Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

March 7, 2012

The UnVegas Vegas

Posted by daveschwartz

Fighting gusts of 30 mph on my morning run a few minutes ago, I thought to myself,"I feel bad for people who came here expecting sunshine and palm trees." And I started to muse about other things that visitors to Vegas don't expect when they get here. Then I figured, "Why not share this with everyone?" After the jump, you can see 5 unVegas things that you can see in Vegas.

Keep in mind, there are plenty of unexpected things in Las Vegas, both good and bad. These are just a few things that I see a lot of that some visitors are shocked to run into.

The wind. It gets really windy in Las Vegas, particularly in the spring and fall. I'm talking winds that can literally knock an adult over. Driving home from work down Paradise last night, I saw a whole row of "magazine" dispensers in a jumble on the ground. Oh, the porn-slap-anity! It's an impressive display of nature's might, to be sure, but it really messes with my morning run, and I doubt it makes anyone's vacation better.

The cold. Vegas is in a desert, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's hot. After all, Antarctica is a desert, and it's not exactly short-sleeve weather there. Because we're at a relatively high elevation (about 2,000 feet above sea level) and because there are a few mountain ranges between us and the moderating influence of the Pacific Ocean, it tends to get cold in the winter. It rarely goes below freezing, but there's a good stretch between November and March when night-time temperatures are usually in the low 40s. If you're driving in, you might have the moment of realization when you stop to get gas or a strawberry shake in Baker and think, "Oh man, I should have brought a jacket." For a city known for its pool parties, much of the year is definitely non-pool weather.

The distances. I say this often, but it bears repeating: it's farther from one casino to another than you think. A fair rule of thumb is to double how far you think it will take to get to where you're going if you're on the Strip. If you're headed from Planet Hollywood to Hard Rock, quadruple it--it's much further than it looks. And if you're trying to get from Caesars to Rio on foot, just take a cab. Driving down Flamingo, you can see the progression of people who thought it would be a quick walk and an easy way to save a buck: at one end, they look determined, then as they get closer to the 15 they start to slump a little, then they're struggling over the freeway, then they just look completely defeated as they trudge into their destination, completely exhausted and in an awful mood. Adding insult to injury, the shortest path from the sidewalk to the casino entrance is never a straight line.

The nickel and diming. We'll lead off with resort fees, but even if you're staying someplace that doesn't charge them, you're going to get nickel-and-dimed plenty. Fees for using the gym; fees for wifi that is barely functional. Your image of Vegas is probably that of a place where no one frets about the bottom line because the slots and tables are just so incredibly profitable that everything else takes care of itself. That might have been true in 1957, but today pretty much everything in Vegas casinos is a profit center. It's not that the odds have improved (and, in fact, in some cases they've gotten worse). It's just that those big, fancy must-see attractions are expensive to build and maintain, and that money's got to come from somewhere.
The normal people. You might have images of Vegas as a place peopled by the glamorous jet set, high rollers, strippers, and seedy guys who remind you of James Woods's character from Casino. But most of the people who live and visit here are pretty normal, with completely mundane problems, hopes, and dreams. So don't get too disappointed when the room next to you isn't filled with a bunch of strippers, but a couple from Wisconsin celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.

Those are just five things I thought of this morning. What are your unVegas Vegas discoveries?


Read archived comments (13 so far)
March 7, 2012 7:41 AM Posted by Dramman

Frankly, Dr. Dave himself is my biggest UnVegas discovery. An actual, usually delightfully bemused, serious academic who demurs from the polemics of pro-v-anti casinos and gaming.

Two, is the trash and derbis, mainly around the Casinos. Not just the porn-slapper cards, but drink bottles, fast food wrappers, use napkins, etc. Add to that the dust and the wind discussed above, and it can make for a mess. I often note local cars around town have a slight film of desert dust. This is not to say I find the town on the whole, or even the Casino areas unusually dirty. Rather, just not what you expect when you see the shimmering towers that are the Strip or Downtown.

How much a government town Vegas is. Despite the backbone of gaming, federal funds for the likes Nellis AFB or Hoover are still bedrocks of the local economy.

The locals viz-a-viz their identity. It reminds me quite a bit the likes of Canada, South Korea, and New Zealand. A constant strive to make a statement of individuality and pride, despite the cues otherwise (US, Japan/US, and Australia for the examples. Southern Cal, or possibly Phoenix, for Vegas). Constant promotion of what locals want you to see, versus the actual reality or interest of visitors and other outsiders. And yet despite all this, a constant ennui of Vegas's place in the nation or world.

March 7, 2012 9:50 AM Posted by Dave

Thanks for #1. I'll strive to keep up the delightful bemusement. Other points are great, especially the last one. A lot of people here do have a chip on their shoulder.

If I wanted to add a 6th thing, I would have added that all-pervading raw sewer smell on the west side of Flamingo and Spring Mountain. You know what I'm talking about.

March 7, 2012 10:06 AM Posted by parchedearth

Traffic is much worse than most expect in an isolated mid-sized desert city. People expect Strip traffic, but at certain peak hours (7pm) it logjams and the cab line seems short compared to the wait in traffic. As a frequent drive-in visitor from SoCal, I am always amazed at the traffic (and perpetual construction) on the 15 as you enter town. It starts at South Coast and is constant until you reach downtown.

The rundown industrial buffer zones which surround the strip resorts on all sides. Starting within a block in almost any direction from the strip are several blocks of empty lots, warehouses, and seedy motels. The stark contrast to the glamourous resorts is an eye-opener for most tourists.

In addition to wind and cold, I would also add the intense heat. Most tourists are from milder climates and a mid-summer 120 degree day can literally suck the air out of you; especially if you are just exiting a nice air conditioned casino. Tourists know it is going to be hot, but it is still a shock when it hits you.

The distance issue cannot be overstated. Just walking to a neighboring property can be an undertaking. For exercise, I start each day in Vegas with a (several hour) morning walk through at least a half dozen properties. I probably walk at least 6-7 miles each day in Vegas. Combine this with the heat and a summer strip walk can be an ordeal for many visitors.

March 7, 2012 3:10 PM Posted by Chris77

As a single young man one thing that has always stood out to me is the extremely high ratio of single men to single women on the strip.

While sexy young women definitely do visit Las Vegas, they are vastly outnumbered by men. Do a headcount at any casino bar or table game pit and the ratio can easily be 5:1, even higher if you don't count the couples or prostitutes.

Nightclubs literally bribe women to come in while making up excuses to turn men away, and on the inside it's STILL mostly men.

This could all be good, bad, or irrelevant to any given visitor, but it certainly is not the expectation created by marketing that suggests an equal or perhaps even female-dominated balance of young single people living it up on the strip.

March 7, 2012 5:59 PM Posted by Paul Shanahan

I am glad you mentioned walking to the Rio from the Strip. I have done that a couple of times (from Caesars Palace) and it took me about a half hour each time and I think the distance is close to two miles.

Regarding parchedearth's comment about areas around the Strip Koval Lane (which is parallel to and one-half mile east of the Strip) is a pretty seedy area between Tropicana Avenue and Flamingo Road.

March 7, 2012 8:07 PM Posted by Ted Newkirk

An evening newscast reported that Tuesday's winds were the 5'th highest ever for the month of March, so somewhat of an anomaly. However, I'm sure many are "blown away" by the crazy winds we do get at this time of year. Probably more of an abrupt shock for visitors was the drop in temperatures. Monday was beautiful with highs in the 70's. Pool weather for those from colder climates. Wednesday only made it to the mid-50's, leaving many visitors most likely scratching their heads. In a couple of days, we're back to a long stretch of 70's predicted. But only in time for a new crop of visitors.

With such a significant amount of people visiting from cold climates, I'm not so sure they view our winters like we do. I've braved Fremont Street on cold, windy winter nights and plenty of people are still outdoors enjoying themselves. But I do have to imagine more than a few people have visited in January with bathing suit packed expecting Miami temps only to receive a rude awakening.

My UnVegas thought is that there really is no one specific "Vegas". Someone visiting the week before Labor Day will tell you that Vegas is hurting. Someone visiting Labor Day weekend will tell you that Vegas is booming. Those up in the morning experience a completely different Vegas than the night owls. Being here on a convention is completely different than being here for someone's wedding, which is completely different than a guys/girls getaway. No two people have exactly the same Vegas experience.

@Dramman @DrDave Count me in as someone who tends to have the chip on my shoulder. I've lived here just shy of 19 years. The misconceptions and Vegas-bashing still get to me. Californian's who are blaming us about how low Lake Mead is when they are using most of it themselves. Bloggers and even reporters who were all over the "demise" of Las Vegas during the recession almost like they were happy about it. (Talk about getting the last laugh). People who are condescending of those of us who live here. I know that I'm not alone. I've got to think that there are people who consider Dr. Dave less of a teaching professional because he's at UNLV (and the disrespect UNLV takes is frustrating to me also).

The reality is that this isn't an easy place to make it, and many of the haters probably wouldn't survive here. A significant number of people who move here leave. Maybe they are the ones badmouthing our fair city from afar.

To add on the the "normal people" factor, I agree: You get off The Strip and walk into a grocery store and you might as well be in Southern California when you look around at the people. There really isn't a special "Vegas factor" most of the time among locals. I say most of the time because seeing a cocktail waitress still in uniform (with a jacket over her outfit) shopping at the grocery store or being in line behind a couple of strippers at 7-11 isn't the head-turner that it may be in other cities.

@Chris77 I beg to differ with you a little bit there. Back in the 90's, absolutely. Outside of couples, it seems like most visitors were men. But I see groups of girls everywhere, all the time. You are either spending too much time in the sports book or not hanging out on The Strip during the party hours (9 PM to 1 AM).

March 7, 2012 8:56 PM Posted by Paul Shanahan

Mr. Newkirk brings up a good point when he mentions reporters writing negative articles about Las Vegas. Time Magazine had a cover story in August of 2009 called "Welcome to Fabulous Less Vegas Nevada" which talked about the real estate bust in Las Vegas, stalled construction projects on the Strip, high unemployment, etc.

The best reporter regarding Las Vegas from out of town is Bill Simmons, who writes on His artciles are funny and talk about him and his friends drinking, gambling and having fun in Las Vegas.

March 8, 2012 12:59 PM Posted by Harmy G

The sleazy long-haul (and other more dubious shenanigans) cab drivers.

March 9, 2012 7:18 AM Posted by donnymac

Some of the things that first time visitors that I have brought to Vegas that they did not expect are
1. The Hustle - always being hustled by Porn slappers, time share sales people, homeless people, nightclub pass guys, hookers, costumed characters, cab drivers trying to take you to a strip club etc
2. The pools close early and the Louis Vuttion store is still open at midnight.
3. The heat, as was previously mentioned if you haven't experienced 40c+ it can be shocking

March 9, 2012 6:14 PM Posted by mike_ch

Caesars and Rio is a mile on foot. It's a meandering one with cars that will nearly kill you, but so is walking in front of Treasure Island in places.

Unless you're sick or elderly, or it's 100+ out, you're probably too pampered if you can't make it. It's the same distance I have to walk to get to Target or the Post Office from home.

March 9, 2012 6:46 PM Posted by mike_ch

Did you actually see the TIME article on that cover? The cover was deliberately eye-catching but the article itself was written by someone who admits to being a regular visitor. It's not like some person who came here for a day and then left and never came back (those people do that at times.)

Did the economic crash not happen? Are we supposed to pretend it didn't?

I think my biggest Un-Vegas shock is how many people who love it here are oblivious to all of the problems and are almost hostile when anyone else doesn't do the same. They do not care about public corruption, about social decline, about serious issues. Unemployment still is and was a HUUUUUGE problem in August 2009 when that story was published (ask someone who was trying to find a job then) and an issue I confront people about regularly when they express a desire to move.

Some people get so mad about this town getting bad press. The LVCVA is sucking up plenty of taxpayer money to puff out pink clouds of fun and good times, as this junket story proves. God knows if anyone else is willing to cover the other side of the town, more power to them, because covering the "Vegas is great and funfunfunfunfun" angle gets you as many free goodies as any other industry could offer.

March 10, 2012 1:26 PM Posted by Paul Shanahan

I did see the cover of Time Magazine with "Less Vegas" and that is why I purchased a copy of the magazine then. The economy was bad in August of 2009 pretty much everywhere in the United States but Las Vegas was definitely at the top of the list.

March 28, 2012 9:05 AM Posted by Jon

Like you said, I think the cold takes a lot of people by surprise during the winter. I ran a half- marathon in Vegas several years ago where we started 13 miles out of town at the starting point of the race at 4:30 in the morning. Granted in was a half-marathon but people were wearing thin running shirts and absolutely freezing with temps in the high 30's at the start of the race. Folks just associate Vegas with summer vacations, warm weather and pools. They just assume Vegas has four seasons: early-summer, mid-summer, late-summer and next-summer.