Golden Getaway

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas. But what’s happening in the casino-dotted city of Lake Charles, just a two-hour drive away, can make it very hard to resist.

Casino cities offer a specific kind of escape: a feeling of freedom and adventure, with free-flowing drinks and sexy undertones. And while Vegas is a splurge-worthy destination, Lake Charles — just two hours away, with new and growing casinos galore — offers a tasty and tantalizing dose of Sin City-style glamour to Houstonians.

At the Golden Nugget, one of the newest — and most luxurious — properties in the area, players indeed come for the luck of the draw, but others venture out simply for the extras. Owned by Landry’s Inc. honcho Tilman Fertitta, the casino resort on Contraband Bayou has found great success since opening its doors in 2014. Lively bars and lounges like the Blue Martini keep Bloody Mary’s, vodka cocktails and beer flowing well into the night, as gamers try their luck in the recently renovated casino, with more than 75 table games, 1,600 of the world’s newest slot machines, a private poker room with six live-action tables, or — if they have the cash — the high-rollers room where top-shelf liquor flows night and day.

Amenities like The Country Club, an 18-hole, 7,000-yard championship golf course designed by award-winning Todd Eckenrode and Origins Golf Design are equally appealing. The clubhouse is home to the brand-new Chart House restaurant, where guests can enjoy steakhouse staples like slow-roasted prime rib and chocolate lava cake, or just cocktails and cigars in a secluded setting away from the bright lights and relentless ringing of casino games. And the sprawling, oasis-like H20 pool, which spans the length of the resort’s back patio and looks out onto a private beach and marina, is another hot-spot.

With its popularity on the incline, the Golden Nugget shows no signs of slowing down. Right now, construction on the casino-adjacent, 350-room Rush Tower nears completion, and the resort will be ready to accept even more reservations beginning this summer. The tower includes a whopping 27 suites,  including three pool villa suites.

Also located on Contraband Bayou, the L’auberge Casino Resort is easily accessible from the Golden Nugget with a hop on the casino trolley that transports guests between the two daily. L’auberge opened in Lake Charles over a decade ago, but has since undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation. As of last summer, the destination completed additional updates on its 10 luxury garden suites and introduced a stylish new VIP check-in lounge.

And with the tried and trusted Coushatta Casino Resort also recently revamping its look — the property located in nearby Kinder, La., just opened its new, adults-only tower coined The Grand, along with the family-friendly Dream Pool which features its own lazy river — there are more than a few gaming resorts to choose from for a trek out to Lake Charles. The small Louisiana town on the water has quickly become a landmark gambling destination for Houstonians itching to play, eat and stay. With the help of lady luck or otherwise.

Above: The Golden Nugget’s H20 pool and, at right, the crab, avocado and mango stack at the resort’s new Chart House restaurant.