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Snowbirds flock to Southern Nevada’s trio of warm spots.
When cold weather brings many northern states to a standstill, owners of businesses in Laughlin, Mesquite, and Primm wait at the front doors with open arms and countless activities for sun-seekers.
Snowbirds, a great many of them retirees, capitalize on Southern Nevada winter offerings—golf, tennis, hiking, motor sports, fishing, entertainment, inexpensive meals, five-star RV parks, and bargain hotel rooms. While those over 50 especially frequent these cities during the winter, there really is no set time frame to visit. Each destination offers year-round events that attract visitors, no matter the season.
Laughlin’s rise from a bankrupt fishing village to a snowbird’s favorite retreat is a Nevada success story. When Don Laughlin purchased a motel and bar on the site in 1960 for $250,000, he saw that this part of the state, where California, Nevada, and Arizona come together, was the perfect spot for a gaming venture. Nestled along the Colorado River, the town named for him is an eye-catching combination of water and bright neon, with a backdrop of desert and jagged mountains.
Laughlin has a wealth of outdoor recreation, top-name entertainment, nine hotels with more than 10,000 rooms, and yearly stops by the Southern California Off-Road Enthusiasts (SCORE), this season set for January 24-27, River Stampede Rodeo on March 27-30, and Xtreme Bulls, April 12-13. Top-flight entertainers include Charo, Hootie and the Blowfish, Mark Chesnutt, Deana Carter, The Oak Ridge Boys, Collin Ray, and the Bellamy Brothers.
Situated 89 miles south of Las Vegas off State Route 163, Laughlin thrives in the winter and does remarkably well when temperatures soar in the summer, drawing about four million visitors each year. For the 50-plus crowd, Laughlin hosts the ultimate promotion in January: Winter Break with its week-long list of events.
Among the thousands who come to Laughlin each winter is Brooke Hughes, a resident of Gardnerville. “It’s nice to get away from the snow and enjoy 70-degree weather in December,” she says. “There’s always something for the family to do, whether it’s taking helicopter rides down the Colorado River, seeing the petroglyphs, or checking out all the classic cars at the Riverside.”
Mesquite has emerged to become another Nevada winter hot spot. The Peppermill casino opened in the 1970s, and several other casinos followed in the mid-1990s. The city, 79 miles northeast of Las Vegas off I-15, now has more than 2,000 hotel rooms. Greenery breaks up the harsh desert, and a combination of waterfalls and palm trees gives the farming town a pleasant air.
Mesquite has six top-notch golf courses boasting incredible views and championship-quality layouts. Entertainment features the likes of Kenny Rogers, LeAnn Rimes, Lee Ann Womack, Randy Travis, Chicago, Larry the Cable Guy, Wynonna, and Bill Engvall.
In fact, entertainment has become such a vital part of Mesquite that Black Gaming—Las Vegas developer Randy Black owns CasaBlanca, Virgin River, and Oasis hotel-casinos—broke ground in April for the CasaBlanca Events Center. The 40,000-square-foot facility is scheduled for completion in 2008-’09 and will host concerts, events, and trade shows.
Country performer Randy Anderson has played in all three of these Southern Nevada cities during his 25-year career. He says that Mesquite draws both Las Vegans and Utah residents, among others, during his gigs at the Virgin River Casino. “Once the entertainment center is built in Mesquite, I bet they will draw even bigger crowds considering some of the entertainment they’ll attract,” Anderson predicts.
Primm, 43 miles south of Las Vegas off I-15, was formerly known as Stateline, where a colorful bootlegger named Whiskey Pete McIntyre operated a gas station until his death in 1933. The area, once nothing more than barren desert, is now a mini-metropolis of hotel-casinos and restaurants. Primm has more than 2,600 hotel rooms, two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses, world-class shopping at the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, and Buffalo Bill’s Desperado, one of the world’s tallest roller coasters.
After decades in Las Vegas with its Terrible Herbst gas stations and hotel-casinos, Herbst Gaming has focused on Primm and now operates Primm Valley Resort and Casino, Buffalo Bill’s, and Whiskey Pete’s (named after McIntyre). “We plan on ‘Terriblizing’ the I-15 corridor,” says president Ed Herbst. The company intends to modernize gaming floors, update the player’s club, and offer facilities for truck drivers. The Herbst family has participated in off-road events for more than 30 years, and last November staged Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR), which is set for November 3-4.
Big-name entertainment also flourishes at Primm, where stars such as Willie Nelson, John Michael Montgomery, Reba McIntyre, Chicago, and Dolly Parton appear in state-of-the-art showrooms.
Dale Dumond, a 13-year casino host at Primm Valley Casino Resorts, says visitors like Primm’s casual style. “You don’t have the hustle and bustle like you do in Vegas,” he says. “People come out here to get away. It’s affordable, and people feel as though they are part of the family.”
Playtime on the Flip Side of 50
A car rally and sock hop will highlight Laughlin’s Winter Break, a festival of life aimed at the Baby-Boomer crowd, set for January 4-10 in the Colorado River town.
Last year the events drew an estimated 7,000 adults over the age of 50, with events such as the popular Polar Bear Swim, bingo and slot tournaments, healthy-cooking demonstrations, and exercise classes. Live entertainment is complemented by trade shows, car shows, wine tasting, karaoke, singles functions, a chili cook-off, and fashion shows. A senior prom features the crowning of a homecoming king and queen. New this year, one lucky Winter Breaker will walk away with his or her “LifeDream” worth up to $5,000, courtesy of Eons.com.
In Mesquite, the Senior Fall Classic Golf Tournament is presented each November and the Mesquite Amateur Senior Golf Tournament is offered in May. The Senior Softball Winter Classic is held each December.
Primm’s lineup of activities that retirees may enjoy includes shopping at the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, golf, and concerts with long-established stars such as Loretta Lynn, Eydie Gorme, and Steve Lawrence.
WORTH A VISIT
Aquarius Casino Resort
1900 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin
Aquarius Casino Resort announced its one-year anniversary on November, 1, 2007. The company has made extensive upgrades to the property as well as changes to the overall theme and brand. Aquarius remains the largest gaming resort in Laughlin with 1,907 rooms in two, 18-story towers and a 57,000 square-foot casino.