Welcome back to a special Travel Nevada edition of Exploring Our Backyard presented by United Nissan. Over the last few weeks, we took you along our journey on the Free Range Art Highway from Reno to Las Vegas. It's one of the 10 road trips you can explore with Travel Nevada.
During the first part of our trip on the Free Range Art Highway, we stopped at S'Socorro's Burger Hut in Mina to try one of its delicious burgers and made our way to the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. After staying a night at the Mizpah Hotel, we packed our bags and continued our journey south, but not before making a stop at the World Famous Clown Motel.
The Clown Motel opened in 1985 when brother and sister, Leroy and Leona David, opened the motel in honor of their late father Clarence David. David is buried next door at the Old Tonopah Cemetery, and to remember their father, they brought his clown collection with them.
In 1995, Nevada native Bob Perchetti bought the Clown Motel, and 22 years later in 2017, he put the iconic landmark up for sale with an asking price of $900,000.
Within just a week of finding the Clown Motel for sale online, Las Vegas resident Vijay Mehar and his brother, Hame Anand, who was living in New York at the time, felt like this would be the perfect fit. Anand found former News 4 anchor Ryan Kern's Knowing Nevada story of the Clown Motel during their search process. Mehar and Anand made the drive from Las Vegas to Tonopah on a windy cold day in April 2019 with Anand’s nephew, Mehar’s wife and daughter to check out what would soon be their newest property.
On April 9, 2019, the Mehar’s bought the Clown Motel with one stipulation from Perchetti – to carry on the motel's legacy. The Mehars knew they could do that and more, as Mehar was an experienced hotelier in Las Vegas. They had plans to make the Clown Motel bigger and better than ever before to create a worldwide landmark.
Within a year and a half, the Mehars changed the name to the "World Famous Clown Motel," repainted the property, redesigned the rooms and brought in a new clown collection.
“When we took over, the owner told me there are some spooky rooms," Anand said. "People have had experiences there, but there are no guarantees. So what I did is haunted movie scenes inside, so I did an 'It' room, 'Halloween' room, 'Friday the 13th' room and an 'Exorcist' room.”
We checked out some of the rooms, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. There are more than 2,000 clowns in the lobby since the Mehars took over. The music blasting outside with friendly workers when we arrived made it feel like this was more than just a motel.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind motel," Mehar said. “There’s no motel in the world that has a cemetery next to you and you’re sleeping there. When you come to the Clown Motel, you’re getting your experience with you, a lifetime experience. Every time you see a haunted movie you can say, 'Hey, I was there!' People go all over the world to see the Taj Mahal in India or to New York. Why? Because they’re going to see memories. When you come to Tonopah, Nev., this is a place to stay one night.”
While we stayed on the Mizpah Hotel's haunted floor and had a great experience, I would recommend either one of these hotels on your trip on the Free Range Art Highway, depending on if you're into the creepy-clown scene or are looking for something a little more historic.
"We feel like we're running a landmark, not a motel," Anand said.
We continued driving south for another 200 miles, passing through the historic towns of Goldfield and Beatty, before reaching our final destination, Las Vegas. There’s plenty to explore on the Free Range Art Highway in Southern Nevada. From the Neon Museum to the Downtown Container Park and the Seven Magic Mountains, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I checked out the Seven Magic Mountains earlier this summer while in Las Vegas, and they truly are one-of-a-kind sculptures. If you are in Las Vegas, it's worth the drive to check them out. You won't regret it.