Are you looking for a fun place to stay and play in Laughlin, Nevada? Look no further than the Ramada Express Hotel and Casino. With more than 1,500 rooms and suites, a 53,000 square foot casino, and seven restaurants, this hotel clearly has earned the title, "Best Accommodations" for five consecutive years. Want more? Heck, they've got the Vegas mega-casino theme concept down to the wire, or shall I say rail, with their Victorianera train theme and decor throughout the hotel and casino on this 27-acre property near the Colorado River. Take your pick from river or desert mountain views: this hotel has it all and is chugging right along.

The Hotel

The hotel calls itself, "The Adult Place to Play & Stay." It is quite evident with its policy of allowing no children to stay in any rooms in the newly renovated twelve-story East Tower. Yes, they do allow kids to stay in most of the rooms in the 24-story West Tower that's currently under restoration.

The outdoor swimming pool is very cute with its steam train shape and spa completing the large locomotive wheel of the train. Special adults-only hours exist for the pool and spa to aid in your rest and relaxation. Friendly 24-hour security is always present to put any worried mind at ease.

The Ramada Express boasts of "25 Reasons Why They're Still #1 in Laughlin." They have been voted year after year by guests and locals as the best hotel, casino, slot club, accommodations, gourmet dining, steakhouse, Italian food, seafood, cocktail service, cocktail lounge, live entertainment, hotel lounge, gift shop, concierge, banquet facilities, pool Jacuzzi, catering, bartender, chef, waiter, cocktail waitress, keno, room service, wedding chapel, and valet. Loyal guests? What more can I say? Read on.

There's a 24-hour complimentary award-winning valet to safely tuck in your car in the surface and garage parking lots. If you want to watch other people really work, watch the valets run to get the next car for a customer. I'm a runner, but these people actually sprint. They make me tired just watching.

The room we stayed in was clean, comfortable and recently redecorated with green carpet with gold accents. Railroad themed pictures and memorabilia decorate the reddish wallpapered walls. Each room has a table to spread out all your stuff, two upholstered chairs to kick back in, and a very firm mattress, which was fine with me, but not for my wife. Don't pack your hairdryer as it's already there. Non-smoking and specially equipped rooms are available. If a crib is needed, just ask.

Things To See and Do

One of the key thematic elements of this accentuated brass and rich wood toned hotel involves the early days of the railroad. Inside, there's over $1 million in Victorian train memorabilia, and antiques arranged throughout the hotel, meeting rooms and casino. Outside, it's hard to miss Good Old No. 7. This is Laughlin's only working steam train railroad and has been dubbed, "The Gambling Train of Laughlin." If you've got twelve minutes to spare from your hectic schedule of gamling or feasting, then why not take a ride on this ¾-mile train route? For you history buffs, the turn of the century steam train is a replica of the Genoa, which hauled freight on the Virginia and Truckee Line in Western Nevada over 100 years ago. The fare for this train that's been hauling over 2 million guests since June of 1988 is, "Only a smile," says the conductor.

American war heroes are treated like special guests at the Ramada Express. First, the 9,000-square-foot Pavilion Theater, aka the American Heroes Museum, is complimentary and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is loaded with war memorabilia, uniforms, medals, photos and memories, and it is certainly worth checking out. Second, Veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam are paid tribute in the free 15 minute multi-media show, "On the Wings of Eagles" which relives America's bravest moments and finest hours, and runs daily on the top of each hour from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Third, every Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. is another installment in their American Heroes Speaker Program, in which a veteran is scheduled to speak about his or her experiences and how they were able to contribute to the overall cause. Fourth, the Ramada Express has also established The American Heroes Foundation, a non-profit foundation to raise funds, promote and support American Veteran causes. Lastly, veterans are given free gifts at the slot club booth just for registering. Talk about targeting a market audience!

Shopping is always a worthwhile escape from the reality of losing too much in the casino. Feel free to take the free shuttle offsite to the Horizon Outlet Center to watch a new release movie, and/or, shop 'till you drop. Onsite, there's The Boutique and a 24-hour convenience store, and my favorite, The W.O.W. Store. WOW is a wacky store with numerous fun and interesting items that are mostly priced below US$20. The Whistle Stop Smoke Shop in the Gift shop is for the serious smokers that need to restock their supplies.

The Caboose Lounge is a fun place in the Casino to enjoy nightly live entertainment ranging from classic rock and roll, swing, country and western while you relax with a drink. There's never a cover charge or minimum number of drinks required. Monday nights are when you can unleash the inner karaoke monster within you. Beware, if you're really a bad singer, they just may tie you to the railroad tracks outside.

Interested in having a business or club meeting, convention, reunion or a wedding at the Ramada Expess? The newly redecorated Santa Fe Room can accommodate a group up to 80 people. There's also the Coronado Room, which is modeled after and inspired by the historic Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego. It's an elegant glass structure that can easily accommodate up to 110 people. Even if you don't host an event, be sure and tour the Coronado Room.

Restaurants

After gambling the day or night away, there's nothing better than a good steak at The Steakhouse. It's been voted, "The Best" in the tri-state area for over seven years running. Reservations are strongly suggested. Or, how about a large bowl of fresh pasta with homemade sauce at the Passaggio Italian Gardens? It's an award winning casual restaurant that also has an elegant Sunday champagne brunch. In the mood for a buffet, Jimmy? If so, stuff yourself silly at the Roundhouse Buffet daily for lunch or dinner. Maybe Mexican food for lunch or dinner at the Tularosa Cantina will help your celebrating winning the mother load in the casino. Not in the mood for a sit down meal, then there's always Carnegie's 24 Hour Dining Car, the Under the Stairs Café, and the Station Café for quick, fast foods. Take your pick. You've got to eat sometime.

No matter what your reason is, the Ramada Express is the premiere Laughlin hotel and casino. From its railroad theme, numerous awards, great restaurants, huge casino, or American Heroes Museum, the Ramada Express is the train to hop aboard. Get your ticket for this train as this express is ready to go. All aboard!

By Donald and Kimberly Tatera, Palm Springs Jetsetters Magazine Correspondents.






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