Oh, Las Vegas. Sin City. The City of Lights. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Las Vegas has been a favorite destination of Californians for years.
In 2015, according to the Las Vegas News Bureau, a reported 44,000 cars crossed the state line between California and Nevada every day on I-15 alone. The total amount of visitors that year topped out at 42 million tourists! Although this past year saw a dramatic decrease in visitors to Sin City – Las Vegas is still a top destination for SoCal residents who just need a vacation without needing an airplane to reach it.
The drive from Anaheim, CA to Las Vegas, NV is about four hours with normal traffic. This route crosses through the Angeles National Forest, the Valley, Mojave Desert and Sloan Canyon. It can be a long haul begging for stops to stretch your legs and see the surroundings. Here are some must stop places that will make that drive to the entertainment Mecca all that much more thrilling.
Inland Empire Area
This collection of metropolitan suburbs lies in San Bernardino County just adjacent to the epicenter of Southern California which is Los Angeles. The Inland Empire consists of two major cities: Riverside and San Bernardino. Although smaller towns like Ontario and Upland also make up this sprawling landscape. With its location just about an hour north of Orange County in light traffic and it’s random and unique things to see and do, the Inland Empire is the perfect first stop on the route to Vegas.
Graber Olive House
Have you ever watched the process of sorting olives? Did you even know this was a thing? You are in luck because every September you can sign up to tour the Graber Olive House. Since its founding in 1894, Graber Olive House has been crafting delish olives as well as olive oil, assortments of sweet dried fruit, and nuts. This farm is also a popular and picturesque location for weddings and other grand events. Stop in for a free tour, to visit the gift shop, and see some of the local artist exhibits. Address: 315 E. 4th, Ontario, CA. Website: www.graberolives.com
Nongshim Noodle Plant Tour
Nongshim Noodles are more than just dorm room ramen. This Korean based company is a part of the Shin Brand that delivers tasty varieties of Korean style treats such as their Chapaguri Noodles, Shin Light Air Dried Noodles and Spicy Kal Guk Su soup. Located in the town of Rancho Cucamonga you can suit up in their provided protective suits and tour their USA noodle factory. Be aware tours book up fast and three month advance reservations are recommended. Address: 12155 6th St. Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Website: www.nongshimusa.com/homev2/plant-tour/
Bono’s Historic 66 Orange
This now closed restaurant is a quick photo opportunity of the past glory of Route 66. The large Orange which once sold orange juice was originally built in 1936. Bono’s Orange almost met its demise in the 1990s from local construction demolition but was moved in 1997 to its current location in attempts to preserve its historic importance. Now travelers on Route 66 can stop to snap a photo with the big Orange. Address: 15395 Foothill Blvd., Fontana, CA.
Victorville and Apple Valley
When you drive up highway 15 past Cajon Junction the scenery of buildings and mountains soon gives way to cactus and sparse landscapes. The Victorville and Apple Valley areas are about 2 hours north of Orange County but a world away in terms of landscape and culture. A great place to enjoy fringe style living, here are some of the must stop locations.
Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch
This magical collection of scrap metal, sparkling glass bottles, and welded pipes is one you will not forget. Long time California resident Elmer Long constructed his first pipe glass bottle tree in the year 2000 and since then has expanded to a wanderlust ranch of free standing art. Up until his passing in June of 2019, Elmer worked hard on his craft incorporating toys, old radios and even appliances to his masterpiece. Tip: go on a windy day to experience a spectacular somewhat musical chiming. Address: 24266 National Trails Hwy. Oro Grande, CA. Website: www.facebook.com/ElmersBottleTreeRanch/
Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe
The restaurant building itself may be small but the flavors of its juicy burgers is quite massive. This local favorite started in 1947 and was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with celebrity chef Guy Fieri. The menu is a simple assortment of burgers, BLTS and chili fries. As well as biscuits and gravy for the breakfast trucker style fare. Not much has really changed in this diner since opening its doors but as the old saying goes; ‘If it ain’t broke. Diner fix it.’ Address: 17143 North D St. Victorville, CA.
Graves of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
These Wild West stars were both lovers on the big screen and in real life as a happily married. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were true Hollywood Western Stars in the 1940s and 1950s with classic movies such as The Golden Stallion, Bells of San Angelo, and Cowboy and the Senorita. The power couple met on set in 1944 and now rest forever together on the grounds of Sunset Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary. Their graves are located inside the memorial park on the left, nearest the fence line. After the third opening in the stone wall and before the bridge is where you may visit to pay your respects to a very talented couple of the Western Movie Classics. Address: 24000 Waalew Rd. Apple Valley, CA. Website: www.sunsethills.cc
Barstow is the last major transportation hub before hitting the emptiness and volcanic beauty of the Mojave Desert. With a population just north of 22,000 it is not a large city but it truly has a large personality with its collection of random artwork and iconic restaurants. Here are some of my favorite Barstow Haunts.
World’s Oldest Operating Del Taco
It is fact that this Del Taco is not the first Del Taco. The first location of this popular Mexican fast food chain is actually located in the city of Yermo, CA; just east of Barstow. The eatery is now a restaurant called Burger Den that ironically, sells tacos. No this may not be the first Del Taco but this Del Taco, which opened in 1964, is the oldest still operating restaurant in the Del Taco franchise. Referred to as Del Taco #1 by corporate operations it looks like any other Del Taco you may come across. But you have to admit it is fun to come to the #1 Del Taco just to say you did! Address: 401 N. First Ave., Barstow, CA. Website: deltaco.com/history
Mad Greek Diner
It is really hard to miss this place. Located right by the Giant Thermometer and decorated with faux Greek columns and statues – this restaurant serves up arguably the best and perhaps the only gyros in town. The Mad Greek Diner was opened almost 30 years ago by Chef Larry Dabour using his grandmother’s family recipes. Another spot featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, the restaurant has expanded to open a second location in Las Vegas itself. Address: 72112 Baker Blvd. Baker, CA. Website: www.madgreekcafe.com
Liberty Sculpture Park
A fairly new addition to the outskirts of Barstow is the 36-acre installment of bronze sculptures in the Liberty Sculpture Park. In 2017, Chinese-born artist Weiming Chen along with a group of friends created this roadside museum along freeway I-15. The first sculpture created was the “The Origin of Freedom Number One: Chief Crazy Horse.” This art piece is a 15-foot-high head of the Native American leader. Although you can see the artwork from the highway it is definitely worth the detour to see the craftsmanship in person. Plus it is a stone’s throw from another local favorite, the Eddie World Giant Ice Cream Sundae. Address: 37570 W. Yermo Rd., Yermo, CA.
Although we are at the end of my random, slightly absurd road stop attractions – I can not end this article without highly recommending spending a few hours or even a day or two exploring the wonderful Mojave Desert. Located just north of Barstow and before you enter the state of Nevada, this desert is known as a rain-shadow desert and it is in fact the driest desert in North America. The Mojave Desert also boasts the greatest number of Joshua Trees. Beating its popular desert sister – Joshua Tree National Park. From exploring lava tubes and sand dunes; Mojave Desert is a great place to experience nature and burn off some long car ride steam.
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus