 and 40, one can also stop for a quick bite to eat at Barstow Station before heading off out of town. If you don't wish to veer too far off Interstate 15 on your way through town, you can simply drive by the Giant Fire Helmet outside Barstow's fire station and possibly stop by next door at the Desert Discovery Center, where the country's second largest meteorite is housed.
Northeast of Barstow is Fort Irwin, which also houses NASA's Goldstone site. NASA's Goldstone site is where the giant satellite dishes are located. Those giant satellite dishes communicate with every object NASA has placed in space, including the rovers wandering around on Mars. Luckily, if you don't want to drive all the way out into the desert, you can visit the NASA Goldstone Visitor Center, which is located on the second floor of the Harvey House in Barstow. NASA's Goldstone site is also located on Fort Irwin, an army base. Rumor has it, that they have a full replica of a Middle Eastern city in which they perform training and run through various scenarios that troops deployed over in the Middle East may have to deal with. A variety of actors are supposed to be brought in, in order to run through these live training operations. Fort Irwin additionally has the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Museum. Located in the museum is an exhibit on Hi Jolly, one of the handlers, originally from the Middle East, who was brought over with what would become the US Camel Corps!
About twenty minutes past Barstow, you'll come upon the small town of Yermo. If you didn't stop in Barstow, then Yermo is definitely the place for you to take a pit stop. Two different places here serve up some tasty snacks and you can either opt for the full sit down meal at Peggy Sue's 50's Diner or pizzas, candy, and snacks at Eddieworld! Peggy Sue's is also packed full of 50's nostalgia along with its Diner-saur Park, home to several metal dinosaurs and even a metal giant gorilla, many of which can literally be seen from the highway. Meanwhile, Eddieworld boasts the cleanest bathrooms on 15, has hordes of gas pumps, along with electric charging stations. You can't miss Eddieworld as you can see the giant ice cream sundae easily from the highway.
On the other side of the highway from Peggy Sue's, one can see the heart shaped sign of the former Jenny Rose Restaurant. No longer open, people still love stopping and posing in front of the nostalgic sign that adorned Sheryl Crow's album. Continuing past the closed Jenny Rose Restaurant, you'll see a large cutout miner, and know that you are on your way to the Calico Ghost Town. A former mining town, Calico is now a ghost town attraction complete with a Wild West feel. Restaurants, museums, stores, mines, cabins, and other sights fill the old west town making it a fun stop.
After leaving Yermo, things start getting a little more sparse as you end up out in the middle of the desert with little to no places nearby. One thing out there though is a controversial archaeological site called the Calico Early Man Site. The site is closed as of early 2019 due to vandalism and health concerns. Supposed archaeological finds at the site may have produced some of the oldest human made tools ever discovered.
Continuing on, back in the late 1950's, a local businessman named Bob Byers thought putting a water park in the middle of the desert and really in the middle of nowhere was a great idea. And thus was born Rock A Hoola Water Park. It was originally called Lake Dolores, after Byers's wife, and first closed in the late eighties. But in August 1990 the park was sold off, leading to it to reopen on July 4th, 1998 under the Rock A Hoola name. This time the park only lasted until February 2000, with the corporation behind it filing for bankruptcy. And yet, a third attempt to bring the park back occurred from May 2002 until the summer of 2004 as Discovery Waterpark. The location has been closed ever since, and is covered in an ever evolving layer of graffiti. But never fear, the urge to place a water park in the middle of the desert is strong, as there are plans once again to perhaps reopen the park in 2023!
Next as you journey to Las Vegas is the bizarre town of Zzyzx! People have wondered about the strangely named off-ramp on Interstate 15 forever. Adventurous types you actually take it will eventually find a former health spa resort founded by a conman now owned by the California State University System for research and teaching. It is an interesting place to check out, after you drive past some salt flats on your way down the road. Not only can you see several of the old buildings that the snake oil salesman had built for his con job, but there are lots of informational plaques detailing the history of the area.
So you've just passed that crazy sign Zzyzx that everyone wonders about, and are still driving through nothing by dry desert, and it's probably hot, being the desert and all. How hot? Well, thankfully our next destination will tell you. It will loom up out of the desert to the left of the highway, a 134 foot tall lit up giant thermometer! Yes, that's right, we're in the town of Baker, which has a whole lot of weird!
You can stop off at the gift shop under the thermometer and learn all about it, plus buy light bulbs that use to be used in it. But besides the gigantic temperature measuring stick, there are several other locations of interest in the town. You'll run across the Lucky Lotto Country Store which has sold at least nine winning lotto tickets of at least a million! It also has a pretty awesome mural on the side of the store showing off the journey you are on right now! Across the street from it is the Mad Greek Diner, which not only has great Greek food, but also fantastically amazing decorations just begging you to stop in. And last, but certainly not least, we have the constantly evolving Alien Fresh Jerky where aliens run amuck and the invasion has begun. Baker also plays host to several abandoned buildings, particularly several old motels and restaurants, if that's your jam.
The Last of California
After passing all the fun in Baker, you're in the final stretch of the desert before you get to the state line between California and Nevada. You'll see an exit for Cima, which has only a Shell gas station. For some reason this Shell Station has animatronic miners outside advertising items in the convenience store. It also has a waterfall urinal in the men's room, cause why not.
Then as you get into the area of Mountain Pass, there is still an expedition going on to find a lost river of gold rumored to be deep under the mountains. The only way you'd know of this though is from a simple blue strange triangular sign that points the way to the Kokoweef Camp, which is the base camp handling the search for the lost gold.
Before you cruise across the state border, leaving California and entering Nevada, you might be blinded by some tall towers reflecting the sun at you. This is the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility. At the time it was opened, on February 13th, 2014, it was the world's largest solar thermal power station. Right before the solar plant is Nipton Road, which you can turn off to the East on and head to the small town of Nipton, if you choose.
So the last building on Interstate 15, before you cross the state line into Nevada, is a building that you can't even reach from the California side. Technically, the building has an address in Nipton, California, more than fifteen miles away. But, it is only reachable from the Nevada side by driving through Primm. This building is the Lotto Store at Primm, located on Lotto Store Road, and all they sell are lottery tickets. You see, due to the casinos that are present everywhere, Nevada doesn't have a lottery like many other states. The Lotto Store at Primm is their answer to this as it sits just across the state border and officially in California. The store has several self-serve lottery machines as well as cashiers. Often when jackpots get large, the store ends up with some extremely long lines, causing the store to sometimes caution people to get in line two hours before the store closes.
Well, you've finally crossed the state line and your destination feels super close now. There's not much in the way of real towns along 15 before you get to Las Vegas, but there's still weirdness! As soon as you cross the state line, you will immediately be in Primm. As is the custom, Las Vegas casinos are built directly across the state line where pretty much any highway enters the state and absolutely no exception here. Primm plays host to three casinos, but the one you'll want to stop in is Whiskey Pete's. Named after a gas station owner turned bootlegger, the story of Whiskey Pete's corpse is pretty outlandish. His ghost also haunts the hotel. But you're really stopping here to see the real, yes real, Bonnie and Clyde Death Car! Yes, the very car the two infamous outlaws were gunned down in. It's sitting next to a car once owned first by Dutch Shultz and later Al Capone. Clyde's shirt which he was wearing when he was all shot up is also on display along with some artifacts.
The next bit of civilization on your journey is the town of Jean, Nevada. Formerly the Gold Strike Casino, now Terrible's Hotel and Casino, the location plays host to two prospector statues flanking the entrance to the parking lot. Inside, you'll find several pretty cool movie cars on display ranging from the Fast and the Furious to Back to the Future.
But that's not all! On July 6th, 2018, Terrible's opened the World's Largest Chevron on the other side of the highway, here in Jean. Although not the world's largest gas station, it still boasts 96 gas pumps, 50,000 square feet (including a 700 square foot beer cave), 72 soda heads in its fountain beverage area, a thirteen foot tall Bigfoot, and even three full sized airplanes! That's not including a vast number of urinals and bathroom stalls, including 25 floor to ceiling ones in the women's restroom!
As you approach Las Vegas, picturing slot machines and showgirls in your head, off to the right you might just catch several large colorful rocks all stacked up as pillars. Well, these are the Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation just sitting out in the desert south of Sin City. And they are totally worth a stop. The easiest way to get to them, coming from the south, would be to get off the highway at Jean, drive past the casino and turn left onto Las Vegas Boulevard. A few miles down the road you'll see the colorful rocks on your right.
After the Seven Magic Mountains, it's next stop, Las Vegas! The Luxor Pyramid with its beam of light will be fast approaching and soon you'll be throwing dice at a craps table! Hope you enjoyed this roadtrip, we'll probably be adding and improving it over the next several months.