Discover Laughlin, NV

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When you arrive in Laughlin, your first impression might be that it is a “mini Vegas,” when you see casinos named Harrah’s, Golden Nugget, and Tropicana. But Laughlin is not simply a smaller version of Sin City, it is a destination in its own right. While we are comparing the two, though, in Laughlin you won’t find any long lines to get into the dance club of the moment, or overpriced bottle service, or topless pool parties. There are no stretch limos carrying Instamodels… there aren’t even Ubers. Don’t expect to be kicked out of the bar for wearing board shorts. If you’re looking for the cool place to see and be seen in Laughlin – look to the river. 

Laughlin has nine casino/hotels along the Nevada side of the Colorado River, connected by the scenic River Walk. Within the hotels, there are restaurants, bars, shows, pools, and, of course, gambling. There are also features such as the Classic Car Museum in the Riverside Resort, showcasing 80+ rate, antique, and historic automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles. Or, for family fun, the bowling alleys at Riverside Lanes (with 34 lanes) or Laughlin River Lodge (with 10 lanes). You can walk to most of the area hotels, but it is more fun to hop aboard one of Laughlin’s water taxis that run every 15 minutes. 

Stop into some of the iconic hotels like the Colorado Belle, designed as a replica of a 19th-century paddlewheel riverboat with fun decor and great restaurants, like the award-winning Pints Microbrewery & Sports Bar. The New Pioneer Hotel gives you a taste of the old West while bringing in big-name artists like Toby Keith (November 9, 2019). For delicious food and drinks, head to the Golden Nugget, home to what might be the best restaurant on the trip, Saltgrass Steak House, as well as one of the few nightclubs, Gold Diggers. Harrah’s Laughlin is further down the strip, but has consistently good entertainment and concerts, as well as the best beach on the river, with palapas that will make you feel like you’re on a tropical island. Or, check out the newly opened adult pool at Riverside Resort for fantastic views and a serene pool scene. 

On the river, you can go tubing, jet skiing, kayaking, fishing, or boating, or take a river tour to learn more about Laughlin’s history. If you aren’t coming with your own river toys, check out The USS Riverside, taking you from the Riverside Resort to the Davis Dam. Or, try the London Bridge Jet Boat to explore 58 miles of the Colorado River in a six-hour trip, ending at the London Bridge after exploring petroglyphs and Topock Gorge. 

Outside of the main strip, there are hiking trails, championship golf courses, spas, and oddball attractions. The Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails is a recreational area with over ten miles of trails for hiking or biking. For an easy and historic hiking trail, look no further than the Grapevine Canyon, with hundreds of Petroglyphs visible on the canyon wall. Pick a designated driver and sample local spirits and wine at the Desert Diamond Distillery, Stetson Winery, and Cella Winery after touring the locations. Or, venture along historic Route 66 to Oatman Ghost Town, a mining town established in 1906 that has recreated its wild west atmosphere for visitors today, including an authentic gold mine, a gunslinger show on Main Street, and more. 

Laughlin has plenty of colorful history of its own, established in the 1940s to cater to the nearby gold and silver miners, as well as the Davis Dam construction workers. The one motel fell into disrepair after the Dam was completed, until Don Laughlin offered the buy the property in 1964, turning it into the eight-room Riverside Resort. The second and third casinos were built in 1967 and 1968, beginning the journey of the town into a gambling destination. Now, there are over 10,000 rooms in Laughlin, attracting 2 million visitors annually.

Some of these visitors tell of their families visiting Laughlin every single year growing up. Now, they return with their own families. In addition to these generational gamers, Laughlin is attracting a new, younger crowd of visitors who come in droves to float down the river, play the slots, and sip happy hour cocktails while watching the spectacular sunsets. Laughlin is a place where you can go to make your own fun. 

Michelle Stansbury is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer. Feel free to reach out to her at [email protected] with story ideas!

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