Peek out of the airplane window on approach to McCarran International Airport or survey the desert landscape from the top of one of Las Vegas’ many high-altitude towers and aeries, and you will see the impressive reach of the city’s expanding grid. Near and far within the wider 100-mile region, groups will find a similar but distinct universe of attractive destinations for meetings, events, excursions and more. True to the old adage, good things can always be found in smaller packages, as the following diverse group coordinates reveal.

Laughlin
Bordered by rugged desert and the Colorado River, this city at the southern tip of Nevada near Arizona and California offers a variety of conference facilities, resorts and outdoor activities.

Responding to competitive pressures from tribal casinos in neighboring Southern California, the resort destination, 90 miles south of Las Vegas, is focusing on large-scale special events to boost its profile.

“In Laughlin, the Colorado Belle and Edgewater casino-resorts invested $4.5 million to build the Laughlin Event Center, which has 9,000 permanent seats for concerts and special events,” says Dale Eeles, vice president of event development for Las Vegas Events. “With a shuttle bus transportation plan in place with Laughlin hotels, the success of these events is a credit to all the properties, representing some 11,000 rooms, working together to bring major events to town and supporting them through ticket purchases,” he says.

Opened in March 2014, this versatile outdoor venue is expandable for larger events and features VIP Skyboxes, state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and catering options. Easily transitioning from concerts to events, the venue hosts everything from headline entertainment acts and festivals to rodeo and extreme sports.

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Comprising the six-story Bourbon and New Orleans towers, plus a riverboat, the Colorado Belle offers 1,794 recently (Bourbon) and newly (New Orleans) renovated rooms, plus more than 35,000 square feet of meeting space. The Edgewater (www.edgewater-casino.com), meanwhile, offers 1,053 rooms between the 26-story Sedona Tower and Santa Fe Tower, both newly remodeled, along with the E Center, a 27,000-square-foot indoor climate-controlled entertainment, convention and concert venue facility with superior acoustics.

Other resorts include the Golden Nugget Laughlin, which has added free Wi-Fi to its recently remodeled rooms. Opened by gaming pioneer and city founder Don Laughlin in 1966, the 1,405-room Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino has legendary appeal. As the city’s first casino and only family-owned and operated property, Riverside’s amenities include flexible space for a wide range of meetings and functions; a 42,000-square-foot bowling center; and 800-seat Don’s Celebrity Theatre.

For uniquely Western teambuilding activities, Pot a Gold Adventures offers guided horseback tours atop the desert ridgelines or along the river.

Mesquite
According to Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority figures, this growing community and resort destination on the Nevada-Arizona border about 80 miles north of Las Vegas experienced double-digit percentage tourism growth throughout all but December 2014.

Centered in the picturesque Virgin River Valley along the northern edge of the Mojave Desert, Mesquite offers an appealing business-pleasure mix of meeting resorts and facilities with recreation and entertainment options, making it an ideal destination for groups looking to get out of the big city while still enjoying big-city amenities and attractions.

Golf is a top draw in Mesquite, which served as the longtime home of the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships and just last month, hosted the 13th annual Mesquite Amateur, one of the largest handicapped amateur tournaments in the nation. Eight available courses include Wolf Creek, Conestoga and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Coyote Springs.

“The goal for Mesquite is to support multiple golf events to showcase its collection of beautiful courses, along with having the local properties work together to host a variety of events that will introduce new customers to the area,” Eeles says.