Living In Vegas: What’s It REALLY Like?
Published on May 05, 2017
I’m sure every single person reading this article has seen at least eight to eight and a half million movies about people going to Vegas. It may have been a bachelor party movie or a cinematic classic about a huge heist or a little bit of both. You may have even visited Vegas. Whether you remember much of it or not is another question of course. The point is that we all have some sort of mental picture of what Vegas is like.
If you ask anyone that has not lived in Vegas what living there is like, they’re most likely going to give you some sort of depiction that matches those movies. They imagine that people in Vegas wake up every day at 10 am, hit a huge line of cocaine for breakfast, and stroll out to the pool for some sun. Of course, after their 12 vodka sodas, they need to slip back inside the casino that they live at to get in a few hours of gambling before the night shift of going to the strip club and more drugs. Bedtime is sharp at four am. Wake up the next day, rinse and repeat.
I hate to burst your fantasy bubble, but as someone who has lived in Las Vegas for about six years now, this is sadly not true. I actually go to bed around 5 am. Kidding. Almost the entire previous paragraph is incorrect. Now, just to clarify a few things so you can understand where this article is coming from, I am not a complete square. I am not a 65-year-old accountant who’s allergic to a good time. I am in my early 30’s and have played poker professionally for about 11 years. Without trying to sound like a complete tool, I do know how to have a good time. I only share this because I don’t want you to think the information that is about to be revealed to you about this town is jaded in any way or is incorrect because of the article author.
I’m just going to put it out there. Las Vegas, Nevada has grocery stores and schools. Yes, there are more than just casinos and strip clubs in this town. When most people come to Vegas, they spend almost all of their time on the four-mile expanse known as the strip. This area is nothing but casinos and bars and strip clubs. What goes on in this area of town fits the above narrative that most people have. What people fail to realize, though, is that this is only a fraction of the city. Once you step even a block off of the famed strip, everything changes. There are schools. There are churches. There are grocery stores. Once you step off of the strip, Vegas becomes WAY more like a normal city than most people would ever imagine.
Now, is Vegas the same as every other city in America (even off the strip)? Heck no. The first and obvious difference is that we do have the strip. It’s always there if you ever get the urge to go crazy and get your freak on. How often do Vegas locals go to the strip? As little as we can. The truth is that after you’ve lived here for more than about a month, you’re pretty much over the strip. When I first moved here, I went out a lot. I went to night clubs and stayed out way too late. The problem is that after a while it gets kind of old. Here’s an analogy. If you’ve ever been on a cruise to party, the first few days are amazing! You’re going nuts and having an absolute blast. After a few days, though, the bars all seem to kind of be the same. You start to have a party routine that starts to get stale. By the time you hit your last port and get ready to sail into final port, you cannot wait to get off that boat.
Vegas is a lot like that. You’ve probably experienced it a little bit if you’ve come here before. Imagine what you experience, but it’s now your permanent residence. I don’t care how gangster you are or how much you channel your inner Paulie D; a normal human being cannot party that long without losing their mind. Sidenote, this is probably why there are so many nut jobs roaming the streets of Vegas. The point here is that contrary to popular belief, most people in Vegas do not party or go out 24/7. Most locals actually avoid the strip like the plague. Hearing a group of twelve sorority girls scream “WOOOOOOO VEGAS” 400 times in a row does become a bit taxing after a while no matter how attractive they are.
Ok, so if we aren’t a constant living embodiment of the movie The Hangover, then what is so great about living in Las Vegas? First, which we’ve kind of covered, is the fact that if you get the itch to go nuts, it’s only a couple of miles away and open 24/7. Secondly, it’s the only town in the country where a cocktail server can make six-figures a year working three nights a week. The employment in this town is great, and it’s fairly easy to find a job that pays pretty well. You may have to start at the bottom and work your way up, but the opportunities are there if you’re willing to work hard. Is it easier if you’re an attractive female? Yes. Can you still crush it otherwise? Of course. Lots of people that aren’t magazine models make an impressive living out here. I have a friend who is a bartender who works three nights a week and makes about $120k a year. I have friends that are waiters and waitresses that would never dream of getting any other sort of job.
Most Vegas jobs are service based, but there are also a lot of other industries out here you can get involved with. One important thing to note. It is one of the few towns in the world that could not care any less whether you have a college degree or not. Experience trumps certification/education any day in Las Vegas. If you’re considering moving out to Vegas to work now after hearing some of these salary numbers, I highly recommend getting some experience at home first. If you want to bartend out here, get a few years at a bar in your city first and then make the move. You may still have to take some of the cruddier shifts, but you will have a lot easier time securing a gig with some experience under your belt.
So what do Vegas locals do for fun? Surprisingly, there is a lot more to do in this city than drink and gamble. Do locals drink and gamble? Of course. Some do it way too much, but that’s a topic for another article. Most locals that do gamble will do so at casinos off of the strip or at local neighborhood bars after they get off of work. For most, it’s usually $20 here and $20 there, not the crazy long sessions for hundreds or thousands of dollars that tourists might be putting in.
What’s interesting is that patrons who gamble at local bars are much more “VIP” than someone who comes in and spends a ton on food and drinks. In other cities, bars cater to the big drink spenders. In the bars in Vegas, they cater to the gamblers who play the machines that are located on the bar at the bar. I’ve actually been asked to move seats so that a player could have their favorite seat. This was after spending over $100 on drinks and food. If I didn’t understand how the town worked, I would have probably been upset. I understand it’s the bar’s main source of revenue and the bartenders get big tips from these players if they have a big night.
For fun, we do a lot of activities outdoors. We go hiking at Red Rock State Park, skiing at Mount Charleston (yes you can snow ski within 30 minutes of Las Vegas), go boating on Lake Mead, or play in an adult kickball league. We go see movies and go shopping or have BBQs with friends. The point here is that we do all of the “normal” things that you might do in other cities except we have some additional amenities like our state parks and beautiful outdoor scenery to augment the experience. It’s important to note that these outdoor activities are NOT during the summer. When it is 129 degrees outside, Vegas locals try our best to avoid setting foot outside of our houses. It’s not that bad if you’re outside for a few minutes or traveling somewhere but it becomes unbearable if you try and do anything physical. Let’s just say I see a lot of movies during the summer, so I don’t melt. On the bright side, no humidity is a monster plus, though.
I had an interesting situation the first time I went home to visit my family after moving to Vegas. It was 9:45 at night and I was hungry. I decided to hop in my rental car and head out to get some food. Ummm, why are all the restaurants closed? When you live in Vegas, you get spoiled with food options and the accessibility. At literally any point in time, you have hundreds of restaurants to choose from with some of the best food in the world. One a.m. and you want gourmet ramen? Done. Feel like Thai food at 3 am on a Tuesday? Done. You can get to a restaurant and stuff your face at any hour of the day in Vegas, and I’m not just referring to on the strip. Most of the strip places are open 24/7 or insanely late because they know the locals who are working on the strip until late are getting off work and are hungry.
Not only is the food extremely accessible, but it’s also amazing. I’ve traveled the world to over 20+ countries, and I can say confidently that Vegas has the best food in the world. The reason is probably that they have so many people that come here from other countries to open their restaurant here. We get the best of each country all in one place. The casinos also have food deliveries coming in from all over the world every day, and the local restaurants get to piggyback off of this. This means the freshest quality of food every single day. I wouldn’t touch all you can eat sushi in any other town, but in Vegas it’s incredible. For $20, you can eat as much high-quality sushi as your body can take. I’m not talking garbage sushi either. Everyone I take to one of these places starts out terrified and now begs me to take them every time they’re in town.
The biggest perk of living in Las Vegas is that you never have to travel to see family and friends. If you live in the middle of nowhere America, you know it’s a chore to try and convince people to come see you. I struggle with too many people wanting to come visit every single month. I get to see friends and family yearly on their annual Vegas trip without having to spend a dime on flights or hotels. Yes, it can be overwhelming at times, but it works if you handle it properly. You have to sternly tell people that you have things to do and can’t party with them 24/7. Usually, I give them one night or day while they’re here to hang out. Otherwise, I’d be on the strip having drinks every single week.
Overall, I really like living in Las Vegas. To be completely transparent, it took a while for the city to grow on me. It was a bit challenging to find quality friends and realize there was more to do in the city than just going out to bars and clubs. Once I found that close group of friends and got some other hobbies, I really started to enjoy my time living here. Not to mention as a poker player, the city is an absolute gem. Do I still gamble some and go to the strip for drinks and a good time? Of course. I, and most other locals, just do it way less than most people might think that we do. Vegas is actually a fairly “normal” city once you get outside of the confines of the strip.