Its a very interesting drive for someone who doesn't normally spend time in the desert. I think it is very very scenic: you get to see large parts of LA, the Angeles forest, mountains, and desert. If you're going in the summer, you can also experience unbelievable heat.
I'd stop in Baker (the world famous Bun Boy restaurant along with the world's largest thermometer), The Joshua Tree national monument, Nevada stateline (Whiskey Pete's casino and a huge outlet mall).
The drive from LAX-LAS can be done in 4-4.5 hours, but that involves speeding and does not allow time for stops or to see anything interesting. If you allow 6 hours during the day, its a very enjoyable trip.
Programs: UA 1K, AA Lifetime gold, SPG Platinum, Hilton Diamond
First, make sure your car rental agreement allows you drive outside California.
I will also avoid the traffic peak hours (7 AM - 9 AM, 4PM - 7 PM). It can easily take you 2 hours just to cross from LAX to San Bernadino (I-10/I-15 intersection) with traffic. From San Bernadino to Las Vegas strip, if you just follow the traffic flow (which is about 80 miles per hour), you will get to Las Vegas less than three hours. (around 200 miles)
Listen to the traffic radio if the traffic gets heavy, it will save you a lot of time.
I have done it twice. It actually is very boring and very little to see, eat or do for the 4-5 hr. I would not recommend it as one's time is better spent by flying LAS to LAX at about $89 RT and seeing the really interesting stuff in the LAX and LAS locales.
Location: San Pedro, CA, USA / LH M&M, Motel 6 Premier
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by sfvoyage: Does the drive take 4 hours (from either Santa Monica or LAX to the Strip)? Is it scenic at all?</font>
Well, IMO you should rather calculate with 5-6 hours driving time (depending on the weekday and the time you're starting from LAX).
And no, it's not "scenic" at all. It's boring boring boring - at least to me.
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">I'm usually not fond of long-distance drives and thought maybe I can break up the journey in Palm Springs, but that would require a detour.</font>
This detour would be too much.
[This message has been edited by Berki (edited 10-02-2002).]
Thanks for all your feedback. I am tending towards not doing the drive at this point, not only because 5-6 hours of driving would be too much for me, but also because my whole itinerary is up in the air. I am having no luck so far upgrading my transpacific flights (HKG-JFK and SFO-HKG on UA, using LH miles, but I guess that's for another board).
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by MRLIMO: If the National $55 RT fare that QuietLion suggested is not available, you may wish to consider Southwest for their $55 RT fares.</font>
In addition, JetBlue is offering a $55 LGB/LAS RT.