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5 things League fans should do making the pilgrimage from LA to Vegas

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If you’re heading from Las Vegas for the NRL season opener, chances are you’re driving from Los Angeles. Here are 5 ways to ensure you extract the most from the road trip.

Roughly 200 miles and 4 hours separate Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the home of the NRL’s 2024 season opener, an unprecedented event that has attracted the interest of thousands of eager rugby league flans.

Before the bright lights and iconic strip of Las Vegas can be met, a typical Australian journey to Sin City involves a stopover in Los Angeles, with the City of Angels acting as an ideal, picturesque starting point for many Vegas road trips.

For those rugby league pilgrims heading stateside for the NRL’s glamorous season opener, embarking on the drive between LA and Vegas is the ideal way to soak up as much American culture and scenery as possible.

At 4 hours, about the same length as driving from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains, the drive takes travellers along the iconic Route 66, which is flanked almost permanently by treacherous desert and soaring snow-capped mountain peaks, and through several small desert towns.

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While this might not sound like an environment jam-packed with adventure, I assure you, having recently embarked on this journey myself, there is plenty to soak in on this trip. Given the already hefty length of the trip between the two cities, it’s best advised to soak in the sights across both legs of the journey.

Not only is this a time-saving tactic, but it also ensures travellers allow themselves to properly immerse themselves in the culture and beauty of the surrounding scenery.

So, strap in, turn a road trip bangers playlist on Spotify to full volume and prepare for four hours of pristine country driving.

5 things rugby league fans can do making the pilgrimage from LA to Las Vegas

Stop and see the World’s Tallest Thermometer

Where: Baker

The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge and… the World’s Tallest Thermometer?

When it comes to iconic American landmarks, this infamous stop in Baker, about halfway between Los Angeles and Vegas, won’t make the top 10, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

In a town with a population of less than one thousand people, there is no more notorious resident in Baker, California than the World’s Tallest Thermometer, which has called the small desert community since 1991.

At 41 metres tall, it stands out against an otherwise ordinary backdrop like a sore thumb; a quirky, modern remix of an ancient Egyptian obelisk that not only attracts plenty of tourists but acts as a useful tool for residents.

While it’s not a monumental sight to write home about, chances are you’ll be stopping in Baker for fuel or food anyway, so you may as well make the most of your visit.

Spend an hour in Primm

Where: Primm

Almost immediately after crossing the border from California into Nevada, travellers are met by Primm. Around 42 minutes from Vegas, arriving in this small town signals the end of a pilgrimage to Sin City is near.

What makes Primm so whacky and wonderful is it’s essentially a remixed version of Vegas, a teaser trailer before travellers reach the real thing in under an hour. It’s not exactly a town and is in fact not a census-designated area, but rather an isolated resort, a fact which only adds to its quirkiness.

It boasts Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino, for those who want to dip their toe into the Vegas nightlife before arriving in the city, and, rather strangely, a large rollercoaster, Desperado, one of the tallest and largest steel rollercoasters in the United States.

Outlets at Barstow

Where: Barstow

Located in the middle of the Mojave desert, the Outlets at Barstow offer a fantastic opportunity for travellers to stop, grab a bite to eat, stretch their legs and bargain hunt.

Some of the brands with outposts at the Outlets include Adidas, Calvin Klein, Nike, Levi’s, New Balance and Ralph Lauren. Whether it’s on your way to or way back from Vegas, stopping in at the Outlets is a must for migrating rugby league fans.

Visit the Mormon Rocks

Where: Just outside of Cajon Junction

As mentioned earlier, the drive between Los Angeles and Sin City is incredibly scenic from pretty much the point travellers exit the LA city limits right until they roll onto the Strip.

About an hour into the journey via a small detour off the main freeway connecting the two cities, are the Mormon Rocks, a collection of naturally formed structures that are as large as they are awe-inspiring.

However, it should be noted visiting the Mormon Rocks is particularly weather-dependent. Does anyone want to pull their car over and walk through a desert when rain is bucketing down? I don’t think so.

If the skies are clear and the sun is shining, making a little detour to visit the Mormon Rocks is a fantastic way to get a small break from your road trip. Besides, the opportunity to do so may never come again.

Calico Ghost Town

Where: Yermo

Just past Barstow is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it community of Yermo, home to the Calico Ghost Town, the last remaining remnants of a mining town that dates back to the 1880s.

There is something quintessentially American about a ghost town and Calico, which was abandoned in the mid-1890s when local silver stocks dried, offers Australian travellers a perfect opportunity to sink their teeth into a small slice of Californian history.

This attraction features shops, restaurants and hiking, meaning there’s something for every kind of traveller.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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