Las Vegas

Book unique things to do offered by locals in Las Vegas.

About Las Vegas

The Author
Brendan Shanahan is a Las Vegas and Sydney-based writer and jo...

The City of Las Vegas. Saying that sounds weird. After all, does this giant theme park in the desert - this wonky galaxy of strip malls clustered about a monument to late American capitalism so grotesque it might have made Nero blush - even qualify as a city? Well, actually, yes. In fact I would argue that not only is Las Vegas a city, but also that it is one of the most exciting and fascinating cities in America; a thrilling, often bizarre vision of the American future, for good or ill.

From its origins as a dusty watering hole between LA and its insufferably proper older sister, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas has metastasized into a city of two million. Indeed, until 2007 it was growing so fast that only the Asian mega cities were statistically close. The financial crisis, however, kicked Vegas' ass - hard. Foreclosures, unemployment and meth freakouts went through the roof. Yet, the strangest thing happened: the crisis has proved to be something a blessing in disguise. Suddenly, this city realized that crab buffets and plastic guitars full of margaritas weren't going to cut it on their own. Vegas had to become a proper city.

Since the crisis, Vegas has started to diversify its economy (particularly in the renewable energy sector). It's expanding its state college, UNLV, and is starting to get those things that make a city a city - museums, parks and, hopefully, a stadium and a sports team to put in it. The most obvious sign of Vegas' shift from transient pit stop to proper home is the metamorphosis of the Las Vegas downtown. The old area of the city, near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street, is the site of a huge capital investment by internet retailer Zappos, which has made it of one of the most exciting urban renewal programs in the country. In a few years it will have transformed from a round of Doom played against crack whores to a swinging tech hub full of dog-walking yoga yuppies and hipster cocktail bars. Well, maybe minus the obnoxiousness. Hopefully.

Vegas has still got all the Vegas stuff: a restaurant scene you don't see outside of New York-LA-Chicago, mega clubs full of minor Kardashians and Jersey Shore stars... transvestites with a foot up on the Monopoly slot machine, painting their toe nails with one hand and taking free spins with the other (I swear). But its also got all the other stuff you probably had no idea was here: desert hiking that's the closest thing to flying to Mars, new museums; even a cute little ski resort. But Vegas is getting something else, too; something intangible and a little more exciting. A sense of itself.

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