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Giving thanks: 58 reasons to love Las Vegas

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The Smith Center gives us a whole bunch of things to be thankful for.

1. That people are talking about Downtown Las Vegas. Even if they’re talking about it too much.

2. Those little green stoppers at Starbucks. Sometimes it’s the small things that get us through the day. Like not having our coffee splash all over us on the way to work.

3. The desert. Sure, we have sloppy, ugly sprawl, but you can still see for miles and forge your life amid some of the most peculiar flora above the sea.

4. The Hard Rock Hotel’s Harmon garage, because getting out of the one on Paradise after concerts used to be ridiculous.

5. The $7.99 Feast buffet across from our office. In fact, we’re eating there right now.

6. Prince Harry’s bits. The ginger one went gloriously, nakedly rogue in Vegas this summer, and the world gawked at the crappy tabloid photos (gold-digging skanks should invest in better smart phones) and the cheeky (ha!) response cooked up by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. All those eyes equated to $23 million in publicity. So cheers, Harry, for the monster free press, and for reminding the world that our city is the capital of the naughty empire.

7. That we can count on Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group to keep freshening up their presence on the Strip.

Goodfellas gallery: The Mob Museum puts organized crime in perspective.

8. That the Mob Museum doesn’t suck. If it had just not sucked, that would have been enough. But the Mob Museum, which opened on Valentine’s Day, is as engaging and exciting as museums come. And it’s all ours. 300 Stewart Ave., 229-2734.

9. Barnes & Noble. The scent of so many pages should be turned into an incense, and when that happens, we’ll be thankful for that, too. Multiple locations.

10. Late-night noodles. During fall and winter, big bowls of hot noodles are comforting, nourishing and best in the wee, dark hours. In Chinatown: sukiyaki (Krung Siam Thai); pho (Pho Kim Long); and ramen (Anime Ramen, Ichiza and Monta). Special mention: laksa (Satay on Paradise, in the same strip mall as Firefly). In fact, we’re eating noodles right now.

11. That our homes are actually getting some of their value back. Sure, they’ll never be worth the gazillions they were before 2006, but it could be far worse, right? Right?

12. The Smith Center. Duh. Orchestral concerts, dance performances, musicals, lectures, rock and jazz shows … 361 Symphony Park, 749-2000.

Electric Daisy Carnival drew more than 320,000 fans to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in June.

Electric Daisy Carnival drew more than 320,000 fans to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in June.

13. Electric Daisy Carnival. Double duh. Simply put, EDC is EDM heaven on earth. Plus, we’re the only city that gets it for three full nights, because Vegas is always up for more partying.

14. That something’s finally happening at Neonopolis. A drag queen-staffed bowling alley. A museum of Nike sneakers. An eatery famous for its 9,982-calorie bacon burger. And still to come: the world’s largest gay nightclub, a local brewery and a Denny’s … complete with its own wedding chapel.

15. Vegas Traffic. If you’ve ever complained about the traffic in Las Vegas, you need to spend a week in LA, Chicago, New York or Metro Detroit. Believe us, we’ve got it good.

16. Self-serve coffee in the Sands Poker Room (at Venetian). Cocktail waitresses always put in too much cream. Or not enough. And by the time they get you your coffee, it’s cold. So Venetian lets you do it yourself—and save a buck on the tip.

Le Thai chef/owner Daniel Coughlin.

17. Le Thai. You already know the story: Empty storefront becomes locally owned Thai restaurant becomes Downtown hot spot, late-night craving, weekday power lunch and takeout king. What you don’t know: The guy sitting at the bar and wearing a towel as a headband is responsible for all this spicy deliciousness. Say thanks next time you stop by for Waterfall Beef. In fact, we’re eating that right now. 523 Fremont St., 778-0888.

18. Shade Tree, Safe Nest and CASA volunteers. They fight tirelessly to help our community’s children and families get through times of crisis.

19. That there is construction on the Strip, even if it’s based around two giant Ferris wheels.

20. That we live in a state where our presidential vote really matters. Even if it means enduring months of robocalls, campaign ads, door droppings and mailbox scum.

21. Burlesque. Every year the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum brings in performers from all over the world to compete and dazzle us with a truly American art form. And thanks to Weekly cover girl Cha Cha Velour for keeping it going year-round through local classes and performances.

22. Shelby Museum. Because American muscle is forever. The priceless cars on display are still inspiring custom beasts being built in the factory next door, where tour-goers are invited to autograph the walls. Let’s hope they’re forever, too. 6755 Speedway Blvd., 942-7325.

23. That odd billboard off the 15 (you know which one). Because sometimes you just need a random religious representation to put things in perspective during your morning commute.

Colorful scenes from this year's Las Vegas Pride parade.

24. Las Vegas Pride. The annual gay pride festival is always a blast, but SNAPI (Southern Nevada Association of Pride, Inc.) raised the bar this year with A-list celebrities, new events and a celebration that went down entirely Downtown. We can’t wait for next year’s 30th anniversary!

25. Knit bombs and yarnstorms. Obviously.

26. That Vegas nightlife continues to set the standard. It’s easy to take for granted the A-list DJs, awe-inspiring spaces and epic parties that are par for the course at Vegas clubs, but, hey, they don’t do it like this in Iowa (or most anywhere else for that matter). Having a front-row seat for the spectacle is pretty damn cool.

27. That all the hipster foodies are crowding into Kabuto, Monta and Raku, those jewels of Japanese eating on Spring Mountain Road, and leaving the deliciously addictive New Yorky Chinese food at neighboring Big Wong to me. Out! Mine! My Wong! 5040 Spring Mountain Road, 368-6808. –Brock Radke

28. Fab.com. Oh, you don’t know Fab? The online flash sale site is the source of witty gifts—and destination of way too many Weekly paychecks. Explore at your own risk.

29. That obstacle races are finally here—with more on the way. If scaling walls, running through live wires and wading into mud pits is your idea of a good time, 2012 has been sweet indeed. Tough Mudder, Devil Dash and Warrior Dash all held races in Southern Nevada, and Spartan arrives in April. It’s never too early to start working on your greased monkey bar skills.

The Cosmopolitan's Chandelier bar.

30. Chandelier Bar’s effect on our relatives. Even if the drinks were mediocre, we would still take every out-of-town guest to lounge in delighted astonishment inside the chandelier. But the drinks are on point, and the spectacle is on another planet. Cosmopolitan, 698-7000.

31. Noah’s Animal House. There are people who support good causes, and there are people who are good causes. The staff at Noah’s in North Las Vegas works tirelessly to protect and rehabilitate the helpless and often battered pets of battered women. They inspire us. Give at 385-0072 or noahsanimalhouse.org.

32. Pinkberry. The Valley finally has an outlet from the tart frozen yogurt legend, on the Strip near Mandarin Oriental. The fro-yo family in Las Vegas is now complete. In fact, we’re eating there right now. 3752 Las Vegas Blvd S., 895-7003.

33. The Griffin’s jukebox. A well-curated jukebox is hard to find, but the Griffin’s provides refuge, whether you want to dance to Cut Copy, kick back to Pavement or pound shots to T. Rex. 511 Fremont St., 382-0577.

34. The Onyx Theatre. Every city needs a theater willing to take risks, and we have the Onyx, a cozy black box in the back of a sex shop just around the corner from Lotus of Siam. It doesn’t get more Vegas than that, or than the Onyx’s entertainment lineup, from a play about a “casual encounter” in a subterranean biology lab (Boom, November 23-24, November 30-December 1) to a “historically accurate Christmas pageant” (The Apple Sisters, December 16). 953 E. Sahara Ave., 732-7225.

35. The Walgreens on Charleston and Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s our top-secret First Friday parking location. Easy to access and totally free. Spots are limited, so keep it to yourself.

The only way to get your nog on.

36. Brookings Mountain West. The D.C.-based think tank partners with UNLV to present public lectures from prestigious scholars and interact with the school’s students and faculty. In short, it brings a whole lot of cred to our local U.

37. The artists who choose to live here. Las Vegas might not resonate in the art world, but that doesn’t mean it lives without art. This city is filled with independent-minded artists working quietly in vast suburban houses or Downtown apartments and studios. Their work—whether inspired by Vegas or specific to studies of line, color and space—finds its way to local, national and international galleries.

38. The galleries that display their work. Nothing feeds your mind like a great exhibit. Even better: returning at the end of the month to pick up the piece you bought opening night.

39. George Takei’s Facebook posts. Subscribe and see.

40. That Brian Sandoval hasn’t totally embarrassed Nevada. He might operate below the radar, but after the scandal-riddled governorship of predecessor Jim Gibbons, that’s actually a good thing.

41. The CityCenter Tram. Dear CityCenter, thanks for putting up a tram that connects Monte Carlo, Crystals and Bellagio—and makes parking and navigating the chaos at center Strip slightly less of a clusterf*ck. Sometimes we forget to use it, but every time we remember, it rocks.

42. Sasapops. Sure, it’s chilly now, but the heat will return, and when it does we’ll have the freezer stocked with Sasapops. These locally made treats—in flavors like passion fruit, blackberry lemonade, tiramisu and pumpkin pie—are the best popsicles you’ve never tried. In fact, we’re licking some right now.

43. Alexander McQueen. Of four McQueen boutiques in the entire country, one is here. The window candy is a tribute to the late designer’s stunning vision and a constant gift to those of us who dream of wearing something just as one-of-a-kind. The Wynn, 369-0510.

44. That most any night of the week, we can find a quality local band playing interesting original music somewhere in the Valley. Or, far more often, several.

45. Rhumbar at the Mirage, which proves that touristy casino bars can still make great drinks. Cold weather won’t stop us from visiting this crazy space-age tiki joint and imbibing classic daiquiris (no, not the frozen stuff), zombies (no, not the undead stuff) and refreshing Spanish Trampolines. 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 791-7111.

46. That zombies are not real. Right? That would be terrible.

47. The Downtown Backyard Project. It wants to help Downtown blossom—literally. DBP recognizes the need for shared green public space as a key way to build community and civic pride. The current focus is on designing and building a dog park, where neighbors can meet and locals can go for a stroll beyond the din of Fremont Street.

48. Strip chefs opening restaurants off the Strip. As Weekly Food Editor (and clairvoyant?) Brock Radke predicted last December, this year has seen talented Strip toques take their action to the neighborhoods, with delicious results. Don’t tell the tourists.

49. Rachel Eskeli’s way with a beer bong. If we had to pick one object to embody the spirit of the Vegas party scene, it would be Ghostbar Dayclub’s bedazzled beer bong. Next time you’re 55 floors up at GBDC chugging like mad next to a drunk unicorn, let a little pour out for your homey Rachel, a local artist who prettified that bong by hand. Getting hammered can be special. The Palms, 942-6832.

50. That Freakin’ Frog has Erotic Photo Hunt. They say a dollar doesn’t buy much anymore. In booth No. 1 at the Frog, it buys you access to a touchscreen game that’s “pretty much the best thing to happen to a bar since beer.” That game, Erotic Photo Hunt, involves frantically hunting nearly identical photos of scandalous vixens (straight out of a Whitesnake video) for tiny differences. You have no idea how satisfying it is to spot the lacy thong that doesn’t belong. 4700 S. Maryland Parkway, 217-6794.

Art of our own: the Neon Museum.

Art of our own: the Neon Museum.

51. The Neon Museum’s opening. Where else can you experience Las Vegas’ fascinating history in the company of an era’s greatest signs? 770 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 387-6366.

52. A final chance to experience Rain. The Palms nightclub was bringing EDM to the scene long before Avicii’s “Le7els” was a constant sound on the Vegas Strip. You have four final days to say farewell to the revolutionary venue over NYE weekend, so make those reservations now! The Palms, 942-6832.

53. Loitering at Aria. Grannies do laps around the mall; kids snorkel in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese; and I aimlessly wander through Aria. It’s my favorite place to lose myself, like I’ve unlocked a serene bonus level in the gritty video game of the Strip. Relax in the bird thrones and watch the water wall in the porte-cochère. Inhale the heady vanilla perfume piped through the casino’s vaulted corridors. Take Instagram gold of edible sculptures at the shops. And find a quiet booth in Lemongrass for fresh watermelon juice and noodles. Or go without a plan. I always do. 590-7757. –Erin Ryan

Behold the Bachi goodness: the spicy miso burger.

54. Commercial Center. Komol’s tom kar kai soup is reason enough to hit this run-down, kitschy shopping district. Throw in Lotus of Siam, the Sci-Fi Center, a roller rink, a swingers club and a gay fetish shop, and you have one of the more interesting destinations in a pretty interesting town.

55. The spicy miso burger at Bachi. In fact, we’re eating one right now.

56. Ellis Island’s Egg Nog. With more than 300 bottles of booze going into this season’s batch, to say the stuff has a “kick” might be an understatement. The creamy concoction is surprisingly light and tastes better than any carton you’ll find at the store. Available at Ellis Island and all Village Pub locations in Henderson and Las Vegas.

57. That Tijuana’s Tacos El Gordo expanded to Vegas. The ridiculously cheap carne asada or spicy pork al pastor taste great any time of day, but hit the Gordo after a night of boozy clubbing at Encore (it’s right next door!) and you’ll learn what it means to be a grateful eater. In fact, we’re … damn it, we’re full. 3049 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 641-8228.

58. The Weekly’s 50,000+ Facebook fans. Just over a year ago, staff writer Kristen Peterson started counting down to Facebook fan No. 40,000, and we’ve been itching to reach 50,000 ever since. Well, you guys made it happen—over the weekend of November 9. We couldn’t be more thankful!

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