Are you from SoCal and considering a weekend getaway to Vegas?
After a rough week, there’s nothing like packing your bags, channeling your inner Clark Griswold or Dr. Gonzo, and heading to Sin City for the glitz and glamour under the lights on The Strip.
I personally love a road trip and what could be better than blazing a trail through the desert. Burning over the frying pan asphalt on your way to wealth and riches. Perhaps the riches don’t come, but the amazing cuisine and beautiful sights will more than make up for that.
Visiting Las Vegas is a treat, but why wait to get the experience started?
Kick the Tires and Light the Fires
If you’re lucky enough to live driving distance from the city, or just prefer wheels over other modes of transportation, taking a road trip to Vegas is an exciting way to get your trip started. In just a matter of hours, you can drive through miles of interesting road trip stops before winding up in Sin City.
According to statistics compiled annually by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, around 27% of tourists who visit Las Vegas are from Southern California. If you’re considering making the drive, I’ll go over some basics and add a few nuggets of blissful gold to make the trip great.
Are You Gonna Go My Way
Depending on which route you decide to take while driving to Vegas from LA, expect to spend somewhere between 4 and 5 hours on the road.
Without factoring in traffic, taking I-15 N is the shortest and more popular drive, clocking in at about 4 hours and 15 minutes of road time over the course of 270 miles.
On this route, you’ll experience the iconic and eye-popping drive between Victorville and Barstow. So, make sure to take the time and snap some pics.
You’ll be staring at the wide-open vastness and simplistic beauty of the sun quenched desert for over half the trip, basically Barstow to vegas.
On average, nearly 36,000 people daily drive through the California/Nevada state line at the I-15 Primm exit. You should take note, it’s more likely than not that you’ll hit some traffic on your road trip.
Friday is the busiest time for people to begin the Los Angeles to Las Vegas road trip, and running into that traffic can easily add an extra hour or more to your drive time.
Be especially careful on holidays or when there’s a big Las Vegas event as well, as you may see your hours on the road hitting double digits. If possible, try to leave on a less-popular day. Monday through Wednesday will probably be your best bet.
Alternatively, those looking for even more nature on the road trip may opt for the slightly longer scenic route of I-10 E. This route is approximately 325 miles from the heart of LA, and without traffic will take around 5 1/2 hours.
Along the Way
Depending on when you’re traveling you may get to your destination faster due to lighter traffic. The truth is Las Vegas isn’t far from Los Angeles at all. In the grand scheme of things, the 2 cities are rather close.
The drive from palm-clad Los Angeles to the lights of Las Vegas Casinos is a must for those exploring the West Coast of the USA. You can reach Sin City in as little as four hours, but why rush your road trip when there are so many incredible places to see along the way?
- Calico Ghost Town – For a memorable sightseeing stop between LA and Las Vegas, step back in time to the Old West at Calico Ghost Town. Founded in 1881 during California’s silver strike, Calico was home to 500 mines and became a major producer of silver ore. The miners packed up, loaded their mules and moved on around 12 years later when silver lost its value. Today it’s been transformed into a fantastically authentic tourist attraction.
- Pioneer Saloon – To relax after your long drive and get in the mood for thrills and spills in Sin City, why not call by one of the oldest bars in the Nevada Desert, situated just 15 minutes off the freeway? Frequented by a bevy of A-listers such as Clark Gable back in the golden age of Hollywood, Pioneer Saloon is a great spot for food and drink before making your way to the strip.
- Peggy Sue’s ’50s Diner – Looking for a pit stop around the halfway point of your journey? Peggy Sue’s is your answer. It’s a classic diner packed full of kitsch memorabilia from the golden age of Americana and serves up a healthy helping of traditional mouth-watering comfort food.
Of course, there are dozens of other “can’t miss” stops on the trip, but you just can’t hit them all. Which brings me to another side quest that is an absolute must.
Get Your Kicks on Route 66
Making the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without spending some time on Route 66 is decidedly un-American. America’s most famous stretch of road, is not too far off your normal course and offers plenty.
Take the section from Victorville to Barstow to glimpse retro diners, vintage gas stations, antique shops, burger joints and even an ostrich farm.
Ever wanted to visit a forest of bottle trees? Who hasn’t? If you drive between Victorville and Barstow, you’re in the perfect place to see one of the kookiest attractions on Route 66.
Absolutely one of the coolest little bits of Americana, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is basically a huge open-air art exhibition, brought to life as the sun shines through the many shades of colored glass. It’s open from dawn to dusk and if you’re lucky, you may get to meet Elmer himself.
Near Highway 15, you’ll pass one of the few Route 66 museums that’s actually situated on the road itself.
That eye-catching subtitle is brought to you by the fine people of the Navajo (not an official endorsement), their words for what we call Arizona. As in Phoenix, Arizona, not to be confused with the actor.
To the uninitiated, the 4 ½ hour drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas along U.S. Highway 93 can look like nothing more than a vast expanse of open desert fringed with low, brown mountains.
The straight shot of 297 miles is the best way to travel between the two cities, whether you want to get to Sin City as quickly as possible or explore the history of the Old West.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to experience more of the Arizona landscape, road trippers can add iconic spots such as the red rocks of Sedona and the natural wonder that is the Grand Canyon by taking the I-17 N.
As with L.A. to Vegas, the weekends are the most popular, and therefore most heavily trafficked, days to drive. Bake in some extra drive time if you plan on traveling during the holidays or when there are big Las Vegas events, as you may see your hours on the road begin to increase.
You may decide to add a stop in Sedona, but expect your drive time to increase to 6.5 hours, and adding a scenic stop at the Grand Canyon will clock you in at nearly 10.5 hours. This road trip is a wonderful one to take if you are planning on stretching it out over the course of several days so you can enjoy Mother Nature in all her glory.
As you can see, there’s beauty waiting to be discovered on the outcast stretch of road between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
It can be a splendid opportunity to do some bargain hunting for local art or just channeling your inner photog; there are few sights more magical than seeing the desert sunset against the horizon.
Or you can simply make quick stops for fuel and find a sense of peace in the desolate landscape of the desert.
Regardless of your preferred style of overland adventure, you’re sure to make some great memories along the road.
As you’ve seen, it’s not far from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. So, enjoy the ride.
Don’t forget extra water and if you hear the driver yell, “We can’t stop here. This is bat country.” They will likely be just fine, but you may want to take the helm.