Quick, what do you associate with Las Vegas, Nevada?
Sure, all of the above are part of Las Vegas, but the beauty of it is there really is something for everyone—and it doesn’t all have to take place on the Strip.
About 1.8 million people reside in greater Las Vegas, most of whom don’t live in hotels, and locals tend to stick close to their neighborhoods and developments.
So we checked in to find out where they like to eat, drink and play outside of the sinful part of Sin City.
If you missed Peter’s broadcast from the Mandalay Bay Sports Book on Saturday, check back on Monday when we’ll have the whole show available online.
You’ll get even more details from the locals, and hear Mayor Oscar B. Goodman—the flamboyant ex-mob lawyer who once famously extolled the virtues of gin to a 4th grade classroom—wax poetic about a few of his favorite things in Vegas.
Alex Stratta, Executive Chef of Alex and Stratta at the Wynn Las Vegas
Although Stratta generally eats off the Strip, as most Las Vegas locals do, he does have a few favorite high-rolling dining spots. One stop is the Pan-Asian Wazuzu inside Encore at Wynn Las Vegas. You’ll know you’re at Wazuzu, which means “nine dragons” in Chinese, when you catch sight of the giant 27-foot Swarovski crystal-encrusted dragon looming on the wall.
Or you might catch the chef enjoying some fine French cuisine at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon inside the MGM Grand. Along with a Michelin star, this restaurant’s claim to fame is its open kitchen setup where diners can see their food being prepared—hence the name “L’Atelier,” or “artist’s workshop.” There are no budget options in this establishment, but a smart choice is the $75 tasting menu (far less expensive than the nearby Joël Robuchon restaurant, where decadent three-star dining starts at $89 for a two-course prix fixe menu).
Off the Strip, you might find this top chef getting messy with his kids at T.C.’s World Famous BBQ Rib Crib, or ordering authentic Mexican food at Los Antojos Mexicanos. For sushi, locals head to Zen of Japan, or dine on traditional Thai at Archi’s Thai Kitchen on Flamingo Road. Or for affordable French cuisine, try the locally loved Marche Bacchus (www.marchebacchus.com) restaurant and wine bar.
For more great dining options in Las Vegas, check out Three Days, Nine Meals: Las Vegas.
Howard Stutz, columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stutz, who pens the popular “Inside Gaming” column for the Review-Journal, only occasionally drops some money on a football game or horse racing. But rather than fighting traffic to Las Vegas Boulevard, you’ll likely find him close to home at the Red Rock Casino (www.redrocklasvegas.com), located 10 miles off the Strip.
Unless they’re celebrating a really special occasion, Stutz also points out that most locals dine off the Strip. He recommends restaurants as varied as Mediterranean-inspired American bistro Vintner’s Grill (www.vglasvegas.com) in the Summerlin community, to massive quantities of Kansas City barbecue at Lucille’s BBQ Smokehouse in Henderson.
And while summer days can heat up well into the 100s—forcing locals to hole up indoors under blasts of air conditioning—evenings tend to be pleasant. So how about some outdoor evening jazz? The annual Jazz in the Park takes place on certain Saturdays in May and June at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater. Get there early to grab a spot on the lawn, and take some time to look around the Amphitheater itself, a red-hued sandstone structure engraved with images of ancient petroglyphs.
Interested in doing some shopping in Las Vegas? Shopper extraordinaire Suzy Gershman has the scoop: Suzy Gershman’s Postcard from Las Vegas.
Geoff Schumacher, author of Sin & Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas and Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue
With Hispanics making up more than 25 percent of the population, good Mexican food isn’t hard to find, reports Schumacher. El Sombrero Café downtown is one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Vegas, and one of the best—serving basic but consistently good Mexican food and great service. If you’re headed there for lunch, he advises getting there on the earlier or later side of the day to avoid the crowds of lawyers and other downtown power-lunchers.
If El Sombrero is packed, a worthy alternative is just down the street: Casa Don Juan (www.casadonjuanlv.com) on South Main. And if you don’t want to venture too far off the Strip, the Pink Taco restaurant in the Hard Rock Hotel is a favorite among locals as well as visitors.
And here’s something you may not expect to find in Las Vegas: an abundance of quality used book shops. Schumacher recommends Plaza Books on S. Eastern Avenue, where owner Ann DeVere has built a large inventory likely to satisfy every reader’s tastes.
The west side of the valley boasts three serious-minded shops: Amber Unicorn (www.amberunicornbooks.com); Greyhound’s Books (www.greyhoundsbooks.com); and Dead Poet Books on S. Rainbow Boulevard. On the east side, the hidden treasure is Academy Fine Books. Academy’s owner, Gary Frick, has the messiest store in town, but also the most eclectic.
If you want to be one of those rare gamblers who comes out ahead, you should start with a visit to the Gambler’s Book Shop (www.gamblersbook.com), which carries all the important books on how to beat the house.
Schumacher explains that while Las Vegas is a young city, it has a rich history populated by Old West trailblazers, mob kingpins, business visionaries and assorted eccentrics. Two good places to get a good overview of the city’s past are the Nevada State Museum on Twin Lakes Drive, and the Clark County Heritage Museum. The highlight of the latter facility is Heritage Street, featuring eight restored houses relocated from across Southern Nevada. Each building represents typical architectural styles that was prevalent in the area during the fist half of the 20th century.
Of course, you can get a glimpse of Nevada’s role in the Cold War through the impressive exhibits at the Atomic Testing Museum (www.atomictestingmuseum.org).
Learn more about this museum and activities like it with Atomic Travel: From Testing Grounds to Nuclear Tours.
Schumacher also likes to point people to a “different kind of museum experience” at the Liberace Museum (www.liberace.org), which features the late entertainer’s jewelry, antiques, wardrobe, pianos and custom car collection.
Finally, one of the city’s great unheralded places is the Pinball Hall of Fame (www.pinballmuseum.org). After all, where else but Vegas would you find the world’s largest pinball machine collection? Owner Tim Arnold showcases more than 150 machines that date from the 1950s through the 1990s … and they actually work!
By Sarika Chawla for PeterGreenberg.com.
More on Las Vegas travel:
- Staying Off the Strip in Las Vegas
- Three Days, Nine Meals: Las Vegas, Nevada
- Some Destinations Are Actually Faring Well During Economic Slump
- Fountainebleau Las Vegas Bankruptcy Another Sign of Travel Industry Woes?
- Eco-Travel: Las Vegas Goes Green
- Undiscovered Las Vegas
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