Nipton was a wicked place, debased and corrupt. It served all comers, as long as they paid. Profligate troops, Powder Gangers, men of the Legion such as myself. The people here didn’t care. It was a town of whores.Vulpes Inculta
I remember the first time I came here, I could hardly drive the speed limit because I was so excited to arrive. As one of the main parts of the game’s first arc, and one of the most iconic, it was very momentous. I must say that each time I come here now, even after many visits, I still am excited.
# 150 – Nipton
# 200 – Nipton General Store
# 201 – Nipton Hall
# 202 – Nipton Hotel
# 338 – Nipton house
# 427 – Good Luck trailer park
The first thing I want to mention is that when you are moving from Mojave Outpost to Nipton in the game, it really is true to form. It looks impeccably similar while driving east along Nevada State Route 164 / Nipton Road, especially in the summer.
The way this stretch of road looked was so similar in fact, get this, that I thought I was heat stroke hallucinating when I saw what I swore was something burning … in the distance … towards Nipton. No way.
In the winter is was less immersive because I was coming from the Searchlight direction, heading west instead, and there had just been a huge snowstorm. So the area looked really bizarre. Almost like all those troopers got the nuclear winter they were asking asking for.
# 150 – Nipton – Thankfully the “smoke” I saw was only a dust tornado, which is different and way less dangerous than a midwestern tornado. Also there were no crucified people. In game I accidentally killed Oliver Swanick without even letting him speak and in future play throughs I killed him after he spoke.
No matter how many times I come to Nipton, my excitement level always grows as I get closer. The town of Nipton is small but it is the only thing for miles and miles, and it has a lot of trees, so you can see it from a long ways away. The town is cannabis themed, if you can call it a theme. They call it ‘Magical Nipton, Home of American Green’ with an instagram and everything.
I was not able to see the original sign because it has been changed to reflect the new ownership. I surmise it was due to the legalization of recreational marijuana in California (2016) before Nevada (2017) similarly to the sale of lottery tickets, but that is just my guess, as Nipton is just across the state border.
Addendum: I read later that a cannabis company purchased the entire town of Nipton, sparking (lol) the changes. Hope they know what they are getting into, becoming the new mayors and all (lol). Hope they know it might be a bit of a … fixer upper (LOL). Ok, ok, sorry.
Addendum #2: Looks like the marijuana theme didn’t work out, and a drilling company purchased Nipton from the cannabis company a year later. You can read the new update, similarly full of marijuana puns, here. The redditors were also full of similarly hilarious ones, my favorite being of course “smell that air”
Then I started thinking about it and said to myself – well this is true to form. The Legion was mad because this town was dissolute, and I guess now the only difference is the focus away from lottery. But it would still likely be the type of recreational hobby that the Legion snobs would snob around about. But I am open minded, I even bought this great magnet from the general store during my first trip and way more stuff on my subsequent trips.
The first time I visited here, it was so hot that I did not have time to see everything. Even in early morning, that day was set out to be the hottest one yet, and I was determined to explore Nipton to the best of my ability, and also not to die. On subsequent trips I was able to see everything, and on my last trip I got a tour from the de facto mayor. He is a guy around my age, much nicer and down to earth than Joseph B. Steyn, and even let me see some of the off limits to tourists areas. Very cool!
The town of Nipton is small, about the same size as depicted in the game, consisting of the main little block that contains all businesses, including a trading post, hotel, and restaurant called Whistlestop Cafe. Behind that is a trailer court or storage area, some private buildings, and campground. Past the hotel are some airbnb style eco-cabins and tipis. Also there is a police car on the eastern side along 164 but no police people are inside the car, and obviously have not been for some time. So do not be alarmed. There are some colorful old cars around town, too, which are fun to look at.
Here are some pictures of the sights to the north of NV 164. The mayor told me there were two people buried out past the camp sites but I could not find the gravesites. He said they were long time locals of the town and had some fun folk lore stories to tell me about them. He also said there is an open mine shaft a little farther past there by the big mound of dirt and not to fall in, so I did not head out to check that out.
# 427 – Good Luck trailer park – The trailers are the coolest part I think. The trailers on the left are abandoned and you can go in them and they really look like the inside of the trailers in-game, in that they are completely empty and devoid of life. Plus they are metal and sound exactly like the in game equivalent when you walk inside. Addendum: As of January 2020, the trailers have been moved behind a large gate. The mayor told me they are being prepared to be renovated to turn into more airbnbs in the future.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention that in the game, the mobile home park is called ….. Good Luck trailer park. Eesh. There is a sign that says Skyline Estates in the real world.
# 200 – Nipton Trading Post / General Store – In the real world, it is called the same thing, although on the wiki it is also referred to as the Nipton General Store.
It has a lot of cool things, including Nipton merch. This is also where you check in if you stay in any of the hotel rooms or camping spots. When I checked in last time, the man at the front desk – who used to do long haul trucking through my home state and who is allergic to beer – had me sign this waiver and the first thing he said – as a joke – was that I had to initial to make sure I would not party too much and burn the place down. I was not sure whether to laugh or be solemn in this surreal moment. Below are the little slips you get when you check in, from my last trip.
One thing that I noticed is the exactness of this location’s signs. You have to look at how perfectly similar the signs are up close. It is incredible and I love it.
In game, the inside of the places in Nipton are most beautiful I have seen in awhile. I do not have a fancy graphics card, but it was still pretty gorgeous. Included below are two other things I thought were of note – a fridge I had never seen before and this weird liquid in the bathtub. I saw the fridge again later on, but this was the first time and was exciting for me.
Here are some photos I took on my most recent trip of the general store, since I was able to walk around without being evaporated by the merciless sun.
The inside is cool, too. The mayor told me his family – that has lived here for generations – donated the Coca Cola sign that decorates the interior. I can not help but notice the similarity to both the Nuka Cola sign in the window or the unique fridge in the back of the in-game store. And I found some off-brand Sunset “Sassparilla” (note the misspelling and being not the name brand we all know and love).
# 201 – Nipton Hall – This is where all the magic happened. There is no large building that would immediately jump out at you as an equivalent, but it could be the Whistle Stop, a restaurant next to the store that is shaped like the in game location, just smaller. They have incredible food and as of January 2020, they have craft beer that is exceptionally delicious.
I had a pint of the Whiskey Barrel Amber and one of the Lava Tube Bock. The bartender guy who was from Los Angeles and had a nice gray hat told me that the Lava Tube Bock was 10% ABV, which makes the fact that I fell asleep at 6:30 PM that night make a lot of sense. He also gave me some Nipton coasters! Thankfully the hotel in real life is the same as the game and is right next door.
Besides the beer and food that is great, there are all these framed photos along the walls that tell some history about the area. I took a picture of most of them, shown below. I missed a few because there were other people eating in the booths under those photos and I did not want to weird anyone out. And sorry for the awkward glares, I did my best.
Another possibility could be a smaller building on the north side of the 164 called Freeman Hall. It is not open to the public, but the mayor let me in and I was able to poke around and ask dozens of questions. This is where all the town meetings and events take place. There is also a massive fire pit in front that is used for celebratory bonfires. Eesh. The mayor invited me to come back the next day for one such bonfire on New Year’s Eve and I sheepishly had to explain my reluctance, but agreed to come to the party.
I absolutely loved looking through Freeman Hall, it is a beautiful building as old as the town itself – founded in 1905. It has this beautiful Deus Ex looking hanging light, a cool vintage map, original walls, chimney, and windows. So exciting and exceptionally cool.
The mayor was very keen on telling me all the things I wanted to know. I asked for endless information on the town and the buildings, the history and what is going on currently. I am surprised he talked with me for so long without being bored. I am sure he had much more important things to do than quell the curiosity of some weirdo girl in the cold, so I am very grateful. He taught me a lot of things that I had to rush back to write down, including how to pronounce the California city of Zzyzx, which I mentioned I would be passing by the next day (zi-ziks, if you’re curious).
My favorite find of the day was when we were leaving Freeman Hall to move onwards on the tour and I just happened to look down and see directly in the middle of the walkway entrance, an engraved stone that said “Ave True to Caesar” … and I stood there in disbelief for long enough that he asked if I was ok and mentioned these stones are all over town – sold to people to support the remodeling efforts going on.
I explained with some brevity why I was so agape at this one, and he agreed to take my photo with it. You can see my absolute joy in the photo! Like, who did this? There are more of people like me out here? Pure joy.
I also saw this other building along the main road that had a similar sort of porch, albeit being one story. The sign above the door says “Nipton Massage Magic” and I am just going to leave that with all of you and your imaginations. And then next to that is a random safe (?) on the side of the road.
Another detail that I think was intentional is the water pump behind the town hall. Seemed pretty random, so I walked back behind the Whistle Stop and what do ya know – I found it. I can not even explain how happy this made me. I am alone but I did the look around like can you believe how awesome this is?!
One thing that I am not sure about is the water tower behind the town hall. In-game, it is distinctive because it says “McLean” . But what does it mean? Nipton does not have a water tower, so I was stumped. Then I looked and saw it was on all the water towers in the game.
I did some cursory research and found two McLean towns in the United States – one in Texas and one in Illinois – both have water towers bearing their names. Interestingly, they are both located along Route 66. They both strike a resemblance, so I will have to do some more research on it. If anyone has any insight, please feel free to share.
# 202 – Nipton Hotel – Similar to the game, there is a small hotel next to the main hall and area of Nipton. In our world it is to the right as opposed to the left when facing the buildings directly. When the game was made, it was identically named “Nipton Hotel” but has since been jazzed up and named Hotel California. We are in the state of California after all, and then of course the song.
It has five hotel rooms, two bathrooms, and a main sitting area. It has a wrap around porch with various games. Out front is a rock and cactus garden with some memorial stones to those who are no longer with us. I also touched a cactus here because I suddenly developed an Intelligence of 1.
One of my most exciting “ah ha” moments was when I was in-game, wandering around Nipton to see if I could pick out any details I missed before. It is always a tug of war in my brain, paying attention to everything while I am here in real life, storing it away and hoping that I can draw correlations later, and vice versa. Picking out the obvious eqivalents, buildings and places with identical names is simple, but the details is where the brain power comes in. Always asking myself, is this a coincidence? Did the developers do it intentionally? Has something changed in real life since 2010 and that is why I am missing it? Was it always this way? Am I reaching too much? So many questions, but sometimes the stars do align.
A golden example of this was recently, back at home, looking around the in-game Nipton for the seemingly thousandth time, when something clicked. There are all these distinctive rocks, in front of the in-game hotel. They look intentional, and differently colored than the random ones all over the Mojave. In a beautiful moment, I remembered in front of the real Nipton hotel, these is a massive rock garden maze. It had to be intentional, it just had to be. These rocks are not anywhere else in the game, and they are aligned in patterns. I am convinced, and elated.
While walking out of the hotel I spotted something that made me stare into space again for way too long in joyous disbelief. THE SIGN.
The original signs that I wanted to see so badly! When the town was bought, they moved them over here as opposed to getting rid of them and I am beyond excited and glad. I was so excited that I got a splinter parkour-ing over the fence but I did not even care! Until later!
I had earlier expressed my displeasure with the change in signs and I accepted his explanation that it was not his decision and the re-branding was out of his control. I considered these answers to be satisfying but was too dumb to ask if they kept the signs, assuming they were just gone. He also told me that since the cannabis company “didn’t pay their bills” they had a new owner, a mining company, which seemed to be much more hands-off with similar decisions. It also begs the question how I did not notice them when I pulled into the parking lot, but I blame overwhelming excitement, or … that Intelligence of 1 I mentioned earlier.
He did point out that the new sign strikes a resemblance to the old one in font, content, and the turtles (scorpions in the game equivalent). I did not notice this before and was pleased a small amount.
The in game equivalent hotel actually looks exactly like an abandoned house fairly close to here, which I thought was cool. It looks almost identical. I love it!
Oh and the railroad tracks that mark the border between California and Nevada (in game) look exactly the same. In real life, the state line signs are located outside of Primm, and I talked at length about them here if you are curious.
The state line is to the east of Nipton, just like in game. But the railroad tracks are on the west side. In the in-game photo above, my character is facing east but in my real life photo, I am facing west. There are state line signs on the line noted below, but only Nevada, and they have a different design. Addendum: As of January 2020, the Nevada state line sign both here and outside of Primm has been changed as well to the new, way less cool design.
# 338 – Nipton house – In the game, there are 7 or 8 houses clustered around Nipton, and it is fairly similar in real life. The mayor told me that all of the people who work in Nipton live to the west of the railroad tracks in a similar cluster. There are a few residential buildings to the east of the tracks but he said they are mostly workshops or storage buildings. I took some photos of these buildings instead of the actual houses so not to be a complete and total creeper. Thankfully I did not see any fresh human skulls on any mailboxes.
Oh, and yes – I did buy a lottery ticket while I was here. I forgot to take a photo of it, but next time I will buy another one and add the picture here. I did not win but I did not suffer any drastic repercussions.
We made our way back to the main road – it was getting late, the sun was setting, and I wanted to let the poor mayor go back home for the night and not have to keep being bothered by me. We stood outside the general store for a little while longer so he could draw me a map to the Goldome Mill of legend. Both roads to get there are super treacherous so he taught me how to go around them. I tried really hard to remember all the directions, neither of us had a pen, and my Intelligence is 1, so he drew it on the ground and I took a picture. It also kinda looked like Chance’s Map, I thought.
I thanked him profusely and told him I would come back for his New Year’s Eve bonfire against my intuition and better judgement. And off he went, hopping in a Caterpillar backhoe loader thing and driving slowly down the road. What an incredibly cool guy! He made my day, week, month, year.
Other Nipton things not related to the game that I still want to talk about – Behind the hotel is an area that is a sort of campground set up, with a shower house, eco-cabins, tipis, more places for bonfires (argh) and the like. Each time I come here I see more and more cool options – last time there was a refurbished shipping container that opened from the end, and another one that had a roll of canvas that opened to make a sort of covered patio along the long side. I think I mentioned earlier the mayor telling me the old trailers I saw in July were going to be refurbished and added to the line up soon as well.
Each time I come here I stay in the hotel, but the last time I swung back through and stayed in the tipi which was very fun. I plan on trying out all the other accommodation options in future tips and will update them here.
And in true Mojave Desert fashion, there is also a bunch of cool detritus laying around, especially if you (carefully) cross the railroad tracks and wander round to the east.
I forgot to mention, or maybe I did, but the train goes by a handful of times per day – sometimes in the middle of the night – and it is loud and exhilarating. I always run outside to watch. It is so fast and really like a stone’s throw away from the hotel. I am a good sleeper so even though I wake up briefly, it does not bother me. Thoughtfully, each place has earplugs provided to avoid any Advanced Sleep Deprivation.
Another thing I want to point out is all of the weird and cool art installations around the campground area. They are super unique and they are lit up at night by solar. Combined with an incredibly view across the Ivanpah Dry Lake area and a glorious sun set and sunrise, it really is magical here … just not so much in the game.