I’m a rarity–a native Las Vegan who was born before 1990. However, I’ve always been pretty crusty about my hometown–few bandwagons are as easy to climb on around here than the one for grousing about Sin City’s failings. One of my lifelong goals is even to go live somewhere else–anywhere quite the opposite of Las Vegas. Still, here are ten things I love about Las Vegas:
1. Sunrise and sunset. The beginnings and end of almost every day here are a majestic work of art. Couldn’t tell you why; all I know is that I tried to find some pictures that would do it justice, and simply nothing out there captures the beauty of our skyscape. I’ve often pulled over while driving just to watch one for a minute, or thought about making a book that chronicles our sunrises and sunsets every day for a year.
2. Wide streets. Anytime I’ve visited the Eastern half of the country, I’ve always been amazed by the tiny streets. Some state capitals I’ve been to have tiny, four- or even two-lane roads, and these are their major travelways. It’s amazing that anybody ever gets anywhere. Las Vegas must have some of the widest roads in the country–it’s not unusual for even a side street leading into a neighborhood to have six lanes. Most major roads have eight total lanes, and some of our biggest streets could easily accommodate ten cars from side to side. Our city planning is often slipshod, but someone hit a home run with the huge streets.
3. Winter. While it feels dangerous to even go outside for more than a few minutes for most of July and August, we’re in our best time of year now, in my opinion–our mild winters. Yes, it does get cold here–the temperature will often dip well below freezing–but that’s nothing compared to the onslaught of snow, ice, sleet, and hail that most of the country will endure with grim determination for the next few months. Meanwhile, Las Vegans will just have to put on a sweater and enjoy the peace.
4. Dry heat and no natural disasters. It doesn’t always help when it’s 115 degrees in the shade, but it’s good to remember that even in the torture of our summer heat, it’s a dry heat. Sometimes I forget that, and then I visit some place with a lot of humidity. Then I’m always grateful to get back here. Sweating is bad enough without the air adding a bunch more. Also, any time the news reports tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes, and other violent acts of nature around the country and world, I count my blessings that I live in a city where the only seriously adverse condition can easily be solved by air conditioning and lemonade.
5. Lots of routine events. I’ve come to rely on the myriad regular events in town for my annual edification. Right around this time of year, a hiking trail at Red Rock Canyon sports a waterfall. Every Spring the library district hosts a Scottish festival–come try the haggis! In the summer the libraries also host movie nights and concerts. The Harvest Festival comes every September, and each October brings the Renaissance Fair and Boulder City’s Art in the Park. November is for the city’s official Book Festival downtown. This December I’ll try to enter the new-ish city marathon. And, of course, there’s the monthly First Friday. Don’t listen to the naysayers–Las Vegas has plenty of culture.
6. Rebel basketball. It’s always great to be able to root for the home team. Currently ranked #14 in the nation! Go, fight, win!
7. Political plurality. Unlike seemingly most large cities, there is no single, dominant ideology with Las Vegas in its thrall. Various stripes along the spectrum all flux in and out of power around here, all get their voices heard in the court of public opinion, and we’re surely stronger for it. How anybody can stand to live in an echo chamber, even one that perfectly mirrors their own thoughts, is beyond me. In newspapers, for instance, the lefty Sun and the righty R-J are both quality publications that thrive and contribute to a climate far more robust than what most metropolitan areas appear to offer. Viva la difference!
8. Hidden treasures. In a city so constantly in reinvention and improvised development (read: sprawl), and filled with so many new people coming in and going out, it’s easy to find places to love that no one else knows about. Some of them are new and undiscovered, some are old and forgotten, but this city has tons of hangouts, hideouts, and other establishments that you can relish as your own. I’d tell you what more of them are, but then they wouldn’t be secrets…Well, how about just one? The old Macayo’s restaurant on Charleston and Decatur is closing in less than two weeks. Get in and enjoy some genuine local atmosphere while you still can.
9. Mt. Charleston. One secret that seems to have gotten out there, though, is the nearby mountain area, full of great camping and hiking adventures, peaceful scenery, and cool air year round. Skiing is only an hour from the Strip right now, but there are also plenty of great trails that are rarely crowded.
10. UNLV’s Lied Library. A beautiful facility, less than ten years old, it’s one of the most state-of-the-art college libraries in the country. Designed to have perfect light for reading at any place and time, it’s an architectural fantasy with plenty of quiet nooks and crannies for solitary study, and open areas for lazing about and people watching. I’ve taken many a nap in the chairs behind the elevator on the top floor. It’s also, of course, the largest library in Southern Nevada and, though you have to be a student or faculty to check out books, the building itself is open to the public.