Rural Wrangler: Laughlin
8 great things we love about this southern Nevada gem of a town.
While Las Vegas and Reno offer white-glove hospitality and world-class entertainment, it’s our rural destinations that give visitors a glimpse into the heart and soul of our state. Each issue, you’ll find one of our smaller-but-no-less-incredible towns highlighted.
Laughlin is just 58 years old, and unlike so many Nevada towns, its beginning came about not through mining, but water. In 1964, founder Don Laughlin owned a small club in Las Vegas but was on the search for some border property. He flew his plane as far as Jackpot and Lake Tahoe, but it was a little hotel on the banks of the crystal-clear Colorado River that caught his eye. Laughlin bought the bankrupt property and built the Riverside Resort. By 1968, two more casinos opened, and today, 10 casinos dot the riverbank.
With Laughlin at the helm, the town continued to grow slowly. In 1987, he ponied up $3.5 million to build a bridge across the river to Bullhead City, Arizona, and in 1991, he was instrumental in the construction of the Laughlin Bullhead International Airport.
You can’t get much further south in Nevada than Laughlin, and it’s worth every minute it takes to get there. Below, find eight of our favorite things to do in Laughlin.
1. CLEAR? CRYSTAL
Move over Lake Tahoe, Laughlin is giving you a run for your money. The clarity of the Colorado River is staggering. This impressive water source flows alongside the Laughlin “strip,” as locals call the casino district. Watercraft rentals, riverboat tours, canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, and paddle boarding prove the river is the town’s fun center.
2. A RIVER RUNS BY IT
The Laughlin Riverwalk offers visitors a rousing way to cruise the Laughlin strip. The waterfront path is chock-full of various restaurants, casinos, and provides a scenic view of the Colorado River. Guests who don’t feel like walking can even traverse the riverwalk by water taxi.
3. IT’S A CELEBRATION!
Visitors have the chance to sail upon the Celebration—a paddle wheel-style boat that provides a different perspective of the river. The vessel—capable of accommodating 149 passengers—offers 90-minute cruises along casino row to Davis Dam, leisurely dinner cruises, riverboat weddings, and group charters. (See more boat tours here)
4. THE SOUNDS OF MUSIC
The entertainment life in Laughlin is dynamic. Live music lines the strip at venues plenty large enough for dancing, and several nightclubs provide late-night entertainment. The Laughlin amphitheater attracts such headliners as Toby Keith, Gabriel Iglesias, and Alabama, to name a few.
5. RICK ROLLIN’ ON THE RIVER
An iconic symbol of Nevada, River Rick (aka Laughlin Lou) greets visitors to the Laughlin Riverwalk. Displaying the same familiar appearance as his neon Nevada counterparts Vegas Vic and Wendover Will (see him on page 41), River Rick has been standing proudly at the Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall since 1981.
6. YOU BUILT A TIME MACHINE OUT OF A DELOREAN?
You don’t have to be a motorhead to enjoy the Riverside Classic Auto Exhibition Hall at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort. More than 80 rare, antique, and historic automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles (spread out across two locations) are available for viewing by the public daily. Don’t miss the Ford Model Ts and an iconic Delorean, popularized by the film “Back to the Future.”
7. DESERT OASIS
A soft, sandy beach isn’t easy to come by in the Silver State. However, at Harrah’s Laughlin, guests can enjoy access to a riverfront beach, complete with cabana rentals and access to two outdoor swimming pools. Just minutes south, you’ll find Big Bend of the Colorado State Park, too. Set right on the river, the shoreline is dotted with covered shelters, picnic benches, horseshoe pits, and sandy beaches.
8. CANYON CANVASES
Less than 30 minutes from Laughlin lies Grapevine Canyon, one of Nevada’s most interesting and accessible (via easily traversable dirt roads) archeological sites. This distinct area contrasts the normal landscape of the Mojave desert, giving visitors a chance to view hundreds of petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls.