This Stairwell Smells Like Weed (48 Hours in Laughlin, Part 1)

I recently spent a couple days in Laughlin, Nevada, and I have a LOT of pictures to share. So many that I can’t do it in one post! (You can find Part 2 here.)

Laughlin is a little casino resort town in the very southern tip of Nevada, on the Colorado river. Only 8,000 people live there, but thanks to the casinos, it has a nice little skyline.


I took this photo from the other side of the river, in Bullhead City, Arizona, where another 40,000 people live. Add in other nearby towns, like Fort Mojave and Mojave Valley, AZ, and Needles, CA, and the entire area is home to about 100,000 folks.

I had never been to Laughlin before, and knew absolutely nothing about it, so when my good friend and frequent exercise buddy Jeff (featured in this post, this post, and this post, among others) won 2 free nights at a hotel there and offered them to me, I said “sure, why the hell not?”

My free stay was at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort & Casino, which is the oldest hotel on the strip, and the most famous.


Don Laughlin is single-handedly responsible for turning Laughlin into what it is today. He owned a small casino in Las Vegas in the ’60s, and bought a run-down, 8-room motel in a small abandoned town. The area needed to be incorporated in order for Laughlin to receive mail there, and while Laughlin suggested the names ‘Riverside’ or ‘Casino’, the post office named the town after him. He grew his 8-room motel into a gaming and hotel destination, and within a few years, competitors joined in. Now there’s nine resorts along the Laughlin strip, with over 10,000 hotel rooms.

Laughlin has seen better days. Its peak was in the 90s, when 5 million would visit every year. Now it’s less than half of that, thanks to increased competition and airlines ending their service into the small Laughlin airport. It seemed especially dead when I was there, but this is also the off-season. I wandered through a bunch of the hotels, and many had restaurants that were closed until Christmas. There’s a water taxi service that connects all the resorts, but that was closed, too.

I requested a room as high as possible, and got one on the highest floor – the 26th. They said had my room had a ‘mountain view’, which is true, but it also had a view of the enormous RV park across the street. (Apparently Laughlin is still one of the top five RV destinations in the US.)


Of course gambling is the top draw in Laughlin, and I gave myself an $80 gambling budget for the slot machines. Guess how much I lost? $80.

Even though I didn’t win big, I spent some time wandering the casinos, because it’s good people watching, and I like seeing big, flashy hotel design, even though nothing in Laughlin has been updated for about 25 years. There’s a sidewalk along the river that connects all of the hotels, so it’s easy to get from one to another.

I did fine with my food choices, although I was lazy about photographing meals, mostly because I didn’t eat anything terribly excited or exceptionally delicious. I survived a big buffet, by sticking to the salad bar and a few other healthy items. I brought healthy snacks with me, and that helped curb impulse buying. I have exactly two food photos. One is road trip snacks – Laughlin is about 4.5 hours from Los Angeles, and while driving I munched on beef jerky, roasted edemame, and Diet Dr. Pepper (for caffeine)…


The other photo is of a late-night snack. I was down in the casino, and very hungry, and I walked past the Cinnabon, the Pizza Hut Express, and the gift shop filled with candy, and found the cafe that sold fruit and to-go cups of veggies. Well done, me!


The Riverside has a Classic Car Showroom, which, if you’re an automobile fanatic, must be like Nirvana.


I’m not a huge car guy, but it’s a fun thing to see. My favorite was the restored Watkins Wagon from around the turn of the century. It’s a horse-drawn wagon that would go from town to town, selling spices, medicine, and salves.


And you can be sure that I didn’t miss an opportunity, while staying in a 26-story hotel, to climb the stairs! I had a great workout in the stairwell – just like I did the last time I went to Las Vegas.


I started my climbs on the 4th floor – the first floor of hotel rooms (it can be hard to find stairs on the casino, restaurant, and meeting room floors). From there, it was 22 floors to the top floor – although there’s no 13th floor, so it’s actually 21.


The tower has two stairwells, and at first I alternated between them, climbing up both. But then, mid-workout, some other hotel guests used one of the stairwells to get high, and the top eight floors reeked of pot, so I abandoned that stairwell and just used the other one.

The Riverside Resort & Casino stairwell looks like every other stairwell, meaning there’s not much to look at. I took this picture after my second climb.


I wasn’t super diligent about timing myself, but I noticed that I was averaging between 3:15 and 3:30 for these 21-story climbs, which I was doing at an aggressive pace. So I made my sixth climb a sprint, with the goal of finishing under 3:10, the exact duration of one of my new favorite workout songs, Andy Grammer’s “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah).” That way, if I finished before the song was over, I knew I reached my goal!

About a third of the way up, I was kicking myself for choosing a sprint after so many other climbs, but I pushed myself and finished… with 18 seconds of song to spare! WOO-HOO!

I did two more climbs after that, as a cool-down. That’s eight climbs total. 170 stories. 2,740 steps. And all in 49 minutes.


I have more adventures to share in Part 2 – specifically, a bunch of one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences in the Laughlin area – so check it out right now!


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2 Responses to This Stairwell Smells Like Weed (48 Hours in Laughlin, Part 1)

  1. Sugar Lee says:

    Love the song! Any other suggestions?
    Keep climbing it off, David. 😉

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