The Newcomers Guide
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Greetings, newcomer! Congrats on taking your place in the great residential churn of Las Vegas. Every day, new arrivals like you braid your interests, ambitions and lifestyles into the larger community. To help you sink those roots, our info-rich guide for newbies will get you off to a strong start in seven vital areas: the outdoors, culture, business, nightlife, family life, the food scene and philanthropy. Everything you need for a great new life. Enjoy!
If you’re a ... Foodie
by Debbie Lee
Sure, we live and breathe hype here in Las Vegas, but it’s not vacuous hyperbole to say you’ve just arrived in one of the most exciting culinary cities on the planet. Thank the Strip for that. The sheer amount of capital might on our neon byway buys only the top culinary talent for its restaurants, which, increasingly, are playing a starring role in the new Las Vegas of luxury experiences. Not exactly an organic homegrown success story, but that won’t matter when you’re sampling a divine Golden Osetra caviar at Guy Savoy, will it? Off the Strip, meanwhile, we’re growing up, too, with Summerlin and Downtown as our dual incubators for dining innovation.
THE MUST LISTGet down to Chinatown
For Vietnamese grub with a side of eye candy, make a late night run to Pho Kim Long (702-220-3613) — it’s a favorite postgame hangout for club-going weekend warriors. Thai food fans must try the pork belly at newcomer Chada Street (chadastreet.com), while Japanophiles will find bliss in a bowl at the cozy (and often crowded) Monta Ramen
Don’t skip iconic Strip meals
Any epicurean worth her salt must pay respects at Joël Robuchon Restaurant (MGM Grand, 702-891-7925) and Restaurant Guy Savoy (Caesars Palace, 702-731-7286). Their arrivals in the mid-aughts put us on the culinary map, and their degustation menus continue to serve as the standard by which all other upscale restaurants are measured. Diners who prefer whimsy to formality might be better served splurging at Bazaar Meat (SLS Las Vegas, 702-761-7610). From the $70 slices of imported jamon to the $30 foie gras s’mores, Chef Jose Andres’ maximalist steakhouse is a modern classic that shows no mercy on your heart (or wallet).
Graze the Bacchanal Buffet
Zombie-marching around steam tables is a Las Vegas rite of passage, so you may as well go all in on the experience. This over-the-top buffet churns out more than 500 offerings daily, including dishes from Caesars’ most popular restaurants. Where else can Gordon Ramsay’s fish and chips and grandma’s Jell-O cubes meet at the same table? (Caesars Palace, 702-731-7928)
Try the Grand Tasting at Vegas Uncork’d
For all of the culinary events hosted in our city, The Grand Tasting at Vegas Uncork’d — an annual event hosted by Bon Appetit magazine — is one of the most extravagant. Expect nothing less than an obscene amount of fine food, prepared and served to you personally by the world-class chefs who elevate our city’s dining scene. ( vegasuncorkd.com)
Chef Edmund Wong's culinary classroom
Attend an executive chef’s culinary classroom
Thanks to tourists and the quest for their very own Eat, Pray, Love moment, locals looking to hone their cooking skills have unique access to top-notch instruction at An Executive Chef’s Culinary Classroom. This series of recreational classes, arranged via concierge and led by Bellagio Executive Chef Edmund Wong, offers step-by-step guidance in the making of a quality meal. ( bellagio.com, 866-906-7171)
Believe it or not, maintaining a locavore lifestyle in the desert is doable. It’s not quite as simple as a trip to Whole Foods, but it’s also not as dire as foraging for nuts and berries at Mount Charleston. The Las Vegas area is home to a small community of farmers and quality food producers, many of which deserve our loyal patronage. The only trick is finding them.
The Downtown 3rd Farmers Market ( downtown3rdfarmersmarket.com) and Downtown Summerlin Farmers Market (unaffiliated) are good places to start. Although some of the produce arrives from California, the majority of vendors are made up of small family operations, providing respite from big box stores and cybershopping.
You could also consider joining a CSA (community-supported agriculture). Quail Hollow Farm ( quailhollowfarmcsa.com) and Meadow Valley Farm ( meadowvalleycsa.com) offer subscriptions to weekly baskets of seasonal produce grown 50 or so miles from the city. For something less committed, a weekend trip to The Farm (thelasvegasfarm.com) or Gilcrease Orchard ( thegilcreaseorchard.org) provides an opportunity to pick up local eggs, honey, and fruit.
Finally, those with a DIY spirit have the option of growing their own. The 80-hour Southern Area Master Gardener Program, via the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension ( unce.unr.edu), will shape anyone into a certified green thumb. Short on time? Get the Cliff’s Notes version to your veggie growing quandaries by asking a gardener who has already completed the program — they’re usually on hand at farmers markets around the city. Or try a one-day workshop by Leslie Doyle ( sweettomatotestgarden.com), a local Master Gardener who hosts free classes in her personal test garden. Debbie Lee
WHO TO KNOWJolene Mannina
The one-time food truck operator is also the city’s hottest food scenester. After parlaying Back of the House Brawl, a head-to-head chef competition she orchestrated for local F&B professionals, into a television concept, Mannina now oversees Relish LLC, a catering and event management company. ( whyrelish.com)
When chefs Tom Colicchio, Mario Batali and Shawn McClain need pristine ingredients for their local menus, Clasby is their most valuable connection. The “produce whisperer” also supplies her weekly finds at the Downtown 3rd and Downtown Summerlin farmers markets. ( intuitiveforager.com)
If you’re talking about the most buzzed-about restaurant in town, chances are Blau is linked to it. With a Strip pedigree (Le Cirque, Wynn) and a trifecta of local hotspots (Honey Salt, Andiron, Made L.V.), the restaurateur is now reaching a broader audience with a role on CNBC’s upcoming season of Restaurant Startup.( elizabethblau.com)
In 2015, Costello earned the title of master sommelier, an honor bestowed upon only 147 hospitality professionals in North America. Fortunately, in his role as wine director of the Mandarin Oriental, his expertise and influence extends to all properties on site (including, but not limited to, TWIST by Pierre Gagnaire).
Chef Natalie Young
A leading light of the Downtown dining explosion, Chef Young is the owner of breakfast spot EAT and Chinese ’n’ chicken joint Chow. As Downtown cuisine matures from casino coffeeshop fare to more adventurous food that pushes the napkin, Young remains one to watch.
by Heidi Kyser
“Come for the cost of living; stay for the outdoors.” If everyone hiking at Red Rock this weekend had a nickel for every time they’d heard that, they could afford a much-needed refurb of the public toilets out there. The wealth of recreational opportunities within an hour’s drive isn’t exactly a well-kept secret; plenty of rock climbers and backpackers move here so they can live and work close to the wild. But if you’re a casual hiker or boater who came here for another reason entirely, you will be stunned by the abundance of nature at your trekking pole-tips. You could spend a lifetime experiencing new trails and peaks, and have another lifetime’s worth left to discover. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Start here, now.
THE MUST LISTKayak Willow Beach in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Just 15 minutes past the more popular marinas, Willow Beach is worth the drive for three reasons: gorgeous scenery, placid water and motorized-vessel restrictions on Sundays and Mondays. With no speedboats or jet-skiers around, there’s nothing to distract from the painted cliffs and soft currents.
Watch (and listen to) wildlife at Wetlands Park
Hidden near the heart of the city, this lush nature preserve harbors birds ranging from roadrunners to storks, as well as coyotes, ground squirrels and other small critters. Take advantage of the benches sprinkled throughout the complex of easy trails to hit pause and hear the stir of life in the marsh. ( clarkcountynv.gov/wetlandspark)
Bike the River Mountains Loop Trail
This 34-mile, paved, off-road trail has something for every type of bicyclist. Experienced roadies get four miles of successive climbs between Equestrian Park and Lake Mead, dubbed the “three sisters.” For families there’s the fun, flat stretch that merges with Lakeshore Road near Boulder Beach. And mountain bikers love the hair-raising hills of Bootleg Canyon. ( rivermountainstrail.com)
Hike the Upper Bristlecone Trail at Mount Charleston
Of the hundreds of hikes in and around Las Vegas, this 6-mile, moderately strenuous loop is the one to start with, because it’s accessible without being boring, well-worn without being overcrowded (at least during off-season) and close enough for a day-trip while far enough away to represent the depth and breadth of natural wonders available around city.
Jeep to Potato Ridge at Red Rock
Hard-core Jeepers say Rocky Gap Road, aka Potato Ridge, is the go-to route for those who want just enough white-knuckled rock-crawling and switchbacks to justify owning the Swiss Army Knife of vehicles, combined with the payoff of mountaintop vistas over the Las Vegas Valley. Stock Jeeps can use the main trail to the summit.
INSTANT INTELA guide to Nevada’s many public lands
The amount of public land in Nevada is more than just a reason for folks like Cliven Bundy to get their Wranglers in a twist; it’s good to know for those who like to camp, hike, hunt and otherwise get their outdoors on without breaking the law. According to hunters and anglers nonprofit Our Public Lands, more than 80 percent of Nevada is occupied by national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments and wilderness areas. Las Vegas is practically surrounded by such places, with the BLM managing most of the public lands immediately surrounding the city, such as Red Rock and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas. Each area has its own rules, but generally speaking, the BLM requires visitors to respect the environment by staying on designated trails and not touching native art. The Forest service oversees the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which includes Mount Charleston. The big concern there is fire and other damage to sensitive habitat, so restrictions include things like keeping dogs leashed and getting permits to camp. The National Park Service handles Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the east. Most of their rules have to do with safety — keeping boats away from swimmers (and vice versa), for instance. And The Fish and Wildlife Service oversees the Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the north, as well as recovery and regulatory issues related to the desert tortoise throughout Southern Nevada. You would see them for a permit to hunt in the Sheep Mountains … if there were anything to hunt there, that is. For a map of Nevada’s public lands, visit the U.S. Department of the Interior’s website at doi.gov. Heidi Kyser
WHO TO KNOWMauricia Baca Neon to Nature app
Executive Director of the Outside Las Vegas Foundation Baca shepherded a massive, multigroup effort that brought all Southern Nevada’s trails, urban and wild, together in one searchable database.
Jim Boone birdandhike.com
A scientists and wildlife consultant, Boone created birdandhike.com, one of the most comprehensive of the personally compiled online outdoors guides in Southern Nevada.
Heather and Jared Fisher of Escape Adventures channel on YouTube
Owners of Las Vegas Cyclery and Escape Adventures eco-tour channel. Lately, the Fishers have been selling people on the great outdoors with amazing videos, shot with drones, of the places they visit.
Alan Gegax of VegasHikers Meetup group and Facebook page
Gegax runs the hiking Meetup that claims more than 10,000 members, and is a living repository of information on safety and survival on the trail.
Jesy Simons @Wild_Jesy
Southern Nevada technician for Friends of Nevada Wilderness. If you need someone to pick up a snake — then identify its genus and species and send it on its slithering way — Simons is your woman. She Tweets dependably on all things wilderness in Southern Nevada.
Deborah Wall of Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States
The Review-Journal’s official outdoors columnist. In addition to covering the hikes and camping trips readers expect, Wall ferrets out interesting outings in unexpected places — think exotic animal sanctuary or star-gazing spot.
If you’re an ... Entrepreneur
by Tony Illia and Andrew Kiraly
Welcome! By the time you read this, you’ve probably heard the phrase “economic diversification” about 10,247 times. While that phrase does include a few generous handfuls of wishful-thinking fairy dust (and while our mainstay biz sectors, such as tourism and construction are rumbling to post-recession life again), there’s some truth in there, too. Between the small-business renaissance happening Downtown, our modest flirtations with a tech/industrial sector and helloooo medical marijuana industry!, the entrepreneurial opportunities here are constantly percolating. But in Vegas as elsewhere, it’s all about who you know.
THE MUST LISTJoin the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce
This should be the first stop for every new business arrival. The nonprofit’s annual Preview Las Vegas offers an invaluable economic forecast — which also doubles as the year’s ultimate networking event. The 200,000-person chamber also puts on a 10-month leadership academy for up-and-coming young professionals. Another member benefit: group health insurance. ( lvchamber.com)
Like our dynamic economy, the power-lunch hot spots change, but a few blips on the radar include Andiron Steak & Sea, drawing the Summerlin cognoscenti; Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Town Square, and — an oldie but a goodie, comparatively speaking — Veranda at the Four Seasons for a classic power breakfast. Even if you don’t stumble into that life-changing business-card exchange, it never hurts to be seen. ( andironsteak.com) ( flemingssteakhouse.com)
Consider joining Vegas Young Professionals
An arm of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, VYP is more than a mere intake valve for the Metro mothership; geared toward professionals from 21 to 39, it’s quickly become a force of its own, earning a reputation as a bustling, gotta-join bootstrapping org for young entrepreneurs. ( vegasyp.com)
Check out the state chapter of NAIOP
Even if you’re not in commercial real estate. The acronym used to stand for National Association for Industrial and Office Parks, but now it’s just NAIOP because it’s evolved dramatically. The Southern Nevada chapter is made up of the industry’s most influential powerbrokers. Unlike many trade groups, NAIOP members actually do business with one another. And company owners themselves participate in chapter panels, mixers and meetings. NAIOP’s annual bus tour is a mandatory event. ( naiopnv.org)
Read Nevada Business Magazine
Nevada Business Magazine is the state’s 30-year-old business bible. It provides comprehensive examinations of tourism, insurance, health care, real-estate, education and technology. It also assembles roundtables with decision-makers who tackle topical issues. Produced by Lyle and Connie Brennan, the glossy monthly boasts a circulation of 82,000, making it a must-read.
INSTANT INTELWant to make it in Vegas? Give yourself up
Despite our reputation for transience, Las Vegas has a surprisingly tight-knit business community. As a result, making inroads can be tricky for newcomers — but not impossible. Your first instinct might be to color in your calendar with a full roster of cocktail mixers and networking events, which is fine. But while you may spread your business cards far and wide, the real secret to powerful networking is to go deep.
How to do that in Las Vegas? Simple: Get involved. Find a handful of groups that are a fit for you. Many transplants mistakenly try to do it all, which often leads to disappointing results. It’s better to channel your time and energy into the groups where you can make a genuine difference. And consistent participation is crucial. That means steady attendance at group luncheons, events and mixers. Familiarity breeds comfort, which leads to acceptance.
Although meet-and-greets and business cards are a must, the real way to connect comes from volunteering. It’s far from the buzz of the hip cocktail mixer, but believe it or not, government-affairs and awards committees are strong candidates; they tend to attract key industry types. For instance, Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce government-affairs committee is the “it” group for valley powerbrokers. Inclusion among its ranks carries status, since the committee wields an uncanny amount of influence upon the political landscape. Every elected official and candidate statewide covets the committee’s endorsement. And NAIOP’s Spotlight Awards are the industry’s most sought-after honor, but it’s the planning committee that pulls the strings, planning the program and speakers, which include mayors and governors. Committee members rub elbows with the group’s elite, and everyone returns your calls.
In such cases, your involvement shows people that you’re committed. You’re seen as someone who is building real roots, rather than as just another fly-by-night character looking for a quick buck. It additionally creates an opportunity to relate with people on a human level and form lasting relationships in a non-networking setting. And — bonus — volunteers are usually recognized during public events where they’re asked to stand and wave, and they’re additionally acknowledged in newsletters and publications. That’s the type of focused marketing impact an ad simply can’t buy. Tony Illia
WHO TO KNOWHoward Stutz, Las Vegas Review-Journal
The resort industry is the all-powerful behemoth behind our economy, and no one covers it better than the RJ’s veteran gaming columnist. Stutz travels to Macau, Atlantic City and elsewhere to get the inside scoop. Global gaming companies rely on his insight and analysis when making decisions. You should, too. (Looking to strike up a conversation? Just mention the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego Chargers. Stutz is an avid sports fan.) (@howardstutz)
Terry Murphy, Strategic Solutions
Political pundit Murphy is president of the 19-year-old consulting firm specializing in government representation, grassroots efforts and public-policy analysis. No one navigates the byzantine political landscape like Murphy. Station Casinos and Wynn Resorts have relied upon her savvy back-channeling expertise for lobbying efforts. (And as Nevada’s honorary consul to Ireland, Murphy is a good person to grab a drink with, too.)
Virginia Valentine, Nevada Resort Association
President of the ultra-influential Nevada Resort Association, voice of the state’s largest taxpayer, Valentine knows Las Vegas from the inside out. She’s held stints as manager for both the City of Las Vegas and Clark County, overseeing billion-dollar budgets, dozens of departments and thousands of employees. So she knows everyone, high and low.
Jonas Peterson, Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance
This must-know guy is chief executive of the heavy-hitter group that extols the benefits of doing business in Southern Nevada. Made up of the valley’s power elite, the alliance champions economic diversity while helping newcomers take advantage of business benefits. Its efforts paid off last year with 3,800 new jobs. Peterson can be found hiking at Red Rock during his off hours. ( lvgea.org)
Tony Hsieh, Zappos, Downtown Project
Whether you think Hsieh is Downtown’s savior or just a fickle investor, there’s no denying the Zappos CEO and Downtown Project chief has helped launch a flotilla of businesses in the city core. A proponent of “collisions” — chance meetings where ideas and business cards are exchanged — he’s often seen hanging out Downtown sans entourage. Even if you don’t get face time, keep an eye on him for his business moves — sometimes prescient, sometimes premature, but always bold.
Dr. Tony Alamo, Nevada Gaming Commission
Want to learn how gaming works here? Attend the monthly meetings of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Its chairman since last year, Dr. Tony Alamo, is a local physician and prominent Republican who has a deep knowledge of, but not the deep ties to Nevada’s gaming industry: His father ran the Desert Inn for Kirk Kerkorian and opened the MGM Grand.
If you’re a ... Culture Lover
by Scott Dickensheets
The arts in Las Vegas are all about knowing where to look. The vivid, attention-hogging high-beams of Strip entertainment — we say that with love, because a lot of it is very good — can make it hard to see the more intimate, community-based culture that lives in the valley’s nooks and crannies. It’s there, trust us. And for almost every cultural fixture newbies might expect to find here but won’t (a freestanding art museum; an equity theater company), there are forward-pushing synonym efforts (a university museum; risk-taking community theater troupes) ably delivering the kind of cosmopolitan
fizz that’ll help make this place come alive.
THE MUST LIST
Treat your optic nerve at UNLV’s Barrick Museum
The valley’s scandalous absence of a freestanding art museum (even Reno has one!) throws this institution’s generally high-caliber exhibits and lecture series into high relief — it’s our best venue for large, serious, gotta-see exhibitions. ( unlv.edu/barrickmuseum)
Get yourself multicultured at Winchester Cultural Center
The spunky programmers at this mid-valley gem are all over the map, in the best way: with seriously cross-cultural music, dance and theater offerings, as well as a pocket art gallery that’s incubated some of the city’s most vital artists. ( clarkcountynv.gov)
See stuff at The Smith Center
This is the source for most of your top-line entertainment/culture needs. Traveling Broadways shows, concerts, cozy jazz nights, big speakers. This is the kind of culture-maven big box that probably anchored the artsy scene in whatever city you just left. ( thesmithcenter.com)
Tour the Neon Boneyard at night
Few things promote a newbie’s root-growth like seeing the history of your new home made lovely. These rescued neon beauties — presented in sequenced jumbles, some gorgeously lit up — are history at its most intimate and visceral. Closest thing Vegas offers to time travel.
If you go for indifferently stocked corporate book caverns, Vegas has three Barnes & Noble outlets to serve your self-help and paranormal-romance needs. If you prefer a welcoming, smartly curated bookstore flocked with indie spirit and hosting a ton of events, this Fremont Street shop is the only game in town. ( thewritersblock.org)
The entertainment industry nourishes our cultural life
“Vegas is fortunate to have such a wealth of talent right here in the middle of our city,” says Troy Heard, one of the valley’s top theater directors, who programs shows at Onyx Theatre. He’s talking about the Strip, of course — that long row of megaresorts packed with singers, dancers, acrobats, comedians, musicians, artists, designers, costumers, lighting technicians and many other professionally creative people. For many of them, their main jobs consist of performing the same task day after day, sometimes twice a day. They want more — to stretch different muscles, to tackle different challenges. Local culture is the beneficiary. “It’s not unusual to see Cirque clowns do midnight shows at the Onyx,” Heard says, “Blue Men act with A Public Fit and major lighting designers illuminate Cockroach shows.” A monthly composers showcase at The Smith Center showcases Strip musicians, and dancers from production shows or Cirque productions have been featured in choreography showcases.
“I can think of 10 off the top of my head,” says Ann-Marie Pereth, artistic director of A Public Fit, an exciting recent addition to the valley’s roster of theater companies. “My standards are pretty high,” Pereth says. “I’m picky about who I use, so it’s great to have so many talented, skilled people here.” They’ve assisted her onstage and backstage, whether it’s Steven Zeller, a sound engineer for Cirque’s Love who’s designed the sound for several APF shows, or Chris Brown, a member of Blue Man Group who’s acted in APF shows and directs the company’s outreach program, or Kate St. Pierre, a former Mystére performer who’s an actress and associate producer with Pereth’s troupe. “It’s a place for all this talent to stretch their wings.” All to the benefit of local audiences. Scott Dickensheets
WHO TO KNOWBrooklyn Bowl Twitter feed
Music lovers will want to follow this joint on Twitter for updates and entertainment from one of the city’s best and busiest venues.
Kristen Peterson, Las Vegas Weekly
The local arts and culture reporter with the surest grasp of the community, the best source network — and just the right amount of sass. ( lasvegasweekly.com)
Troy Heard, theater director
If the word “madcap” didn’t exist, this blurb would have to coin it to describe the madcap theatrical impresario Troy Heard. Whether he’s programming the Onyx Theater — smart, undergroundish pop-culture musicals, comedies and hard-to-describe somethings — or directing for someone else, if his name is on the playbill, it’ll be worth your time.
Vicki Richardson, Left of Center Gallery
Far from the hipster preserve of Downtown’s Arts District, Richardson has grown Left of Center Gallery into a true cultural resource for North Las Vegas, giving artists of color a welcoming venue and gathering a strong collection of African art. (2207 W. Gowan Road)
Brian “Paco” Alvarez, culture maven
His see-no-evil Downtown boosterism irks some, but his Facebook feed is a clearinghouse for news and opinionated perspectives about the city’s cultural life.
Black Mountain Institute Twitter feed
The big-deal literary nonprofit tweets news of its activities — panels, readings, the doings of its fellows — as well as links to content any reasonably bookish person will want to keep up with. (@BlackMtnInst)
If you’re a ... Night Owl
by Xania Woodman and Andrew Kiraly
Yes, there’s no last call. Once you get that out of your system (and have the number of a no-questions-asked designated driver in your cell phone), the next level of Vegas nightlife awaits: Mind-melting nightclubs, artisanal dive bars and musical talent that butters its bread on the Strip but plays its heart out in a neighborhood venue near you. Still a small town in many ways, Vegas hasn’t yet been comatized by that big-city blasé factor. Yes, it’s about who you know, but it’s also about how you know them.
THE MUST LISTDance the night away at Omnia
If nightclubs are just our unconscious pop-culture figurations of alien technology — lights, beams, and boom-bips whipped into orchestral frenzy — with Omnia, we’ve achieved liftoff. The central chandelier ring — uncoiling, telescoping, spinning — is the closest you’ll come to being ecstatically beamed up into a sentient warpship’s uterine bio-port. To an incredible beat. ( omnianightclub.com)
Drink colorfully at Fireside Lounge at Peppermill
Sipping a neonescent fruit-hat drink while love-squeezing your date in the firepit’s rosy glow isn’t just a totes-Vegas way to spend a chunk of Friday night. It’s a sporadic ritual for any self-respecting Sin City nightlifer. ( peppermilllasvegas.com)
Rum it up at Frankie’s Tiki Room
Thick with tiki-bar tchotchkes (and often smoke), Frankie’s Tiki Bar brews up brain-creasing, rum-forward drinks that are among the strongest in ... uh, what was I saying? *Fumblingly scoops mai tai-soaked mind from floor of bar back into skull.*
Hear new sounds at Composers Showcase
You might imagine that, when not performing, Strip musicians would enter egglike nutrient-bathed cryo-chambers and enter a state of rejuvenative catatonia. But would you believe they’ve still got creative energy left?! Totally! And they spend it penning original tunes! They perform them at Composers Showcase, a freewheeling (but curated) monthly musical variety show at The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. ( thecomposersshowcase.com)
Keep it cool at Phoenix
For a destination, make-a-night-of-it-and-maybe-some-of-the-morning LGBTQ club, Share ( sharenightclub.com) is a must. But The Phoenix Bar & Lounge, with its blazing signature mural fronting Sahara Avenue, has quickly become a locals mainstay, loved for its lively but low-key — and, most importantly, inclusive — vibe. ( thephoenixlv.com)
INSTANT INTELYour money or your life
You simply have to choose. That’s what I’ve been telling newcomers to Las Vegas since I joined the ranks myself in 2001. Participating in the Las Vegas nightlife machine will either cost you your money or your precious time. And you will have to spend one (liberally!) to save the other: lots of time in line to pay less or even nothing to get in, or money to expedite the process. Therefore, the more work you can do in advance, the better. Networking can go a long way, especially friending the guys and gals on Facebook with nightclubs for last names (“Adam Omnia,” “Eve Light” — you get the idea.)
As with so many things, there is also a sex angle that can’t be ignored. Not the steamy kind so much as the gender kind. Women are prized for their presence, men more so for their wallets. Not that you won’t ever see a tableful of young women pooling their quarterly bonuses for $750 bottles of Grey Goose Cherry Noir at XS, but for each of those outliers there are easily 100 wolf packs who just strolled in after trying to recreate “the fountains shot” from Ocean’s Eleven (you know the one).
Further complicating the struggle — and, oh, yes, the struggle is real! — is whether you’re a local or a visitor. As a local, you should expect your money to remain largely untouched till you hit the bar (hopefully with a fistful of drink tickets from your new friends at the door). Rather, the currency of the local is the time spent forging relationships. VIP hosts are well-compensated for the number of women they bring in, regardless of the night. But locals, regardless of sex, will feel the love more on Industry Night. Each club has a night that it claims for itself as the alternate Saturday of someone presumed to be working in the hospitality industry in some capacity, and therefore more likely to work Friday and Saturday nights. On such nights, the nightlife machine is oiled just a little more to operate in favor of the service sector.
Assuming you came to Las Vegas to join the tourism-based work force — or can handle a late Monday or Tuesday night out — this is a good thing. But if 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. Monday-through-Friday is your grind, you’re more likely to be thrown to the weekend wolf packs. Xania Woodman
WHO TO KNOWYvette Auger, Networking guru
Auger’s Cosmopolitan Connections is one of the best free networking events in town. Newcomers will not only find like-minded professionals, but the rotating themes also mean meeting people from other professions, while the ever-changing locations bring you to new destination lounges, bars and restaurants.
Michael Fuller, Lucky Foo’s
The former-DJ-turned-event-producer has once again reinvented himself, this time as the owner of a hip Henderson restaurant and bar. But, as Fuller recently proved at the one-year anniversary of his Lucky Foo’s Restaurant & Bar, he can still throw down on the turntables.
Alex Cordova, Hakkasan
The Las Vegas nightlife veteran currently doing a tour of duty as the executive vice president of marketing for Hakkasan Group also happens to own not one but two juice bars specializing in detoxifying your party bod. That’s right — he gets you coming and going! ( juicenv.com)
P Moss, Double Down, Frankie’s Tiki Room
In a nightlife and bar scene built on hype and hustles, the proprietor of the Double Down Saloon and Frankie’s Tiki Room is as real as a naked dwarf rolling around in broken glass. (Go to the Double Down to find out what that means.)
Keith Thompson, music impresario
The witty host of Composers’ Showcase at is a seasoned composer in his own right, but he’s also a conductor — that is, a conductor of relationships who’s introduced countless musicians, singers and songwriters to each other during his tenure as emcee.
If you’re a … Family
by Molly Michelman, Sarah Vernetti and Chantal Corcoran
Las Vegas is a fine family city, and key to that — wait, why are you smirking? Is it because you’ve heard there is a thicket of contraindicators here, from poor school rankings to high rates of teen pregnancy, from racy billboards to the temptations of a permissive culture, all lengthening the odds against a healthy family life? True, but only part of the story. As with many things, there are safe paths through the wilderness. Las Vegas is a fine family city, and key to that are the many terrific places you can take your kids to play, to learn, to grow — plus, plenty of smart, dedicated people ready to help along the way.
THE MUST LISTExpand young minds at Springs Preserve
This is the perfect starting point for families seeking to learn more about local history. Begin at the Origen Museum, with its exhibits on flash floods, train travel, water conservation and ecology. Move on to the desert-themed playground and the peaceful botanical gardens. For further educational fun, don’t forget the Nevada State Museum, right next door.
Spend a day at Craig Ranch Regional Park
A family could easily spend a full day at this 170-acre park in North Las Vegas. Check out the playground’s unusual slides and climbing structures, enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade, or play catch on one of the
expansive lawns. Craig Ranch also features a skate park and a dog run.
Get musical at Brill Music Academy
Located in Summerlin, Brill Music Academy offers private lessons on a variety of instruments, including piano, violin, guitar, trumpet, flute, voice and more. With so many options in one place, Brill is a good fit for families with multiple kids who each want to play a different instrument. ( brillmusicvegas.com)
Have fun at Discovery Children’s Museum
Rise up on the High Roller
Enjoy 360-degree views of the Strip and the desert beyond as the pods make their journey around this enormous observation wheel. Dance along with the fun music and be sure to notice the digital “tour guide” who narrates your trip. Afterwards, walk to nearby Sprinkles Cupcakes.
INSTANT INTELWho would raise kids in Las Vegas?!
My neighbor is a former porn star. We pass her house when we walk to the duck pond and might see her watering flowers or playing with her grandchild. Neither of my sons has ever raised an eyebrow at her gargantuan chest, not even my teenager.
Smug, young and foolish, we scoffed at the idea of bringing up our future children in this town. “Who would raise kids in Vegas?” Nearly two decades and two children later, we are (still) here, Valley residents and parents. The Vegas stigma has not played into my parenting concerns thus far. I asked other parents (yes, including a former showgirl) as well as some born-and-bred for input on navigating the landscape of perceived depravity for teens.
“We barely go to the Strip.”
At the ready for visiting relatives or special events, the Strip remains a novelty. Local families prefer to stay local. Suburbs have beautiful parks, sparkly swimming pools and classy shopping. Kids stay busy with karate classes, soccer practice, piano lessons and birthday parties, like Anywhere, U.S.A. Plus, the Strip can be pricey.
“That’s what happens when you drop out of school.”
Teachable moments are ripe for the picking. Moms (of girls, primarily) seize each negative, uncomfortable experience (strip-club billboards, naked buns on taxis, pornographic fliers) as an opportunity for discussion.
“We don’t live in a casino.”
Outsiders assume that Vegas children walk out the door and into a sea of vices. Exposure to the risqué is no different than that of any city, any town, anywhere with Internet access. There are slot machines at the grocery, though all my teen seems to envy are the free cookies they offer.
“We have it all.”
Desert hiking and rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding, boating and water activities, glamorous casinos, shopping, every rock concert imaginable, Broadway touring shows, amusement park rides and celebrity sightings all within an hour’s drive (and much of it off the Strip) add up to a pretty sweet situation.
Who would raise kids in Vegas? People who appreciate the small-town feel with big city opportunities for their offspring. Molly Michelman
WHO TO KNOWLas Vegas-Clark County Library District website
Newcomers have to check out lvccld.org, where a practical guide to Vegas awaits, including employment, government and healthcare resources. Actually, make that your second stop. First, get yourself a card to take advantage of all the site has to offer, such as homework help, community events like LEGO Clubs or Teen Craft Hacks and, of course, ebooks!
Vegas Family Guide website
Tired of hearing there was nothing here for families to do, Danyelle Medina, mother of three, created this website dedicated to all the family fun to be had in Vegas. Beyond such posts as “Top 10 Cheap Date Nights,” Medina publishes a searchable calendar highlighting family-friendly events.
Chris Sakman, Springs Preserve
Sakman is a naturalist with Springs Preserve, the guy who oversees the Nature Exchange, a trading post for young nature enthusiasts. Your kids are bound to discover interesting rocks and things in their new desert yards; they can take these to Sakman to swap for other precious collectibles, such as fossils or snake skins — while learning all about the history of Las Vegas.
Tina Tetter, Discovery Children’s Museum
You’ll want to get to know Tetter, an early childhood educator of the arts, at Discovery Children’s Museum — a three-story building of wonder and interactive exhibits. Tetter works with young guests to explore the exhibits she also creates. Her personal favorite? Spirit masks made of household items, yarn and feathers, during Native American artists month.
If you’re an ... Idealist
By Stacy J. Willis and Chantal Corcoran
Welcome, cause-loving idealist! Welcome, potential philanthropist! Welcome, charitable volunteer! We’re thrilled you’re here. Not only because there are a lot of worthy efforts, nonprofits and needy people just waiting for you, though that is certainly a big part of it — after all, Vegas is on no one’s list of give-backiest cities. Which is too bad: After the wild, go-go years, the recession hit this city hard, and plenty of folks are still reeling — to say nothing of the many arts, education, environmental and other causes that always need tangible support. But we welcome you, too, because every one of you who pitch in make this, bit by bit, a better, more livable city.
THE MUST LISTVolunteer with United Way of Southern Nevada
United Way of Southern Nevada plays a central role in social services in the greater Las Vegas Valley
Nevada ranks last in the nation in preschool enrollment, yet studies show that quality early education improves a child’s performance and peer relations, increases graduation rates and decreases community poverty — which is why United Way is committed to free early education scholarships for needy families. Donations help. Or volunteer for another project in your new community.
Help HELP of Southern Nevada
The recession saw an influx of homeless youths, according to Abby Quinn of HELP of Southern Nevada. The Shannon West Homeless Youth Center accommodates 65 kids, but HELP plans to double this capacity in 2016. It costs $57 a day to house, feed and rehabilitate each homeless youth toward self-sufficiency. Money, hygiene products and clothing are needed.
Get out with the Sierra Club
This month, the Sierra Club’s Southern Nevada Toiyabe chapter will launch its campaign to retire the North Valmy Generating Station in its effort to see coal energy replaced by clean. Protecting the environment is one aspect of this ecofriendly organization’s mission. Also, guided hikes, a must for green-conscious newcomers, promote exploration and enjoyment our desert lands.
Assist the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society
Until 2008, shelters put down 30,000 animals a year, but spay and neuter laws reduced this by half. LLVHS is a primary advocate for such legislation. It offers low-cost spay and neuter referrals. You can help by fostering a pet or making a donation.
Open your wallet for Nevada’s Big Give
This fundraiser encourages a full day of statewide philanthropy. The goals of March 10, 2016 are to raise a million dollars and engage 7,000 donors. Whatever your cause — education, arts, environment — you’ll find multiple avenues to support it at Big Give’s website, plus GuideStar reports rating the legitimacy of participating nonprofits.
INSTANT INTELWhy volunteer? Here’s why I do it
I’m retired from a career with an engineering firm in Illinois. I’m 86 years old. I started volunteering in Illinois, and now I live in Anthem, and I’ve been working at Catholic Charities every Wednesday morning since June. I just went in and met the chef and said, I’ll do whatever you need me to do, whatever I’m capable of doing. He was glad to have me. I just feel like I’ve been fortunate in my life, and I feel good about helping those who may be less fortunate.
So I start at 7 a.m., and I’ll dice potatoes or slice bread or bake biscuits or chop vegetables or whatever they need, and at 8 a.m., we serve breakfast. It’s not slop. We take great care to treat people with dignity. I’ve been to fine restaurants where they don’t take the care that we take to put good food on the plate nicely — it’s about treating people well. We don’t just slop it on some paper plate. It looks nice.
After breakfast, we start over and serve a community meal from 10 to 11. It may be beef stroganoff or turkey tetrazzini, you know, something like that, with vegetables, and fruit — like maybe a banana or an apple for dessert.
Do I get tired of doing it? I’m 86. I get tired. But it’s very simple: I get more out of it than the people who we serve, really. It reminds me that I’m fortunate, and I like to give back. If you don’t like to give back, then you’re selfish, aren’t you?
When I was a kid my dad owned a little restaurant, and I’d work there sometimes. Later I took some cooking courses because I like to cook. I make meals for my friends, and my wife and I enjoy it, and it’s about sharing — and that’s the same thing it’s about with the people at Catholic Charities. It’s about sharing.
Homelessness is a terrible tragedy in this country. In my opinion, it has a lot to do with mental health, and when we closed all the hospitals (in the 1980s) we ended up with people on the streets. Some people are not capable of taking care of everything by themselves. So I think working with an organized charity to help them is a good thing — it’s better than handing them money that may not go to food in their stomach or a bed for the night. I help make their food, and I treat them with dignity, and I think that’s what volunteering is about.
Peter Anton, as told to Stacy J. Willis
WHO TO KNOWLisa Havighorst, Spread the Word Nevada
A terrific nonprofit that helps boost childhood literacy, Spread the Word puts books — some 38,000 a month — into the hands of kids who need them. What can you do? Donate books, sure, but why note get more involved by helping prepare books for distribution or hosting a book drive? Learn more at spreadthewordnv.org, and keep up with it on Twitter,
Young Philanthropists Society, United Way
Here’s one way to dip an early toe into community service: Join this United Way program of youngish go-getters who try to help youths through fundraising and mentorship. Breakout program: “Piggy Bank,” implemented at several local schools, which teaches kids the value of saving money, and has resulted in more than $100,000 saved.
Briana Mackey, Casa de Luz
Casa de Luz is a Christian church and community-resource center in the Naked City neighborhood. It’s credo is that one must get “out of one’s comfort zone and onto the front lines of serving those in need every day.” The church operates a food pantry and works with families and others. Reach out to Briana Mackey and she’ll put you to volunteer work.
Beverly Rogers, The Rogers Foundation
The wife of the late media mogul and big-impact philanthropist Jim Rogers keeps his mojo alive with this foundation. It’s bestowed major gifts (to UNLV’s law school; to the Black Mountain Institute), but at various times it also offers gifts and scholarships on a smaller scale, to students, artists and education projects. ( therogers.foundation)