There is no good way to get to Las Vegas from Riverside. There used to be- Amtrak's Desert Wind once made daily departures from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and eventually Salt Lake City, where it was combined with the California Zephyr and continued on to Chicago. It moved from daily to thrice-weekly service in 1993, and was finally killed in 1997, and this is a travesty, because it leaves Vegas as the largest city in the West without any form of passenger rail service (unless you count casino trams and the nearly-bankrupt private Las Vegas Monorail), and it leaves thousands of Sin City-bound travellers stuck in unpredictable and interminable traffic on I-15 across the vast Mojave desert.
When planning a trip to Vegas for a friend's wedding last Sunday, I looked in to the alternatives. I really tried hard to find something, anything that would allow me to avoid driving the 15 all the way out there. Here's what I found:
GoToBus.com, via USAsia, Futura and ALT
GoToBus is a site that aggregates a great number of "chinatown" bus companies that provide service along major intercity corridors across the country. They're especially popular in the Northeast, where service can be as frequent as half-hourly along I-95, and the buses run 24-7. They do offer service from two providers that ply I-15 between LA and LV. The problem? I had to return on a Monday, and the bus companies only provide substantial service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Also, they leave from Los Angeles, not anywhere nearby. One provider leaves from Orange and another from Anaheim, but these schedules are even more limited.
For those who are very flexible in their travel dates and times, you can snag a ride to Vegas for around $50 R/T pp.
Las Vegas Express Bus
Another "chinatown" line, this company provides daily LA-LV service for $45 R/T pp. Once again, they depart Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, not anywhere in the IE, but the daily nature of their service makes things a little more flexible. Why didn't I use this method of transport? Well, they don't advertise well- I only became aware of their existence because I saw one of their buses on the road while driving home. I'll keep it in mind for my next trip, and you should as well.
LuxBus provides, as the name suggests, luxury motorcoach service to Las Vegas from LA and Anaheim daily, for $99-$120 R/T pp. The complimentary drinks and snacks onboard during the 5 hour journey sound enticing, but the ride was just too rich for me. Also, they leave out of Anaheim's main bus terminal, which is not exactly easy to get to from Riverside.
The 'Hound, America's primary provider of intercity bus service, is the only provider that operates direct service between Las Vegas and Riverside, to my knowledge. Trouble is, Greyhound doesn't guarantee that you get a seat. On a select few routes back East, you can buy a guaranteed seat for $5, but here you have no such option. If you're travelling at off-peak times, this isn't a worry for you, but if you want to get to Vegas on a Friday night, good luck. It may well be more of a "Saturday morning."
And those are your ground transportation alternatives from SoCal to Las Vegas. Sadly, none of them worked out for my wife and I last weekend, so we were forced into our car for the journey across the sands. More on that later.