About LaughlinA mini Las Vegas on the banks of the Colorado River, Laughlin is popular with road-tripping Southern Californians and Arizonans in search of a cheaper alternative to Sin City. Nevada’s southernmost town mingles with the California and Arizona borders, and is notorious for being one of the desert Southwest’s most sizzling—literally—spots, as summer highs hit 115 with punishing regularity. A dip in the Colorado River, which flows south past Laughlin’s eight major waterfront hotel casinos, feels about as refreshing as taking a Jacuzzi in a sauna. But video poker-heads are impervious to the heat outside, settling down for an afternoon of pairs, straights and (hopefully) royal flushes in the air-conditioned comfort of the casinos.
Originally called South Pointe, Laughlin was the brainchild of Don Laughlin, a hotelier from Minnesota who made it big in Vegas. His Riverside Motel was the first motel/casino in the area, and Laughlin had dreams of transforming the South Pointe region into a visitor destination. As he expanded his modest property into a large resort, Laughlin made big bucks. He spent his play money on classic cars, which eventually ended up in Don Laughlin's Classic Car Collection.
By the 1980s modern-day Laughlin was on the map and Laughlin was rich enough to fund the building of the Laughlin Bridge, which connects Laughlin with Bullhead City, Ariz., at the north end of town. Today Laughlin’s gleaming high-rise hotels attract a steady stream of bargain-hunting seniors (midweek rates regularly dip under $50) and families who prefer the area’s outdoor activities to the roller coasters and video arcades of Vegas.
The Riverwalk, a paved pedestrian walkway linking seven of Laughlin's eight riverfront hotels, is one of the easiest ways to get around. The path, dotted with park benches, is a relaxing place to watch the setting sun paint the mountains across the river in shades of purple and pink. Couples and families stroll past on their way to dinner. Jet boats zip down the middle of the Colorado. Quacking ducks float along the shoreline.
In summer's heat it’s a long, sweaty walk from the north end (Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino) to the south end (Harrah's Laughlin). Instead, take the River Passage Water Taxi. All of the major hotels have a water taxi dock, where you can catch the pontoon-style boats (one-way fare $5, all-day pass $20) to your gaming, dining or entertainment destination of choice. For more information phone (702) 299-0090.
Visitors also come to Laughlin for its annual festivals. More than 50,000 chrome cowboys roar into town on their steel steeds during late April's Laughlin River Run, one of the West Coast's largest motorcycle events, for 5 rip-roarin' days of custom bike shows, poker runs, rock concerts, stunt shows and a traveling museum.
Visitor Centers Laughlin Visitors Information Center 1555 S. Casino Dr. Laughlin, NV 89029. Phone:(702)298-3321 or (800)452-8445
ShoppingHotel gift shops are the places to browse. But you also can spend a desultory afternoon wandering the Laughlin Outlet Center, at 1955 S. Casino Dr. across the street from the Aquarius Casino Resort. The two-story, air-conditioned brand name outlet mall has more than 50 stores. Reebok, Izod, Van Heusen and Quiksilver are all here. For those allergic to shopping there’s a fast-food court and a multiplex movie theater. Phone (702) 298-4497.
NightlifeNightlife revolves around gambling, hotel bars (karaoke, DJs and cover bands) and casino showrooms (lounge singers, dancers and comedians). The Celebrity Theater at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino, (800) 227-3849, and the Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater at Harrah's Casino Hotel, (702) 298-4600, book casino-circuit touring acts like Los Lobos, Jeff Dunham and Bonnie Raitt. The Laughlin Event Center, 500 E. Bruce Woodbury Dr., offers concerts and sporting events; phone (702) 298-2453.
Things to Do Don Laughlin's Classic Car Collection
Casinos Colorado Belle
In-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. All hotels must meet the same basic requirements for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality to be AAA Approved. A rating of one to five AAA Diamonds tells members what type of experience to expect, from no-frills to highly personalized.