The Las Vegas Transition
I moved to Las Vegas about four years ago. Being a Midwestern girl, the City of Sin would probably seem pretty intimidating. While I wouldn’t consider myself a hardened and true resident of Nevada, I have definitely learned and adjusted to things out here. The biggest adjustment being that there is truly life outside of the Strip, a whole city as a matter of fact. Being a newbie in this big city, here a few things that I have learned.
Living in Las Vegas Does Not Mean Living on the Strip
This has happened several times when talking to friends and they find out I now live in Las Vegas. The statement, “You must go to the Strip all of the time,” comes out in some variation from every single one of them. The truth is, as a local, we don’t. Firstly, the Strip is expensive. It would be like asking someone who lived in Orlando, if they went to Disney World all of the time. You can go freely to the Strip, but you pay for. McDonald’s even charges an arm and a leg for a coke. Money may play a big part in keeping locals away, but the biggest reason is driving the Strip. I once spent forty-five minutes in a left turn lane trying to get to an Evil Dead musical. Yes, they make those. Needless to say, I have yet to see that show. Locals really only go down to the Strip when family and friends are visiting town, to see a show, or to check out a restaurant. Driving to get through the traffic and pedestrians is extremely stressful. It is much easier to stay and walk on the Strip.
Tips When On the Strip
Now we may not always go down to the Strip, but there are some things my friends should be aware of when visiting the Strip.
In the last few years a law was changed that no longer requires a permit to perform on the Strip. Since then, the Strip and Fremont Street for that matter have been flooded with “street performers.” I quoted that because there really isn’t a better term. I am not talking about the talented street performers who are truly trying to share their passion and talents with everyone else and maybe gets tips doing what they love. I am talking about the costumed, dressed up performers. These are the ones that look a little sketchy in their clearly dirty Elmo outfit. These people could be fantastic people, but they can also be bad people. My warning is to be careful. You can take pictures with them if you want, but you are not required to give them money. You are allowed to tip them, if you want to. They can be extremely pushing about taking a picture with you and asking for money. They are also very pushy with your children if they are dressed as a cartoon character. This is exactly what is going on in Times Square and at the Chinese Theater. You just have to be careful.
There are also people selling bottles of water. They actually can’t sell you water without a permit which is why you will see “Donate $2” or something of that variation. Most will get very upset if you do not donate, but you are not required to. Again while a good portion could be legit, there have been cases where some of these people have just filled up bottles from a tap and are handing them out. It is your choice to do as you please, but I would check the seals before you venture. It is always that 10% that are trying to take advantage that ruin it for the other people.
DO NOT JAY WALK!!! Whether you are sober or drunk, do not do this. They have reality shows filled with people that were arrested for Jay Walking on the Strip and sent to jail. You will be taken to jail! Las Vegas Blvd is way too congested for you to do this, and it is for your safety to use the appropriate crosswalks. There are even bridges at various points for you to use, so that you don’t have to wait on the crosswalks on the street. Ultimately, drivers in Las Vegas are shit, and it is not worth your life.
If you need a taxi on the Strip, you cannot hail for one on the street. Cab drivers will get cited for stopping on the street to pick you up, which will ultimately affect their job. Again this is due to the congestion of drivers and pedestrians. If you need a taxi, you have to go to the casino entrances to find one. You will have no problem finding them there. They will be clustered together waiting on someone to take them.
If you are brave and decide to drive the Strip, the major Strip casinos have free valet parking. The valets will expect tips, and honestly it is still cheaper to tip than to pay the valet at some of the casinos. In relation to that, parking is also free in the casino parking garages on the Strip. This is pretty much universal at all casinos in Las Vegas, except Fremont Street. Free parking on Fremont is hard to come by and fought over, Thunder Dome style. Just be prepared to hand over some cash.
Food is Fantastic
Being from small town, the height of exotic was driving to the closest larger town to eat at the Olive Garden. While Vegas has its own share of Olive Gardens, it caters to much more varieties of taste. Any kind of food, you can find it here. Hell if you want to cook it, we have and international grocery store. That was an interesting place. I took my parents there when they were visiting once so that my mum could raid the Swedish foods. I love all of the variety and mom and pop places here. There is this little Chicago hot dog place near my job that not only makes the best hot dogs, but seriously one of the best damn burgers I have ever had in my life. For what you pay, you get an amazing amount. Plus the family that owns it is from Chicago, so you get some of that Midwestern hospitality and customer service that the rest of the city horribly lacks. We even have a gourmet doughnut shop that will bring tears to my eyes. I love the food here. We also have crazy ass buffets, which is awesome when you want to try something new and worldly. They recently opened a buffet at Caesar’s Palace called the Bachanal. I will be honest, it is expensive. It can ranges anywhere between $30 to $60 per person depending on the day and time you go. It is soooooooooooo worth it.
Driving in Las Vegas Period
This has been the hardest transition for me, because people cannot drive worth shit out here. There was a joke on a list I read where someone said that driving in Las Vegas was like playing Mario Kart. She is absolutely right. I have never had to defensively drive so much in my whole life. People have said that driving in Los Angeles is crazy, but everyone drives the same. The same can be said about Chicago. That is not the case in Las Vegas, which is what makes it hard to predict A driver kills a pedestrian at least once a week. That is not an exaggeration. We have a big campaign about how to drive more safely going on in the city right now to stop the fatalities. Unfortunately, the locals also walk like they drive, which makes the probability of a fatality higher. I would hope as a pedestrian knowing the fatality rate, one would be more cautious when walking, because it is you vs. car. Nope. I have seen people drag their children across six lanes and a medium, because they didn’t want to walk the fifteen feet to the next crosswalk. It baffles the hell out of me.