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Located in Henderson, Nevada, Lake Las Vegas is a artificial lake approximately 20 miles east of The Strip. We drove out there one day and it was nothing like we expected.
While we still had the rental car, I wanted to do something away from the noisy, busy Las Vegas area. Something with more nature and relaxation, but maybe also with some shops and restaurants. After visiting the Lake Las Vegas website and seeing the pictures there, I was excited to go. I didn’t research it further than that, because it was only 30 minutes away.
As we drove in, things looked nice enough. It looked like a wealthy planned community. A lot of the structures looked new or were still under construction. There were some intriguing buildings, a golf course and lots of pretty landscaping.
We looked for a place to park and found a casino. As we drove up I commented that it looked closed (only a single truck parked out front and nobody outside). There was a large parking structure next to it, so we parked there and walked to the casino.
Yep, closed and locked with chains on the front doors. According to Wikipedia, the casino actually opened and closed twice since its inception in 2003. Surprisingly it was the only attempt at a casino at Lake Las Vegas; there is no gambling on -site. Now the casino building is supposedly open, but only as an event center connected to the Hilton next door.
Confused, we walked back to the parking structure and found an entrance to another building. We walked down a long, musty hallway and it was dead quiet.
Where the heck were we, and where were all the people?
As we walked further, we discovered the walkway led to the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa. This property has also been renamed twice. It was originally the Ritz Carlton and then the Ravella. Are you seeing a theme here?
Even though we initially saw a bunch of elegant, empty rooms, to our relief the hotel was open and we had not stepped into The Shining. It was still pretty empty though.
After walking through the hotel’s mostly deserted courtyard, we saw some shops next to the lake. All the buildings were empty or closed with the exception of a few restaurants, which had only a handful of customers. There is also a small grocery store called Seasons Market which appeared very pricey, but has a captive audience. Where else are you going to go?
The lake itself is over 300 acres. It was originally the idea of J. Carlton Adair, an actor, to create the lake and name it Lake Adair. When he went bankrupt the project was acquired by someone else, and then a corporation, and then a joint venture. Billions of dollars have gone into developing this area so far, and is far from complete.
The resort website talked about water activities. Indeed, there is a small dock with various watercraft for rent. But not a single person was on the water, and it was a warm sunny afternoon.
I brought swimsuits and towels with us just in case, but the place was just a losing combination of creepy and depressing, so renting a boat or something lost its appeal.
There are supposedly events going on with boat cruises, plays and parades, but nothing was evident the day we visited.
Having lived in a small, isolated Arizona town during the last recession, the empty storefronts, partially built houses and deceptive advertising encouraging visitors was all too familiar for us.
It is entirely possible that if investors continue to throw money at this situation, that it may turn around. Until then there is expensive housing, a very quiet atmosphere and not much going on. It is pretty, though. Take a look: