Take a Gamble
Photography: Courtesy of Peppermill Casinos and Casablanca Resort & Spa
I love winter in Park City—especially when it starts early enough that I can brag to East Coast friends that we hit the slopes before Thanksgiving. But sometimes, by mid-March, I’m ready to trade in my fleece for flip-flops. Instead of a mid-life crisis, I yearn for a mid-winter meltdown.
Luckily, Park City is but a few hours away from Nevada’s Wild West border towns of Wendover and Mesquite, where the glittering night-life never sleeps.
Just two hours northwest of Salt Lake City, Wendover is the most convenient for a quick getaway. Utah Trailways offers twice-daily trips on luxury Belgian buses, complete with a guide, bingo and wheeled roulette on board. According to owner Dick Maben, “Getting there is half the fun.” The six-hour excursions cost $12 roundtrip and include discount coupons for gift shops, $7 in cash, free Starbucks coffee and a free buffet at the Mandalay Bay Casino (a $19 value).
For those with more time and their own transportation, there are numerous attractions on the outskirts of town. Wendover is perched on the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats, and from certain vantage points, you can actually note the curvature of the earth. It was also the location of the 509th Army Air Corps base where crewmen of the Enola Gay were stationed and trained. The buildings deteriorated over the years, but the historic Wendover Airfield Museum contains artifacts of interest to WWII buffs. Jukebox Cave, where military personnel held dances during wartime blackouts, is also accessible to the public. For outdoor activities, Intermountain Guides offer horseback or ATV trips to the Great Basin National Park and Silver Island Mountains Back Country Byway. Birders may want to check out the Goshute Raptor Migration Project. For golfers, Toano Vista is an 18-hole course complete with challenging holes, sand traps and occasional rattlesnake “hazards.”
If it’s true that “... it’s not gambling unless you’re losing,” savvy snowbirds can’t lose with a weekend getaway in Mesquite, located on the banks of the Virgin River where the borders of Arizona, Utah and Nevada come together. A comfortable five-hour drive or a quick flight via St. George, Utah, Mesquite is worlds away from Park City. It’s an ideal location for those who love the outdoors, with nine national parks, including Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon; 12 national monuments; and several state parks nearby. Stunning scenery, lush fairways and moderate temperatures year-round combine to make this bustling town a haven for sun-seekers, golf gurus and spa goers. With eight unique golf courses, it is rapidly emerging as a major golfing destination, and the Arnold Palmer-designed Oasis Golf Club is recognized as one of the top five best new resort courses in North America, rated one of the top 10 by Golf Digest.
The Virgin River has played a central role in the legends and history of the area. Native Americans believed the mineral-rich water had special healing powers, and the spas at the Casablanca Resort and the Oasis continue this tradition. A diverse menu of spa and salon treatments and alternative therapies are available to soothe tired muscles or rejuvenate winter-worn bodies. Both resorts offer spa packages and golf/spa combined packages.
There are plenty of places to stay in Mesquite, with the four largest casinos—Casablanca, Oasis, Virgin River and Eureka—boasting hundreds of rooms and various amenities like pools, waterslides, restaurants and RV parking. If you’re traveling with a full house of three or more and you’d prefer a quiet location away from the interstate and the glare of the casinos, Highland Estates Vacation Rentals are ideal. Rooms are condo-style studio, one and two-bedroom non-smoking units, tastefully and uniquely furnished.
All of this activity is bound to increase appetites, so why take a gamble on food? Burjono’s, a well-known restaurant serving Northern Italian cuisine, recently relocated to the ground floor of the Highland Estates building, and it’s the best bet for off-strip dining. The intimate candlelit interior is a perfect backdrop for the eatery’s delicious entrées. Katherine’s, located inside the Casablanca Resort, is another popular restaurant, and all of the casinos offer all-you-can-eat buffets and 24-hour cafés. Los Lupes, a family-owned Mexican restaurant in the Mesquite Plaza, is my top pick for lunch or a casual dinner. The tortilla soup was “muy bueno” and the carnitas tacos rival any I’ve had since my last Baja vacation.
For morning latté lovers, the Brew Monkey Coffee House & Deli in the Brickyard Plaza will become a favorite haunt. They offer breakfast, lunch and wireless Internet seven days a week.
With the sun-kissed skies, restorative spas and spectacular golf, I think I’ve finally found a way to beat the mid-winter blues. It’s my ace in the hole, my lucky seven. I can’t wait to tell my Vermont friends about skiing in the morning and golfing late the same afternoon (hopefully winning enough at the quarter slots to pay for the trip)!
Corinne Humphrey is a freelance travel writer and photographer with a client list that includes Lonely Planet Publishing, Sunset Magazine, Cooking Light, Log Home Living, Utah Outdoors and others. She is currently writing an outdoor cookbook and also marketing a first novel.
Chamber of Commerce, 702.346.2902, www.mesquite-chamber.com
Golf Mesquite Packages, 866.720.7111, www.golfmesquitenevada.com
Casablanca Resort & Spa, 800.459.PLAY, www.casablancaresort.com
Oasis Casino & Resort, 800.216.2747, www.oasis-resort.com
City of West Wendover, 866.299.2489, www.casablancaresort.com
Rainbow/Peppermill/Montego Bay Hotels and Casinos, 800.537.0207
Utah Trailways Casino Caravans, 800.876.LUCK (5825)