We have turned into "those people." You know, the people who take their kids to Las Vegas for a family vacation. We didn't initially intend on taking them to Vegas, but flights from McCarron to Orlando, were cheaper than from LAX, and Vegas is a fairly easy drive from our home in Big Bear Lake. The more we thought about it, we decided that it would be easier to spend a few nights in Vegas prior to our flight to Disney World, as a way to break up the travel time. Plus, Vegas has amazing pools and all of those shows. It was actually a great place to take the kids, but more on that later. First, the three hour drive to Sin City.
It was a boiling hot day in late July, so we opted for an early start. Our first stop was Peggy Sue's 50's Diner for breakfast. This was a little over an hour into our drive.
The restaurant was almost completely empty and we had an entire section to ourselves. The kids loved the fun pop-culture decor and the pancakes. I love the kitschy dinosaur and King Kong sculptures in the back garden. Also the ducks; I always need to visit the duck pond at Peggy Sue's. They have ducks with mohawks!
My favorite picture from the entire vacation is this one of Zoe reacting to the mannequin in the women's restroom. We both jumped when we first walked in and it took us a second to realize it's a joke. Zoe makes the best funny faces.
Next stop, was Calico Ghost Town.
Dan and I had briefly visited Calico a few years ago with Dan's parents, but it was late in the day and most of the attractions were closed. This time, we intended a more leisurely visit. It was about ten am and the temperature was climbing. I normally love hot weather; the hotter the better, but even I was having a difficulty handling the heat. It was the kind of heat where you're dripping in sweat and all of your clothes are sticking to your body. Zoe and Felix are from Sweden and definitely not used to the desert heat. They were troopers though, excited to explore Calico. We purchased many bottles of ice-cold water during our short visit.
Calico hit its peak in the late 1800's as a silver mining town. We learned that there is still plenty of silver in the mines, but the cost to mine it well exceeds the profit that you'd make from the metal. In the fifties, Walter Knott ( of Knott's Berry Farm fame) purchased the town as a living history project and in the sixties it was turned into a California Historical Landmark.
The town is free to visit, but there is a small charge for each attraction. We paid thirty dollars as a family to do the Maggie Mine self-guided tour, The Mystery Shack, and to pan for gold. We also paid fourteen dollars so we could ride on the Calico Odessa Railroad.
First up was Maggie Mine. In the mine we saw luminescent rocks and a bunch of creepy miner mannequins. I think this would have been a better experience if it had been guided, rather than self-guided. We didn't learn very much, although it's always fun to walk into tunnels and dark spaces.
A panorama view of Calico.
It's been many years since The Mystery Shack was an attraction at Knott's Berry Farm. It was always one of my favorite parts of the theme park. I was thrilled to see that they have a version of The Mystery Shack at Calico. What's even better, is I couldn't detect any differences from the one at Knott's. We has a private tour of the shack and what I loved most was seeing the confusion and smiles from Zoe and Felix, as they exhibited the same wonder towards The Mystery Shack as I had at their age. It was a cool experience to share with them.
If you're unfamiliar with The Mystery Shack, it's basically a bunch of optical illusions and oddities with a guide who tells corny jokes. Very corny jokes.
By the time we got to the Calico Odessa Train ride, we were ready to leave. Our stay had been less than two hours, but it was simply too hot to be enjoyable. We were melting. The train ride is worth the money, because it gives you a view of the mines that you wouldn't be able to otherwise see. It's a short journey, about ten minutes and there is an automated narration to explain what you're seeing.
Next stop: Baker, California. We saw "The World's Tallest Thermometer" and more important, we bought cold drinks.
We don't have any photographs, but the next stop was Buffalo Bill's Hotel and Casino, which is located just over the Nevada/California stateline. Buffalo Bill's has a several theme park style rides and the kids were even brave enough to go on the big rollercoaster called The Desperado with Dan. The Desperado has one of the tallest drops in the country. At that point, I think it might have been the biggest coaster that they had experienced. We also grabbed ice cream cones. Never underestimate the power of rides and ice cream to make kids tolerate a long drive.
The last stop before Vegas was an art installation in the desert called, The Seven Magic Mountains. The colorful stacked rocks remind me of fruity pebbles. I think they're a fun addition to the desert landscape, definitely worth the stop for a photo opportunity.
Next stop, Luxor!