A Couples Escape to Laughlin? Absolutely.
Laughlin's most notable geologic feature—the Colorado River, which runs right through the middle of town—seems purpose-built for strolling hand-in-hand, particularly at sunset. But as dreamy as walking along the water into the desert dusk may be, there's so much more to a couple's escape here (or there can be, if you're in the know). This onetime miners' hangout turned recreation mecca is the kind of place with surprises at every turn: some ancient (as in, almost a millennium), some new—all worth experiencing together.
So take a weekend—and these tips—to see first-hand what the buzz is about.
Quiet contemplation may not be the expected first order of business in a gaming town, but there they are (if you can find them): nine hidden labyrinths in the Nevada desert.
A passion project of local resident Wes Dufek, the Laughlin Labyrinths are scattered among three sites off Thomas Edison Drive, south of Bruce Woodbury Drive. (Half the fun is locating them—and if you drive past the white water tank, you’ve gone too far.) And stress not: These aren’t mazes. There’s only one path to follow that leads to the center and back out—a metaphor for life and form of meditation that comes with bonus Zen if you arrive at sunrise and watch the mountains turn ever-shifting shades of pink and purple.
(Very) old school art
Keep that altered-state vibe going with some time travel: A hike through Grapevine Canyon on the south end of Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers an extraordinary peek into prehistory thanks to the hundreds of local petroglyphs, some presumed to be nearly a millennium old.
Looming overhead is sacred Spirit Mountain, the highest peak in the Newberry Mountains and the first Indian land in Nevada added to the National Register of Historic Places. The most beautiful artwork adorns large boulders at the mouth of the canyon, but if you’re up for a challenge, hike in to see additional glyphs as well as a seasonal stream, canyon grapes, cottonwood trees—even a waterfall (with room for a dip!) about 1.7 miles out.
Lunch at a lodge
After you’ve worked up an appetite, check out one of the best new ways to satisfy it: The Bighorn Café, a rustic restaurant tucked inside Laughlin River Lodge. Formerly a steakhouse, the recently-revamped spot now serves up comfort food (try the prime rib sliders or coconut shrimp) with a heaping side of coziness—think wood-paneled walls, stone fireplaces, antler chandeliers. You'll also get floor-to-ceiling views of the mountains and Colorado River.
Tee time & spa treatments
For a chill afternoon, whether your idea of it is golf, spa—or both—head to Laughlin Ranch Golf Club. Set in the foothills of the Black Mountains (just over the river), the resident Golf Club is an 18-hole, David Druzisky-designed championship course with expansive fairways, challenging elevation changes and views of the river and Laughlin’s casino strip. (Watch out for the occasional wild burro grazing on the greens.)
If you prefer a hot tub to a water trap, unwind at the spa on the premises. After a soak and steam, have a muscle-melting massage in the Couples' Suite in a private room with a fireplace and courtyard.
The Big Easy
To keep things chill, head to the Bourbon Street Sports Bar inside Laughlin River Lodge, where the craft beers pair perfectly with the likes of beignet fries, muffuletta and slow-cooked gumbo.
And though you may not get a second wind after the day’s lineup, here’s something to know in case you do: Each dollar spent on food or drinks gets you a token to use at the adults-only arcade, where you’ll find air hockey, foosball, pinball, skee ball, video games, race car simulators, pool and more.
Up and at ‘em
Live out your Fast and Furious fantasy in the Mohave desert with the Oui Experience, an immersive UTV adventure that teaches you to drive and drift like a pro. You’ll zoom over the sand, past a ghostly mine and through the Black Mountains, where you’ll ascend a 4,000-foot peak for a glorious view of Lake Mohave.
Choose a private Royale Tour with more than three hours of drive time and lunch on the beach or the Full House small group experience with two hours of driving. If nothing else, do it for the ‘gram: You’ll get free photos and drone footage from throughout the day, so you can really rub it in on social media.
Once your stomach is back out of your throat, head to the Old West-inspired The New Pioneer for lunch. (You can’t miss the one-man welcome committee: a towering neon cowboy called River Rick.) Head to Bumbleberry Flats, where you’ll find just the food to soothe any lingering frayed nerves: chicken & waffles, Cajun mac & cheese, fried green tomatoes and cheddar grits—all served up with views of the Riverwalk.
River walk (or ride)
The Riverwalk is Laughlin’s version of the Vegas Strip, with more natural beauty and less neon. A paved, mile-long path along the Nevada side of the Colorado River, this promenade offers up a rare blend: casino access and wildlife sightings (you’ll likely spot cranes, beavers—even fish through the clear waters). Note: The sunsets here are not to be missed, especially in front of The New Pioneer, where flowering trees are illuminated as the sun slips behind the mountains and casinos.
If you’d rather not hoof it—or you’re particularly taken with the river and want more—get out on the water. Options range Jet Skis to narrated tours to River Passage Water Taxi. Conveniently, this last one stops at every hotel and casino on the river, from Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino at one end to Harrah's Laughlin at the other, with the likes of the Colorado Belle (an hotel and casino in the form of an old-timey riverboat) in between.
Go for a throwback kinda date night at Strike Bowl!, Laughlin River Lodge’s newly-built ten-lane bowling alley that looks fresh off the set of Happy Days—complete with an adorable red-and-white diner where you can order a classic burger, fries, and root beer floats. Fabamundo, as the The Fonz might say.
WHERE TO STAY:
The perfect home base at any budget is Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino, with more than 1,300 rooms. Executive Rooms are the most luxurious, with a king bed, bathroom with separate dressing area and views of the beautiful Colorado River or desert mountains from your sitting area or private balcony. There’s also the 76,000-square-foot casino and bingo parlor, an antique car museum, two outdoor pools and the recently-opened Jeffrey Salon and Day Spa. Another expansive option: Aquarius Casino Resort—where the newly renovated pool area alone is an impressive 34,000 square feet (complete with 100 chaise lounges and day beds, nine cabanas, two hot tubs and sweeping river views). The hotel is also home to more than 1,900 rooms, a number of restaurants—and the only non-smoking cocktail lounge in town.