Think of this fast-growing vacation spot 17 miles southeast of Las Vegas as the opposite of the Strip. There's little neon at Lake Las Vegas Resort but a lot of nature: a 320-acre lake, waterfalls, and red rock cliffs and canyons to explore. Even the resort's two casinos whisper rather than shout.
Millions have been spent to create the place, but the mood is opulent, not flashy. At dusk, MonteLago Village, known for shopping and dining, glows like a surreal Italian city-state, complete with its own Ponte Vecchio-style bridge, Spanish Steps, and gondola rides. You may spot celebrities ― Céline Dion owns one of the estates along the lake's south shore ― but they'll likely wear golf duds, not sequins.
Golf is a big draw here. Two championship golf courses are open to the public: the Jack Nicklaus-designed Reflection Bay Golf Club and the Tom Weiskopf-created Falls Golf Club (greens fees at each from $160; 877/698-4653).
Set on the north side of the lake, the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort, Spa and Casino (493 rooms, call for rates; 101 MonteLago Blvd.; 702/567-1234) has a sandy beach, Camp Hyatt for kids, and Casino Baraka for grown-ups. MonteLago Village Resort (148 condos from $99; 30 Strada di Villagio; 866/564-4799) offers studios and one- to three-bedroom condos in the Italian-themed main resort village; the Casino MonteLago is adjacent.
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas (349 rooms from $249; 1610 Lake Las Vegas Pkwy.; 800/241-3333) has sumptuous public spaces, the Italian-accented Medici Café and Terrace, and the Spa Vita di Lago. After a spa treatment, you can head out to the hotel pool, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio; you'll feel like you've wandered into some bit of Tuscany transplanted to the desert Southwest.