- Where the Locals Go
Jen’s Las Vegas
Though her travels have taken her around the globe—from South Korea to South Africa—Las Vegas is the only home Jen Lee has ever known.
After more than a decade of welcoming visitors to Sin City as a convention planner, you might think she would tire of talking up her town. But for Jen, Las Vegas never grows old. “There are always sights and experiences to explore and rediscover,” she says. Here are a few of her favorite things about Nevada’s city that never sleeps.
Las Vegas Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them to is Frankie’s Tiki Room to experience the rockabilly surf crowd and ambiance that the place describes on its website as “a unique combination of South Seas exotica and modern primitivism, with just a hint of Las Vegas kitsch.”
Early fall (late September through October) is the best time to visit my city because the weather is mild, traffic is less troublesome, and there are a number of festive activities to choose from. Music fans can opt for Life Is Beautiful, Rockabilly Rockout, or Route 91 Harvest, a country music festival on the Strip. Other don’t-miss autumn events: Oktoberfest at Hofbrauhaus and Halloween haunts at the Bonnie Springs Ranch (once a stopover for pioneers heading west on the wagon trail), which transforms into Bonnie Screams to celebrate the holiday.
You can see my city best from the Calico Tanks Trail in Red Rock National Conservation Area, which is located a little more than 15 miles west of Las Vegas. Hike there at sunset for a great view of the Strip.
Locals know to skip celebrity-chef restaurants and fusion cuisine and check out equally world-class off-Strip dining options instead. A few of my favorites: Dong Ting Chun for Chinese, Forte Tapas Bar, Due Forni for pizza, and Lotus of Siam for Thai.
Las Vegas Distillery is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. Their best-selling spirit, Grandma’s Apple Pie Moonshine, has charmed friends of mine from New Orleans all the way to Ireland.
In the past, notable people like mobster Bugsy Siegel (whose Flamingo Las Vegas hotel still stands on the Strip), entertainer Liberace, and Zappos owner and CEO Tony Hsieh (who spearheaded the entrepreneurial revolution currently transforming downtown Las Vegas) have called my city home.
My city’s best museum is the Neon Museum because it encapsulates the unapologetic ease with which iconic establishments are uprooted to make room for new stars in the Las Vegas skyline.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to avoid the long taxi lines on the Strip’s glitzy south end, where large conventions and special events can cause congestion. The best memories are made while walking down the Strip. The Las Vegas Monorail can be a good option, depending on where you’re going, and provides some respite from the heat.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is on Mount Charleston for a scenic drive that starts with Joshua trees and gives way to pine trees. The mountains, where temperatures can be 20 degrees cooler, are the perfect place to beat the extreme summer heat. In the winter, there is snow to play in.
My city really knows how to celebrate New Year’s Eve because there are amazing entertainers performing all over Las Vegas and the city knows how to keep its visitors safe. Tip: Definitely plan your night way in advance.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they know which drugstores and restaurants are open 24 hours a day.
For a fancy night out, I relax with a view at the Mandarin Bar.
Just outside my city, you can visit the Valley Of Fire.
My city is known for being gaudy and derivative, but it’s really a blank canvas that continually defies expectations.
The best outdoor market in my city is Gilcrease Orchard, since the desert does not offer much in the form of farmers markets.
Eat is my favorite place to grab breakfast (try the chilaquiles or the shrimp and grits with a cup of locally roasted fair-trade coffee) and Pho So 1 is the spot for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Las Vegas Weekly.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I hang out downtown. Don’t Tell Mama piano bar has awesome singing bartenders, and I often end up staying until they close.
To escape the crowds, I socialize at Paymon’s Mediterranean Cafe & Hookah Lounge.
The dish that represents my city best is shrimp cocktail, and the Manhattan cocktail (with a twist) is my city’s signature drink. Sample them at Golden Gate Hotel & Casino and BLVD Cocktail, respectively.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The Bunkhouse Saloon is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Commonwealth.
Day-hiking in the mountains, then partying all night could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should be prepared for a flood of college kids on spring break.
In the summer you should remember to carry and drink water.
In the fall you should gawk at all of the costumed revelers strolling the streets on Halloween.
In the winter you should check out the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Springs Preserve. There are plenty of activities to keep the young ones busy, and the children’s playground is a far cry from anything you experienced as a kid.
The best book about my city is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, because it brilliantly depicts the chaos that can be brought on by the total freedom Las Vegas provides.