Hide and Seek: Finding Las Vegas Locals

by Gray Cargill on August 3, 2010

Most of my time (and most tourists’ time) in Las Vegas is spent on the Strip or Downtown in the major casino-resorts, surrounded by pools and slot machines, attractions, and shows–a sort of fantasy land for adults.  All of which is great fun, but after umpteen trips to Vegas, I started wondering what else is there, beyond the “tourist zone”.  For today’s post, I asked my friend, JoAnna Haugen, who lives in Las Vegas, if she’d be willing to share where the locals hang out.

Cory and JoAnna Haugen

At a beer festival at Lake Las Vegas

I never tire of the reaction I receive when I tell people I live in Las Vegas:


“People live there?”

“What do you do there?”

In response to those questions, I answer as follows:

“I live at the top of the Stratosphere, of course.”

Seriously though, if you want to know where to find the two million people who live in Las Vegas, look no further than our local dog parks, movie theatres, schools, grocery stores and libraries. We live and work just like anyone else. We just do those things in an eclectic, bizarre and interesting city that people assume is solely a vacation destination.

Hiking at Lake Mead

Hiking at Lake Mead

If you’re wondering what we do for fun when we want to avoid the crowds, traffic and overpriced drinks on the Strip, that’s a different answer all together.

So where to find us? Look no further than the following places:

Locals casinos – There are a smattering of casinos around Las Vegas that are far off the Strip but still serve as all-inclusive resorts. The Station Casinos family includes nearly a dozen casino hotels, and three in particular—Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock and Aliante—are jokingly known as “locals casinos.” They have oversized casinos, but they’re also outfitted with pools, movie theatres and concert venues. I’ll let you in on a little secret: For Thanksgiving and Christmas, many of us hit up the buffets at the locals casinos. It’s cheaper, more convenient and offers more variety than anything we’d make at home.

First Friday – On the first Friday of every month, local artists converge in downtown Las Vegas to sell their goods, perform in on-the-spot acts and open their art-related stores during the evening hours for the rest of the community to enjoy. This is essentially a monthly block party that ties together local shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants that fly below the mainstream radar. A free trolley runs between all of the participating areas of downtown so that we can park somewhere simple, then enjoy our local arts scene without worrying about traffic.

The Yardhouse

Kegs at The Yardhouse

Town Center – This open air plaza is just a couple miles south of the Strip and is very accessible to visitors, but most of the people you find here are locals. Sure, we hit up the shops, but what we like most are the open children’s play area, movie theatre and restaurants. The Yardhouse and its incredible selection of beers on tap is always busy, and the Blue Martini is a popular locals lounge.

Red Rock – We like to encourage visitors who have rented a car to spend a day exploring Red Rock Canyon, but by and large the majority of people there are locals. Las Vegas is ideal for outdoor activities, and hikers and climbers frequently spend time at Red Rock. On weekend mornings, cyclists and runners flock to Red Rock to work out as the sun comes up. That’s when you see the most wildlife.

Hiking at Red Rock Canyon

Hiking at Red Rock Canyon

Local Businesses – We have just about anything that any big city has; in fact, the joke is that the only thing we don’t have is an IKEA. But in addition to the mainstream stores, there are several local businesses in Las Vegas, and we like to support our neighbors by patronizing them. There are a handful of fabulous pizza places to chow down at, and I recently discovered an awesome fro-yo shop that I hope sticks around. Locals also own music stores, comic stores, bars, used bookstores and a variety of other businesses. There are a couple weekly magazines in town that do a great job of highlighting these businesses, and many locals make an effort to go out of their way to check them out.

JoAnna Haugen is the Las Vegas travel guide writer for WhyGo Las Vegas, which provides information on airfare, hotels and attractions in Sin City. She also writes a personal travel blog called Kaleidoscopic Wandering.

Photos courtesy of JoAnna Haugen.

JoAnna August 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm

It truly is amazing how many people find it hard to believe that people live in Las Vegas. At least half the time I mention where I live I get a look of complete shock from people. But I agree … if they can live in Orlando, they can live in Vegas.

And the hiking really is fabulous, isn't it?

Geraldine August 9, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I managed to get out of the city (or, more accurately, The Strip) the last time I visited Vegas, and it was amazing – we enjoyed some fabulous hiking. I definitely want to get out there again – and the Art Walk sounds wonderful.

Hey – people live in Orlando – so why wouldn't they live in Vegas?

Candicewalsh August 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Oooh, totally keeping this in mind for when I visit someday!

SoloFriendly August 4, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Good advice, Ex-vegan, and I've heard of all of those restaurants in my online wanderings through Vegas message boards.

Ex-vegan August 4, 2010 at 10:54 pm

I am a recovering Las Vegan (grew up there, and left a few years ago, and never looked back), and one tip I tell people who are visiting Vegas is to venture off strip for the food. Although I live in foodie heaven now, what I miss most about Vegas (other than the variety of entertainment options) are the restaurants: Firefly, Lindo Michoacan, Paymon's Meditteranean Grill….and the list goes on.

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