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Destination spotlight: Lake Las Vegas

Lake Las Vegas is more than the sum of its name. Not simply Vegas on a shore, it’s instead a luxury desert resort designed for those who want good value and proximity to but not immersion in the intoxicating chaos of Sin City.

People looking for the nonstop 24-hour action of Las Vegas proper will be disappointed by the relaxed atmosphere of Lake Las Vegas. Showgirl sightings are rare, and though the casino stays open 24 hours, most nights it’s more of a sleepy town than a city that never sleeps.

However, for others, Lake Las Vegas is an ideal fit. It is popular with families, a serious wedding destination, and close enough to the Strip for it to be an easy night out, but far enough away that the night sky is full of stars rather than neon afterglow.

Where to stay

Three resorts form the core of Lake Las Vegas: the Ritz-Carlton, Montelago Village Resort, and Loews. All offer swimming pools, access to award-winning golf courses, kids’ programs, and luxury amenities. In short, there’s more luxury for the money than hotels on the Strip.

The Ritz-Carlton and Montelago Village Resort are part of the pedestrian shopping and dining area called Montelago Village. The Ritz offers luxury, often at a fraction of the price of comparable accommodations on the Strip. For instance, on a popular weekend in January, the rate at the Wynn is $850 per night, while at the Ritz it is $510; and on a weeknight in late January, the Wynn costs $399 per night, while the Ritz costs $329 per night. It has its own spa on the property, and during the summer it runs a kids’ club. At the Montelago Village Resort, guests stay in luxury one- to three-bedroom condos, with rates from $129 per night. The kitchen and added common space appeal to groups, families, and visitors looking for space to relax.

Less than a mile down the coast is the new Loews Lake Las Vegas, a former Hyatt that was rebranded in December. Like the Ritz, Loews has its own spa. It also has kayaks for guests who want to explore the lake. To celebrate its grand opening, Loews is offering introductory rates of $199 per night through April 2007.

Things to do

The Strip and downtown Las Vegas are an easy 25-minute drive away, but there are also things to do in and around Lake Las Vegas

The Casino Montelago sits atop the hill of Montelago Village, but most of the real action takes place along the lake. In the summer, free concerts attract crowds to the shoreline on Friday and Saturday nights, while the Stars on the Lake series brings bigger-name acts to a floating stage. Movies al Fresco screen on Thursdays during the warmer months, and other events such as wine walks, arts festivals, and opera and ballet performances keep the waterfront lively.

Activities extend beyond the water’s edge onto the lake itself. With a few exceptions, only nonmotorized boats are allowed on Lake Las Vegas, making it an ideal spot for water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing, paddleboating, and fly-fishing. There are also gondola rides complete with singing gondoliers and Champagne.

The Mediterranean-inspired Montelago Village is the shopping and dining center of Lake Las Vegas. Though the specialty shops and restaurants tend towards the upscale, there’s enough variety to suit different tastes and budgets. Clothing boutiques and art galleries share the street with toy and kite stores, and chic restaurants sit in between candy shops, delis, and gelaterias.

Golf is another major draw. Two award-winning golf courses lure enthusiasts from all over. The Nicklaus-designed Reflection Bay Golf Club and the Weiskopf-designed Falls Golf Club are both open to the public. All three resorts are associated with the golf courses, and the Ritz and Montelago Village Resort both have golf packages as well.

Perhaps it’s being surrounded by the red and orange sandstone mountains, but something about Lake Las Vegas inspires a thirst for the outdoors. The resort’s location makes it an ideal jumping-off point for day trips to nearby attractions such as Lake Mead, the Valley of Fire, and Hoover Dam.

How to get there

Lake Las Vegas is located in Henderson, 17 miles from the Strip. Though it’s possible to get by with shuttle or taxi service, a rental car is the most economical and convenient option for most visitors. With a car, it’s easy to head to the Strip (where parking is generally free) for the day or evening, to take day trips to the natural and man-made desert sights, and to get between the hotel and the airport.

Lake Las Vegas is a different sort of Sin City experience, one that will satisfy those looking for laid-back luxury and good value.

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