Living in Las Vegas

Abby Tegnelia living in Las Vegas“Where are you headed?” my cabbie asked innocently enough after picking me up at my Vegas home to take me to the airport. On my way to Costa Rica, I was in a particularly good mood, but my affable driver was confused. “Are you from there?” he asked. It was a weird response, considering Costa Rica’s reputation as a tourist destination, but he pressed on after I told him no: “Is your husband from there?” “Nope, no husband! But actually, I did move to Vegas from there.” I’ve written at length about why I ended up living in paradise during a rough period in my life – and why I moved back to Vegas for my dream job. But, as my confused cabbie at least somewhat understood, we are talking about two very different places with two very different lifestyles. And I had a thought: I have never talked about actually living in Las Vegas.

I was born near Washington, DC and lived in various cities around there and then in Orlando until I was 16. Being the “local” in a tourist town has never bothered me. But Vegas is different, as people associate it with hedonism: gambling, staying out all night, even strip clubs. This may be the “happiest place on earth,” but it has a dark side.

All of this makes us locals chuckle. “How do you do it?” exhausted tourists often ask as they nurse a hangover on Sunday afternoon, as I show up fresh-faced for brunch. The answer is, I don’t.

Outside of a select group of nightclub devotees, most fun-loving locals are on a completely different  social rotation than the visitors. We attend private cocktail parties, dinners and galas on the Las Vegas Strip during the week, and for the most part hang out in the suburbs on the weekends when the “weekend warriors” invade town. Yes, living in Vegas is the best of both worlds: Henderson and Summerlin both have great restaurants and bars, plus easy drives to Whole Foods, yoga studios, dry cleaners, etc. It’s funny to me how surprised my friends are who visit me that I have a more “normal” lifestyle than they do, coming in from LA or NYC. And prices are still so low. I have a three-bedroom townhouse-style home with a backyard for my two dogs – for about the same rent than I paid for one closet-less bedroom (of three) that was so narrow I had to get off my bed by scooting to the end, years ago in Manhattan. Yet, the Strip is there when I need it, for shows, amazing dinners, a glass of champagne with friends.

The best things about living in Las Vegas are the unique events we get invited to. We not only have access to all of these great restaurants and shows, but we get invited to be a part of their history, too. When Human Nature opened at Venetian, its producer, Smokey Robinson, sang the finale with them on stage – after the Supremes’ Mary Wilson took a bow and Deniece Williams (“Let’s Hear it for the Boy”) jumped in to sing “My Girl”. No restaurant opens at Wynn or Encore without Mr. Steve Wynn himself making the rounds. And Cirque du Soleil’s “Beatles Love”? I have seen it twice. On both opening night and its five-year anniversary, I sat in awe, watching Paul McCartney bop in his seat, singing every song, as Yoko Ono sat stone-faced nearby.

If I ever leave Las Vegas, I will miss its small town-ness, even though it is one glamorous small town, with unparalleled access to amazing people and unique experiences.  Yes, Vegas is a deservedly tourist-luring spectacle with so much to offer wide-eyed visitors.

But actually getting to live there is what’s been the life-changing experience for this local.

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. I have to say when visiting it did cross my mind how the local folk considered the bright nights and noise of the strip. Questioning whether or not I would find the constant pizazz a little too much. We actually spent a little under a month in total exploring sin city on our west coast USA road trip and by the end I was a little sad to leave. Every time we spoke to a local they were passionate about their unique lifestyle and the merits of the city, while I could imagine myself living like a local in Las Vegas I’m not sure I could live like a tourist for a prolonged period of time!!

  2. You make Vegas sound like the perfect place to live! A friendly vibe with a relaxed neighborhood feel but with all the options of any top city in the world. I want to visit you and do Vegas your way!

  3. Loved this post! I must say having my friend live in Vegas has definitely changed my perception of what it means to live there.

  4. That’s exactly what it is — normalcy with perks!

  5. Andi, if I changed your perception even a little, then I know I did my job — you were my most anti-Vegas friend lol

  6. I can’t believe you guys spent a month in Vegas!! So glad you met other passionate locals. We are so defensive of our little city-that-could!

  7. I’ve only been to Vegas once (and I got food poisoning) but I often forget that people actually LIVE there! It’s so surreal, like a Disneyland (albeit a sordid Disneyland) for adults! Thanks for the insight on what it’s like to be a resident in sin city!

  8. I’ve never been but it sounds like a great place to live… thanks for sharing!

  9. So many people forget that people live there! They’ll tell me, “I couldn’t believe it — I saw a golf course from the plane!” Yeah! Who do you think works at all of these casinos lol. (Not that I work on the Strip!)

  10. Great post! I must say, having my brother live in Vegas has definitely changed my perspective of the place.

  11. Thank you! Yes, having family there definitely changes your perspective — I hear that all the time!

  12. You live a “normal” lifestyle?? Well, I guess I suspected as much. :)Very cool to read about being a local in Las Vegas. Funny about the cab driver’s reaction!

  13. Yes, quite lol… Way more boring that the lives of all of you travelers! Sadly, I don’t think my suburban Nevadan office or nights in with my dogs would make fun blog posts haha

  14. When I come to Las Vegas I am most interested in seeing your side of the city.

  15. I do hope you make it down here one day!

  16. I can totally relate to the two different Vegas “worlds” you speak about. Having grown up in Hawaii, I also often feel that there are two different worlds there – one for the locals (like me) and for the tourists. My daily life is far different from that of a tourist. But it’s good to have the option to be a tourist, too, in my home, once in a while.

    When I’m in Vegas, I like eating and entertaining on the strip, but I love shopping outside the main crowds.

  17. I have heard by way of my daughter, that a girl thought no one actually lived in Las Vegas. And others are astounded that there are any lakes of any kind!

  18. This is kind of how I felt when I lived in New Orleans. I saw more then one visitor seem surprised by the fact that there were families around – as if it had never occurred to them that ordinary people could live ordinary lives in a place they thought existed only for Mardi Gras and bachelorette parties.

  19. I have been to New Orleans, 40 years ago, and only once in my life. I remember thinking that it was a beautiful and interesting city surrounded by water and below see level. Even then I took note of that. I wondered what would happen. I am sorry it did happen.

  20. I love the insight you provide into life in one of America’s favorite towns! Someday I need to explore the other side of it with you 🙂

  21. I’m with Ayngelina on this one, if we make it down to Vegas definitely want to experience the local life and hang with you 🙂

  22. I love this post! Especially, since I’ve heard about most of this from you in person 🙂

    In Toronto there’s a “weekend warrior” phenomenon too – when thralls of people come in from the suburbs to party in the entertainment district downtown (at places most people I know who actually live downtown – like I did – avoid like the plague) The local scene there (and in most places I imagine) is way cooler than what most tourists ever experience. My current town is very touristy however it also has lots of hidden gems 🙂

  23. We have a lot in common. I sold real estate in Las Vegas since 1992 and I would pick up clients from the airport and they would say…” wow you have neighborhoods here? and parks? and a Claim Jumper restaurant? .. ha

    I would always say, yes “Real People Really Live Here”. The difference between you and I is that I rarely go to the strip unless a friend comes in town and stays down there. I created my entire website for those that do not really know how amazing this city really is and how many amazing benefits it has! We have everything imaginable at our fingertips, including the opportunity to go use the resort pools and venues on our time off (staycation) and then go home to our comfy home. I love it!

  24. Love this post. I also love living here. Your perspective is right on. Locals get the best of both worlds, and I love allowing for some mystery letting people think I’m always on the go and still look and feel amazing!

  25. Vegas is so special to me! Big city amenities but a suburban “normal” way of life.

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