If you’ve ever taken a road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, it’s not something most people look forward to. It’s pure boring nothing – almost 300miles of flat, plain, middle of nowhere desert. But if you’re traveling this road for work or for pleasure or just as a means to get to somewhere else, there are a few interesting roadside attractions along the way that can make this trip more interesting, enjoyable, and break up the monotony if you’ve got the extra time.
Rock-a-Hoola/ Lake Dolores
If you’ve already done this drive before, you’ve seen this abandoned waterpark on the side of the road at roughly the halfway mark of the trip. First, let me say that I don’t know the laws about trespassing in abandoned areas. There are no “no trespassing” signs, which as far as I know, makes it fair game, but I also am pretty sure that an owner/caretaker of sorts lives nearby. The first time my friend and I stopped here, a small indie film crew was filming in the waterpark and when we drove up, we were shortly followed and greeted by a man who said he was the owner. Maybe he was on high alert that day because of the film crew, or he lives nearby and keeps an eye out. The second time I stopped here, there were already some people exploring the park and no one came out to talk to either of our groups while we were there.
Anyway – Rock-a-Hoola Waterpark was once a thriving waterpark in the 1950s. It has an interesting history and has changed ownership several times before eventually declaring bankruptcy. It’s built on a natural water spring (in case you were wondering why someone would build a waterpark in the desert). Now that it’s been decommissioned, several of the buildings are still there and all tagged up with graffiti etc. It’s a kinda creepy but a cool interesting thing to explore if you like abandoned buildings.
Mineral Springs & Abandoned Buildings
At the end of Zzyzx Road is Zzyzx Mineral Springs of course! It was created by LA radio evangelist Curtis H. Springer and was meant to be “the last word in health” (hence the crazy name that would appear at the very end of medical dictionaries). Pronounced Z-eye-zicks, the mineral spa resort was once a great success! There are several accounts of unexplained healings and claims of a “fountain of youth” here. More about Zzyzx Rd here
The area is now mostly abandoned, but the mineral spa is still operational and researchers still come and stay here. You can only go inside the still-inhabited buildings if you have an appointment, but if you’re just a curious traveler, you are welcome to walk the grounds. There’s a guest parking lot to the right at the end of the road for those without an appointment who just want to take a look around. There’s an information board at the entrance which will give you more of a history and there’s still a lot to see even while still respecting the request to not interfere with those who are staying here.
It is just a rest stop, but it’s a rest stop on steroids. Located in the “booming metropolis” (sarcasm) of Yermo, Eddie World has a giant ridiculous ice cream sunday statue on the side of the road that you can’t miss. Gas is available outside and inside is an unbelievable assortment of candies as far as the eye can see. If you’re looking for a “gas station rest stop”, this is the one to check out as it is far superior to anything else you’ll find on this trip. There’s also some artisan pizzas as well as other quick-food snacks (a step above fast food)… and again, candy, so so so much candy and stuffed animals. And if you’re stopping here and really feel like exploring, continue down the road into Yermo a little ways where you’ll find a cute antique shop on the right. There are some fun old car photo ops outside and the lady who runs it is super friendly even if you are just perusing.
Abandoned Rest Stop
In case you haven’t noticed yet, there are a lot of abandoned buildings between LA and Las Vegas. This is yet another just off the side of the road which is easily accessible and a spot for some cool apocalyptic photos. There is a giant “EAT” sign still on the what I assume was once a rest stop. You can walk around inside the building pretty safely- no squatters or broken glass or asbestos. It’s a quick stop as there are only 2 buildings here, but it’s something unusual to look at rather than a more traditional rest area.
Seven Magic Mountains
Art Installation/ Instagram Attraction
Just 20 mins outside of Vegas, I was surprised at how busy this place was. There were easily 30 cars in the parking lot. The Seven Magin Mountains is an art installation created by Ugo Rondinone between Vegas and Primm – basically, it’s seven towers of brightly colored rocks. I don’t get it and think it’s kinda dumb, but it’s something on the road that seems to attract a bunch of people who want to take Instagram photos there. The entrance to the Mountains is several miles before/after you actually see it on the side of the road. So if you’re driving past, you’ll need to backtrack a bit to get there. I thought the most interesting part was the giant tarantula walking in the dirt in the parking lot.
Calico Ghost Town
It’s not a real ghost town, let’s just start there. With so many abandoned places on this stretch of highway, I at first thought this was a legit old west abandoned town – it’s not. It is a legit old west town, but it’s not abandoned – well maintained and there are no ghosts – it’s more of a tourist attraction. There was a mining town here in the early 1880s and what remains are some mine shafts, main street, trail rails, etc. There are three types of tours that you can choose from to see the town – each with it’s own cost (this is after the $8 entry cost to get into the “town”). It’s a bit more of a time commitment than just stopping by to look and will run you around $25 if you want to take all the tours and see all of the attractions.
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch On Route 66
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch isn’t directly on Route 15, but it’s a really fun roadside attraction that’s on the way that I absolutely recommend checking out – it’s only going to add around 30mins to your trip and its worth it. Before Route 15 was built, Route 66 was the main highway from LA to Vegas and as such, there are lots of places along the old Route 66 that have dried up and died because of the new highway. Bottle Tree Ranch is one of those places – sort of. The creator Elmer would go out into the desert with his father and bring back whatever odd things they found. He created the bottle trees out of this “junk” that they collected. It’s a cool place to walk around, it’s totally free, and Elmer himself is a really fascinating character.