When it comes to gambling, eating, sipping cocktails, playing in the sun or – heck – just about living life to its fullest, I am your man. This fact is not hard to figure out since Las Vegas is my most-visited city in the U.S. (confession – but don’t be a hater – I’ve already been to Vegas 4x this year alone). But instead of hopping a flight for all this fun I may have found my new hangout just a few hours drive from Houston.
The Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, Louisiana, opened in December 2014, and I recently spent a Friday night at this palatial playground near the swamp lands. My crew and I headed eastbound along Interstate 10 to broadcast my radio show from “the Nugget” and we experienced a wonderful time from arrival to departure. The $700 million project came into view as we crossed over the I-210 bridge. Thoughts of ringing slot machines and stacks of casino chips in my head had me more excited than seeing Space Mountain the first time I approached Disney World as a kid.
Walking into the hotel was akin to entering one of the glitzy hotel casinos in Las Vegas. That is a high compliment from me as I have been in many casinos around the world that looked similar to my upstairs poker room at home. The marble floor and high ceiling gives the lobby and casino a roomy feel. Several retail shops dotted the aisles and I caught a glimpse of several restaurants throughout the ground floor. More on this later as restaurants play a large part of the Golden Nugget since it is owned and operated by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta. Yes, that Tilman Fertitta of Landry’s Inc. fame and fortune.
Check in was quick and simple probably because I was staring at the large window behind the counter which overlooks the H20 pool and bar. It was a Friday afternoon and the outdoor area looked rocking as tanned guests were wading around the swim-up bar.
My pool view room with balcony overlooked this same scene and I could not wait to get down there to sample the libations and do a quick site check for my radio broadcast location the next day. But I spent a while in the nicely appointed room looking at the many features. 500 square feet of space included a large soaker tub, king size bed, 42″ TV, stand-up shower and a dining nook. I’m not sure how many guests utilize the small table and chairs to eat as we soon found out there are so many things to do to keep you downstairs.
The pool scene was indeed loud and fun. Cabanas are spaced around the adult pool and bar (21 and up) with a large stage for DJs, concerts and other entertainment. A lazy river is adjacent to the adult pool winding its way around a waterfall and under foot bridges.
Back to the restaurants. It is hard to determine whether this facility was built around the restaurants of Fertitta’s empire or the hotel/casino just happened to place a Fertitta-owned restaurant every few feet along the spacious corridors. Familiar brands can be found throughout the grounds including Saltgrass Steakhouse, Grotto, Landry’s Seafood House, and Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar. We wanted to go all out for dinner so we opted for Vic & Anthony’s, a top steakhouse with locations in Houston and Las Vegas.
V&A General Manager Craig Harrington was inviting and worked the elegant dining room filled with guests dressed in sport coats, blue jeans and even shorts. An order of maple glazed quail and a jumbo lump crabcake started us off. Those appetizers quickly gave way to a table full of prime porterhouse, organic lamb chops, blackened scallops and grits, and of course there was a lobster tail. The wine list is extensive and – my personal affection to a bar – the bourbon collection was first rate.
Once our bellies were full and happy it was time for one of my favorite ways to kill time and money (or hopefully make money)…the casino. The Golden Nugget has 70 gaming tables and 1,600 slot machines. This Friday night seemed busy and it took a little while to find an open spot at a craps table. But once I realized there was 20x odds on the numbers all was well. A large bar sits in the middle of the casino floor which makes for a nice place to relax and meet on the couches or tabletops. A high roller section is situated in the back of the casino with its own bar and higher minimum tables and slot machines. I did not notice a VIP lounge on the casino floor but, alas, there may be one somewhere for actual VIPs.
The staff was friendly whether they paid you winnings or took your losses. This was a real Vegas “feel” which is hard to replicate outside of those large Nevada casinos.
Saturday morning found us broadcasting my radio show back to Houston (KPRC 950AM) and the world (iHeartRadio app). The marketing staff found a wonderful location for our booth with a backdrop just a few feet away from the sparkling water and in-pool lounges. My guests on the show included the property’s executives from the resort, operations, and beverage departments as we learned some of the interesting facts about the gleaming property. [Note to self: I need to visit again soon to play the recently-opened Country Club 18 hole golf course] And our good friend Craig Harrington stopped by to bring some more delicious snacks from Vic & Anthony’s.
After the 2 hour show it was time to pack up the radio gear and change into swim gear. We hung out the rest of the afternoon in a cabana which I recommend reserving if you have several people in your party. It provided a nice place for shade with couches, small refrigerator stocked with bottled water, and a TV.
Our quick 24 hour visit left a great impression on us and many of my radio listeners. Lake Charles has become a booming destination for entertainment for southerners but especially with Texans who daily cross the border in hoards. Until Texas approves legalized casino gambling (hint: do not hold your breath) this will continue to be a hot place to visit. The Golden Nugget is shiniest new star in the area and I can’t wait to go back.
Listen to The High-Tech Texan Show podcast from the Golden Nugget: