An incredible road trip at any time of year, we’re looking at the heart of the California desert to bring you a journey from Las Vegas to Palm Springs. For many, a trip to Las Vegas is a necessary strike off the bucket list, but there’s no reason for your trip to end there.
With over 200 miles of beautiful scenery between Vegas and Palm Springs, including the Mojave National Preserve and the edges of Joshua Tree National Park, where we’ve travelled before, this trip can be as long or as short as you like, taking away or adding in stops as you please. Here are our recommended places to stop along the way.
If you’ve already explored the Las Vegas Strip, we recommend a trip to the city’s charming Arts District for some food and drink. Start your evening enjoying a cocktail or two at the Velveteen Rabbit, where imaginative drinks with names such as ‘Velvet Waltz’ grace the menu, and ingredients are expertly mixed to create delicious concoctions.
Just down the road, you can grab a bite to eat at Casa Don Juan. Classic Mexican dishes are served alongside fresh margaritas (frozen optional) in a lively and welcoming atmosphere, complete with its own Frida Kahlo mural. It’s a fantastic family-run restaurant and a brilliant place to grab a bite, for both large groups and couples.
There aren’t many places to stop between Las Vegas and Cima, so make sure the car is filled with gas, plenty of water and snacks to keep you going. There are, however, some beautiful views of the sweeping landscape. Having driven through over 40 kilometres of beautiful desert, you’ll cross the border into California at Primm, seeing the unmissable castle and huge Whiskey Pete’s sign as you pass by.
Then, it’s into Mojave Desert territory, at Cima. Considered by many to be a ghost town, the town was originally used by travellers to collect water, and later a transport hub for local mines and ranches.
As you leave the gorgeous surroundings of the Mojave National Preserve, passing by Kelso, you’ll eventually end up on a small section of Route 66. Stop by at Roy’s for some fuel, food and refreshments, and soak up the surrounding desert. Roy’s is a great place to learn about some local history, with the café and motel having been around almost as long as the town of Amboy, which dates back to the late 1800s.
Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley
Travelling along the Twentynine Palms Highway (Route 62), you’ll pass by entrances to Joshua Tree National Park next to the visitor centres both at Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree, both being great options to start your journey into the park. When you’re finished checking out the local wildlife with a hike through the park, fill up your energy levels at the Crossroads Café. If you’re a group of more than two, you might have to wait for a table, but the food here is well worth it. Huge pancakes and eggs any way are served at breakfast, with hearty sandwiches and fries dominating the lunch menu.
For some evening entertainment, head down the road to Yucca Valley and knock down some pins at Yucca Bowl. The perfect place for fun, no-frills bowling, the 24 lanes have a snack bar, cocktail lounge, pool tables and arcade. See if you can match the perfect score!
In the 1930s, Palm Springs was famous for its association with Hollywood A-listers, who were limited to being no more than two hours away from their studios. Today, it’s got a different reputation, but its glamorous past can still be seen in colourful, mid-century modern architecture, with buildings from architects such as John Lautner (stay at one of his properties at the Lautner Compound, in Desert Hot Springs) John Porter Clark and Donald Wexler.
To stay in style, the Ace Hotel is a must. A favourite with celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, the hotel is the ultimate desert escape, with a large pool, luxury spa and vintage furniture throughout.
The main strip around Canyon Drive is dotted with countless restaurants, so there’s something for everyone, from hip farm-to-table American cuisine at Workshop Kitchen + Bar, to glamorous outdoor dining at SO.PA. When you’re looking for a fruity drink, grab a cocktail at the Tonga Hut, Palm Springs’ oldest-serving tiki bar.
Start planning the ultimate desert road trip from Las Vegas to Palm Springs today, with Alamo Rent A Car, and experience the freedom of a self-drive holiday.