Have you ever arrived somewhere and been totally surprised, in a good way, by the destination? This was Laughlin, Nevada for us!
We’ve been to Las Vegas more times than we care to admit. We’ve explored Boulder City, we’ve been to the Grand Canyon but never ventured south to Laughlin. We just had no idea what was there.
Now that we’ve been I can say without hesitation that Laughlin has it going on. It has the very best of what we love about the southwest all packed into once place.
A fun city, unique culture, night life, raging river, vast desert, Lake Mohave, and hiking trails. There are so many things to do in Laughlin that you’ll wonder why you only planned a long weekend there.
15 Fun Things to Do in Laughlin, Nevada
1. Learn About Don Laughlin
Prior to our visit, we did not know that the city of Laughlin was named for a person. It turns out that Don Laughlin even still lives in a massive penthouse suite on the top of the Riverside Casino.
Learning his story and how he founded the city of Laughlin that we know today was both interesting and fascinating. Even cooler is that it is not unheard of to run into him when you’re visiting his hotel, casino and restaurants.
2. Visit the Car Museum
Also related to Don Laughlin and located just in front of the Riverside Resort is a car museum that contains some beautiful classic car models. 80 to be exact.
The museum is open 7 days a week and offers free admission to anyone that holds a Players Club Card for the Riverside Casino. If you do not, the ticket is $2.00 to enter.
3. Take a UTV Adventure to Lake Mohave
Go on a private desert escapade that you won’t soon forget with Oui Experience. This company is owned by Jake and Ani Benz, a couple that both run and own the business. They live to give you the time of your life in the desert and mountains around Laughlin, Nevada.
Our adventured started with pickup from the lobby of our hotel. We were then whisked away into the desert and the offices of Oui Experience. Here, we were briefed, geared up and introduced to our UTV for the day.
Our adventure took us through sandy desert trails leading up and into the mountains. Once on top, we parked the UTV’s and hiked to a couple different lookouts.
The views below set the stunning Lake Mohave against the start contrast of the Black Mountains.
Back in the UTV, we began making our way down towards the shores of Lake Mohave, where we stopped to enjoy a relaxed lunch on the beach.
Oui Experience catered the lunch that included sandwiches, cheese plates, fresh fruit, chips, vegetables and cold beverages. While whipping around in a UTV is a good time, I enjoyed the exclusiveness of having the shores of the lake to ourselves.
We weren’t rushed and were able to enjoy a beautiful day while we took in the scenery around us.
Packing up, we headed back over the mountains and cruised around in the desert for a while before heading back to Oui Experience headquarters. This is one of the most epic things to do in Laughlin, Nevada, hands down.
4. Hike Grapevine Canyon
Located just outside of Laughlin is the well-known Grapevine Canyon. This area features a 3.3 mile out and back trail that exposes you to the natural beauty of the area and some fascinating history.
The hike starts with a ¼ mile walk in some moderately deep sand along a dry riverbed. There are numerous paths, so we followed the ones that were easiest. Walking in sand is a workout!
This leads to the entrance of the canyon, where you can find Native American Petroglyphs that date back 1000 years. They start at eye level and then continue up and into the boulders. It is worth taking a detour both to the left and see the many different designs.
Returning to the trail, you want to stay to the left in the canyon and then follow it all the way to the top. You won’t see any markers, but the trail is well trodden.
At the top, you’ll see some epic views over the Colorado River Valley and have a chance to see 3 seasonal waterfalls.
If you’re there in the right season you can utilize a set of natural bathtubs that are located past the 3rd waterfall, so be sure to bring your swimsuit if you have time to relax.
5. Learn About and See Petroglyphs
The most popular place to see Petroglyphs near Laughlin, Nevada is at Grapevine Canyon. This is because these are considered to be accessible to more people, but this doesn’t make them less significant.
This particular cluster of petroglyphs was listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places in December 1984, so they are well worth your time to hike out to them.
These glyphs were created sometime between 1100 and 1900 AD and the mapping of around 250 glyph panels was done in 2009.
Despite this, the meaning of the glyphs and their creators remain unknown. The area was inhabited by the Mohave, so many theories point in their direction.
The site at Grapevine Canyon is extensive, with petroglyphs being found throughout the canyon. That said, more than 700 petroglyphs and rock shelters can be found at the entrance to the canyon.
6. Take a Sunset Dinner Cruise
Some of the best things to do in Laughlin involve the Colorado River and the Celebration Riverboat Sunset Cruise is no exception to this.
After a full day of adventuring, we could think of no better way to kick back and take in the stunning views of the Laughlin skyline.
The dinner cruise leaves from the dock near the Aquarius Hotel and spends two hours sailing up and down the Laughlin strip. Dinner is served first, along with drinks, while the sun sets and the neon lights come to life.
Following dinner, we were treated to live music on top of the traditional styled riverboat. The viewing platforms on the top deck are unobstructed and the perfect spot for watching the lights go by.
7. Jet Boat on the Colorado River
The Colorado River is the life blood of Laughlin. Both locals and visitors alike spend their days playing in the crystal clear waters. For us, one of the highlights was taking a Jet Boat Tour to Lake Havasu City.
Leaving from the Laughlin Strip, this 58-mile trip takes you through the stunning Topock Gorge, a place only accessible by boat. It is here that you can see the iconic bright emerald waters against rust colored stone. It’s a scene straight out of a magazine.
Ultimately, you end right at the base of the famed London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. This gives you a perspective of the bridge from the water that you cannot get otherwise.
We found the tour to be quite good, with a good combination of cruising, narration and stopping to view the natural areas around us. We even saw a variety of birds on our trip too.
8. See the London Bridge
In 1968, Robert P. McCullough Sr. purchased the London Bridge, an architectural wonder that spanned the River Thames in London and had the bridge relocated to what would become Lake Havasu City on the Colorado River.
You read that right, there wasn’t actually a city at the time he made the purchase. Instead, he had a vision that if he bought this bridge, relocated it and then reconstructed it, while building a city around it, that tourists would come from all over to see the iconic structure.
He wasn’t wrong, today it is the second most visited attraction in Arizona, second only to the Grand Canyon. To complete his vision, he dredged a channel to span the bridge across and created an island on the Colorado River.
The city grew up around it and the original resort, the Nautical Beachfront Resort, he opened on the island still exists today. It’s the only waterfront property that exists in Arizona.
9. Take a Day Trip to Lake Havasu City
Besides admiring the London Bridge, Lake Havasu City offers plenty of things to do and see to visitors, so it’s worth sticking around and spending some days if you have the time.
It’s a water sports mecca and people come from all over to play on jet skis, kayak, boat and rent pontoons to relax on the river.
There is also plenty of shopping, including plenty of local artisan shops and a thriving food scene. It’s also a popular destination for golfers and hikers.
On our next visit to Laughlin, we’ll be planning a few days back in Lake Havasu City too.
10. See the Burros in Oatman, Arizona
Located 30 miles southeast of Laughlin is the historic town of Oatman, Arizona. Deep rooted into the iconic Route 66, this little town will transport you straight into a scene from an old western movie.
Established in 1904 as a gold mining town, the village today is known for its unique local residents, a herd of burros.
These burros are the direct descendants of the burros that were used in Oatman to haul gold from the mines. They were abandoned in the village when the mines dried up and in turn thrived.
When you visit, you not only get to enjoy the company of burros, but the westernesque vibe that the town exudes. Including gun slinging cowboys, a staged shoot out, saloons and plenty of stories.
11. Conquer the Jailbreak Room in Oatman
Besides all the cool reasons you’d want to stop in Oatman to begin with, the most fun you can have during you visit is in the Jailbreak Room!
Custom designed like a western era jailhouse; you have to clear a series of challenges to find the key that will allow you into the next room.
While you do that, you need to collect the gold bags. Finding the key for the door in each room is made possible by solving puzzles and reading clues to help you along the way.
David and I laughed our way through the entire jail house in pursuit of the keys and gold.
12. Attend a Concert at the Laughlin Event Center
One thing that Laughlin does super well is entertainment and their answer to a concert venue is no exception. The 21,000 person event center offers a beautiful outdoor venue offering floor seating, stadium seating, Dream Suites and VIP areas.
When we were in town, we attended a KISS concert, seated in one of the dream suites, and it was one of the best concerts we have ever been to.
If you’re in town and there’s a concert scheduled, we definitely recommend that you take some time to attend a show. The venue is also smack dab in the center of Laughlin, meaning it is within walking distance from most of the hotels on the strip.
13. Visit the Davis Dam
Located just outside of Laughlin, Nevada is the Davis Dam. While the dam isn’t as spectacular as the famed Hoover Dam to the North, this little dam is worth seeing.
The construction of it is not only interesting, but you can get some clear views of it from the road.
At the entrance, there is also a nice park with picnic tables and some groomed walking trails. It’s a good place to go for a picnic and then to spend an hour or so walking the area.
14. Hike the Heritage Trails
Located on the edge of town is a series of trails that allow you to explore along the Colorado River. It is here that you can access the Pyramid Canyon Day Use Area and Heritage Trails in Laughlin.
The hike consists of a 9 mile trail system through the desert and along the Colorado River with the Davis Dam as a backdrop.
It’s a great way to get some exercise and see the various types of flora and fauna that reside in the desert that surrounds the city.
15. Enjoy the Colorado River
Laughlin is a city that thrives on its close connection with the mighty Colorado River. Admittedly, this is not something I knew about before my visit to the city. The river is the heart of the city and what makes it so unique.
Not to mention, the Colorado River is crystal clear and ice cold despite it flowing through red rock canyons and the middle of an arid desert before it arrives in Laughlin. This makes is the perfect playground for watersports.
During a visit to Laughlin, be sure to make a point to get out on the river. I’ve already mentioned some cruising options, but be sure to hop in a kayak, rent a jet ski or go on a floating trip. It’s a great way to cool off and you’ll have fun too.
Laughlin, Nevada Travel Tips
Best Places to Eat in Laughlin
Yummy eats at Brew Brothers
There is no shortage of food options in Laughlin. From chains, to diners, to buffets and upscale restaurants, your preference can be accommodated.
That said, we ate at a variety of places on our trip and can recommend the following:
Windows on the River Buffet: Located in the Aquarius ResortBumbleberry Flats: Located in the Pioneer HotelShugrue’s Restaurant & Brewery: Located in Lake Havasu CityBrew Brothers: Located in the Tropicana HotelFresh Market Square Buffet: Located at Harrah’s Resort
Getting to Laughlin, Nevada
Despite its close proximity to Las Vegas, not as many people make the trip down to Laughlin, Nevada. I think this is a shame!
Vegas is Vegas, but Laughlin, built along the sparkling Colorado River, is a special place. It’s worth the trip down for a long weekend at the very least.
That said, it is possible to access Laughlin in a couple of ways. The most accessible way is by flying into Las Vegas, renting a car and then road tripping the 97 miles to Laughlin. The drive takes around 1.5 hours and passes through some mountainous desert areas.
If you don’t feel up for a road trip or are unable to drive, there is a shuttle service operated by Tri State Shuttle that picks up at the Las Vegas International Airport and runs to Bullhead City, just across the river from Laughlin. You can also take a bus.
It is also possible to fly directly into Bullhead City. While there are no flights into the city offered by major airlines, it is possible to fly on charter flights.
These charter flights are scheduled by both the Harrah and Riverside properties from select cities in the US, namely the Midwest.
These flights are usually operated by Sun Country or similar carrier and offer direct flights from smaller markets like Duluth or International Falls in Minnesota to Bullhead City.
These flights are offered as package deals and include accommodation at the Riverside Hotel & Casino and Harrah’s Resort.
Where to Stay in Laughlin
Laughlin is pretty small when you compare it to Las Vegas but even knowing that, everything is set up like the strip in one long row along the Colorado River.
The city is very walkable, either on the roadside or along the beautiful Riverwalk that connects the casinos.
If you prefer not to walk, you have the option of using taxis or river taxis, that will stop at various resorts along the strip. The river taxis operate on a fixed price scheme depending on where you’re going.
I tell you all this because it takes the need to be in the exact right location from the table. Laughlin is accessible, so as long as you are on the strip, you’re going to be in a good position for moving around the city.
The only exception to this would be Harrah’s Resort, which is located away from the other hotels on the strip. So, you really need a car if you want to stay out there.
During our visit, we stayed at the Aquarius Resort & Casino and really enjoyed it. They have a large casino on the main floor and several wings with hotel rooms.
The property has multiple food options and is located in a great place on the strip to access day tours from the central pier.
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We partnered with Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to bring you this story. All opinions, photos, stories and recommendations are 100% our own. As always.
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Article by Lina Stock
Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA