Explore Laughlin and the Colorado River
A sliver of the Colorado River Valley where Nevada, California and Arizona meet has been transformed into a fast-growing tourist destination and gambling resort in a few short decades. The city by the river now attracts nearly 2 million visitors annually who visit Laughlin to gamble, enjoy water sports on the Colorado and attend many top name entertainers and high-profile special events hosted by the destination
A brief little history lesson about Laughlin from Visit Laughlin: Laughlin's current location was established in the 1940's with the South Pointe due to its proximity to Nevada's southern tip. The settlement consisted of a motel and bar that catered to gold and silver miners who dotted the map, and to the many construction workers who built Davis Dam.
In 1964, Don Laughlin, owner of Las Vegas' 101 Club, flew over Laughlin and offered to buy the property. In less than two years the motel and bar, now called the Riverside Resort, was offering all-you-can-eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, play on 12 slot machines and two live gaming tables. Guest accommodations were available in four of the motel's eight motel rooms. The Laughlin family lived in the other four rooms.
During the 1980s a surge of casino construction exploded in Laughlin. The Colorado Hotel (now the Pioneer), Sam's Town Gold River (now the Laughlin River Lodge) and the Edgewater opened early in the decade. The activity attracted other investors that began the second boom, resulting in the construction of the Colorado Belle, Harrah's Del Rio, Ramada Express (now Tropicana Laughlin) and finally, in 1990, the Flamingo Hilton (now Aquarius).
In 1987, Don Laughlin funded and built the Laughlin Bridge at a cost of $3.5 million. He donated the bridge to the states of Nevada and Arizona. The bridge carries 2,000 vehicles daily.
Are you ready? Let's roll out.
Similar to our Hoover Dam Day Trip, I have no clue what hotel you're staying at, so I'm using Mandalay Bay as a basic starting place, but this shouldn't really matter. It should be relatively the same driving distance from all the hotels on the strip.
If you blink, you might miss our first stop. There isn't much to this stop other than it's along the way (you'll drive right past it). You won't even have to get out of the car. Or want to get out of the car for the most part. The only reason I included this is because of it's recent pop culture appeal. This city has a population of 244. It doesn't have much going for other than it went viral a few years ago after an article on NPR came out titled, A Tiny Nevada Town Hits The Market For $8 Million — Casino Included. I found this interesting and read every article I could find about it. I even took it once step further and contacted the owner, Nancy Kidwell. As of a couple months ago, this town was still available for purchase. Now that you have seen the town, let's continue to our next destination: Colorado River Historical Society in Bullhead City, Arizona.
As you approach Laughlin, you're going to see an arrow pointing you towards Laughlin, but you'll want to skip those signs. We're going across the bridge connecting Arizona and Nevada. Once you go over the bridge, turn around and head back to Laughlin. There was no significance of this stop other than taking you into Arizona, so you could mark this state off your bucket list. If you've already been to Arizona, there is no need to cross over to Bullhead City. It's not that interesting as a city.
Alright, now that you went to Arizona it's time for us to reach our final destination of Laughlin. There's a lot to explore in this miniature Las Vegas on the Colorado River. My favorite activity usually revolves around renting jet skis. There are eight hotel/casinos and one motel in Laughlin providing over 9,000 rooms,150,000 square feet of meeting space, 50 restaurants, two museums, a 34-lane bowling center, an outlet shopping mall and a variety of boutiques, spas and salons.
That's the end of the trip. I'm not sure what your schedule looks like, so you can decide what you want to do next. There a bunch of restaurants in Laughlin and Bullhead City for a cheap lunch or snack before heading back to Las Vegas. If you want to continue exploring and get the most out of your trip, stop by Boulder City on your way back. It's pretty cool. Otherwise you can hop back on the freeway and journey back to Las Vegas. Interested in other day trips from Las Vegas? We created a day trip designed around exploring Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. This is a fun trip if you've never visited the Hoover Dam. Visiting Las Vegas during the month of October? We compiled a list of all the events and activities in Las Vegas During October.