- By Helen Anders Special to the American-Statesman
L’Auberge set the bar high when it opened here in 2005 as the area’s first luxury casino resort, complete with golf and a big pool complex. When the Golden Nugget plopped down just 1,000 feet away in 2014 with similar amenities, L’Auberge could have given it the cold shoulder and tried to pry guests’ eyes from the new tower, but … that wouldn’t have worked, anyway.
So, L’Auberge collaborated with Golden Nugget on a wetlands boardwalk at the edge of Lake Charles between the two casinos (it’s a pleasant, five-minute traipse), along with a shuttle between the two for those who’d rather ride.
So, when you stay at either, you’re essentially staying at both (aside from the rooms and pools, which you must be a guest to use), and both keep upping their games with renovations and additions. Golden Nugget, for example, will soon open its new 13-story Rush Tower, modeled after the luxurious Rush Tower at its Las Vegas Golden Nugget. And L’Auberge recently renovated its 10 luxury garden suites, multiroom living spaces reached by a private entrance.
Here’s what you’ll find to enjoy at this two-resort playground just about 30 miles over the Texas-Louisiana state line.
L’Auberge: Warmth, warmth, warmth, with limestone hearths and roaring fires in cold weather. The casino is tucked back from the main entrance.
Golden Nugget: Vegas, Vegas, Vegas. From the pool scene to the casino at the entrance, the rock-music-infused Nugget bounces with high energy.
Both resorts offer all you’d expect in a luxury property, including free Wi-Fi, lots of plugs for electronics, big flat-screen TVs, excellent beds and bedding and fluffy robes and slippers.
L’Auberge: About 1,000 rooms, suites and villas are tucked into and amid the asymmetrical towers of this 26-story property. Decor blends southern comfort (padded headboards, for example) with contemporary style. The starting rate is typically $129 midweek in off-peak weeks.
Golden Nugget: The 740 rooms and suites, contemporary in browns and tans with granite-topped furniture, will soon be joined by 350 more in Rush Tower, where rooms will be bigger and more upscale. Signature elements: a little dining booth for enjoying room service and an elliptical bathtub. Starting rate’s typically $139 midweek during off-peak weeks.
L’Auberge: The 10 new garden suites are roomy (up to 1,400 square feet), with wood-beamed tray ceilings, dark wood, crown molding, leather and marble throughout. Private patios include Italian travertine tubs, some overlooking the adult pool and cabanas. The huge master bedroom has its own patio entrance and a frosted-glass round window into the bathroom, which offers its own TV and the filled-from-the-ceiling sleek bathtubs the garden suites have always been known for. Popular for weddings and business clients who need a meeting or entertainment space, these start at a rate of $750.
Golden Nugget: The Nugget’s two-story loft suite is the fanciest: a contemporary, 2,000-square-foot stunner featuring dark woods, a wet bar, TV in the bathroom, a floating staircase, an extended balcony and an outdoor Jacuzzi. Very high-roller and also popular for entertaining, it typically goes for $1,140 midweek in nonpeak season.
L’Auberge: Kids can’t wait to get to the heated pool surrounded by a lazy river. Adults love the swim-up bar and, in summer, grill. In summer, poolside concerts draw huge weekend crowds. The adults-only pool with complete bar service is always popular.
Golden Nugget: Showcased behind the reception desk, the H20 pool scene carries a party vibe similar to the one in Las Vegas — or at the San Luis in Galveston — with plenty of cabanas and daybeds. There’s full bar service, plus food in summer.
Both resorts include arcades with plenty of video and ticket-redemption games to keep kids and teens happy for hours.
L’Auberge: The assortment includes Le Beaucoup Buffet, Favorites Southern Kitchen (informal, offering local favorites) and Asia Noodle and Sushi Bar. Jack Daniels Bar & Grill is the most popular, offering burgers to steaks with 40 beers, lots of TVs and live entertainment. Modern Pantry coffee bar offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and, in summer, Touloulou’s Beachside Bar & Grill provides poolside dining. For a romantic evening, you can’t beat Ember Grille & Wine Bar, with its hearth, great service and well-prepared steaks and seafood with a well-chosen wine list.
Golden Nugget: No surprises here, but that’s a good thing, because the Landry’s empire knows how to do food: the Grotto, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Saltgrass Steak House, Claim Jumper, Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar and, of course, Landry’s Seafood. At the country club, you’ll find Chart House, an excellent seafood restaurant from the Las Vegas property. There’s also a buffet with a chocolate fountain in the dessert area. For fine dining, if you’ve been to Vic and Anthony’s in Las Vegas or Houston, you know the deservedly excellent reputation this steakhouse carries.
L’Auberge: Jack Daniels is the most popular bar, but there are others. The new L Bar lounge is just catching on as an elegant alternative near the hearth and check-in. Piano Lounge inside Embers is a good warm-up for dining. Within the casino you’ll find Globar and Lantern Bar, and there are a couple of options for service near the pools.
Golden Nugget: Ice Bar sits near check-in, and it’s a great place to hover if your room’s not ready. Bar 46 and Rush Lounge (with music) offer options within the casino. Blue Martini is the dance-music-thumping club, complete with sexily attired servers, a la Vegas. However, this is Lake Charles, so although there’s a velvet rope, the club’s not fussy about dress code, and old folks can still feel at home. There are poolside bar service options here, too.
L’Auberge: The 18-hole Contraband Bayou Golf Club was designed by Tom Fazio.
Golden Nugget: The 18-hole course was designed by Todd Eckenrode and Origins Golf Design.
Both properties offer a spa, fitness center, barbershop and numerous shops. The casinos are comparable sizes and offer plenty of table games and slots as well as poker and VIP high-limit areas.
Each property has a business center, there’s plenty of meeting space at both, and each offers famous-name music acts on weekends. Check their websites for who’s coming up.
Both properties have marinas, so you can drive your boat right up and park it. If you’re arriving by helicopter, drop that bad boy at the Nugget’s landing pad.
Then try your luck — at the dining tables as well as the gaming tables — at both casinos
One last note: In addition to walking or taking the trolley between the L’Auberge and Golden Nugget, you can drive from one casino resort to the other. There’s plenty of parking at both. But don’t look for directional signs from one resort to the other. Friendly competition goes only so far.