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Desert Companion

Lakeside Staycation

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Courtesy Westin Lake Las Vegas
Courtesy Westin Lake Las Vegas, Hilton Resorts

Mojave winters get downright chilly. Most hotels, from the Strip to Downtown, close their swimming pools for the season. So what’s a local water-lover to do for a staycation weekend in this shivery season? A promising option awaits in the easternmost sliver of Henderson: the nearly mirage-like Lake Las Vegas (lakelasvegas.com).

Created nearly three decades ago, Lake Las Vegas shimmers in a reed-rimmed basin with a dramatic backdrop of gnarled, sere mountains and multi-hued, eroded volcanic formations. It’s home to many beautiful waterfowl, including mallards, grebes, and stately herons. Homes are peppered about the landscape, many quite luxurious; lakeside is the faux-but-charming Italianate MonteLago Village with its mini marina. There are palm trees everywhere.

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Southshore
Courtesy Westin Lake Las Vegas, Hilton Resorts

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Courtesy Westin Lake Las Vegas
Courtesy Westin Lake Las Vegas, Hilton Resorts

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Courtesy Westin Lake Las Vegas
Courtesy Westin Lake Las Vegas, Hilton Resorts

Lake Las Vegas was pummeled by the Great Recession, and many restaurants and boutiques in the area were shuttered; there’s still a closed casino. But life is returning steadily, making this an ideal destination for a night or two just out of sight of Sin City’s skyline.

For families, the expansive Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa (westinlakelasvegas.com) is the best choice for lodgings. Located on the far side of the reservoir, it features a lovely Moroccan-themed décor. It has two restaurants, the Japanese-influenced Marssa Steak & Sushi — tip: order the spicy seafood miso soup — and the Mediterranean-meets-New American Rick’s Café. There’s also a bar in the comfortable, multileveled central lobby, next to a stunning patio that overlooks the lake, with the serrated Muddy Mountains in Lake Mead National Recreation Area beyond.

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I’m one of those water-lovers I mentioned earlier, so, most importantly, the Westin has the Nuala Pool, with its two levels and a whirlpool. It’s heated and open year-round, short of inclement weather. Kids seem to prefer the lower level, though during my stays at the Westin, I’ve mostly floated in the upper, more adult-favored pool, with its gorgeous desert vista. In the evenings, I’ve been known to kick back in the whirlpool with a beverage as stars glint in the dark sky overhead. It’s an aquanaut’s dream.

Next to MonteLago Village, the Hilton Lake Las Vegas & Spa (hilton.com) is an elegant hotel with a lake-spanning, Venice-style loggia bridge, and, of the two resorts, is the more intimate and quiet destination.

Though the village’s meandering streets still have plenty of empty storefronts for rent, a chocolate store, a gelateria, and Italian restaurant Luna Rossa (lunarossalakelv.com) all lasted through the lean years. Plus, a few new eateries have opened recently, including gastropub Proof Tavern and side-by-side but separate French spots Le Cafe du Lac (lecafedulac.com) and Mimi’ & Coco’ Bistro (mimicocobistro.com), where a salade Niçoise and glass of rosé on the sunny patio make for a mini Riviera experience. There’s even a new market carrying groceries and wines for locals; it’s a handy picnic-shopping resource.

If you really want to feel non-Vegasy, the marina has electric cruising boats, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and pedal boats for rent. If it’s golf you want, Reflection Bay (reflectionbaygolf.com) is stunning, and was designed by Jack Nicklaus. Or just stay in your hotel for a spa treatment. And have I mentioned the pool?