From anonymous Michael Douglas to hidden casino, Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas a unique world

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

HENDERSON, Nev. - The first thing you notice is the quiet. Coming from the constant ching, clatter and commotion of Las Vegas, the sudden shift is jarring at first. It even takes a little time to completely recognize what's so different.

Then it sinks in. The noise, the unrelenting cornucopia of sounds that drive Vegas, is all but gone. Stepping into the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort is like stepping into another world. There is huge picture window smack in the center of the two-tier lobby, offering a huge sunny view into...the outside world! There are no slot machines humming, no bleary-eyed indoor zombies resolutely bunkered down over one-eyed bandits. Instead, it is all comfy cushy chairs and plush sofas, all brightly-colored flowers and plants.

"There's not a single neon sign," Travel Industry Sales Manager Eileen Crawford said, proudly.

No neon! And you can call this Las Vegas!

No and that's the point. This is Lake Las Vegas, the $4.4-billion, 2,242-acre vision of eccentric developer R.F. Boeddeker that sits 17 miles and another universe away from The Strip. It is a place where golf is held in even higher regard than Lord Gambling, with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf designed showcase public courses a few minutes down the road from each other and a Tom Fazio dream scheme Rainbow Canyon set to break ground. The Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas touts its golf options more than its gaming options.

There is a small casino in the hotel, but it is easy to completely miss it the first few times you walk to and from and your room. That's right, you can miss the casino. In an area where hotels spend millions to figure out how to get people to spend more time in their casinos, force guests to practically walk the whole gaming room floor to register, the Hyatt Regency sticks its casino in a side hallway corner, right across from an equally unobtrusive gift shop.

"I was taking a group from Alaska on a tour this morning and I mentioned the casino," Crawford said, "and they were all, 'You have a casino?'"

Forget about the trick of a casino going undercover. The Hyatt Regency is place where Michael Douglas went undercover. With unwitting ease.

Back in the late 90s, one of the biggest stars in American movie history was kicking back at the Hyatt Regency as his new bride Catherine Zeta Jones worked in America's Sweethearts, the Julia Roberts-John Cusack, Billy Crystal vehicle filmed at the resort. Douglas played a lot of golf, ate a few good meals, hung around his cottage suite, did what any self-respecting Hollywood star/mogul would do with some free time.

Getting his coffee one morning at the Hyatt's cafe, Douglas found himself involved in a conversation with a star-struck young girl behind the counter. Only she wasn't star struck for him. She had no idea who he was. Assuming Michael Douglas was just another Michael salesman she went on about how exciting it must be to be at guest at the hotel when all these big stars were around.

"She had no idea," Crawford said. "But he was very nice about it. He just said, 'Oh yes, it's very exciting.'"

That's the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas. Located in arguably the most star-obsessed land in the world, it is the kind of place a Michael Douglas can go unnoticed. It is its own little world.

This is where you go to escape from Las Vegas, while still being able to experience Las Vegas at the slightest whim. All that neon craziness is only about 25 minutes away after all. "You can still do Vegas without having to stay in Vegas," Crawford said.

Still in Boeddeker and the Hyatt's self-contained world, it is more than possible to spend a weekend here without ever feeling the need to leave. Many businesses hold conferences here to avoid the distractions of The Strip and end up being drawn in by the luxury diversions of Lake Las Vegas. There is a 9,000-square-foot spa with nine separate treatment rooms on the Hyatt premises. There is a pool that look like something out a movie set. There are the views of the man-made Lake Las Vegas. Yacht tours of the lake are available. Hummer or pink Jeep Wrangler (no joke) trips through the nearby Valley of Fire (red rocky terrain) are also offered.

Then there's The Village.

No, it's not a creepy play on a M. Night Shyamalan's movie. It is the manufactured alpine village replica of Boeddeker's vacations past. The developer likes to add a unique touch to his properties and in the case of Lake Las Vegas that means a village of carefully-selected shops. Strolling the faux coble stone streets, you won't find a McDonald's, but you will run into a kite shop with every windblown-on-a-string possibility in imagination.

There is a slightly bigger casino, complete with a tiny sports book, adjacent to The Village. But that place isn't nearly as crowded as The Village's new portable ice rink on this sunny, almost 60 degree December day. Kids speed around the rink, delivering a reminder that people do actually live in this Lake Las Vegas development as well (including Celine Dion, an avid golfer with a huge spread on the fake lake).

Of course, if you're going for a golf vacation, you might want to leave the kids behind for a few hours. The resort offers the frequently-copied Camp Hyatt program -- activities for kids like arts and crafts, fishing and mud castle building chaperoned by licensed childcare workers -- to that end.

"The hotels really work well with the golf courses," said Dan Romstead, the head pro at Nicklaus' Reflection Bay. "Lake Las Vegas isn't big enough to survive otherwise. We need other each to create the whole experience."

It is experience uniquely small world in this big event town. Lake Las Vegas is the kind of place where you could doze off at 8:30 p.m. and not feel like you missed a thing. Relaxation rather than action is the name of the game here.

Look mom, no neon!

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • lake las vegas

    donna wrote on: Jun 16, 2008

    Is this what Heaven is like?