Living in Las Vegas
December 4, 2013 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Las Vegas for a few years. I have a lot of experience living in tourist towns and dens of vice, but I've never lived in the desert. (I've been more of an ocean person.) Tell me what I need to know to get up to speed as a local in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the desert. What, from a local's point of view, separates Las Vegas from other cities? What did you wish someone had told you before you moved there?

I'm not going to be working in the industry, and I won't be interacting much with tourists. (Well, they're everywhere, but my project is with locals and I'm pretty much over the whole Vegas Baby! Las Vegas.)
posted by Ookseer to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Housing and the Heat

There are plenty of houses to rent, but if you're only going to be here a couple years, I would probably recommend a condo. The heat makes maintaining a yard or landscaping more work than many are willing to deal with. Additionally, the electricity bill during the summer for a house, even a small one, can easily reach a few hundred dollars. Also, many condos come with a community pool and gym. Even if you're not a swimmer, a quick dip after work is the fastest way to cool down.


Public transportation is completely inadequate, and the city is very spread out. You pretty much have to have a reliable vehicle (with good, working air conditioning obviously). Older, compact vehicles don't do well in the heat. Anything from the past ten years should be fine. Serious traffic jams aren't that common, so your options for housing are greater. If you get a place close to one of the freeways, you can get almost anywhere within half an hour. Almost everywhere, except for downtown, parking is free and readily available.


Shorts are appropriate attire almost everywhere unless you're at an upscale restaurant or partaking of the nightlife.

General Weather

It's hard to overstate how hot it can get in the summer and how much it can drain you. The official temperature can reach 110 degrees, but if you're walking on asphalt, it can easily be 20 degrees hotter than that. I've literally had the bottom of my shoes melt. It get's a little cold in the winter, maybe freezing a few times. Many people have a hard time acclimating to the dry air, but you get used to it. Dry sinuses and contact lenses are common complaints.
posted by nedpwolf at 2:36 PM on December 4, 2013

Driving advice: If you're at a light and you're the first to go when it turns green, never, ever go immediately. Especially as you get closer to the strip. Usually 1-2 cars will run a red light. When it rains, stay off the roads until the people who think they need to dodge raindrops are good & stuck in a puddle.

Nutrition: I can't tell you how many people I've seen move to Vegas and be excited that "I can eat out for so much cheaper than I can cook!" and in a few years they have all sorts of food-related health problems (most common-diabetic). The food is cheap because they pack all kinds of shit into it to make it cheap. Cook at home as often as possible.

Social: This is a 24 hour town. People's schedules are all over the place and it makes making friends and then hanging out difficult unless you have a similar schedule. Best advice is to focus on your interests and meet people through that.

There is a lot more than the strip there. But sometimes it is hidden or still emerging. Don't give up!

Free parking! It's everywhere. It's awesome. I miss free parking.

If you plan on having children: Children grow up at a rapid speed in Vegas (socially). Something to take into consideration if having your children exposed to a very sexualized town bothers you.

If you don't know if you're allergic to dust, ragweed or olive trees: You're going to find out in a big way.

posted by haplesschild at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2013

Before you settle on a neighborhood, ask your potential neighbors if there's a scorpion problem there. Some Vegas neighborhoods are terribly infested and it doesn't matter how much you spray, the scorpions come back. They were brought up via palm trees imported from Arizona for landscaping, so if you see palm trees around there's a good chance there's scorpions too.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:11 PM on December 4, 2013

Have you spent any time at all in the desert during the summer? I can't speak to Las Vegas specifically - but as a fellow ocean climate lover - after a year and a half in Palm Springs I had to finally admit that I just wasn't going to acclimate to the heat.

Our apartment was well air conditioned and insulated, but nedpwolf is exactly right. I simply wasn't prepared for how oppressive and exhausting triple digit temperatures can be - especially when it's 100 degrees + after sundown for days on end. Being surrounded by concrete only amplified the effect.

The desert has a stark beauty and Vegas has amenities Palm Springs could only dream of, so it's not a direct comparison. Still, desert living isn't for everyone. See if you can't give it a trial run before committing.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:08 AM on December 5, 2013

I know I'd be really bummed if after a few years I left the region and hadn't gone out of my way to visit a whole mess of the wacky desert world. Go for an Alien Burger on the Extraterrestrial Highway. Ghost towns? There's a giant dairy cow somewhere. Tiny town museums. Drive sections of Route 66. Bunny Ranch?

Check out Roadside America for ideas, and make sure you have good a/c in the car!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:16 AM on December 5, 2013

Downtown is getting pretty awesome so check that out as a potential neighborhood. The heat is oppressive in summer, I cried often my first summer here, it's awful. But, you do get sort of used to it and develop coping skills. Making friends is super tough, it's a transitory town with lots of weird schedules. I almost never go to the strip. Chinatown has good food. The summers will do mean things to your car, check your windshield wipers before monsoon season. Vegas is close to lots of cool things like Zion or the Grand Canyon, try to get out of town regularly. I work in hospice and almost never see tourists so that's not a big factor in my life but then again I don't drink gamble or smoke so casinos are not my habitat. The atomic test museum is great but depressing, the mob museum is great but gory and the neon museum is just great. Some of the hospitals are really really bad so maybe think about that in case something bad happens. I've never used the bus here, but it seems potentially miserable. The local shelter is FULL of amazing animals if you need a friend.
posted by yodelingisfun at 1:36 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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