Waking up in Vegas:
An insider's guide to living in Las Vegas
Part One: Introduction
It's the stuff of songs and slogans, and according to advertisers and bachelor party attendees, what happens here stays here, although Hollywood might respectfully disagree. Las Vegas may be known as a convention capital, a party city and a glitzy (albeit manmade) retreat full of wonder, but here's a little secret: it's a pretty place to live. Permanently.
For starters, the overall cost of living in Vegas is actually less than the national average... not bad for a city as global as this bustling desert oasis. Fun facts: pizza in Vegas is 11 percent cheaper than the national average, gas is 4 percent less expensive, and even with the city's reputation for over-the-top opulence, housing/utilities are each slightly less than the average American city or town. The lack of state income tax, too, is often a welcome break for new residents.
Claiming 300+ days of sunshine a year, the city is located smack in the center of Vegas Valley, a desert spanning about 600 square miles. With an annual average of 67 degrees (although it's admittedly toasty in the summer, temperatures rarely dip below 45 in the winter), folks who aren't fans of the cold and rain are big fans of Vegas weather.
For those with business on the brain, lots of job opportunities exist away from the Strip itself, and the number is growing; in fact, the innovative endeavor known as the Downtown Project seeks to make downtown Las Vegas a venerable hub for startups within the next five years. Sinking an impressive $350 million revitalization budget into the area, its plans include lending hefty support to real estate development, small business ventures, tech startups, co-working spaces and local education, making downtown Vegas a perfect place to launch and grow a new business – even while raising a family.
So without further ado, let's jump into the good stuff: an insider's guide to living in Las Vegas and loving every lucky second of it.
Part Two: Area Guide
Central Las Vegas is a place like none other. Its neighborhoods, rich with pop culture references and classic Americana, each have an identity all their own. Although the city's core neighborhoods and suburbs are vast, here's a rundown of the ones we recommend for new residents and a summary of what each offers in a nutshell:
Downtown Las Vegas is, without a doubt, one of the most dynamic and exciting neighborhoods in the U.S. these days. Under the direction of Downtown Project leader Tony Hsieh, $350 million has been invested into the area with a specific focus on real estate development, small business ventures, tech startups, co-working spaces and local education. In addition to the digital canopy of Fremont Street and several legendary Vegas hotels and casinos, a burgeoning food scene is beginning to develop as a young, educated crowd of professionals populates the area more and more by the day.
Beautiful buildings like The Ogden, The Juhl, Soho Lofts and The Newport offer luxe new living spaces that are popular among new Vegas residents. Sustainable living experts and urban theorists are keeping a close (dare we say twinkling?) eye on Downtown Vegas, excited for the new life it's breathing into the city and curious to see what's next.
The LV Startup Block
South of Charleston Boulevard between Las Vegas Boulevard and Maryland Parkway, the LV Startup Block is putting its money where its mouth is – metaphorically, anyway – and experimenting with combined live/work spaces for entrepreneurs. The idea is that a micro-community of startups can experience accelerated success thanks to the fact that so much like-minded, collective talent is living and working closely together at a high-energy, high-productivity point in everyone's lives. Anecdotal evidence is beginning to emerge, supporting the theory as the startup block's current residents enjoy early successes.
As more startups emerge from (or are simply inspired by) the Downtown Project, live/work spaces like the ones found here will likely become more prevalent in the area.
The Arts District
Just south of Downtown sits the Arts District, bound by Common Street, Hoover Avenue, Fourth Street, Las Vegas Boulevard and Colorado Avenue. Occasionally referred to as "18b" in a nod to the 18 blocks it used to encompass (it's since grown larger), the eclectic neighborhood lives up to its name with an abundance of art galleries, yoga studios, one-of-a-kind restaurants and funky boutiques.
Playing host to more than 20,000 attendees at each month's First Friday arts festival and situated so close to the emerging the startup scene, the arts district is poised to continue flourishing in its own creative, eclectic way.
Served by its main corridor, Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas' version of Chinatown is, demographically speaking, a pan-Asian community rich with influences from many Eastern cultures.
Anchored by several shopping centers – namely, Chinatown Plaza (the most traditional of the series), Tokyo Plaza, Pacific Asian Plaza and others – this neighborhood isn't a densely populated residential area like its counterparts in cities like San Francisco and New York; rather, it's a commercial hub for those interested in seeking out both traditional and modern Asian goods and cuisine. Raku and Monta Ramen are popular local restaurants (see the Eat, Drink, Shop, Play section later on in this guide for more dining recommendations).
Interestingly enough, much of the Las Vegas Strip isn't technically in Las Vegas proper; it's in Paradise, Nevada, along with McCarran International Airport and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). An unincorporated town governed by the Clark County Commission with input from an advisory board, Paradise is a Census-designated place – a term used often with regard to resort and retirement communities.
Known for its neon lights, iconic hotels and casinos and overall grandeur, Paradise isn't just for tourists; it actually offers a variety of living arrangements, chief among them apartments located inside world-famous hotels like the MGM Grand and Trump International. And gambling isn't the only thing on the itinerary: spectacles like the shark tank at Mandalay Bay, photo shows at The Venetian, and nightly performances from world-class entertainers are just a few of the ways to pass the time. A movie theater is rarely farther than a stone's throw away, too: needless to say, escapism is a round-the-clock venture in this particular desert oasis. And for those in need of some intellectual stimulation, the presence of UNLV brings with it plenty of free lectures and educational opportunities.
One of Las Vegas' more prominent suburbs is Summerlin, a master-planned community west of Downtown that nearly doubled in size from 59,000 residents in 2000 to 100,000 in 2010; needless to say, it's an area that's becoming accustomed to growth.
Particularly desirable for families who desire private yards, neighborhood parks, premium schools and some level of separation from the glitz of the city, Summerlin and its counterpart to the southeast, Henderson, offer a bucolic alternative for folks who prefer the 'burbs over Baccarat.
Southeast of Downtown stands Summerlin's closest companion, Henderson, known as the second largest city in Nevada after Las Vegas itself. It boasts a population of more than 250,000.
The city takes the silver in another important category, too: Forbes recently ranked it the second safest city in America. Given that distinction as well as its general affluence, it's no surprise that Bloomberg Business has called it "one of the best cities to live in (in) America."
Renting vs Owning - High Rise vs. House
As with any metropolitan area, new residents in Las Vegas are faced with the "rent or own" conundrum. Here, some facts and figures to demystify the decision-making process:
Given Las Vegas' relatively stable cost of living – one that's slightly lower than the national average – a comfortable standard of living is attainable on either side of the coin. Per Numbeo.com, as of late 2013, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranged from $550 to $750, and a three-bedroom apartment's average rent spanned $900 to $1200 both in and outside the city center. Compared to New York City, that's about one-quarter the rent of a comparable apartment in the big apple.
When it comes to purchasing an apartment rather than renting, the cost spread widens out a bit when comparing spaces near city center and farther out toward the suburbs. The average cost per square meter when buying an apartment of any size near city center ranges from $800 to $3200 (i.e., a 1,000-square-foot apartment would run between about $74,000 and $297,000). Likewise, the average cost per square meter of apartments farther away from the heart of the city range from around $750 to $2400, costing between $69,600 and $185,800. Of course, as amenities and value of location increase, so does price, but these figures provide a starting point for consideration.
Cost, however, isn't the only consideration when it comes to deciding whether to buy or rent. Psychological factors abound, including elements affecting overall happiness and quality of life; some crave the security they feel home ownership affords, while others prefer to remain untethered. Some want to raise kids in a traditional environment while others look toward new urbanism for the elements of a happy home life. A variety of considerations come into play: walkability, accessibility, proximity to neighbors, home care and lawn maintenance responsibilities (or lack thereof), and, of course, long-term goals and levels of commitment.
If you're a prospective first-time homebuyer but haven't quite set your decision in stone yet, Moveline offers a handy starter guide to help you determine if you're ready. And for those trying to answer a slightly simpler question and decide between a high-rise and low-rise apartment, Apartments.com has a helpful list of the pros and cons for each.
Part Three: Getting Around
While owning a car definitely makes it easier to get around any given city or town, Las Vegas – particularly downtown and the Strip – are pretty navigable without your own set of wheels. And particularly if you're relying on public transport, a few well-chosen concierge services (like laundry pickup and grocery delivery) can make life a little easier. Here's a quick primer to help you figure out the best way to get from A to B.
Walk it off
For the most part, Downtown is a walker's and bicyclist's dream, with cool local bike shops, a fantastic transit center with plenty of focus on bike/ped plans and a fairly simple grid system that's partially bisected by the electronic canopy of Fremont Street. Called "the most walkable neighborhood in Las Vegas" by WalkScore.com, the downtown area is home to about 12 thousand people, and it offers residents and visitors the opportunity to walk to an average of three restaurants, bars and cafes within a five-minute stroll.
Share a shuttle, break in a bike or try out a Tesla
For those wishing to add a little excitement into their lives without negatively impacting the earth, Downtown Project inked a deal with Tesla in 2013 to offer 100 rentable Tesla Model S vehicles as part of an initiative called Project 100. Under the project, locals will be able to enjoy "the ultimate in collaborative consumption" – namely, 100+ on-demand drivers, 100+ shared cars, 100+ shared bikes, and 100+ shared shuttle bus stops – all under one single monthly membership.
Hop on the bus
Easily the cheapest way to go wherever you want within the Las Vegas city limits is to hop on one of the city's air-conditioned buses. The local transit authority shuttled more than 60 million people through the streets of Las Vegas in 2012 alone, so needless to say, it covers nearly any route a passenger could ever need to take. Monthly fares are available at $65 on either a Strip & Downtown Express or Residential pass, and kids under 5 always ride free. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada provides detailed information about routes, fees and more on its website, including maps, schedules and detours.
Ride the rail
As for the Strip, aside from cabs and good old-fashioned walking, a series of monorails are available via unlimited-ride single day passes or multi-day passes to shuttle you and those visiting friends and relatives from one hotel to another, safely and securely. In particular, the Las Vegas monorail (one of several options) takes passengers back and forth between seven popular hotels.
Grab a cab
Of course, cabs are always an option; for door-to-door service, call up any of the dozen or so cab companies around town to catch a lift. For a full listing of reputable Vegas taxis, click here.
Take the wheel
If you do, indeed, have your own car or end up renting one from time to time, commit these three tips to memory when it comes to avoiding tourist traffic:
- Stay away from Koval Lane near the Strip during the day; it's almost always crammed full of commercial traffic.
- Frank Sinatra is your friend; that is, Frank Sinatra Boulevard offers a nice alternative to Las Vegas Boulevard when you're driving near the airport and/or Strip. Just know that it's impossible to get off it south of Industrial Road or north of Russell Road unless you want to end up in a hotel parking garage.
- Dean Martin is, of course, a close compadre as well; parallel to the Strip and I-15, Dean Martin Drive is a great connector road since it's primarily used by locals.
Get it delivered
Few things in life are as convenient as grocery delivery, and luckily for many Las Vegas residents, Vons Grocery Delivery does just what its name implies. Particularly excellent for bulk shoppers who don't want to lug a dozen bags home at a time, Vons offers frequent specials, including free delivery, to first-timers, online shoppers and volume buyers alike. An added bonus: its system allows users to save past purchases for easy reordering without starting a search from scratch.
Likewise, if you're without easy access to a washer/dryer or simply don't have time to labor over the laundry, pick-up services abound both downtown and farther out toward the suburbs. A quick glance at local laundry service reviews can help you select the latest and greatest vendors to keep your whites white and your stripes bright.
Of course, food delivery is always a life saver when your energy is low, you're noshing at an odd hour or simply want to eat at home without cooking. Opportunities abound for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snack delivery, from standard fare like pizza and Chinese food to health-conscious eats and even gluten-free offerings.
Part Four: Whistle While You Work
Known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, opportunities abound in Vegas for jobs in the hospitality industry, from hotels, casinos and restaurants to bars, clubs and performance venues, but for those with a desire to do something remarkable in the realm of business, the startup culture beginning to sprout from the Downtown Project holds some distinct possibilities. And given its emphasis on creating the most community-focused large city in the world, it stands ready to foster a myriad of employment options for educated minds on the rise.
With coworking spaces blooming throughout the area, it's easier than ever to network and sustain a self-directed freelance or contract position in any number of business sectors, and as of 2014, the Downtown Container Park will function as a small business incubator by providing new entrepreneurs with small spaces to launch their new businesses. With financial, strategic and tactical support available for the best and brightest startups and a strong emphasis on creative, collaborative innovation, Downtown Las Vegas is already becoming a thought leader – as best a city can, anyway – in the way it approaches economic development and employment growth.
Immediately, though, the employment picture in Las Vegas is about much more than just hospitality. According to Clark County labor statistics, while more than 270,000 people are employed in that realm – not surprising, given the city's global reputation as a leisure destination – around double that amount work in the private sector in industries unrelated to hotels, restaurants and similar places of employment. Clark County boasts more than 1,800 employers in the realm of management and technical consulting services; more than 1,000 primary, secondary and post-secondary education employers, a whopping 4,000+ finance and insurance employers, and more than 6,000 employers in the health care and social services sector. As for the creative set, nearly 1,000 locals make their living as independent writers, artists and performers.
As in any other city, networking can play an important role in finding the perfect job and advancing one's career, as can research and preparation. For detailed information on the employment outlook in Las Vegas, visit the Nevada Workforce website and check out the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Jobs section for up-to-the-minute job news and opportunities. LinkedIn, GlassDoor and Indeed are three tried-and-true resources for employment seekers as well.
Particularly for those on the hunt for a great job in the tech industry, VegasTechFund hosts a job board filled with opportunities to work for one of the many tech startups downtown; for a full list (and a little help doing your homework before an interview), check out the VegasTechFund portfolio, filled with innovative movers and shakers on the way up.
Part Five: Eat, Drink, Shop, Play
Lest you think there's little to do but party and gamble in the hospitality capital of the US, Forbes offers a list of "the ten coolest things you didn't know you could do in Vegas", and there's certainly no shortage of great dining, shopping, and other fun activities to be enjoyed. Sweeter still, locals enjoy discounts aplenty when it comes to dining, entertainment, wellness and more: click here, here, here and here for coupons and discount codes galore.
Away from the glare of the Strip, some of the city's best food and drink can inarguably be found downtown and in nearby Chinatown. A few recommendations:
Eateries - Downtown
Eat. (707 Carson Street) - A local favorite when it comes to breakfast, brunch and lunch, Eat. offers comfort food at its finest, from housemade chili and chicken fried steak to shrimp & grits and beignets & coffee.
Le Thai (523 Fremont St) - Whether it's a classic like Pad Thai or a clever combination like short rib fried rice (a crowd favorite), you can't go wrong at this flavorful – and popular – Fremont Street eatery. If there's a wait for a table (and there probably will be), grab a drink right up the sidewalk in the dark and cozy confines of The Griffin to pass the time.
The Beat (520 Fremont St) - An independent cafe with an extensive vinyl collection, The Beat is about as close to nirvana as a coffee & music lover can get. And if that's not enough, it also hosts the Las Vegas Zine Library, which is precisely as cool as it sounds.
Bronze Cafe at The Center (401 S Maryland Pkwy) - An LGBTQ-friendly haven of health conscious fare, Bronze Cafe has an extensive array of vegan and vegetarian options like the Tree of Life Pita Sandwich and The Bizness - a build-it-yourself salad trio.
Pop-up Pizza (1 S. Main St) - Take a slice out of downtown with this pizzeria, serving up fresh ingredients, inventive combinations and a buy-nine-pizzas-get-the-tenth-one-free deals.
Eateries - Chinatown
Ping Pang Pong (4000 W Flamingo Rd) - Although you have to make your way into the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino to find it, Ping Pang Pong holds the distinction of being named one of the top ten Chinese restaurants in America by Travel + Leisure. In other words, its dumplings are clearly worth tracking down.
Raku (5030 Spring Mountain Rd) - Off the beaten path and tucked into a strip mall, this hidden gem is worth the effort it takes to find it. It's arguably best known for its kobe beef skewers and agedashi tofu, but its other Japanese delights are definitely worth sampling as well.
Monta Ramen (5030 Spring Mountain Road) - Found in the same lot as Raku, Monta Ramen offers a more budget-friendly menu with, of course, plenty of delicious, customizable ramen dishes. Although it doesn't take reservations, service is fast and takeout is available if you're on the run.
Best bets for shopping
Tivoli Village (440 South Rampart) - From luxury brands to one-of-a-kind boutiques, Tivoli Village is nestled into one of the most affluent areas of southern Nevada – in other words, it caters to even the most discriminating of tastes. A shopper can get lost in the open-air maze of retail experiences ranging from Ethan Allen and Pandora to Vasari, BluNoir and Kidville. Dining options include Cantina Laredo (Tex-Mex), Brio Tuscan Grille (Italian), Echo & Rig (steak), Kabuki (Japanese), cigar lounges, wine bars and more. (And for a Brooklyn vibe and one of the best cups of coffee in Vegas, stop in at Sambalatte next door.) Even with indulgence beckoning from all sides, at least you can save a bit of coin on parking; valet services are free at the main entrance's roundabout.
Town Square (6605 Las Vegas Blvd. South) - To put it simply: if you need it, it's probably at Town Square. Designed in the spirit of a European village, this retail mecca is situated in the suburb of Enterprise and encompasses 117 acres. That's plenty of room for exploring countless shops, restaurants and entertainment options (like the on-site saloon, martini bar, outdoor park and AMC cineplex), all stemming from anchor stores like Whole Foods, The Container Store, H&M, Old Navy and Guitar Center.
Socializing & meeting new people
Las Vegas is nothing if not a social city. With its ethos built upon the foundation of having a good time, there's no shortage of ways to meet kindred spirits and occasionally blow off some steam:
Business Associations - If you're the career-minded sort who wants to make connections within your industry – or just to meet people who get where you're coming from – the city plays host to a number of professional and community-based associations. Whether you're a banker, a teacher or a restaurateur or you work in tech, hospitality or accounting, there's a group for you to join. And if you generally want to meet fellow Vegas residents who like to work and play hard in equal measure, Vegas Young Professionals is a perfect place to start.
Tech Cocktail - If you work in the tech sector and want to get involved in the Downtown scene, there's no better way in than through Tech Cocktail Week, held on the second week of each month. Combining “the intellect of TEDTalks with the creativity of Summit Series,” the week offers inspiring speaker sessions and a startup showcase mingle. Bringing bright minds together in a social atmosphere, the week blends fun and progress into an alchemy of sorts, sparking friendships, ideas and – who knows? – maybe the Next Big Thing in the tech scene.
Happy Hours - This bustling town has more than 300 designated happy hours during the workweek; it would literally take more than a year to make your way through all of them. To figure out a great starting point for the age-old tradition of the after-work drink in your new town, here's a Las Vegas happy hour directory divided into helpful categories so you can find the perfect place to unwind with new friends.
Yelp - For those wishing to enjoy the fine food and drink of Vegas but lacking the social network to call upon and make it happen (or the nerve to go it alone), Yelp offers myriad opportunities for mingling with like-minded foodies and fun-seekers – in fact, Yelpers are known as an enthusiastic group of folks who are more than willing to welcome newcomers to town and share their opinions on the city's best-kept secrets. Just sign up for a free account, keep an eye on Las Vegas Yelp events and start RSVPing "yes."
Meetup - Meetup's got something for everyone in Vegas, whether it's a writers' group or a bunch of fellow raw food enthusiasts you're looking for. Sports fans, dog lovers, political junkies and athletes can all get their fix with Meetup groups tailored just for them. No joke: there are more than 100 groups within 2 miles of city center. So it's statistically probable that your new crew is out there somewhere, just waiting for you to hang out with them.
Part Six: Weekend Ideas
As psyched as you might be about calling Vegas home, let's face it: you're human, and sometimes we all just need to get out of dodge for a day or two. Luckily, road trip options are abundant from Sin City. Here's a random sampling of driveable destinations fewer than 6 hours away:
Death Valley (3-hour drive)
If you've ever wanted to see formations made famous before you were born, now's the perfect time; Death Valley and its icons – Artist's Palette, Devil's Golf Course, Stovepipe Wells – are all easily accessible via a three-hour drive from Vegas. The picturesque landscape can be enjoyed through a quick day trip or an overnight stay at The Inn at Furnace Creek.
Los Angeles (4-hour drive)
Who doesn't love LA? There's no better place to hit the Pacific, see the stars, shop like a celebrity and eat like royalty than the crown jewel of the west coast. An easy four-hour drive away, it's the perfect city to visit on a whim and make some memories worthy of their own Hollywood classic. If you need a hotel room on less than a day's notice, use the HotelTonight app to book a steeply-reduced rate at a great property. Just put the top down and go.
The Grand Canyon (4.5-hour drive)
There's a reason more than 4 million people visit The Grand Canyon each year: it's simply breathtaking. Rising 7,000 feet above sea level, the easily-accessible South Rim stands ten miles away from its northern counterpart, making the chasm in between quite a thing to behold. Just 4.5 hours from Vegas, you can head out on the weekend, have yourself a full-fledged Brady Bunch style adventure and still be home in time for work on Monday.
The Great Outdoors, Within City Limits
For those occasions when there's only an afternoon to spare and an out-of-town trip just isn't in the cards, there's almost no set of worries a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air can't fix. Local hiking and biking excursions are entirely doable in the span of a few hours, from the serene suburban trails and parks of Summerlin to the wilds of Red Rock Canyon.
AllTrails.com, a partner of National Geographic, considers Calico Tanks Trail, 16 miles from Vegas' city center, to be the best hiking trail (particularly from September through May), and deems the Lower Bristlecone Trail best for mountain biking from May through November, when the 6.1-mile loop is accessible to the public.
If all you want is a big body of water, though, it's surprisingly easy to find in the middle of the desert. Situated 24 miles southeast of the Strip lies Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir when it's at maximum capacity. At its fullest, the lake is capable of spanning 247 square miles (although it hasn't reached that level since 1983 and likely won't again for some time). Fed by the Colorado River and providing the perfect setting for boating, fishing, skiing, swimming or just catching some rays, Lake Mead hosts five marinas and nine access points. It's a favorite quick getaway for Las Vegas residents who need to convene with nature for a while before returning to the bright lights of the big city and all the promises it holds.
Whether your move to the fabulous Las Vegas is for a job, a loved one or just a change of pace, there's something in it for you. It might be a business opportunity, a new set of friends or simply the general rush of excitement that comes from living in such a unique place – in any event, here's hoping luck will be a lady to you, just like the song says. And if you need help getting yourself here, give the team at Moveline a try. We'll take the gamble out of choosing a mover and getting your stuff here safely. If you let us help you, you've already got luck on your side.
Moveline is a technology company that makes life easier for people who are moving. We build software people use to get organized, compare prices, and make decisions about an upcoming move. To learn more, visit www.moveline.com.