Things to do in Barstow

Visit Barstow, an Interesting Town Along the Route 66 in California

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Are you traveling along Route 66 in California and looking for a strategic stop before reaching Los Angeles? Or are you exploring the area and searching for some interesting attractions? In both cases, Barstow could be the right choice for you, thanks to its unique museums and the attractions you can visit.

Let’s discover the best things to see in the city to plan your visit effectively.

Barstow History

barstow route 66

The founding of the city of Barstow dates back to the late 1840s during the period known as the “Mormon Corridor”. This area served as a stopping point for people transporting goods and cattle through the desert from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles and vice versa.

However, it was only with the mining boom, following the discovery of gold and silver in the Owens Valley and its surroundings, that the construction of the railway accelerated the urban development of the area. In 1883, the Southern Pacific completed the railway line that connected Needles to Mojave, passing through Barstow. In the subsequent years, the management of the route was entrusted to the Santa Fe Railway.

This change in management is doubly significant because the city’s name pays homage to William Barstow Strong, a prominent figure in the railway industry who served as the president of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.

Further impetus to the urban and industrial development of the area was provided by the improvement of the road network, notably the legendary Route 66, which, before reaching Los Angeles, passed right through Barstow.

How to Get There

Barstow is located in San Bernardino County, California, and the city has developed at the junction of Interstate 15 and Interstate 40.

Here are the travel times from major cities in the area:

Things to Do in Barstow

Things to Do in Barstow

Among the most important things to see and photograph in the city, special mention goes to the numerous Main Street Murals that adorn one of Barstow’s most significant streets. These murals depict scenes of local life, historical moments, and portraits of iconic figures connected to the city’s history and Route 66.

It’s highly interesting to take a stroll and try to find them all, both to learn more about the historical events of this area and to capture unique souvenir photos. On some days, guided tours are also organized by the Desert Discovery Center. You can reach out to them for more information if you’re interested.

barstow things to do

Another iconic attraction in the city is undoubtedly the Barstow Harvey House. This historic building was constructed in 1911 under the name Casa del Desierto and served as a hotel, train station, and railway depot. It was managed by the Fred Harvey Company, an organization famous for its restaurant and hotel chains along western U.S. railways.

The building features architectural elements influenced by Neoclassical style with a touch of Spanish design, which was common in constructions of that era. It’s a fascinating example of how, at one time, railway stations were designed not only as transit points but also as welcoming spaces for travelers. The restaurant inside the building eventually became a popular landmark for those traveling along Route 66.

Today, the Barstow Harvey House has been restored and houses both the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western America Railroad Museum. We’ve described these two attractions in the section dedicated to the city’s museums.

A gem for fans of American traditions is the Skyline Drive-In, one of the last operational drive-ins in the area. It offers a great opportunity to experience the unique thrill of watching a movie from your car. You can check the current showtimes on the drive-in’s official Facebook page.


Here is a selection of the most important museums you can visit in the city.

Route 66 Mother Road Museum

It’s definitely a must-stop for all Mother Road enthusiasts who want to learn more about its history and admire the many memorabilia preserved here. Visiting this museum will open a window to the past of the famous Route 66, with exhibitions focused on vintage items related to the legendary road and historic vehicles that once traveled it.

Of course, there is also a well-stocked gift shop where you can purchase all kinds of Route 66-themed items.

The museum is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated to support the work of volunteers who help keep the museum open and well-maintained.

Western America Railroad Museum

barstow attractions

Train enthusiasts will undoubtedly want to plan a visit to the Western America Railroad Museum. This museum houses an extensive collection of restored locomotives and railway cars, along with vintage items that tell the story of the expansion of railways in the American West.

As mentioned earlier, the museum is located inside the Harvey House along with the Route 66 Mother Road Museum. Therefore, it’s recommended to visit both when you come here.

The museum is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Mojave River Valley Museum

Barstow things to see

In this museum, you can delve into the history of the Native Americans who inhabited the area before the arrival of Europeans and learn more about the geology of this region, particularly the history of miners who contributed to the economic and urban development of the surrounding area. It’s worth noting the interesting presence of many photographs and periodicals dating back to 1911.

The museum is open every day of the week from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and admission is free.

Near the museum, you’ll also find the Giant Fire Helmet, a sculpture of a giant firefighter’s helmet. It’s a tribute to all firefighters, symbolized by the number 343 displayed on the helmet, who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.

Desert Discovery Center

In this small but fascinating museum, you’ll find the Old Woman Meteorite, the second-largest meteorite ever recovered in the United States. It owes its name to the location where it was found, near the Old Woman Mountains, close to the city of Barstow in 1976. Anyone passionate about astronomy or simply curious should not miss the opportunity to get up close and personal with such an important relic.

The opening hours of the Desert Discovery Center vary depending on the time of year. Check out their Facebook page to stay updated on the latest developments.

Nearby Attractions

If you’d like to explore what the surroundings of Barstow have to offer, here’s a selection of the most important attractions in the area.


This small town on the outskirts of Barstow hosts two popular and truly unique attractions. Let’s discover them:

Scroll to see all the photos

  • Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner: Dining at this restaurant is highly recommended for the one-of-a-kind atmosphere it manages to offer. Stepping through its doors will take you on a genuine journey back in time to the glorious 1950s. Inside, you’ll find colorful tables, barstool chairs, a jukebox, and themed decor that will make you feel like a part of the American dream. But the positives don’t stop at the atmosphere; the food is also highly regarded. So, don’t miss a stop at this restaurant.
  • Liberty Sculpture Park: Located just outside the town along Yermo Road, this unique outdoor art space houses a series of sculptures and artworks created to celebrate freedom and commemorate the victims of communism, with a particular focus on condemning the oppression of the Chinese dictatorship. The most visually impressive of them all is undoubtedly the “64 Massacre Monument” which recreates the famous scene of a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square.

Painted Rocks

Painted Rocks

Outside the entrance of the Fort Irwin National Training Center, you’ll find an unusual site that has been a witness to a tradition of the U.S. military since the 1960s.

It’s an open area filled with painted rocks depicting the insignias of various military units from the U.S. Armed Forces that have trained here.

Along the road, there’s hardly anything else to see, so make the trip if you’re particularly motivated, keeping in mind that you won’t be able to enter the military base. Once you’ve visited the rocks, you’ll need to return back. It’s about a little over half an hour’s drive from downtown Barstow to reach them.

Calico Ghost Town

barstow Calico

Do you want to take a step back in time and be transported to the era of the 19th-century gold rush? Then the ghost town of Calico is definitely the right choice for you.

We’ve written a guide entirely dedicated to this attraction. Read it by clicking on the link below.

Calico Ghost Town Visitor’s Guide

The Rainbow Basin Natural Area

Rainbow Basin Natural Area

About a 20-minute drive from Barstow, you’ll find this natural area managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which can be a recommended choice if you want to explore the typical desert landscape of these regions without venturing too far from the city.

A distinctive feature of this place is the sedimentary rocks that, due to erosion, have formed walls, outcroppings, and channels with surprisingly varied shades ranging from intense red to bright yellow, from orange to pastel pink. You can reach it by first taking Irwin Road (be careful not to confuse it with Fort Irwin Road) and then the unpaved Fossil Bed Road.

Places to Stay in Barstow

There are plenty of options to choose from if you’re looking for accommodation in Barstow, especially in the motel and major hotel chain categories. Here are some recommended options:

To explore all the lodging options in the area, you can click on the link below.

Search for accommodation in the area

Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

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Filippo Nardelli

I have a degree in History of North America and have always been fascinated by the United States.

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