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20 Best Things to Do in Barstow, California

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Barstow is a small city in San Bernardino County, California, set in the Mojave Desert. In the 1800s, it was an important stopping point for many travelers heading west. 

This city offers various historical activities, including something for travelers of all ages. In addition, Barstow is home to many museums, including the Mojave River Museum, Harvey House, the Route 66 Mother Road Museum, and the Western American Railroad Museum. 

Barstow was a popular stop for travelers crossing the state line from Nevada, where the California Welcome Center was.

I stopped here during a Minnesota to Palm Springs, California road trip because I was fascinated by the barren desert and quirkiness of downtown Barstow.

If you want a fun and unique experience in California, plan to stay in the Barstow area. There are many things to do, making it the perfect stop and resting point for long road trips

TL;DR

Are you planning to travel and wondering what to do in Barstow, California? Check out some fun and exciting things we have found for you to experience. 

  • Most significant landmark – Barstow Harvey House Marker
  • Best park – Dana Park
  • Free activity – Route 66 Mother Road Museum
  • Activity for kids – NASA Goldstone DSN Visitor’s Center
  • Activity for adults – Visit the Painted Rocks
  • Place to eat – DiNapoli’s Firehouse Italian Eatery
  • Nightlife – Hooz on First
  • Place to stay – Ayres Hotel

Things to Do in Barstow, California

1. Route 66 Mother Road Museum

Mother Museum Barstow

Address: 681 N. 1st Ave., Barstow, CA 92311

Dedicated on July 4, 2020, the Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum opened in Barstow’s Historic del Desierto and Harvey House area. This museum features a collection of photographs and artifacts showcasing the history of Route 66 and the surrounding Mojave Desert Communities.

Several visitors, including those just passing through, have made this roadside attraction an all-day activity. Route 66 Mother Road Museum is one of the best free things to do in Barstow, CA.

Barstow is a historic destination for those wanting to learn more about the history of rail passenger service in the Western United States. The Route 66 Mother Road Museum continues to share that story. 

Exhibits at Route 66 Mother Road Museum include Postmarkart of Ken Turmel, Los Angeles Photographer Russell Olsen’s Exhibit “Along for the Ride,” photographs of Blake Shaw, and much more. 

2. Dana Park

Address: 850 Barstow Road, Barstow, CA 92311

Dana Park is a small park in Barstow and is perfect for stretching out your legs after a long drive. Many people take a break from driving and visit this park to let their cars cool down and to allow the kids and dogs to get out and run around. 

Additionally, the park is home to a medium-sized cement skatepark perfect for street-style skaters. The skate park has various street obstacles and ledges that are perfect for practicing skills. 

Though a smaller park, Dana Park also has tennis courts, restrooms, picnic tables, grills, and a playground. This park is the perfect oasis set among desert landscapes.

See Related: Things to Do in Napa Valley

3. DiNapoli’s Firehouse Italian Eatery 

DiNapoli's Firehouse Italian Eatery 
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 1358 E. Main Street, Barstow, CA 92311

DiNapoli’s Firehouse Italian Eatery has served the area since 1994, offering mouthwatering cuisine creations in a charming atmosphere. This restaurant has been family-owned and operated for over two decades, making it a must-experience in the Barstow area. 

Barstow residents frequent this fabulous restaurant, which also attracts many weary travelers passing through the area. DiNapoli’s Firehouse Italian Eatery is the place to go for good food, refreshing beverages, and a fantastic team with extensive area knowledge. 

Popular menu items at this location include lasagna, pizza, calzones, and pasta. The owners seek out the finest ingredients to help make their food the best it can be and one of the best restaurants in Barstow, California. 

When traveling through Barstow, plan to dine at DiNapoli’s Firehouse Italian Eatery and discover why many locals enjoy eating there. 

4. The Rainbow Basin Natural Area

The Rainbow Basin Natural Area

Address: 2601 Barstow Road, Barstow, CA 92311 (main access route is Fossil Bed Rd.)

The Rainbow Basin Natural Area is a California National Natural Landmark offering outstanding views and geological and paleontological features. Many visitors travel to this area to explore the multi-colored rock formations, scenic canyon views, and a fossil bed. The Rainbow Basin geologic feature is located below the Calico Peaks in the Yermo Hills.

The Owl Canyon Campground is a first-come, first-served campground where explorers can stay after spending the day in the Rainbow Basin Natural Area. Campsites include a picnic table and a fire ring. The Rainbow Basin Natural Area has a mix of private and public lands, including several owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

When exploring the area, remember private properties and stick to public lands. This natural area’s landscape features a diverse collection of washes, canyons, and hills, perfect for hiking and photographic opportunities. 

The area, including the campground area, is home to various desert-adapted wildlife, including the desert tortoise. In addition to wildlife viewing, popular activities in this natural area include hiking, photography, horseback riding, mountain biking, and sightseeing.

Wildlife viewing is best in the evening or early morning when temperatures are cooler and animals are more active in this desert landscape.

See Related: Things to Do in Crestline

5. Ayres Hotel

Ayres Hotel
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 2812 Lenwood Road, Barstow, CA 92311

The Ayres Hotel offers spacious suites and pet-friendly rooms, perfect for travelers looking to take a break from the open road. All guests can enjoy a complimentary full American breakfast before exploring what Barstow offers. 

On-site guests can enjoy the indoor heated pool, spa, and fitness center. Business travelers can use the business center and will love the complimentary Wi-Fi. All rooms and suites at this Barstow Hotel make it inviting and give it a boutique feel. The personalized accommodation service helps elevate your experience while providing a place to escape and relax. 

The Ayres Hotel is famous for travelers looking for a place to stay when exploring the area. Book your room at the Ayres Hotel in Barstow, California, completing your vacation getaway plans. 

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6. Western America Railroad Museum

Western America Railroad Museum

Address: 685 N. 1st Ave., Barstow, CA 92311

In 1911, Casa del Desierto was built as a Harvey House hotel and train station, now home to the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western America Railroad Museum. This area still functions as an unstaffed Amtrak Station. 

The Western America Railroad Museum displays historical artifacts, uniforms, tools, and pictures from the history of Pacific Southwest railroads. Exhibits also demonstrate the railroad’s present and future as well as its past. 

The Western America Railroad Museum has full-size trains, rail cars, and large railroad equipment on display; clippings from local newspapers and smaller model train displays are set up inside the Western America Railroad Museum.

The Western America Railroad Museum is located east of the Harvey House Railroad Station and shows how the railroad changed the area’s desert landscapes. 

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7. Barstow Harvey House

Barstow Harvey House

Address: 685 N. 1st Ave., Barstow, CA 92311

The Barstow Harvey House, also known as the Harvey House Railroad Depot and Barstow Station, is one of the must-see historic buildings in town. Built as part of the Casa del Desierto in 1911, this building is now the Amtrak Station (unmanned) and houses two museums, the Barstow Chamber of Commerce, and a Visitor Center. 

The Barstow Harvey House features a unique mix of Spanish Renaissance and Classical Revival architecture with a bit of a Moorish feel. Make sure to spend time exploring this area because there is a lot to see in this area set in the area’s desert landscapes.

Finally, the Barstow Harvey House is the finest remaining depot hotel (Barstow Station) still standing in California. In the 1950s, it was listed in the Green Book guide, which listed business establishments that were friendly to African-American motorists. 

When visiting Barstow, stop by this landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and 1976 and designated as a California Historical Landmark. The Barstow Harvey House is a location in town you do not want to miss. 

8. California Welcome Center

California Welcome Center
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 2796 Tanger Way #100, Barstow, CA 92311

Anyone traveling from the Nevada state line into California must take a break from driving and stop at the California Welcome Center. This center is located at the Outlets of Barstow, just off I-15, halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The Welcome Center is where knowledgeable staff can assist with travel planning. The center also has a gift shop full of California-themed souvenirs and pamphlets for things to do in Barstow and throughout California. 

Barstow is the perfect place to stay when exploring California. Many tourist attractions, historic towns, and Route 66 are all within a two-hour drive from the city center.

The California Welcome Center provides all the information you need from the Barstow Visitor’s Bureau to explore Barstow and then take a day trip to one of the surrounding must-see locations, including the Calico Ghost Town. 

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9. Painted Rocks Memorial

Painted Rocks Memorial
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: Fort Irwin Road, Barstow, CA 92311

A popular roadside attraction in Barstow, California, is the Painted Rocks Memorial, which features rocks painted by local military personnel. The stones feature their unit’s crest and motto. The rocks sit outside the training grounds gates, so visitors do not have to obtain a pass to view them.

From a distance, this memorial looks like a misshapen pile of boulders; however, as you get closer, you can see the uniqueness of each boulder painted with bright colors. Painted Rocks Memorial uniquely displays American pride and celebrates the country’s armed forces. 

It may not seem like much, but the Painted Rocks Memorial is a must-see, and everyone passing through the area should stop by. It may be a 30-mile trip through the area’s desert landscapes.

You will pass Coyote Dry Lake, which holds water only two days a year and is the filming location for many movies, music videos, and commercials. Be mindful of signs in the area, as it has both private and public land.

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10. NASA Goldstone DSN Visitor’s Center 

NASA Goldstone DSN Visitor's Center
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 681 N. 1st Ave., Barstow, CA 92311

The NASA Goldstone DSN Visitor’s Center offers opportunities to learn about NASA, the deep space network, and space exploration. Due to its remote location, Goldstone was the first site chosen for a Deep Space Station. 

Exhibits and displays feature two-way robotic spacecraft communication and radio astronomy information. In addition, the visitor’s center shares details on how Goldstone has been and continues to play a vital role in communication with distant spacecraft and communications for NASA missions.

If you love to learn about space, NASA, and the innovations that make space travel possible, this is one place you do not want to miss when in Barstow. The NASA Goldstone DSN Visitor’s Center is one of the most unique places to visit in Barstow, California. 

Guided tours of the museum and facility are available with advanced reservations, and all guests must meet security requirements to gain access to the National Training Center. Guests can also experience self-guided tours, which should only take one to two hours to complete. 

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11. Hooz on First

Fish Bowl Cocktail at Hooz on First
Hooz on First / Hooz on First

Address: 218 N. 1st Ave., Barstow, CA 92311

Hooz on First is a popular sports bar in Barstow. It offers happy hour specials at noon and is one of the few places open late at night. 

The atmosphere is fun, the staff is friendly, and everyone has a great time. The food is also a better alternative to dining at one of the many fast-food restaurants in town, with a menu full of appetizers, sandwiches, and more. 

Hooz on First has about 40 televisions, mostly showing sporting events, games, darts, music, karaoke nights, and more. It may be a small location and not look like much from the outside, but this is one place worth stopping and experiencing when traveling. 

If you want a unique experience where you can make new friends and enjoy a drink with old friends, stop by Hooz on First. This dive bar is the best place for nightlife entertainment in Barstow, California. 

12. Skyline Drive-In Theater

Address: 31175 Old Highway 58, Barstow, CA 92311

The Skyline Drive-In Theater in Barstow is one of the movie theaters in town. This nostalgic drive-in movie theater is the perfect way to spend the evening after a day exploring. 

Imagine spending all day learning about the town’s history and then enjoying time in a vintage outdoor movie theater setting. This location is a blast from the past with two screens, a full snack bar, and plenty of movies for family fun. 

Though it may not seem like much, when you are looking for something to do, the Skyline Drive-In Theater is the perfect addition to your Barstow getaway. Check out the Skyline Drive-In Theater’s Facebook page for a list of new and upcoming movies and showtimes. Also, bring plenty of cash, as this is a cash-only venue. 

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13. Peggy Sue’s Diner and Diner-Saur Park

Served Meal in a Restaurant

Address: 35654 Yermo Road, Yermo, CA 92398

Located in nearby Yermo, Peggy Sue’s Diner and Diner-Saur Park is a fun roadside attraction, perfect for taking a break from a long drive or grabbing a bite to eat when staying in Barstow, California.

This roadside diner was built in 1954 and is small, with only nine counter stools and three booths, but it is a must-experience when in the area. The structure was created from railroad ties and mortar from the nearby Union Pacific Railroad Yard. The diner walls are lined with movie and television memorabilia, taking you back to the heyday of Hollywood. 

The Diner-Saur Park on the same property houses a delightful garden with four ten-foot dinosaurs and a lone human structure. The human statue attempts to flee from the angry stegosaurus by climbing over a turtle pond filled with live turtles. The turtles are often more of a hit than the dinosaur statues and the fantastic food at Peggy Sue’s Diner. 

If you are passing through the area or staying in Barstow, stop by Peggy Sue’s Diner for a fantastic meal and check out Diner-saur Park. This location is one of the best places near Barstow to enjoy. 

14. Calico Ghost Town Regional Park

Calico Ghost Town Regional Park

Address: 36600 Ghost Town Road, Yermo, CA 92398

Another fantastic attraction near Barstow is the Calico Ghost Town Regional Park. Calico is an old West mining town with a history dating back to 1881, but it was abandoned in the mid-1890s. 

Walter Knott purchased Calico in the 1950s to restore the town’s buildings and make it a popular tourist location. The city received State Historical Landmark 782, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed the town as California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town in 2005. 

Calico is part of the county’s regional parks system and welcomes visitors worldwide. The town has shops, restaurants, and historical exhibits. Popular activities in Calico include hiking, off-roading, and camping. This recreational area offers many outdoor activities.

Popular attractions and things to do in Calico include Lucy Lane Museum, Maggie Mine, Calico Odessa Railroad, Mystery Shack Tour, and gold panning. Shops in the town include Calico Woodworks, Lane’s General Store, Calico PhotoShop, Odessa’s Calico Crafts, Print Shop, R&D Fossils & Minerals, Basket & Candle Shop, Pottery Shop, Calico Leather Works, Dorsey’s Dog House. 

When staying in Barstow, plan a quick day trip and enjoy the history behind Calico Ghost Town Regional Park. Calico is a worthwhile attraction near Barstow. Take this Calico tour to experience the fantastic attraction.

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15. Shopping the Outlets at Barstow

Outlets at Barstow

Address: 2796 Tanger Way, Barstow, CA 92311

When driving through Barstow, it is impossible to miss seeing the Outlets at Barstow. At the outlet mall, travelers can stop for items they forgot at home, pick up California-themed souvenirs, and spend the day shopping at some of the best outlet stores. 

The Outlets at Barstow is home to the California Welcome Center, an on-site food court, and several retailers read to provide a fantastic shopping experience

Don’t forget to stop by the mall office in the white house across from TUMI, where you can pick up an official coupon card with hundreds of dollars worth of savings in stores. 

Whatever part of your California adventure you are on, the Outlets at Barstow can help provide you with great finds, significant discounts, and a happy shopping experience. 

Make sure to stop by for a day of shopping at popular stores such as Bath & Body Works, Coach, DKNY, Columbia, and Vans. Dunkin’ Donuts sits near the shopping center, offering travelers a place to grab a coffee and get back on the road. Need a place to stay close by? The Holiday Inn Express is within walking distance of many of the shops.

16. Castle Mountains National Monument

Address: Primarily accessed from Walking Box Ranch Road in Nevada

If you’re looking for a beautiful day trip from Barstow, Castle Mountains National Monument is about a two-hour drive. The monument comprises almost 30,000 acres between the Mojave Desert and northeastern San Bernardino County.

This mountainous area is a critical habitat for Gila monsters, big-eared bats, desert bighorn, mule deer, mountain lions, and bobcats.

The park is only accessible by dirt roads, so high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Cell service is spotty, so having plenty of water, food, gas, and a 4WD vehicle is essential.

Although it might be tempting, ATVs and UTVs are not allowed within the monument, which is managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).

The highlight of the national monument is Castle Peaks, a group of large spires that climb upwards. However, the peaks are just a part of what makes the National Monument renowned. At the foot of the Castle Mountains lie grasslands, forests of Joshua trees, and twisted junipers.

The Castle Mountains National Monument showcases the progression of Native American history to Western American and mining history. In addition, archeological sites were discovered in the area’s desert landscapes, showing the history of early Native American life.

This beautiful area is fantastic for hiking, wildlife watching, and camping. Camping facilities are available within the park at Mid-Hills Campground, Hole-in-the-Wall Campground, and Black Canyon Equestrian and Group Campground.

The closest visitor information center is in Barstow at the Mojave Preserve Headquarters. Nearby cities include Laughlin, Nevada, Bullhead City, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

See Related: Things to Do in Santa Barbara

17. Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve

Address: 90942 Kelso Cima Rd, Essex, CA 92332

The Mojave National Preserve comprises over 1 million acres in the Mojave Desert between I-15 and I-45. It is the largest National Preserve under the Bureau of Land Management. The preserve was established in 1994 after the US Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act.

The preserve’s most notable features include the Cima Dome, Kelso Dunes, and the Marl Mountains. Volcanic formations include the Cinder Cone Lava Beds and the Hole-in-the-Wall.

The Joshua Tree forest encircling Cima Dome and Shadow Valley is the largest in the world. But, a wildfire destroyed over 1 million Joshua trees around the dome in 2020.

Kelso, the famous ghost town, is also in the preserve. The now-defunct railroad depot serves as the Visitor Center. Most visitors travel by four-wheel-drive vehicles on the historic Mojave Road.

18. Mojave River Valley Museum

Mojave River Valley Museum
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 270 E Virginia Way, Barstow, CA 92311

The Mojave River Valley Museum began as an idea in the early 1960s. At that time, a group of archaeologists and historians were collecting artifacts and researching the history of the Mojave Desert.

The Barstow Kiwanis Club and the Rotary and Optimist Clubs organized a community service project to sell small paper bricks to help pay for an actual brick. This project raised $1.00 for each paper brick sold.

The Mojave River Valley Museum showcases Native American history, mining history, and a lot of rocks and gems. Although relatively small, this museum is fantastic for kids and adults, even if you are only passing through town. The 4,000-square-foot museum is staffed entirely by volunteers and includes a gift shop and a book store with nearly 500 titles.

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19. Wolf Mountain Sanctuary

A wolf

Address: 7520 Fairlane Rd, Lucerne Valley, CA 92356

Located 50 minutes south of Barstow off California State Route 247, the Wolf Mountain Sanctuary is one of the few sanctuaries allowing human interaction with the wolves. The sanctuary aims to save the wolves from extinction by teaching the public how to advocate for wolves.

The owner and her team members welcome guests for tours four days a week. During these tours, curious visitors can ask questions and take pictures of the wolves. Visiting hours are Thursday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

The sanctuary is famous for having the wolf actors from the popular Twilight movie series. At one point in the sanctuary’s history, the county threatened to close it.

However, a “Save Wolf Mountain Sanctuary” petition saved the sanctuary from closing its doors. Please check the sanctuary’s website for tour details, as children may have a minimum age or size for safety reasons.

20. Los Domingo’s Mexican Restaurant

A mexican restaurant

Address: 1520 E Main St Barstow, CA 92311

Located near Barstow Community Hospital, Los Domingo’s Mexican Restaurant serves the finest seafood, New York Strip steaks, and cocktails. It has two locations—in Barstow and Apple Valley—so you can eat fantastic Mexican food wherever you are in the area.

Open in 1981, the restaurant continues to serve the freshest Mexican food and offers a full bar in both locations. Head to Route 66 Mother Road Museum either before or after your meal. A quick five-minute drive from Los Domingo’s Mexican Restaurant, you’ll be in railroad heaven!

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Places to Stay in Barstow

If you’re looking for hotels and accommodation options, here are some top picks in the region.

1. Ayres Hotel Barstow Top Recommendation

Conveniently located off Interstate 15, the Ayres Hotel Barstow is just a short drive from all the best that Barstow has to offer. The Mojave River Valley Museum is a 10-minute drive away, and the Tanger Outlet Mall is just a 5-minute walk from the hotel. For those interested in exploring the area's rich history, the Barstow Route 66 Museum is 9.3 km away. The Ayres Hotel Barstow offers all the amenities and services you need for a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

2. Rodeway Inn Barstow

This hotel is ideally located just one kilometer from the Mojave National Preserve, making it perfect for those who love hiking, biking and backpacking. And if you're looking to explore some of Barstow's history, you'll be happy to know that the Rodeway Inn is also minutes from Calico Ghost Town, the Mojave River Valley Museum and the Western America Railroad Museum. All of our guest rooms have been newly refurbished and come equipped with coffee makers, desks, hair dryers and cable television. S

3. Best Western Plus New Barstow Inn & Suites

This hotel has all the amenities and services you need for a comfortable and convenient stay. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed, with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. The hotel also offers free WiFi throughout the property, so you can stay connected during your stay. In the morning, start your day with a continental or buffet breakfast at the hotel before heading out to explore all that Barstow has to offer. When you're ready to relax, take a dip in the outdoor pool or hot tub, or work out in the fitness center.

How to Get Around Barstow

Barstow is a small community, and many attractions and activities are easily accessible. Travelers coming to town can arrive on Amtrak at the Harvey House Rail Depot and Barstow Station, but the Barstow Amtrak Station is unmanned and unattended. 

The Barstow Area Transit System offers access to various parts of town, with stops at popular attractions, museums, Barstow College, and the outlet mall. The Barstow Area Transit System also offers Dial-a-Ride services. 

If you have made it to Barstow and need a vehicle, Budget Rental CarEnterprise Rent-A-Car, and Avis Rental Car offer rentals

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