Lively Riverside Hotel With Adjacent Casino
Iowa’s Council Bluffs might seem like an odd place to find the lively Harrah’s Council Bluffs and its casino, concerts, and nightclubs. But consider the hotel’s location: right across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city and a popular entertainment hub itself. Harrah’s almost seems to feed on the city’s metropolitan energy. Views here overlook the downtown skyline, and many of the musicians that play in the hotel’s amphitheater come from Omaha, one of the nation’s hottest spots in the indie-music scene.
You’ll find the casino adjoining the hotel in a stationary riverboat with three decks of gaming, including more than 700 slot machines. Table games stick to the classics: craps, roulette, and poker to name a few. The Stir Party Pit is lined with blackjack tables. Head up to the top-level Captain’s Lounge to take a break from casino play. You can get complimentary refreshments here, or enjoy a few rounds on the in-room shuffleboard or Wii console.
Inside the hotel, Vertigo at 360 serves handcrafted cocktails amid views of downtown Omaha. An ongoing series here features live acoustic music by local artists every Friday night. The onsite nightclub, Stir, enlivens guests with dance tunes and a state-of-the-art light system. For dining, Harrah’s Council Bluffs has a market-style buffet as well as a full-service restaurant, 360 Steakhouse, which serves up grilled fare and seafood specialties.
Council Bluffs, Iowa: Casino Haven Steeped in History
One of the largest casino markets in the United States, Council Bluffs sits across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska. In the early- to mid-20th century, Omaha was the better-known gambling hot spot. But after a crackdown on all gambling, Omahans crossed the river to the more casino-friendly Council Bluffs—a trend that continues today.
But there’s more to Council Bluffs than riverboats. It’s known as the historic starting point of the Mormon Trail, the migratory route that Mormons traveled to escape persecution. Fittingly, the town seems to revere its history. There are several neighborhoods with restored buildings from the 1800s, including the historic Haymarket Square commercial district and a Red Light District. Other landmarks and sites highlight the city’s railroad-industry ties, best exhibited by touring the depot at the RailsWest Railroad Museum.
The Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail is also worth a visit. Dubbed by Travel + Leisure as one of the “world’s strangest prisons,” it’s one of the last remaining rotary jails—a prison where the jailors opened cells by turning a crank that caused them to rotate. You can still see many of the pie-shaped cells as they were when the prison closed in 1969, with signatures and dates of prisoners etched into the walls.
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