The Top Things to Do in Lake Las Vegas

Lake Las Vegas

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

A 320-acre manmade lake in the middle of some of the most unforgiving desert landscape in the country, filled with water diverted from another manmade lake, surrounded by mansions, and traversed by a replica Ponte Vecchio bridge? Sounds totally sensible to us.

Lake Las Vegas, the lake built in the early 1990s and now a resort area that’s only 25 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, does feel like it’s always been there. Originally conceptualized by a would-be developer in the late 1960s, it was acquired by Transcontinental Properties in 1990 and filled with three billion gallons of water diverted from Lake Mead. An 18-story earthen dam holds the reservoir, which is built on top of the Las Vegas Wash, a 12-mile channel that feeds most of the Vegas Valley’s excess water into Lake Mead.

The resort area has a bit of a checkered financial past. It filed for bankruptcy in 2008 but emerged in 2010 with a plan to complete some unfinished infrastructure projects, and its core hotels have rebranded several times. Now that many of the big-ticket items have been completed, the hotels have been renovated, and the golf courses and aqua park are going strong, Lake Las Vegas feels like as natural an oasis as you’ll get in these parts.

With its lakeside dining, galleries, and shopping areas; yachting, boating, and kayaking; and verdant golf resorts overlooking jaw-dropping mansions, it’s one of the most transporting places in Southern Nevada. It’s so easy to reach from the Strip that you could stay in one of its two resorts—the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa or the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa—and only come to the Strip for an evening out.

Here’s what to do, see, and where to eat in Lake Las Vegas.

01 of 07

Jump on a floating trampoline

Lake Las Vegas Aqua Park

Courtesy of Lake Las Vegas Water Sports

15 Costa Di Lago Ste, Henderson, NV 89011, USA
Phone +1 702-600-9860

When the temperatures rise Lake Las Vegas erects its floating obstacle course—a first of its kind floating water park. You can pay for a 45-or 90-min session and shimmy up the giant inflatable monkey bars, zip down its slides, jump on floating trampolines, and run across its floating pathways to the next toy in the Aqua Park. There’s something a little wacky about jumping around on the equivalent of a massive floating bouncy house in view of the sophisticated Italianate village, but that’s part of its charm. You’ll want to book online in advance and sign the digital waiver to save yourself a wait. Then bounce and slide to your heart’s content.

02 of 07

Lace up your hiking boots

Clark County Wetlands Park And Frenchman Mountain
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Lake Las Vegas may be a genteel, Tuscan-feeling oasis, but it’s still smack in the middle of the Nevada desert, with all its mountains, trails, and wildlife surrounding it. Henderson, the city in which Lake Las Vegas technically sits, has over 184 miles of trails, and the biggest trail system in Nevada. You can find a map of all the trails and walk to some of the trailheads right from the resort area. There’s a 27-mile paved loop that circles the resort; a shorter Village Loop, and a trailhead to Henderson’s trail system. You’re only 18 minutes east of another aquatic paradise—the Clark County Wetlands Park, the 3,000-acre wetlands that have 210 acres of nature preserve, and wildlife like desert tortoises. If you’re up for a quick car ride, you might want to head there for the day. Drive another 20 minutes east and you’ll reach Lake Mead and all its hiking adventures, including the Historic Railroad Trail, a 7.5-mile walk through the old railroad tunnels that used to serve this area.

03 of 07

Hit the links

Reflection Bay

Courtesy of Reflection Bay Golf Course

75 Montelago Blvd, Henderson, NV 89011, USA
Phone +1 702-740-4653

There are two golf courses in Lake Los Vegas—both Jack Nicklaus-designed. SouthShore Country Club is the first private Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in the state and stretches across the top of the area’s ridges all the way down to the shore. It has steep membership rates and is open only to members and their guests, so if you want to golf Lake Las Vegas on your vacation, head to Reflection Bay. The course, which hosted the Wendy’s 3Tour Challenge from 1998 to 2007, has been played by Fred Couples, John Daly, and Phil Mickelson, among other golf legends. Most of the people who play here come for the views: 360 degrees of water and mountains. After you’re done with your round, head to the clubhouse and golf shop, which has its own white sand beach and even holds a concert series on its floating stage.

04 of 07

Dine lakeside

Medici Cafe and Terrace

Courtesy of Medici Cafe and Terrace

A sweet little Tuscan-style village wraps around part of Lake Las Vegas, and you can dine right on the water at places like Luna Rossa Ristorante, with its elevated patio, homemade pastas and Mediterranean grilled fish, or on the patio at the French-inflected Mimi & Coco Bistro. (The latter is particularly pretty at night; you can dine on traditional French bistro specialties under bistro lights right on the water.) The resort restaurants here are some of the Las Vegas area’s nicest surprises. Medici Café & Terrace, in Hilton Lake Las Vegas, sits over an elaborate Florentine Garden. And don’t miss Westin’s Marssa Steak & Sushi (Japanese) and Rick’s Café (Mediterranean) at the Westin. After dinner or during your wanderings around the village, hit up BellaLinda Gelateria Italiana for Sicilian pistachio, Stracciatella, as well as crepes, affogato, and pastries.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Walk the "Ponte Vecchio"

Ravella At Lake Las Vegas Grand Opening
Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Ponte Vecchio, Henderson, NV 89011, USA

Two resorts officially anchor Lake Las Vegas: the Mediterranean-style Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, and the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, designed to resemble a Moorish palace. Both have gone through several iterations; for instance, at the Hilton, which was once a Ritz-Carlton, a replica Ponte Vecchio bridge stretches over part of the lake. It used to hold the RC club level rooms (and rumor had it that you could actually stick a fishing pole out your guestroom window and catch a carp), but now holds a lovely wedding chapel. It’s often booked, but you can ask to see the Capella di Amore that now sits in the lake’s answer to the famous Florentine bridge. Think Tuscany—with tiled floors, wooden pews, and grand columns. The Westin spans 21 acres, also sits right on the lake, and has a great, two-level pool and an Aveda spa.

06 of 07

Skate on neon ice

If walking an ersatz Ponte Vecchio or shooting yourself out of a manmade lake in a Tuscan village isn’t surreal enough for you, you might try ice skating on a floating rink. Each winter, beginning in December, the resort community launches its “Neon Ice,” a 3,000 square foot synthetic ice rink that bobs right on the lake. You can rent ice skates, hang out around the fire pits, and play winter games all through the winter months—usually until mid-February.

07 of 07

Take out the yacht

Lake Las Vegas
LTuray / Getty Images

Lake Las Vegas being a giant, purpose-built oasis, naturally there are yachts you can rent. You can also rent an electric Duffy boat (you’ll feel very European tooling around the lake under your canopied, easy-to-steer boat). We suggest buying a picnic and some wine at the local Seasons grocery and making an evening of it. If you’re feeling more adventurous, take out a standup paddle board or a kayak. You can even shoot yourself out of Lake Las Vegas on a flyboard, which is attached to a jet ski with a 55-foot hose and propels you right into the air. You can’t do that on the Strip (yet). You can book all of these things centrally, at Lake Las Vegas Watersports, which is located within walking distance of the resorts.

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The Top Things to Do in Lake Las Vegas