11 things to do on a budget-friendly getaway to Laughlin

Laughlin has carved out a niche of its own, thanks to its laid-back vibe, low prices and prime location on the Colorado River. (Courtesy Visit Laughlin)

By Aleza Freeman

November 14, 2023

Located 90 miles south of Las Vegas, Laughlin is a budget-friendly vacation destination with plenty of gaming, dining, entertainment and outdoor recreation.

But that doesn’t mean it’s Vegas-lite.

The third most visited tourist destination in Nevada after Las Vegas and Reno, Laughlin has carved out a niche of its own, thanks to its laid-back vibe, low prices and prime location on the Colorado River. From waterfront rooms to desert hikes, here are 11 budget-friendly things to do while you stay and play in Laughlin.

Book a cheap room

Laughlin has its own Vegas-style strip of accommodations, known as the Laughlin Strip, located along the Colorado River on South Casino Drive. Lodging in town ranges from basic motels and hotels to fully loaded resort casinos, and they’re all relatively affordable. Sometimes, you can find mid-week rates on the Laughlin Strip for as low as $35 per night. You can also find dining and entertainment deals at the larger resorts if you have a players club card. If you’re the outdoorsy type, there are a handful of well-priced RV resorts and campgrounds, such as the 24-unit, year-round campground at Big Bend of Colorado Recreation Area (from $20 per night).

Play lower-limit tables

One of the easiest ways to break your budget in a gambling town is at a casino. Fortunately, some casinos in Laughlin still offer low limits at the tables. Limits at Golden Nugget Laughlin, for instance, start at only $5. There are visitor reports of blackjack tables as low as $3 at some casinos, so keep your eyes peeled.

Check out Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Collection

This rotating collection of more than 80 antique, classic and otherwise unique automobiles is parked on two floors inside Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino. Borrowed from private owners around the world, autos on display, according to Travel Nevada, include a motorcycle once driven by Steve McQueen, 1960s muscle cars, cars seen in films and a horseless carriage. Admission is free with a Player’s Club card, $5 without.

Ride a Water Taxi

The family-owned River Passage Water Taxi docks along and transports you to all nine hotels and casinos located on the Laughlin Riverwalk. This $5 voyage on the Colorado River is operated by a licensed captain of the United States Coast Guard. If you want to cross the river to Arizona, there is a different operator providing free boat rides between the Riverside Casino and the Bullhead City dock.

Traverse the Laughlin Riverwalk

Located adjacent to the Laughlin Strip, on the Nevada side of the Colorado River, the Laughlin Riverwalk invites visitors on a leisurely stroll along a paved, mile-long walking path with views of the river, Bullhead City and the Mojave Desert. You can pop in and out of resorts, snap photos, see wildlife and enjoy the sunny weather. You may even encounter a festival or event. In addition to the resorts on the route, the path connects to Fisherman’s Access Park, the Laughlin Bridge to Arizona and the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails.

Hike the trails

With nine miles of established, accessible trails, including three developed trailheads and a pedestrian overpass, Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails, just north of the Laughlin Strip, was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2012. Ranging from easy to moderate, the trails are open to pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians alike. The area has restrooms, open park areas, picnic sites, fishing piers, direct access to the Colorado River and beautiful views of the historic Davis Dam, which has stretched across the Nevada-Arizona border since 1951.

Davis Dam

You’ve probably visited the Hoover Dam, but the Davis Dam deserves some love too. The dam, which opened in 1951, helps re-regulate Hoover Dam (70 miles upstream) and delivers water to México. It is also a spillway and powerplant, and Lake Mojave–popular for watersports, boating, camping and fishing–wouldn’t be here without it. Located eight miles north of downtown Laughlin, the dam has parking nearby so you can walk or ride a bike across it.

Make a splash at Big Bend of the Colorado

Just downstream of Davis Dam, Big Bend of the Colorado River is a state recreation area and an ideal destination for outdoor recreation. With two miles of sandy shoreline, the area is popular for camping, boating, fishing, swimming and hiking. Bird watching is big here too with waterfowl and shorebirds like mallards, herons and geese, as well as plenty of wildlife. The park entrance fee starts at $10 per vehicle.

Explore the Laughlin Labyrinths

Created on a whim by Laughlin local Wes Dufak in 2011, the Laughlin Labyrinths are nine amazing mazes made from rocks. Tucked behind the Laughlin Strip and hidden from the road, they are located about a mile off the shoulder of Thomas Edison Drive. The labyrinths are circular paths, ranging from 24 feet to more than 60 feet in diameter, meant to be navigated by foot as a way to relax and meditate. Navigating labyrinths like these is historically found to help you find your center and create calmness. Best of all for budget-friendly travelers, it won’t cost a thing.

See pictographs at Grapevine Canyon

Also known as Christmas Tree Pass, Grapevine Canyon is located on Spirit Mountain–part of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monumentabout 15 minutes from downtown Laughlin. The family and pet-friendly trail contains more than 700 mysterious American Indian petroglyphs, created between 1100 and 1900 AD. You can hike the 3.3-mile Grapevine Canyon trail and climb around in the canyon to explore this blast from the past, which is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.

Get a history lesson at the Colorado River Museum

If you visit between October and May and you like museums, head across the bridge to the Colorado River Museum, located in the community park in Bullhead City. Here, you’ll learn about the area’s American Indian and mining history, early pioneers, and former railway. Check out a red, one-room schoolhouse, built in 1947, and see the original headframe for a former gold mine, donated to the museum in 2013. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated.

  • Aleza Freeman

    Aleza Freeman is a Las Vegas native and award-winning journalist with two decades of experience writing and editing lifestyle, travel, entertainment, and human interest stories in Nevada. Her work has appeared in AARP magazine, Haute Living and Nevada Magazine.

CATEGORIES: COMMUNITY | THINGS TO DO

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