Get that desert swing

Experience the best of California's and Nevada's desert towns on a cool fall road trip

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Fleur de Lys.  $$$$ (prix fixe from $74 for three courses); dinner daily, reservations recommended. In Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/632-9400.

Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie. French-style treats as well as lunch offerings; 27-foot-tall fountain features three types of chocolate. $; lunch daily. In the Bellagio (see the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, left); 702/693-8788.

Sushi Roku. Excellent sushi and tempura and fun cocktails―try the sprightly Tokyo Cooler (fruit-infused vodka, lemon and lime juice, and Champagne). $$$$; lunch and dinner daily. In the Forum Shops at Caesars, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/733-7373.


The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. As with all the city's major resorts, it's a world unto itself, with enough dining, retail, and entertainment to keep you busy for a month. Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian ( or 877/220-2688) operates independently at the resort, with its own fees, reservation system, and cafe ($$; breakfast and lunch daily; 702/414-3633). Suites from $169. 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; or 888/283-6423 for reservations, 702/414-1000 for information.


For more extensive planning and information―and to check road conditions―visit the National Park Service website ( or contact the Furnace Creek Visitor Center & Museum (on State 190; 760/786-3200). Park entrance fee is $10 per vehicle; pick up an area map at visitor center.


Badwater Basin. The lowest point in North America, it was left with a layer of nearly pure-white salt when Lake Manly dried up 10,000 years ago. On Badwater Rd.,18 miles south of the Furnace Creek visitor center (see above).

Golden Canyon Trail. An easy-to-moderate 2.5-mile roundtrip trail that leads from Badwater Rd., just south of the Furnace Creek visitor center, up into the badlands, eventually arriving at Zabriskie Point if you have it in you. Otherwise, just head for a closer perch that affords a view of the valley at sunset.


Rhyolite Ghost Town. For a touch of local color, take a quick side trip off State 374 just east of Death Valley National Park and visit the ruins of a turn-of-the-century gold boomtown (it's on Bureau of Land Management property); don't miss the home built of bottles and mud.

Devil's Golf Course. Hundreds of acres' worth of salt pinnacles left over from Death Valley's last lake―which dried up 2,000 years ago. On Badwater Rd., 10 miles south of the Furnace Creek visitor center (see above).

Mesquite Flat. Located just east of Stovepipe Wells Village in the northern end of the park, the 150-foot dunes are best visited in either early or late light. Just pull off State 190 and go for a half-mile amble up into the dunes.

Scotty's Castle. A mansion with a great story behind it, told during daily tours. It can get crowded, so come early; combine with a trip to nearby Ubehebe Crater. $11, $6 ages 6-15. Located just off State 267, in the north end of the park; 760/786-2392.

Ubehebe Crater. Estimated to be 3,000 years old, the 770-foot-deep hole was caused by an underground steam explosion. 8 miles west of Scotty's Castle (see above).

Lodging and Dining

Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort. A study in contrasts: The inn (from $250) is a high-end resort with many amenities and a dress code in its dining room ($$$$; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily). The ranch (from $108) is motel-like and its price a bit more friendly toward families. There's also a cafe ($$; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily), a saloon ($$; lunch and dinner daily), a steakhouse ($$$$; dinner daily), and a general store. On State 190; or 760/786-2345.

Next: Palm Springs 



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