What’s it Like, Living in Vegas?

I’ve had at least four folks ask me that in the past two weeks, so clearly there’s a story to be told.

Financially, living in Vegas can be beneficial compared to other coast-ish cities, particularly other West Coast-ish cities. Gas is just cresting $4 a gallon, we have a sub-9% sales tax, we have no state income tax, property taxes are fairly low, and so on. A nice 3-bedroom home can be had for under $300k in some nice neighborhoods. Our schools aren’t winning any awards, but frankly, I don’t think the public school system is all that world-class in most US cities. I realize there are far less expensive places to live, don’t get me wrong. But for “major cities,” it’s at the lower end.

We cost about 50% of what SFO costs, 75% of what LAS costs, 40% of what Manhattan costs, 15% more than MCO, 15% less than ORD, and about the same as DFW.

Vegas has all the amenities of a major metro area: a good police force, plentiful stores, and lots of homes. Roads are well-maintained. Infrastructure generally is in good condition and is decently maintained. But we’ve only about 2 million people in the general metro area, which is way less than similar areas like Phoenix.

“Vegas,” as people tend to understand the area, consists of four different municipalities: The City of Las Vegas (where I live; “old” Vegas), The City of North Las Vegas, the City of Henderson, and unincorporated Clark County. Property taxes are levied at an equal percentage throughout, by state constitution.

Speaking of constitutions, our state legislature meets for about 6 months every other year. That’s it. That’s a rarity in the US now, and some folks think it means we can’t get enough lawmaking done. I kind of prefer it. They get a budget passed, and not a lot else, and that’s often okay.

Vegas lacks a lot of the cultural amenities of huge cities. We don’t have a ton of museums,  for example, although that’s changing. We have a world-class performing arts center, the Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (of course), and others coming online. We even have a Natural History Museum, although I’ve not been.

People, for the most part, do not live on the Strip, which is what idiots in airplanes always seem to think when you say, “I love in Las Vegas.” Idiots. Tourists mainly confine themselves to Downtown and the Strip, leaving the remaining suburban sprawl to the locals. We call ourselves “locals.” We do not live on an island, but we have the largest population of native Hawaiians outside the actual Hawaiian islands, so we use “locals.” Hawaiians often refer to Vegas as the “Ninth Island,” and we have amazing poke restaurants.

Most locals do not go to the Strip much, just as most locals in Orlando don’t go to Disney World much. The Strip can be crowded and expensive, but it’s also home to world-class bars, restaurants, retail, shows, and more. Oh, also gambling, but plenty of people don’t gamble.

There’s lots to do. In addition to normal stuff like movie theaters, local ball teams (we do have the college teams from UNLV, although they’re not brand names like, say, Ohio State), Little League, parks with picnic pavilions, blah blah blah. We’ve also got spectacular outdoors activities, like hiking in Red Rocks, off-roading, skiing in nearby Mount Charleston, and close proximity to places like the Grand Canyon, which is a giant hole in the ground that people like to visit. Vegas also has food truck rallies, soccer games, tons of ethnic food festivals throughout the year, a major music festival (Life is Beautiful) or two (Electric Daisy Carnival), you name it. We throw a big Fourth of July party, and nearby Boulder (near Hoover Dam) throws a smaller and quainter one.

We’re four hours from LAX by car, six or so to SLC, and five to PHX. You can go lots of cool places without going to an airport. But, our airport is well-connected to every major US hub city and to a selection of international ones. It’s a little airport, too, so you don’t have to walk 5,000 miles to get to your gate.

Yes, it gets hot in the summer. It’s about 112 as I write this. We deal with it the same way people in Wisconsin deal with winter: we stay the hell indoors a lot. Or we go swim, which you cannot do in Wisconsin in January. We actually do have four seasons, although Fall and Spring are blink-and-you-miss it; winters do get cold (often below freezing at night) as we are a desert and not a tropical island, all the Hawaiians notwithstanding. “Oh,” people will say, “I couldn’t stand the heat. Cold is fine, you can always bundle up.” That is bullshit. You can also always go indoors, or go swimming, or take a vacation when it’s hot. What we never have is four feet of wet, freezing, disgusting snow – unless you want to drive the hour to Mount Charleston to deal with the stuff on its own terms.

It rains. Just not a lot. I mean, when it does, it’s a lot, but it doesn’t do it often.

We have a lot of very cool companies. Ken’s Salad Dressings. Fanatics. Amazon. Intuit, of all things. Zappo’s, the Big Success Story of Downtown Las Vegas. Casinos are huge companies, collectively raking in some $140 billion in gaming revenue alone every year (that’s statewide). So there’s lots of job opportunities if you want them. But the town still has a very blue collar vibe: people are generally friendly, and generally very oriented on their families and friends. It’s not a party town when you live there. I can’t honestly think of a single legit nightclub that isn’t on the Strip and made for tourists. So if you’re single, meeting people can be hard, but if you’re generally friendly it’s not that bad. Besides, I think people date exclusively through apps now.

You think New York is the city that never sleeps? Hah. If you’re bored at 2am, Vegas got your back.

You make a list of everything you love about your town (go ahead, leave a comment below and I’ll reply), and I’ll bet we have something at least spiritually similar. I mean, if you only love to hike in the Adirondacks and nothing else, no, we don’t have that specifically, of course. But we could probably do an Adirondacks-themed casino.

Anyway. I do enjoy Vegas. I’m a Navy brat, so I periodically wonder what it would be like to live someplace else, and I’ve seriously looked into it. I like where I’m at.


3 thoughts on “What’s it Like, Living in Vegas?

  1. Rick

    Hi Don, very timely article for me as i just got back from MS Inspire+Ready last week and did wonder about the locals lifestyle beyond the strip. I had fun on the strip!

  2. Monte

    “most locals in Orlando don’t go to Disney World much.”

    As an Orlando native, I can say that this probably isn’t as true as you might think. The annual pass discounts for residents makes Disney a fairly cheap entertainment option. It’s also fairly cultish in terms of fanship. Most of my friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc all have passes and visit frequently.

  3. Sumit Khanna

    Years ago, I volunteered to be a feature poet at Human Experience LV, a really awesome open mic in Las Vegas (not just spoken word, but singer songwriters and comedians too). The talent there was absolutely amazing. I really loved the scene there and I think people enjoyed my stuff (I was told to come back, so that’s good right?)

    I stayed with a friend out in Pahrump, which was like, retirement city. It still wasn’t too bad. I have another friend who lives closer to the city and loves it. I prefer metropolitan areas with trains personally, but I can see how people like it out there.

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