There are few places that can make Las Vegas feel cool, especially since our summers are among the hottest in the country. However, there is one place that does just that, that is Laughlin, Nevada. Summers temperatures can peak at 125 degrees, but on average you can expect temps to be no more than ten degrees warmer than Las Vegas year-round. This hot spot is located 94 miles from Sin City and on the banks of the Colorado River. Laughlin is Nevada’s third most visited casino and resort destination after Las Vegas and Reno, and it also makes the top five destinations for American RV enthusiasts. Those seeking fun in the sun flock to Laughlin for river sports and laid-back night-life.
Laughlin wouldn’t exist today without Don Laughlin, the man behind the city and Riverside Resort. A native of Owatonna, Minnesota, Laughlin moved to Las Vegas in the late 1950’s and purchased his first casino the 101 Club. Years later he sold the casino, and subsequently purchased a boarded up motel and 6.5 acres at the southern tip of Nevada in 1964. He then opened what would become the Riverside Resort, offering all-you-can-eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, a casino with a dozen slots and two live gaming tables. It got a humble start with eight motel rooms, and only four were available for rent since the rest were occupied by the Laughlin family. Today, Riverside Resort has 1404 rooms and one (the penthouse suite) is still occupied by the great Don Laughlin. Furthermore, eight other resorts now neighbor the Riverside and Colorado River; a few create the Riverwalk which stretches from Riverside to River Palms.
My husband and I have been escaping to Laughlin for day trips and weekend getaways for seven years now. We even had a second-home there for a brief time in 2007. It is a special place. The pace is slower, people are friendlier and the values never end. We recently snuck away to this city by the river for a day of fun.
We kicked it off with a yummy lunch at Casa Serrano at the Riverside. Monday through Friday 11am-3pm they offer fantastic lunch specials from $4.85. On our visit we sampled the Mexican Flag ($6.50), and the chicken and cheese flauta with tamale ($4.95). Before our entrees arrived we snacked on bottomless chips, salsa, and beans. They have some of the best salsa around; we’ve been known to drive down for no reason other than wanting a meal from Casa Serrano. This lunch was just as delicious as past visits. The flauta was crisp on the outside and the inside was oozing with cheese and tasty shredded chicken. The tamale was nicely prepared and both were made even better once I drizzled salsa over the top. The Mexican Flag is fun presentation of three enchiladas each with different meat and sauce: chicken with verde, machaca with rojo and pork with ranchera. Each was quite tasty, but it is the verde sauce that I find to be most special. If you opt for dinner or grab a weekend lunch there is no need to fret, none of menu will break the bank.
After lunch we had to walk off some of those calories so we headed over to the dual-level outlet mall which features more than 55 food and retail shops, plus a 9-screen cinema complex. We walked away with great shopping finds at unbeatable discounts. Next, we tested our luck gambling. The casinos offer the newest slot games and even some of the old favorites. We always enjoy playing the old coin-in video poker at Golden Nugget. And live Keno at Colorado Belle is another favorite pastime. You can always find low limit table games, too. On our visit $3 craps and $5 blackjack were plentiful.
Sadly our day trip was winding down and we took a walk down the river walk to enjoy the view and take in the water enthusiasts racing up and down the river. Next time, I hope that we can take the time for an overnight visit. Rooms are often comped, even for the low-roller. That is a major perk of gaming in Laughlin, a little goes a long way; your action is recognized and appreciated. Even without comps nightly accommodations are very reasonable mid-week at any of the nine Laughlin hotels, you can expect to pay less than twenty bucks a night; with weekends priced twice that. Riverside Resort offers complimentary upgrades upon check-in to locals with a valid NV ID (Based on room type, subject to availability. Excludes holidays, special event days).
Whether you seek fun in the sun or the comfort of air conditioning Laughlin has you covered. Gaming, shopping, spas and entertainment are great ways to beat the heat. Golf and water sports are a grand way to soak up the sun. Wave runners are available for rent at many of the hotels. River tours and jet boat cruises can also be booked. When hunger strikes, there are dozens of options to curb your appetite. I believe The Gourmet Room at the Riverside is one of Laughlin’s best kept secrets. For a quick bite there is even an In-N-Out burger. If you’re thinking of an extended stay in Laughlin, Oatman and Lake Havasu, AZ are fun day-trips. There is plenty to keep you occupied. Since Laughlin is so close to home it can be a fantastically frugal getaway or day-trip; take your pick.