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Amazing winter weather, favorable prices, and river recreation make this Southern Nevada town an attractive year-round escape.
Photo: PR (Harrah's Laughlin)
Of the 12,000 or so hours Don Laughlin has spent piloting helicopters and fixed-wing planes, one particular flight in 1964 set into motion the founding of Laughlin.
Laughlin—the man—was in the market for border real estate in Nevada and had flown as far north as Jackpot and journeyed as far west as Stateline. But it was a bankrupt eight-room hotel and bar on the banks of the Colorado River in which Laughlin saw the most potential. With a down payment of $35,000, the casino mogul beat out several interested parties for the land, and for Laughlin—the town—the rest is history. Over time, six acres grew into almost 200 and the home of one of the gems of the town’s mini Strip on the water, Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort.
As a result of several expansions, the Riverside is home to an auto museum, bowling alley, cinema, kids center, nightclubs, fine dining, you name it. As Laughlin will tell you, the town has all the plush amenities you’ll find in nearby Las Vegas, only a lot cheaper. “The biggest [draw] is that prices are a quarter of what they charge in Vegas,” he says. “We’ve got a view of the Colorado River, good lounge entertainment, and a down-home atmosphere.” Plus, have you ever taken a water taxi in Sin City?
And don’t think the Riverside can’t compete with the eccentric side of Las Vegas. While Steve Wynn might be looking at his reflection in a pristine Ferrari at his hotel’s dealership, Laughlin is landing his helicopter on a custom pad on the top of his namesake resort.
Laughlin even spent $3.5 million in 1987 to fund a bridge that spans the Colorado, then in 1991 backed the construction of Laughlin Bullhead Airport. As important as his contributions have been to the area, his ego did not factor into the naming of the town—Laughlin suggested Riverside, but the postal inspector insisted on Laughlin.
In addition to the Riverside, the town boasts eight resort hotels: Aquarius, Colorado Belle, Edgewater, Golden Nugget, Harrah’s Laughlin, Pioneer, River Palms, and Tropicana Express. Harrah’s private, soft sand beach beckons visitors May through September, when you can expect average highs to be between 95 and 115 degrees.
In the winter, an upper-60-degree day is not uncommon in Laughlin, making it a favorite destination for snowbirds looking to escape the winter freeze in other regions. While some resort destinations cringe at the thought of winter spoiling the height of tourist season, summer and fall, Laughlin welcomes it with open arms. The area has also become a hub for car and motorcycle buffs, with such gatherings as the Roddin’ on the River Car Show and the Run to Fun.
And what Vegas doesn’t have, a major waterway, Laughlin takes full advantage of. Tourists can take a relaxing cruise on the USS Riverside, and most casinos offer a rental service: enjoy a day on a Wave-Runner from Watercraft Adventures, check out Jerkwater Canoe Co., or hop aboard a fishing boat at Capt. Doyle’s.
Laughlin makes a perfect base camp for daytrips to Hoover Dam (don’t forget its impressive little brother, Davis Dam), Lakes Mead and Mohave, Big Bend State Park (camping, beaches, and boat launching), Colorado River Museum, and Grapevine Canyon, where you can view American Indian petroglyphs. In neighboring Arizona to the east, you can explore the ghost town of Oatman before zipping over Rennie’s London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. The bridge, sold to American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch and reconstructed in Arizona in the early 1970s, has become the state’s second-biggest tourist attraction next to the Grand Canyon.
TOUR AROUND NEVADA
*Nevada Magazine is proud to partner with Virginia City etching company Botcha-Caloop’s in the production of the Tour Around Nevada plaque.
Laughlin Visitor Information Center
1555 Casino Dr., Laughlin, NV 89029
WORTH A CLICK
2009 Senior Games, Nov. 3-8
Express Run Car Show, Nov. 5-8
Hobo Stew & Dance, Nov. 11
Bash 4 Cash Softball Tournament, Nov. 13-15
River of Lights Holiday Boat Parade, Nov. 28
Winter Break, Jan. 8-14