Laughlin: The Laid-Back Nevada Resort Town

Jun 3, 2022

For those who crave a picturesque change of scene, top-notch entertainment and the chance to unwind on the links and in the casino, there’s a destination that delivers all the fun without the high-octane energy and expense of The Strip.

Laughlin, Nevada is a town just 90 miles south of Vegas, and it’s a prime spot for travelers looking for jaw-dropping natural landscapes — plus hotels, dining and activities that offer a break from the ordinary without breaking the budget.

Laughlin is an easy escape for folks who like to get outside, and there are activities for all — from golf, to jet skiing, to ATV rides, to simply enjoying an alfresco meal at a local restaurant.

Jet skiing on the Colorado River

There are eight casinos to choose from, ranging from expansive halls to more intimate spaces, and some offer games for the kids as well (bring on the cosmic bowling!). And even if you’ve visited Laughlin in the past, you’ll be surprised by the plush updates the town has recently undergone. 

Perhaps best of all, the events calendar is a revolving door of household names in the comedy and music worlds, with a number of must-see headliners gracing the stage this season. 

Here's a closer look at the reasons Laughlin is a go-to spot for so many travelers.

Laughlin's Latest Updates and Upgrades

The town of Laughlin is named after Don Laughlin, now a nonagenarian, who in his youth saw the potential of this area on the grand Colorado River while flying over in a private plane. The entrepreneur, who had enjoyed success in the gaming business since his teen years, purchased a riverside property — naming it the Riverside Resort — and within two years the little place was bustling. 

That was the mid-1960s and much has changed, not least that that "little" resort has exploded into a 1,396-room hotel with nearly 90,000 square feet of gaming space. Of course, an entire town has blossomed around the casino over the last six decades as well. And in keeping with Laughlin's ambitious beginnings, the destination continues to expand its entertainment, dining and recreational offerings with every passing year. 

Laughlin, Nevada

The last two years have been no exception — visit now and you'll discover new or reinvented restaurants at the Aquarius Casino Resort and The Edgewater Hotel & Casino. New Pioneer is finishing a complete remodel on its nearly 300 rooms and suites, and just added the Colorado River Coffee and Ice Cream shop, which is already racking up rave reviews for its tasty froyo and impressive lineup of espresso drinks — lavender-flavored lattes included. Healthy bonus: They've also got plant-based, nutrient-dense acai bowls.  

Golden Nugget recently completed a remodel on its newly renamed Rush Lounge, where cocktails and fresh beats comingle 'til the wee hours of the night, four nights a week. (Tip: There's a great happy hour Thursday - Saturday evenings.) Harrah's and Tropicana have also made updates and upgrades to shops and dining venues. 

Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort movie theater

But the biggest refresh has taken place right where it all started — at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort. The six-screen movie theater has been completely revamped — as have all rooms, suites and even the casino carpet. A new food court was installed in 2020, the Riverside Buffet reopened in 2021 and the 34-lane bowling center was renovated just this year.

In short, there are updates and improvements to see at every turn, with more to come. This summer, for example, visitors can look forward to the unveiling of a brand-new 96-foot yacht that will replace Laughlin River Tours' popular Celebration paddlewheel riverboat to whisk passengers away for sightseeing and sunset dinner cruises. 

Outdoor Experiences

Laughlin stands out among Nevada destinations not only for its indoor attractions, but also for its enticing array of outdoor activities. You can access more than 10 miles of scenic hiking trails that run along the Colorado River from trailheads as close as half a mile north of Laughlin's main strip.

Meditate on views of the rushing water, impressive Davis Dam, the Mojave Desert and charming community parks as you walk. Many of these paths come with conveniences like restrooms, water bottle filling stations and sheltered picnic areas, but you'll want to pack appropriately and head out early since temperatures often reach the triple digits by midday in the summer.

Laughlin Ranch Golf Club

Golf enthusiasts will find a little "slice" of heaven at Laughlin's five golf courses, including the Laughlin Ranch Golf Club — whose 7,000 yards of emerald green fairways, natural streams and rolling hills create jaw-dropping contrast to its Black Mountain backdrop. The onsite spa offers everything from warming CBD oil massages to Black Mountain clay body wraps. Between these treatments and the club restaurant, whose patio views and menu are equally enticing (Thai chili salmon on a bed of bok choy, perhaps?), there are ample reasons to go even if you're not a golfer. 

Thrill seekers won't want to miss the chance to feel like the star of their own action-adventure movie with a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) ride through the Mohave.

OUI Experience UTV riding

OUI Experience is a UTV rental company offering options that range from all-day, self-guided adventures, to kid-pleasing pirate-themed desert treasure hunts, to chauffered rides complete with wine and spirits tastings at local distilleries. 

The Colorado River opens up all manner of fresh-air fun, too, with opportunities for swimming, fishing and jet ski or other watercraft rentals all along its shores. 

Fishing on the Colorado River

You can also enjoy the river while indulging in some of Laughlin's tasty cuisine — the best kind of multitasking. Try Bubba Gump Shrimp for southern-style comfort food with unparalleled water views from the outdoor patio. The aptly named Riverview Restaurant at Don Laughlin's offers floor-to-ceiling windows for uninterrupted vistas — a great complement to classic menu items like French dip sandwiches and cobb salads with avocado and bleu cheese. You can also enjoy a cocktail and a game with a view at the resort's Main Riverview Bar. 

The Main Riverview Bar at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel

Or, for a fine dining experience with similarly stellar views, try The Gourmet Room, also located inside Don Laughlin's. The Range Steakhouse at Harrah's is yet another fine dining restaurant where the water views — along with the lobster bisque and filet mignon — are standout favorites. 

Easy Places to Play – and Rest

Laughlin is home to hundreds of thousands of square feet of casinos and gaming space — from the state-of-the-art slots at the spacious Aquarius Casino Resort to  the easygoing (and easily affordable, with limits starting at $5) table games at Golden Nugget, to the relaxing all-day fun at Tropicana Laughlin's bingo hall. And when you're ready to call it a night, you'll be psyched to know you're saving big, with midweek stays starting at less than $50 a night in many local hotels

Harrah's Laughlin is a great choice for travelers who want to make the most of Laughlin's location on the Colorado River, thanks to the property's soft-sand beach. It's also home to two outdoor pools, including an adults-only option with plush cabana rentals available — we're talking TVs, ceiling fans and refrigerators. Casual onsite restaurant El Burro Borracho — a Guy Fieri creation that fits with the hotel's overall south-of-the-border theme — is a favorite for its loaded "trash can nachos," grilled street corn and wide selection of tongue-tingling fajitas.

El Burro Borracho

The Laughlin River Lodge offers family suites with a separate sleeping area for those traveling with kids. Of course, the bowling center, pools and movie theater at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort are big draws for family travelers, and the hotel also has a 740-spot RV park for those who are bringing their own accommodations. 

The Edgewater Casino Resort puts guests at the heart of the action in multiple ways — both with its location in the middle of the Laughlin strip, and with its lineup of exciting acts who take the stage at the onsite E Center. (More on that next.) 

Finally, for those who want to lean into the frontier-town spirit of the region, there's the New Pioneer Casino Hotel. From its nostalgic Old West exterior its antique-looking in-room furnishings, it's a memorable place to hang your hat at a budget-friendly price. 

Star-Studded Shows

Laughlin may offer a more low-key ambiance than "the biggest little city," but you'd never know it based on the entertainment calendar. Hosted at the 9,000-seat Laughlin Event Center and the more intimate E Center at the Edgewater Hotel, celebrated musicians and comedians step onto Laughlin's stages every week.

Laughlin Event Center

Grammy Award-winning country singer Clint Black, comedy legend Jeff Foxworthy and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Hall and Oates (a.k.a. the best-selling music duo of all time) are among the numerous reasons you'll want to head to Laughlin in the coming months. 

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