sleepy Lake Las Vegas, there's no waiting for chairs
at the Hilton's lagoon, which boasts a white sand
beach and waterfall.
Nev. ó They deal in the faux and fantastical on the
frenetic Las Vegas Strip, where reality exists merely in
air quotes, where you can stumble and sway from the
"Empire State Building" to the "Eiffel
Tower" and over to the "Egyptian Pyramids"
while your bank account dwindles and your blood-alcohol
level rises, where you will desperately need a vacation
after surviving this vacation.
such a respite lies 20 miles east, in an altogether
different, more chill faux environment, a world away from
the Stripís bustle and hustle.
called Lake Las Vegas, not to be confused with nearby Lake
Mead of Hoover Dam fame. This is "Lake" Las
Vegas, as in a man-made 320-acre body of water ringed by a
3,600-acre swath of luxury hotels, condos, retail
shopping, restaurants, golf course and marina carved into
the red-brown foothills. A decade old, it was built to
resemble a tranquil, sprawling Old World Italian villa,
from its earth-toned Mediterranean architecture to its
lovely knockoff of Florenceís famed Ponte Vecchio Bridge
that spans the water.
you will find a paradisiacal hush, a meticulously
well-manicured site to regain your equanimity. Here, you
can dig your toes into a gleaming white sand
"beach" wrapping around a sparkling
"lagoon" fed by a roaring "waterfall."
Here, you can rent a stand-up paddle Ė or, if thatís
too taxing, a sit-down pedal boat Ė and let the gentle
current lower your pulse and increase your serotonin
here, you also will find an absence of people. An alarming
absence, a "Twilight Zone"-esque absence, if you
happen to arrive on a weekday or when the corporate
retreats that are the lifeblood of the place have
away from it all is one thing, but roaming the cavernous
hallways of the 349-room Hilton and hardly seeing a soul,
walking through the nearly boarded-up MonteLago shopping
area, meant to evoke a Tuscan village but looking more
like Pompeii after the eruption, can feel a little eerie.
No one tees off at the developmentís closed Reflection
Bay Golf Course, no bets are placed at the boarded-up
Casino MonteLago, the shelves of the shuttered Casamar
Village Market are bare.
down to the Hiltonís Olympic-sized pool, where the
cabanas all bear "reserved" cards but nary a
party is raging, and you startle a couple in T-shirts,
shorts and flip-flops.
someone else does exist!" exclaims Alice Froelich to
husband Gabe, whose "Asbury Jukes" T-shirt
betrays him as a native New Yorker.
look around. She means you.
literally was sitting at the pool for three hours and saw
one lady with kids by the lagoon and one other man at the
pool," Alice adds. "Itís like weíve been
sucked up in another world."
whoís in the food and beverage supply business, comes to
Las Vegas four times a year and always stays off the Strip
and its attendant craziness. He said he likes the
tranquility of Lake Las Vegas, but admits being taken
aback by the notable absence of tourists.
he says, "somebodyís floating a lot of money hoping
somethingís going to happen here, know what I
mean?" he says. "Honestly, itís a great
facility. Iíd like to see it succeed. But, look around.
I donít know."
years after its splashy opening, and eight years after
tenor Andrea Bocelli performed a sold-out taped televised
concert for PBS on the marinaís floating stage, Lake Las
Vegas is struggling to stay afloat.
casino, owned by the Hilton, was shut down a year ago; a
golf course has gone dark for almost four years, and both
the developmentís anchor hotels (now the Hilton and
Westin) have gone through several corporate incarnations.
One started out as a Ritz-Carlton, then became the Ravella
and now is part of the massive Hilton hotel chain. The
Westin, a 493-room resort at the eastern end of Lake Las
Vegas, started life as a Hyatt, then became a Lowes. Even
more than the Hilton, itís counting on a strong
corporate-retreat showing, with 50,000 square feet of
master-planned community itself, managed by the Atalon
Group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008,
dug its way out by early 2011 and has been battling ever
since for its share of the tourist dollar.
are high that the casino and golf course will re-open now
that home prices in the development have rebounded and,
according to a Las Vegas Sun story, an investment firm
owned by Wall Street billionaire John Paulson has
purchased 1,100 acres of land to be sold to developers.
precarious economic concerns, of course, should not
dissuade travelers from making Lake Las Vegas their home
base while visiting the Las Vegas area.
spacious room at the Hilton can be had for $149 a night,
not counting a $19.37 occupancy tax and $22 resort fee.
Parking is free, dinner reservations at any of the four
white-table-cloth restaurants not necessary, and the
hotels even offer shuttle buses to the Strip should you
get the itch to gamble.
Stripís a close-enough commute," Gabe Froelich
says. "You donít have to put up with the crap here.
Itís annoying having to go through a casino to get to
all that smoke," Alice adds, "cigarettes
at Lake Las Vegas, you can exhale without fear of
ingesting known carcinogenics. Out at the lagoon, traveler
Martin Loyche, of Los Angeles, taps away on his laptop
like a man stuck on a deserted island. You approach
tentatively, apologetic for breaking his reverie. Turns
out, he welcomes the company.
know the feeling of you being in a tuxedo all dressed up
and you going to this big gala dinner, and youíre the
first one there, before anyone arrives, and you feel
somethingís off?" Loyche asks. "Itís like
that. Itís depressing. Ö I remember the first time I
ever heard about (Lake Las Vegas), years ago, they had
Bocelli concert. It was a big deal. I watched it on TV. I
was like, ĎI want to go there one day.í Iím a little
disappointed. But itís still better than the
relish the quiet, though. The next day, you spot another
rare set of faces by the pool. Itís Seattle tourists
Tyler Manuel, who works for Coast Guard search and rescue,
and Pauline Tetangco, who works in high tech.
were clued in that this would be quieter," Manuel
says, "a good way to extend our summer. Everythingís
close, the restaurants and little shops, the lake. No
for those of a certain mindset.
for retail merchants, restauranteurs and marina
noon-time stroll down one of MonteLago Villageís main
retail corridors, Via Brianza, is bracing. The bells in
the tower atop the shuttered casino chime every hour and
the sound reverberates off the empty store fronts and
shakes the leaves of the lone olive tree and the jasmine
vines hanging in tendrils off one facade.
of the 13 suites between the "Celebration Plaza"
fountain and the casino bear "For Lease" signs.
During more than an hour of al fresco dining at Via
Brianzaís anchor, an upscale Mexican restaurant named
Sonrisa Grill, the only other party to make an appearance
was a young couple bellying up to the bar to watch the
Giants playoff game on the flat-screen TV.
other open store on that stretch of the village is the
Turquoise Door, an art and jewelry store. Don Saunders,
co-owner with wife Karen, leaps to his feet and gently
tries to get you to purchase some valuable turquoise
accoutrements for your wife, and nods knowingly when you
asks how business is going.
an event-driven village," Saunders says. "They
have wine walks and they have entertainment (on the
floating stage) on Saturday nights, so it picks up a
little. We had a 400-person conference just leave
yesterday. It was active in the store."
concedes that times are tough, but has faith better days
have powerful spiritual energy in this store," he
says. "The Native Americans that we get our jewelry
from put a lot of powerful spiritual energy into their
jewelry. We believe Ė and you have to believe in this
life Ė that that helps us stay open."
Rogis, at Cathay Las Vegas, a leather bags and accessories
boutique a few alleys over, puts his faith in something
golf course will re-open again shortly across the lake
after four years, and thatís going to really help
us," he says. "I bet that the casino will open
again within six months to a year after they get that golf
course going again. Itíll fill up those rooms. Golf and
spa packages and (corporate) retreats. Thatís what works
ó or rather, who ó isnít working much these days is
Bali Kovary, who runs the kayak, stand-up paddle and pedal
boat business in the marina. With no one on the water,
Kovary has expanded his options. He now offers cross-fit
classes that include a paddle session.
trying to draw people out of the local gyms," he
says. "Weíre not counting on the tourists.
Definitely, weekends are better. Thatís what keeps us in
business. But once it gets below 90 degrees out(side), to
local people, thatís too cold."
to tourists such as Manuel and Tetangco, the couple in
their 30s from Seattle.
lake is great," Tetangco says. "We wanted to
take off work and extend the summer a little bit. Weíre
both not partial to the Strip. Maybe in our early 20s we
were, but weíve kind of outgrown it."
couple had a variety of options ó no waiting ó at
their disposal: dinner at Luna Rosa Fine Italian Cuisine
or Bernardís Bistro (French), a yacht rental, a two-seat
canoe rental, or a gondola ride followed by a gelato. Or
they could stay at the Hilton and stroll the lovely and
well-manicured Florentine Gardens, where the
crushed-granite paths to the fire pit are raked daily, and
maybe make a wish by throwing a coin off the faux Ponte
lot more than mere pennies have been dropped into the Lake
Las Vegas development. Gabe Froelich, the blunt New
Yorker, worries that on his next business trip to Las
Vegas, he might not have the serenity of Lake Las Vegas to
soothe his Strip-jangled nerves.
only they could just find a way to get people out here to
look at the place, see how beautiful it is, it might get
them off the Strip," he says. "I wouldnít mind
having it be a little more crowded."
A 320-acre artificial lake and the 3,592-acre developed
area in Henderson, Nev., 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa: 1610 Lake Las
Vegas Parkway, Henderson, Nev. (www3.hilton.com; The
Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa: 101 MonteLago
Blvd., Henderson (www.starwoodhotels.com); Aston MonteLago
Village Resort, 30 Strada di Villaggio, Henderson, Nev. (www.montelagovillage.com)
at MonteLago Village: Bernardís Bistro (702-565-1155);
Sonrisa Grill (702-568-6870); Luna Rossa Italian Cuisine
(702-568-9921); The Auld Dubliner (702- 567-8002).
sports at Lake Las Vegas Marina: Watercraft Rentals
(kayak, canoe, stand-up paddle, pedal boat or yacht