Our advice? Never fly to Vegas from L.A.; the road trip is too much fun to miss. First, check out Calico Ghost Town in the Calico Mountains. It's not the most authentic of ghost towns (more Disney than dude ranch), but is still a worthwhile detour for a bit of Wild West history.
For a different peek into the past, look out for Exit 23 on I-5, which leads you to the ruins of the former Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. The spa was created back in 1944 for quack radio evangelist Curtis Howe Springer, who duped visitors into thinking they were soaking in healing natural hot springs, when in reality, all the pools were boiler-heated. (Eventually the FBI shut this operation down; turns out Spring was squatting illegally on the land, to boot.)
Grab some out-of-this-world road snacks seven miles north in Baker at Alien Fresh Jerky, a kitschy, extraterrestrial-themed sundries shop selling flavored jerky, olives, nuts and candy. If you're hungry for something more substantial, don't miss the Mad Greek just down the block, a delicious Greek fast-food joint. You actually can't miss it, thanks to the life-size plaster statues and Parthenon-evoking patio. Order a gyros plate to fuel the rest of your journey to Sin City.
Upon arrival, drive right past the Strip (relax, you can gamble later) and head to the Neon Museum. Housed in the restored lobby of the now-defunct La Concha Motel (a Googie architecture masterpiece designed by Paul Williams, who also worked on the Theme Building at LAX), this collection of neon signage is one of the best in the country. Make an appointment to tour the boneyard, which is home to more than 150 colorful, towering signs (some of which still light up!) dating back to the 1930s, each with their own unique history.
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