Between Hoover Dam and Kingman, a detour heads west to the Nevada side of the Colorado River to Laughlin, a place that epitomizes the anything-goes character of Nevada gaming. Laughlin, a booming gambling resort that in many ways seems even more mirage-like than Las Vegas, may lack glitz and pizzazz but makes up for it with cheaper rooms ($35 is not uncommon) and the almost unheard-of attraction of river views from the casino floors.

The history of Laughlin—or rather, the lack of it—is impressive even by Nevada standards. Starting with a rundown bait shop he bought in the mid-1960s, Minnesota-born entrepreneur Don Laughlin envisioned the fantasyland you see today, opening his Riverside Resort Hotel (702/298-2535 or 800/227-3849, $55 and up), which is still a local favorite, in the late 1970s and drawing visitors from all over Arizona and Southern California. Laughlin’s independent mini empire was eclipsed in the 1980s by the big shots and big towers with more than 1,000 rooms. First Harrah’s came, then Circus Circus opened the steamboat-shaped Colorado Belle, then came the more than 1,900-room palace now known as the Aquarius (702/298-5111). Fortunes have ebbed and flowed significantly in recent years, but Laughlin is still well worth a look or an overnight stay.

For further information, contact the Laughlin Nevada Chamber of Commerce (702/298-2214).