How to Do Vegas Like a Local

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, please proceed directly to The Strip and wait in line for your pretentious club experience and overpriced drinks.

When you think of Vegas, do you typically think of gambling and showgirls? What if I told you there’s an electrifying Indie bar and arts scene, reputable wine tastings, access to desert horseback riding through red sandstone cliffs, and camping with scarlet sunsets? And it’s all easily accessible.

Wander just a couple blocks from the infamous streetscape of The Las Vegas Strip, and you will find much more than blackjack dealers and dirty martinis.  The ka-ching of slot machines are certainly in abundance, even in the neighborhood grocer, but most locals rarely journey to the Strip.   I lived in Sin City for four years, teaching school children.  In that time, I learned the ins and outs of what it is to be a Vegas local. I learned how to avoid the glitz and glamour façade and the drunken bachelor parties. I learned what Vegas is really like.

Shop Like A Vegas Local

Technically, you won’t be leaving the Strip, only traveling a stone’s throw south to Town Square, where there are more locals than tourists.  Day or night, walk the fresh open-air pathways past Bebe, Mac and other stores.  Whether it’s Swarovski’s latest collectible or new guitar strings you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it here.  Don’t leave without treating yourself to Yogurtland frozen yogurt.

Local Vegas Nightlife: Get Off The Strip

Skip the pricey nightclubs and megalomaniacal doormen and head to Freemont Street for a refreshing hipster scene with up-and-coming live bands and DJs every night. I recommend the Griffin‘s dimly lit, cave-like atmosphere, something people of all ages can appreciate.  Or check out the fashionable Beauty Bar nearby, a younger crowd and a better venue for dancing.  Back in Town Square, stop in for a pint (or a yard) at Yard House with a hundred-something beers to choose from, each flowing through long brass taps stretching overhead.  Or try the Blue Martini Lounge for ladies’ night cocktails.

Rock and Walk with Vegas Wine Drinkers

Las Vegas has many reputable wine events.  My personal favorite is Rock ‘n Roll Wine, where the wine flows endlessly to live Elliot Smith-like music.  Alternatively, Las Vegas Wine Walks are a bit tamer, set in various outdoor shopping sites, allowing for a warm ambiance and a leisurely evening stroll with many wine-walkers pushing strollers hung with Juicy Couture shopping bags.  Wine pours are measured with a stamp card and you get to keep the glass.

Discover the Las Vegas Art District

If you happen to be in Vegas for First Friday (naturally, the first Friday of each month), this event in the Art District is stimulating and it’s free.  This once-dilapidated part of the city has now been restored and revamped into an eclectic spread of musicians, artists and visual performers – some noteworthy, some not so much.  Browse, buy, or just hang around and enjoy the artsy vibe.

A Yucca in Red Rock Canyon, just outside Las Vegas. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, by Stan Shebs.

Vegas For the Outdoorsy 

The city’s surroundings are full of opportunities to get into the great outdoors, the nearest being Red Rock Canyon, just 20 miles west of the Strip, with hiking, camping, horseback riding, or even a simple scenic drive through the rust-colored sandstone of 13-mile loop.  During the summer, you should definitely make the trip to watch Super Summer Theater at Spring Mountain Ranch, with timeless stage productions under the stars, crisp air, a tartan blanket laid out on the green and a cooler of strawberries, brie cheese and pinot noir.  Or a six-pack of Coors and some nacho cheese Doritos, whichever your cup of tea.

Regardless of your interests, if you have more than a couple days to meander round Sin City, you MUST venture off The Strip.  Trust me, you WILL need it.  And if you tire of all the arts, the music, the wine and the sunshine, you can always go back and sit in the casino and toss chips to the blackjack dealer.

Angela Allman

About Angela Allman

Angela Allman is a freelance writer, teacher and traveler residing in Thailand. She gets her kicks from scuba diving, music, yoga and toasting pints to the blank page.