It has been nearly 30 years since the Howard Hughes Corporation started construction on The Hills, the first mini-village of the master-planned community of Summerlin on the west side of town. Today, the now-famous Summerlin is home to 22 distinct villages, more than two dozen schools, 100,000 residents and, when fully developed, enough homes to accommodate 200,000 residents.
The Howard Hughes Corporation designed Summerlin in the 1980s and 1990s as one of the first residential, family-friendly and permanent communities in a city known for its transient population and adult-oriented entertainment. The community was also intended to serve as a secluded, exclusive home for some of the area’s wealthiest people, away from the debauchery of the Strip.
Today, there’s no shortage of ultra- expensive housing in the 22,500-acre community. The Summit, one of the most exclusive villages in Summerlin, just opened last year and is among the most in-demand real estate in the Las Vegas Valley, said Realtor Pauline van Betten.
Nonetheless, Summerlin has a lot more to offer than just high-end suburban homes in strictly residential neighborhoods. The community has been a regional trailblazer when it comes to sustainable design, walkability and bike-ability, architectural beauty, native and plentiful landscaping, and, more recently, mixed-use development.
With Downtown Summerlin open but still under development and sports amenities such as the Golden Knights practice facility and Las Vegas Ballpark open for business, Summerlin is starting to offer a more urban experience in addition to a luxurious and private one. Downtown Summerlin in particular is bringing a new live-work-play dynamic to the area, said Kevin Orrock, president of Summerlin for the Howard Hughes Corporation.
“The first home was sold in ’91, and I don’t think we had much commercial until ’98 or ’99,” Orrock said. “Most people thought Summerlin was just a residential community.”
There are plenty of reasons for the new emphasis on further developing the urban core in and around Downtown Summerlin, Orrock said. First and foremost, the Howard Hughes Corporation is finding that more people want to avoid traveling far for work or groceries.
“You’ve seen folks, especially a lot of great law firms and financial firms, who might’ve felt in the past that they needed their office near the Strip or a corridor there … coming to the point where it’s really about work-life balance,” explained Andrew Ciarrocchi, vice president of management and operations at the Howard Hughes Corporation.
In Summerlin’s effort to bring home and work closer together, two residential complexes are now leasing, and the two main office buildings in Downtown Summerlin are practically fully leased.
Coworking company WeWork is the most recent commercial tenant to open shop there. Other major companies include gaming corporations Aristocrat Technologies and Station Casinos.
Between Red Rock Resort, the new sports amenities and nearby Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the community seems to be going through another notable shift: What started as the neighborhood that was going to make Las Vegas a popular place to live and not just visit has become a popular place to visit in and of itself.
“We have the biggest concentrations of dining other than the Strip all in one place [in Downtown Summerlin],” Ciarrocchi said. “You’ve got that concentration that folks are really looking for. And you can’t overlook the Class A office space, and more importantly, what sports has brought to Downtown.”
Maintaining a high quality of life for residents first and foremost continues to be a focus for Summerlin. Its ZIP codes consistently rank as some of the highest home prices in the Valley, which could be attributed to Howard Hughes Corporation’s thoughtful, intentional planning, said Danielle Bisterfeldt, vice president of marketing for Summerlin.
For example, any new residential, commercial or retail spaces that open in the community must meet strict architectural and design criteria and must include desert- appropriate landscaping to be approved by the corporation, Bisterfeldt said. Every new village must also have a park or other attraction. Throughout Summerlin, sidewalks must be lined on both sides with native, drought-resistant vegetation.
Those standards seem to set Summerlin apart from other master-planned communities and large residential subdivisions, which are sometimes criticized as generic, unoriginal or sterile.
“It’s really important to the planning process to make sure the neighborhoods look unique and not too cookie-cutter,” Bisterfeldt said. “So we go right down to color type and stone type, and one house cannot look exactly like the house next to it, diagonal to it, or behind it.”
Summerlin’s parks and recreation opportunities and its reputation for strong schools also make it a popular place to live, van Betten said.
“Other neighborhoods start to look old and the character changes. Summerlin is so stable that way,” she added.
Adding to its appeal, Summerlin makes it a priority to create a vibrant, social community, said Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for Summerlin. That’s part of why most neighborhoods are connected to Summerlin’s extensive trail system, Warden said.
Beyond creating safe routes for children to walk or bike to school, the trail system offers residents a way to get out of their private home and into their community.
“Here in the West, people love to have walls around their backyard. But when you do that, it tends to cloister the community,” Warden said. “So it also helps with the social aspect of the community.”
The trails reflect Summerlin’s investment in sustainability. Perhaps one of the more unusual, lesser-known sustainable design elements in the community is its traffic circles.
Howard Hughes Corporation was the first in Nevada to build traffic circles because they reduce the number of stalled vehicles that contribute to air pollution, are aesthetically pleasing and are generally safer than traditional stoplights, Warden said.
“They’re a much more efficient way to move traffic. You’re not sitting there with your engine running, waiting for a light to change,” he said.
It’s no secret that Summerlin hasn’t historically been a community accessible to all. It lacks below-market-rate, affordable housing, and Las Vegas’ Ward 2, which includes the northern half of Summerlin, is significantly whiter and wealthier than the city as a whole.
But Howard Hughes Corporation has tried to make some townhomes and neighborhoods accessible for families and residents of moderate incomes, such as the Affinity homes off of Interstate-215 that start in the mid-$200,000s.
“There is a growing focus on for-rent products to meet demand from millennials and empty nesters seeking a ‘lock and leave’ lifestyle,” Melissa Warren, a spokeswoman for Howard Hughes Corporation, wrote in an email.
With approximately 6,000 acres set aside for future development, Summerlin also isn’t done growing and, as Howard Hughes executives put it, reinventing itself. And the corporation isn’t limiting itself to what those remaining undeveloped parcels, including parts of Downtown Summerlin, will look like.
“Things are always evolving,” Orrock said. “If you’re a good developer, you’re looking at best practices constantly.”
The tourist corridor may get most of the ink in listings about awesome places to eat in Las Vegas, but locals know best when it comes to neighborhood gems. There are so many dining options in Summerlin that residents need never step foot on the Strip for a stellar meal. Here are some of our favorites when we find ourselves on the west side of town.
Andiron Steak & Sea
Restaurateur couple Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla's Andiron has become a go-to spot for an evening of fine dining since opening in 2015. Its menu is indeed a paean to both land and ocean, featuring various cuts of Prime meats for landlubbers, and oysters, fish and more for sea lovers. The restaurant exudes a Hamptons vibe, especially during brunch service when one can luxuriate into the afternoon while noshing on lobster rolls and drinking a cocktail or three. Downtown Summerlin, 1720 Festival Plaza Drive, 702-685-8002.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
Since the 2017 closing of the Cosmopolitan’s original Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill (since replaced by Blue Ribbon Brasserie), fans have yearned for its return. Earlier this year, that wish was granted when the same concept came to Red Rock Casino, featuring a menu dotted with old favorites—the signature fried chicken served with wasabi honey, Duroc pork ribs and oxtail fried rice with bone marrow and egg—plus sushi and sashimi selections sourced from the Pacific and the Atlantic. 11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-797-7444.
Given the level of competition, any restaurant in Las Vegas that makes it past the 10-year mark is to be commended. Vintner Grill, which opened in 2006, is a beloved institution, a spot to celebrate special occasions or casual evenings. The menu specializes in American cuisine with Spanish, French and Italian influences. Its Fromage + Carne section deserves a special nod for its variety of cured meats and cheeses, along with a wine selection numbering more than 400. 10100 W. Charleston Blvd. #150, 702-214-5590.
Summerlin’s newest kid on the block opened in February to much acclaim—and deservedly so. Chef Gina Marinelli, who honed her craft working with Scott Conant, Shawn McClain and Michael Mina, has introduced superb Italian cuisine to the neighborhood. Standout dishes include anchovy crostini, stracci with braised beef cheeks, wild mushrooms and Pecorino, and the Witch’s Garden of artisanal vegetables. With its strong debut, La Strega has already become one of Summerlin’s culinary stars. 3555 S. Town Center Drive #105, 702-722-2099.
Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen
Less a secret than a destination, Nittaya Parawong’s Thai spot is as authentic as one can get on this side of the Pacific. The chef grew up in Thailand, steeped in the family restaurant business from an early age. She brought those recipes to the Valley, serving up her interpretation of Asian cuisine tapas style. For entrees, you’ll find the usual suspects, from salads to pad Thai to curries. For dessert, Nittaya’s selection goes beyond the mango sticky rice prevalent in other Thai restaurants—here guests can finish their meal with bread pudding, doughnuts and creme brulee, among other treats. 2110 N. Rampart Blvd. #110, 702-360-8885.
There’s a good chance you’ll find early-bird Summerlin residents at Hawthorn Grill at JW Marriott, where the breakfast menu boasts healthy choices like salmon egg white frittatas, along with indulgent ones like maple custard French toast. But the reason one would hang out here so early, especially as the temperature continues to inch up, is the outdoor patio that feels like your own lush paradise, complete with foliage and a waterfall. Al fresco dining, along with classic steakhouse fare, has made this a locals’ favorite. 221 N. Rampart Blvd., 702-507-5955.
Crate & Barrel
The home decor, appliances and furniture chain opened in November 2017 and remains the only Crate & Barrel in the state. Turn your pad into a sanctuary made for entertaining guests with a mid-mod sofa or bar cabinet of your dreams. Schedule an appointment with C&B’s design experts. Crate & Barrel also provides custom upholstery, custom rugs and two-hour private registry events with food, drinks and music designed just for newlyweds. Downtown Summerlin, 1765 Festival Plaza Drive, 702-534-3445.
The J.Crew offshoot coveted by millenials opened its first Vegas store in 2018, bringing effortless casual threads and quality denim. Find jeans in an assortment of fits, rises and rinses, summer sandals and festival-ready boots, flowy dresses with pops of color, drapey tees, accessories, leather goods and more. Don’t forget to bring in a pair of used jeans to get a discount off your next denim purchase. Downtown Summerlin, 1985 Festival Plaza Drive, 646-984-4451.
Pressed Juicery (Outside Summerlin’s boundaries but frequented by residents)
Hailing from West LA, Pressed Juicery opened its doors in California in 2010 and has since expanded all over the country, including a location in Summerlin’s Tivoli Village. The science behind cleanses hasn’t exactly been proven, but delivering a daily dose of veggies to your body via juice never hurt anyone, either. Add some leafy greens, vitamins and minerals to your diet, and throw in an immunity-boosting wellness shot while you’re at it. Got a cold? Give it a roundhouse kick to the face with the Yuzu Jalapeño green juice, back for a limited time. Tivoli Village, 410 S. Rampart Blvd. #135, 702-333-0609.
D’annata (Outside Summerlin’s boundaries but frequented by residents)
If you’ve come to Tivoli Village looking for “pretty things for you and your home,” D’annata is the right place. Duvets, throw pillows and diffusers make your home feel cozy and bright, and an assortment of coffee-table books from Gwyneth Paltrow, Diane Keaton and Reese Witherspoon will have you reaching for your wallet before you can say “Goop.” Tivoli Village, 400 S. Rampart Blvd. #160, 702-457-4457.
Vasari (Outside Summerlin’s boundaries but frequented by residents)
This local boutique stocks designer brands like Diane von Furstenberg, Alice + Olivia, J Brand, Young Fabulous & Broke, shoes, accessories and more. Don’t miss Vasari’s selection of housewares, which includes an assortment of handcrafted candles and votives. Tivoli Village, 410 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-597-9500.
Las Vegas Cyclery
A one-stop shop for cycling and running aficionados, Las Vegas Cyclery is just a few minutes from Red Rock, making finding a bike to buy or rent even easier. Stocking serious bike brands like Specialized, LVC also does bike repair, bike fitting, tours and more. 10575 Discovery Drive, 702-596-2953.
Restoration Hardware (Not technically within Summerlin boundaries but often a spot for residents)
This American home-furnishings company based out of Northern California brings luxe, modern living to Las Vegas. Find beautiful and elegant furniture sets, rugs, lighting, décor, art, vanities and an assortment of linens and furnishings for your bedroom and bath, all in a classic studio environment. Tivoli Village, 340 S. Rampart Blvd., 775-464-0770.
Baseball at Las Vegas Ballpark
The swimming pool near center field is sold out for the season, but you can still enjoy our beloved minor league team, the Las Vegas Aviators, from a variety of great seats. The ballbark holds 10,000 fans, which leaves plenty of room for friends. Because it’s Vegas, the culinary lineup is outstanding and features local favorites: Flydogs by Sparrow + Wolf chef Brian Howard; Capriotti’s sandwiches; Frosé by Giada de Laurentiis; and Aviator Ale from Tenaya Creek Brewery. 1650 S. Pavilion Center Drive, 702-943-7200.
Ice Skate at City National Arena
Take a spin around the Vegas Golden Knights’ practice facility during one of the public skate times ($8-$12, with package passes available). There’s also a Vegas Golden Knights Skating Academy, which prepares desert dwellers to learn hockey, figure skating or just recreational skating. Hockey players can join leagues and compete in tournaments. With programs and options for kids and adults, the ice is open to all. 1550 S. Pavilion Center Drive, 702-902-4904.
Get Creative at Corks & Crafts
Located in the Downtown Summerlin mall, this crafting space is perfect for a shopping break or an evening out. Drop in for a self-guided DIY session, take a class, send your kid to camp or reserve the space for a private party. Craft options include silk scarf marbling, paper flower making, felt hair accessories and a magnetic slime lab. There's a food and beverage menu (try the sparkling white sangria) to keep the creative juices flowing. 1875 Festival Plaza Drive #100, 702-684-7223.
Bowl at Red Rock Lanes
Red Rock resort may be located immediately adjacent to Downtown Summerlin, but there's nothing more Vegas than bowling inside a casino. The resort has upgraded the classic experience with 60 regular lanes and 12 separated VIP lanes. Cosmic bowling, party specials, leagues and various discounts keep the bowling going. For those who want a little laid-back fun, try the Angry Bird branded bowling. Red Rock Resort, 702-797-7777.
Watch movies at Regal Cinemas
Summerlin moviegoers have a wealth of options in practical walking distance. Regal Cinemas Red Rock 16 & IMAX is a longstanding go-to theater inside Red Rock Resort. Nearby in Downtown Summerlin, the newer option is Regal Summerlin Luxury, which offers food and alcohol along with comfy reclining seats to create the ultimate cinematic experience. Red Rock Resort, 2070 Park Center Drive, 844-462-7342.
Walk along the 150-mile Summerlin Trail System
Summerlin is filled with parks and trails, and it’s a great way to get some outdoor exercise if you’re not up to a full-fledged trip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (the nature mecca near Summerlin). Check out summerlin.com for specific locations of trails and parks. A good place to start is the 10 miles of trail along the 215 highway. While some parks in Summerlin are limited to residents, most are open to all. summerlin.com.
Other major attractions
Red Rock Resort & Casino, Downtown Summerlin, Trails Village Center and dozens of parks, trails and recreation areas
Las Vegas Farmers Market at the Pavilion Saturdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Stock up on fresh produce, baked goods and specialty items from a variety of local vendors. Free admission, Downtown Summerlin.
Fitness on the Lawn Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.
Join free yoga, fitness and dance fit sessions led by pros from Dance Dynamics, Lululemon, Pure Barre and TruFusion. The Lawn at Downtown Summerlin.
The Nutcracker and I at Summerlin Library July 9, 11 a.m.
Touring pianist Alexandra Dariescu teams with ballerina Désirée Ballantyne—augmented by a set of hand-drawn digital animations—to bring the classic holiday tale to life midsummer. Free, 1771 Inner Circle Drive.
Salt Lake Bees at Las Vegas Aviators July 11-14, 7:05 p.m.
Haven’t checked out the Triple-A team’s new ballpark, colors or mascot yet? This four-game series packs some fun promotional punch, including $2 beers (July 11), free travel neck pillows (July 12) and Captain America bobbleheads (July 13) for the first 2,500 entrants. $15-$40, Las Vegas Ballpark.
David Crosby at Red Rock Ballroom September 13, 8 p.m.
Catch the ’60s survivor digging into a catalog that includes Byrds, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young and solo material, performed with his new Sky Trails Band, featuring son James Raymond on keyboard. $34-$64.
Vegas Golden Knights Training Camp at City National Arena September 13-30
Whether you’re a die-hard VGK season-ticket holder or a more casual fan, these preseason sessions provide a good chance to scout the 2019-20 roster, see how the prospects look and welcome the veterans back to town—free of charge. Days & times vary.
Peter Frampton at Sandbar September 28, 8 p.m.
The 69-year-old English guitar wizard behind such ’70s staples as “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do” brings his Les Paul and his talk box to town for a poolside stop on his farewell tour. $44-$99, Red Rock Casino Resort.