After finding myself in Las Vegas twice in six weeks, I needed a break from the high-octane madness of the Strip. So my husband and I headed to Lake Las Vegas for an uncrowded, relaxing change of pace. It was a nice change for the pocketbook as well: I found a great Saturday night rate at a lovely lakeside hotel that was far less than the exorbitant rates Strip hotels charge on weekends. Lake Las Vegas, a 320-acre man-made body of water ringed with low-lying mountains, is appealing, and its faux Mediterranean-style architecture (especially in the village) fits well with its surroundings. The tab: A room for a night at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa cost $129 plus a $22 resort fee; the hubby and I spent $75 for meals and drinks.
The Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa (1610 Lake Las Vegas Parkway;  567-4700, bit.ly/1uoh2Wk) was a five-star Ritz-Carlton before it was shuttered in 2010 due to the recession. It still has the luxurious, formal vibe of the Ritz, though it's not as polished as it once was; areas of the hotel looked a bit neglected (the carpets could use a good cleaning). But our lake-view room was spotless and tastefully done in Old World décor; the only thing it lacked was a balcony. The large marble bathroom had a bathtub and separate shower, and the amenities were top-notch.
We walked into the adjacent quasi-Tuscan MonteLago Village, surveyed the landscape and picked Sonrisa Grill (30 Via Brianza, No. 100;  568-6870, www.sonrisagrill.com) for its classic Mexican dishes. The chips, guacamole and tostadas hit the spot. After dinner, we popped into Auld Dubliner (40 Via Bel Canto, No. 100;  567-8002) for a nightcap and music. There are other restaurants in MonteLago Village (Italian, Mediterranean) and in other lakeside hotels. Breakfast options are slim; we had coffee in the village, which was deserted when we walked over in the morning.
First, slip out the gate behind the pool at the Hilton, lay your towel on the sand and wiggle your toes in the mini-lagoon off the lake. It's peaceful, and you'll feel like a kid at a secret pond. Then, follow the path by the lake to the marina, rent a paddleboard, kayak or pedal boat and get out on the lake. Cap off your day with a concert on the floating stage in MonteLago Village (bit.ly/XFetEE).
The lesson learned
The only game in town, the Casino MonteLago next to the hotel and the village, is closed. (If and when the casino reopens, it will give a major boost to the local merchants.) If you must gamble, Sin City is only 20 miles away. Warning: Your lake-induced serenity will rapidly evaporate once you hit the city.
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