Three years ago this week, my husband reported to a new job, and a new life in Las Vegas. I wouldn’t make the cross-country trek for a few more weeks, but that is a post for another day. I’m not sure what I had expected a life in Southern Nevada to be like, but here are 10 things I wish I had known before moving to Las Vegas, in no particular order.
1. Lake Mead is beautiful.
I had flown over it a few times, and driven past it on my way to the Hoover Dam, but had I known how much I would come to love Lake Mead, I might have chosen to live closer. It is nearly a 100 mile-round-trip from my door, to the shores of Boulder Beach. I have gotten into swimming/biking/sluggishly walking in the past couple of years, and being the closest major body of water, Lake Mead provides opportunity for all these ventures. The water is clean and clear, and other than some zebra mussels, and the occasional dirty diaper, it is a very pleasant place to swim. I love the paved trail to ride my bike, and run (sluggishly walk) on the unpaved trail that goes through a series of tunnels, once used by the railroad to haul equipment during the construction of the Hoover Dam. One of my favorite spots to collect my thoughts, is watching the sunset from a picnic bench at Sunset Point.
2. Avoid the 15 on Friday afternoons/evenings, and Sunday afternoons.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports that of the 39.7 MILLION tourists visiting Las Vegas in 2013, 26% were from Southern California, and if they aren’t flying, they are driving on Interstate 15. Shortly after arriving in Las Vegas, I was getting to know my way around, while learning to drive in 6 lanes of traffic on the daily, and all I really wanted to do was go from store to store to decorate my new house. One Friday evening, I discovered an outlet mall on the Nevada/California border, it took just over an hour to drive there…but the drive home took over twice that long! If you don’t have to be near the Southern Beltway/I15 interchange, or travel from Primm to Las Vegas during these times, avoid!! Those 40% off Kate Spade bags can wait.
3. It actually gets cold in the winter.
I know what you are thinking, but it really does get cold! I even had a light dusting of snow at my house last year! I’m not trying to claim we have to bundle up in goose-down, or shovel our driveways, but with some parts of town resting at 3000′-3500′ in altitude, temps occasionally drop low enough to justify sweater weather. As I sip my Pumpkin Spice Latte on this crisp, 98 degree day, I look forward to December. One of our Christmas traditions has become something we call “winter optional” where we bundle up ourselves and our dogs, and drive about 20 minutes north of our house to Mount Charleston to play in the snow. With the summit topping out at 11k’, you can believe there is actual snow accumulation. There are great places to sleigh ride and play build a snowman (do you want to build a snow man?). There is even a ski and snowboard resort that is a great place to grab a hot chocolate.
4.There are scorpions.
I have found 3 in my home. Some people will find several a week, others have lived in the valley for years and have never seen one. Immediately after discovering the most recent scorpion, I started using a pest control company. He was very up front with me, that he would not be able to kill the scorpions, but he would be able to kill their food source. In addition to scorpions, there are tons of cockroaches (which was appalling for me), and black widow spiders. I am very happy with the pest control company I use, and I’m not receiving any compensation to say that.
5. Parking is freeeeeeee! (mostly)
Hotels on the strip offer garage parking and valet parking, for free! While it isn’t a rule, you are expected to tip your valet attendant, and you should. While downtown, many hotels at Fremont Street offer limited free parking (for a couple of hours) if you get your ticket validated in the casino. There is also street parking, and many meters accept credit cards.You can expect to pay to park downtown during special events like First Friday. A detailed list of parking garages and prices can be found here.
6. Groceries are cheap.
Growing up, my dad and his family owned and operated several grocery stores. As a result, whenever we traveled, we always went in “new to us” grocery chains. I am a grocery store snob. There are beautiful Whole Foods stores here, and Sprouts, and Trader Joes, and many other national chains, but my favorites are Cardenas Markets, and Glazier’s.
Cardenas are found in California, and here Las Vegas. I feel like I am walking into Epcot when I go there. Bright colorful murals on the walls, lively music playing, and gorgeous fresh food displays. 17 cent avocados? Tortillas freshly made before your eyes? A beautiful juice bar? yes, yes, and oh yes. We eat a lot of produce, and Cardenas has one of the best selections I have ever seen, and exceptional prices.
Glazier’s is a family owned grocery store (singular, just one amazing location.) They fly in fresh pasta from New York City, pizza from Chicago…needless to say, a great specialty foods selection. Mr. Glazier can often be spotted sitting in the dining area, beside the baby grand player piano, doing paperwork. They have great weekly specials and a good wine selection.
I always heard people say that the desert was a great place to live if you have allergy problems…to those people I say–LIES!!! Mulberry trees, rag wood, grass – it’s all here. My allergies were very mild until moving to Las Vegas, but now I require pills, prescription nasal spray, and even an inhaler.
8. It gets hot.
Yeah I know, this should not be a shock to anyone, but until you have experienced 118 degrees, you just don’t know how hot that really is. I don’t know how many times I have heard people scoff at these temps, saying “yeah but it’s a drrrryyy heat.” That is true, humidity is normally 5% at my home, but it doesn’t mean 118 here feels like 85 somewhere else. Turn on your hairdryer and blow it into your face with your eyes open. That’s what it feels like. You can get a third degree burn from your belt. Small electronics (like my gps, R.I.P.) can become damaged by the heat. Aerosol cans of sunscreen WILL explode. Window shades are your friend, so are covered parking spots.
9. Those 8 glasses of water a day are not enough.One of the hardest lessons I learned upon moving here (besides the I15 on a Friday snafu), is the importance of hydration. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I drink a gallon of water a day. Guests to our home often find themselves with a headache, or tummy troubles as a result of dehydration, despite my pestering. I even carry bottles of water in my car, just in case I get stuck somewhere. Drink up buttercup.
10. You will get lots of company!
One of my favorite aspects of living here, is that I often get to connect with people I haven’t seen in years, simply because I live in a major vacation destination. It’s a great excuse to play tourist on the strip, and stay current on new attractions and restaurants. I have a rotation of places I love to take people, and am always looking for new things. My friends joke that I am their personal concierge when they visit, and that’s my goal – to share the best of what Southern Nevada has to offer, on the strip, and beyond.