I’ve lived in Las Vegas for nearly 21 years since I moved from Southern California (Motto: Taxes R Us!). Over the years I’ve become like most locals I know in that I don’t go to The Strip much. The Strip is where the tourists go. It’s the resort corridor that attracts millions of visitors every year from all over the world, and as a local, I see no reason to immerse myself in that mess. I may be reconsidering.
“The Strip,” by the way, is actually Las Vegas Boulevard. The Boulevard is about 52 miles long, although The Strip itself is about five miles. It’s a little less than five-ish if you count the Stratosphere, about 4.25 if you don’t. The Stratosphere is in the city of Las Vegas while the rest of The Strip is in Clark County. Never mind that every Las Vegas mayor is interviewed at every Travel Channel special about Vegas; he or she has no authority or jurisdiction over The Strip at all. Confused? So was I for the first several years that I moved here. I now have the City of Las Vegas/Clark County thing mostly figured out. Sorta.
The Locals’ View
As noted above, I’m very much a typical local and pride myself on the ability to be able to avoid the tourist Mecca that’s The Las Vegas Strip. However, whenever I’m crossing over or driving on The Strip, I make sure that I’m texting my friends back East. They are always amazed as I text (using Siri and hands free – I practice safe text) things such as “I can’t believe the traffic on Flamingo! I’m stuck here at Caesar’s Palace!” To the rest of the world it’s the fabulous Strip and the stuff of legends. To me, it’s usually a traffic nightmare.
Even with the “locals attitude” I still love this town and recently realized that I’ve been in every single casino on The Strip. A couple of exceptions, however, is that I haven’t been in The Cromwell which just opened in February of this year nor have I been in the SLS, which just opened in August. However, The Cromwell’s previous iterations had been the Barbary Coast and later Bill’s Gambling Hall. SLS had been the Sahara, one of the last of the iconic casinos. I rarely visit a new casino when it first opens because of the crowds. I like for it “season” a bit before I visit. For instance, although City Center has been opened for several years, I didn’t visit until early this year! The Flamingo and the Tropicana are the only two casinos still standing that go back to the glory days of old Las Vegas. With renovations through the years, however, they don’t look anything like they did back in the day.
So I’ve been in each casino, not only in their present form, but because my Vegas history goes back nearly forty years, I was privileged to visit casinos that eventually were imploded to make room for the always-changing face of The Strip.
I visited the Dunes before it became the Bellagio, Aladdin before it became Planet Hollywood, and the glorious Desert Inn before it became The Wynn and Encore. Before there was Mandalay Bay there was the Hacienda. The Imperial Palace has undergone a couple of name changes just in the last couple of years: first it was The Quad (stupid name in my opinion) and apparently when that name didn’t exactly have the tourists beating down the doors, they decided to rename it The Linq which will occur in November.
I actually liked hanging out in the Stardust (the nickel machines next to the front doors were very loose), and my aunt was one of the last guests to stay in the famed Sands. During my very first visit to Las Vegas, I visited the Silver Slipper. I’m not going to say that “those were the days” because I was young and as a newlywed from a sheltered home environment in Philadelphia, I was wide-eyed and awestruck.
The economic downturn hit Vegas pretty hard; in fact, we were the poster child of the recession (spelled D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N locally) with real estate prices plummeting and jobs hard to find. For more than a couple of years we had the highest unemployment rate and foreclosures in the nation. Not surprising since the local economy is built on discretionary income, and if people don’t have income…
As the economy has choked its way back into something resembling life, Vegas began to reinvent itself again. Both the Cosmopolitan and City Center are recession babies. However, construction on City Center was begun when the economy was robust, and somehow they managed to get everything done despite several deaths and the horrific economic environment.
There’s Only One Vegas
I understand that the casinos in Atlantic City are struggling to survive. I’m not surprised. Atlantic City is not Las Vegas. Never has been. It lacks the glamour, the mystique, the storied legends, and, frankly, the sexiness that embody Sin City. Atlantic City does not have Bugsy Siegel who thought it would be great idea to build a gambling resort in the middle of the Mojave Desert and where for several decades, the mob (oh. forgot. no such thing.) had a thriving enterprise that continues to drive the mystique of Vegas to this day. When your story begins like that, you’re going to offer the promise of more thrills, excitement, and fantasy than if your stories begin with Eminent Domain abuses and salt water taffy.
So What’s Next?
Las Vegas will be a bigger part of the Vegas Wineaux story, too. I’ve too long neglected talking about the town I call my home, and I will be sure to remedy that oversight. Living in Sin City has been quite the adventure, even though I’m more of a homebody than most.
Just imagine what I’ll be able to talk about as I get out and about in Vegas, Baby!
P.S. – I live in a house, not in a casino!