Sunday, July 30, 2017

100 Tips for New Las Vegas Locals

So you have finally moved to Las Vegas and are deciding how to get settled in.  Here are some quick tips to get you started...
  1. Get your Nevada license, get a smog check, and register your car.  Now you are an official local!
  2. Tint your car windows, get one of those reflective window covers, and put a towel in your car to cover your steering wheel when you park...all of these things will help keep your car cool during the heat of summer.
  3. Get a dashcam for your car (people drive like lunatics here and the police don't respond to fender benders).
  4. Head over to one of our fabulous library branches and get a library card.  Our library system is amazing!
  5. Register to vote.  Turn out is usually pretty low but we need active, involved voters to make their voices heard at the local, state, and federal level.
  6. Be patient when it comes to government services (the DMV and post office are excruciatingly slow here with long lines and indifferent customer service providers).
  7. Real estate is crazy in Las Vegas--high prices, low prices, bidding wars, flipping, where to live, where not to live...a good realtor is worth their weight in gold when navigating the Las Vegas housing market!
  8. See if you qualify for any tax exemption programs and sign up.
  9. Sign up for electricity, water, sewer, gas, and garbage.  Don't forget to check these websites for rebates, freebies, and other programs they have for locals.
  10. Pick up an indoor over-the-air antenna and see what stations you pick up.  We get so many free stations in Vegas you might not even need cable!
  11. Alas you will probably need internet (your choices are basically Cox and Century Link).
  12. Of course there are A LOT of places to find free wifi hotspots around Las Vegas.
  13. Check out all of these emergency resources for Las Vegas and add them to your favorites list.
  14. You should also download Vegas-related apps to your phone (I have Bravo for poker, a weather app, MyVegas, and several news apps).
  15. If you have kids, register them for school.  You might want to also check out CCSD magnet schools and private schools as our school system has a overall dismal rating.
  16. For adults, our local university is UNLV and local college is CSN.
  17. If you are military, head over to Nellis AFB to change your DEERS info, sign up for Tri Care, renew your ID, etc.  While you are here check out the commissary, BX, gym, Space A terminal, etc.
  18. Ditto for the local VA Hospital.
  19. Sign up for players cards for all of the casinos you go to.  These cards can get you discounts on restaurant meals, comps when you play, discounts on movies, etc.
  20. Get a National Parks Pass.  We have a couple of dozen National Parks within driving distance of Las Vegas.
  21. Also get a Nevada Parks Pass (don't forget to check out their passport program).  Our local state parks have all kinds of cool activities going on each weekend.
  22. Sign up for House Seats or Fill A Seat.  This is an excellent way to see all kinds of entertaining Las Vegas shows and events for one super low price.
  23. Figure out where you can still find free parking on the Strip.
  24. Find out what is happening, community event-wise, each week here, here, and here.
  25. Get a concealed carry license if you intend to carry in Las Vegas.
  26. If you have a gun you will need to practice so find both indoor and outdoor ranges here.
  27. Check out many Las Vegas news sites including: News3, Fox, 8 News Now, PBS, News 13, and the LVRJ.
  28. Also check out Las Vegas' unofficial news and social media sites including: Reddit, LVA, Eater Vegas, LVW, Vital Vegas, and Vegas4Locals.
  29. Monsoon season runs from July to September and is one of our most common type of natural disasters.  Prepare for monsoon/flood season ahead of time!
  30. The seasons here run from excruciatingly hot (June, July, August--air conditioning is your friend) to perfect (late February to late May and late September to late November) to cold (December and January--you will definitely need a coat during these months).
  31. Your always-have-with-you bag should include: a hat or umbrella (for the sun), sunscreen, a light jacket, a bottle of water, snacks, and comfy shoes (people do a lot of walking in Las Vegas...heels will only get you so far).
  32. You will have a new appreciation for lotion, moisturizer, and sunscreen after living in Las Vegas for a few months.  It is hot and dry and keeping your skin moisturized and protected from the sun is a necessity.
  33. If you don't have a car, know your options which include: Uber, Lyft, cabs (blech), LV RTC, free shuttles, and the Monorail.
  34. Just a note, cabs are notorious for "long hauling" people in Las Vegas thus the recommendation to use Lyft or Uber.
  35. Always ask for a locals discount on attractions and at other tourist activities.
  36. Many places offer military, veteran, and senior discounts just for asking.
  37. Military members also get free buffets at several casinos (Southpoint, Boyd Properties, etc) on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day...check casino property websites for details).
  38. We also have so many chains here that you should definitely sign up for birthday freebies too.
  39. Don't forget to check out coupons and discounts at Las Vegas Groupon.
  40. For deeply discounted show tickets, check the closest Tx4Tonight kiosk.
  41. The Las Vegas Entertainment Book also has a bunch of 2 for 1 deals (these books tend to go on sale quite often).
  42. You can stock your house and fridge for cheap at: the Goodwill, Dollar Tree, 99 Cent Store, Walmart, local grocery store's (Albertsons, Smiths) loss leaders, and Asian/Hispanic markets.
  43. We have a dental school in Las Vegas which means locals can sign up for low-cost dental care (done by students but supervised by professors).
  44. We also have the only Level 1 trauma center in Nevada right in Vegas at UMC.
  45. Vice: marijuana is legal in Las Vegas and dispensaries are everywhere, prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas (but legal 45 minutes away in Pahrump), there are a few sex clubs in Las Vegas and several strip clubs (more info here).
  46. Obviously driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or marijuana is illegal--and dangerous--so save yourself the money and hassle of getting a DUI and take Uber or Lyft.  On most holidays AAA offers free Tipsy Tows for you and your vehicle.
  47. Taxes are quite reasonable in Las Vegas.  There is no state income tax, "vice taxes" on alcohol and cigarettes are pretty low, gas tax is reasonable, sales tax is a bit high (8%), there is no tax on food, and property tax is reasonable (we have a tax cap which is good).  Insuring and registering your vehicle is expensive :(
  48. Prepare to have guests!  When you live in the middle of nowhere you will rarely have guests (except the ones that feel like they HAVE to visit).  When people hear you have moved to Las Vegas you will need a calendar to keep track of everyone coming to visit you.
  49. Plastic things don't do well in the Las Vegas heat.  Plastic outdoor chairs will crumble after a few years, parts on your car--from batteries to wiper blades--will have a short lifespan in Vegas, the sun will fade your car paint/make your BBQ grill look older than it is/dry out everything.  And if you leave produce on your counter for a week it will end up petrified.
  50. Many people do garden here, however.  And several plants do exceptionally well here (we have lemons and apricots).  Here are some gardening tips and if you really want to see an amazing garden check out the Gilcrease Orchard.
  51. An irrigation system is a must if you have plants in your yard.  Even better, try xeriscaping your yard with drought-tolerant plants.
  52. Creatures to watch out for: bees (the Africanized kind; bees around here tend to swarm in the spring), rattle snakes (I've seen very few and then only at Red Rock; the closer you live to the desert the more likely you are to see them), bugs and scorpions (again, depending on where you live you may have some, none, or have your exterminator on speed dial), coyotes (they actually do come in kind of close to the city and are known for carrying off small pets), goats (you will see them out at Lake Mead, give them a wide berth), wild horses and donkeys (out at Red Rock, don't bother them).
  53. On the other hand, if you want a pet, check out the Animal Foundation (unfortunately your choice will usually be a pit bull or a pit bull), the Nevada SPCA, and various breed-specific rescue organizations.
  54. Squatters are an issue in Las Vegas.  Examples here, here, and here.
  55. And scams are a thing too so beware.  Examples here, here, and here.
  56. On a happier note, there are A LOT of cool things to do in Las Vegas.
  57. And for family activity ideas, check here.
  58. If there is a place you or your family like to visit often, consider getting an annual pass (examples here and here).
  59. Whatever your hobby, you are bound to find a group that shares your interests.  Examples here, here, here, here, and here.
  60. There are also plenty of sports clubs in Las Vegas.  Examples here, here, here, and here.
  61. We are also fortunate that getting away from the city is super easy.  We have cheap prices on flights, Mega Bus, Bolt Bus, Gray Line, and Greyhound.
  62. Most homes in Las Vegas are part of HOAs.  Blech.
  63. And crime is a thing here so take steps to prevent becoming a victim.
  64. You can always tell what major events are happening in Vegas by looking at the tourists...cowboys (NFR in November), cheerleaders (Cheer Nationals in the summer), poker players in droves (WSOP in June) get the idea.
  65. For your parks abound, but be sure to take extra precautions with them in the summer.
  66. Traffic in Las Vegas is actually pretty great!  It's nothing like LA/DC/NYC/ATL traffic and there is seldom any "rush hour" mess.  This is probably mostly due to side streets that look like highways (most major streets in Las Vegas are six lanes).  Become familiar with alternative roads to get to your destination.
  67. Things to carry in your car: bottled water, snacks, sun screen, blanket, first aid kit, spare jacket, a road atlas (when you get out in the desert your phone GPS may not work).
  68. If you get in a car wreck: have a dash cam (as noted above), don't call 911 unless there are injuries/drunk driver/etc (they won't come for fender benders), pull as far off the road as possible, get the other person's info (license, insurance, etc), take photos of everything (cars, license plate, intersection, etc).  If you feel unsafe at the scene or feel it is an accident scam then by all means call 911.  If you pull someone out of a wreck during the summer, don't lay them on the pavement or they will get severely burned.
  69. Pedestrians: DON'T JAYWALK (dozens of jaywalkers are killed off each year in Las Vegas).  Always cross with the light and/or in a cross walk when possible and even then keep your head on a swivel and be ready to jump out of the way since Vegas drivers are notorious for running red lights and stop signs.
  70. Plan your outdoor activities for early in the day during the summer, bring/drink plenty of water, keep some electrolyte packets in your backpack, be aware that some places (like the Arizona Hot Springs) are closed during the summer so people won't hike out there and die of heat stroke.
  71. NEVER leave kids or pets or anyone else in your car.  Even at 70 degrees, cars can turn into ovens and people die here each year (mostly babies) from being left in a vehicle.
  72. One more warning--Lake Mead is considered one of the deadliest National Parks simply because people who can't swim the length of a pool decide to go boating, hop off the boat to go swimming without a life jacket, and drown.  Usually alcohol is also a contributing factor.  Bottom line, swim close to shore and/or wear a life jacket when in open water.
  73. Speaking of water, while our tap water may be officially safe to drink, it tastes terrible.  Get a water filter system or drink bottled water.
  74. Speaking of swimming, your choices are either public pools (of which there are many around the Las Vegas Valley), the pool in your HOA, or having your own pool (some homes come with pools which require regular maintenance).
  75. Five Las Vegas nuisances: panhandlers (they are on every corner, I usually give them a bottle of water if I have it but not money), time share sales people (they are aggressive, I just say I'm a local and they head off in search of tourists), door-to-door sales people (I have a no soliciting sign on my door and don't answer the door if I don't know the person), people touting "a great deal!" (whether on Craigslist or someone coming up to you on the street, if it is too good to be true it probably is), the Strip (we rarely go there, local casinos are much less hassle).
  76. On the other hand, there are many ways to interact with people and help those in need by volunteering at one of the numerous non-profit organizations in Las Vegas.
  77. Our favorite day trips from Las Vegas: Laughlin, Boulder City, Mesquite, Valley of Fire, Cathedral Gorge.  Going to LA or the Grand Canyon are also doable in one (very long) day.
  78. Each winter many locals make the trek up to Mt Charleston to enjoy the snow and/or go skiing (it's only a half hour from Vegas!).
  79. Stuff not to do in Las Vegas: act like anyone you've seen on Vegas-related movies, get rolled by a hooker (it happens), get a tattoo while drunk, sex in public, feed your addictions, move to Vegas to be a professional gambler...some people think that if they move to Vegas life will be one uninterrupted party.  It doesn't work like that (at least not for long).
  80. And there are some interesting things you can do/can not do once you do live in Vegas such as online gambling for real money (legal in only Nevada and New Jersey), however we don't have the lottery here (you need to drive to Primm for that), you can visit nearby Boulder City (but it is one of two towns in Nevada where gambling is illegal), also don't steal or cheat at a casino (a big no no, especially if your job in any way requires a gaming license).
  81. Remember that even though you are now a local, tipping is still a thing.  Restaurants, valet parking, your Uber driver, casino dealers...tipping is pretty much a way of life here even if you are a local.
  82. Some things locals should avoid: using ATMs in casinos (huge fees!), eating at buffets regularly (huge weight gain!), fall for the 'swipe your card and win every day this month' commercials (huge chance of not winning but still dropping money in the casino while you are there).
  83. Staycations are a thing here.  While 40 million people come to Las Vegas each year for vacation, you are lucky enough to live here!  Many locals opt for a "staycation" by staying at a nice hotel on the Strip or downtown, enjoying their spa services, eating out at a top restaurant...basically living it up as a tourist without the hassle of traveling somewhere else.
  84. Working tips: be able to pass a drug test (often required for many jobs here), you may need a gaming license (your employer will let you know), getting a high-profile job on the Strip (bartender, pit boss, etc) is often more difficult than it sounds; most people start out on the extra board.  There are all kinds of unusual job options too such as busking on Fremont, temp gigs at national events that come to Vegas, driving for Uber, Air BnB host, etc. 
  85. Of course Las Vegas still needs "regular" employees for off-Strip, "normal" businesses such as doctors, lawyers, nurses, accountants, realtors, secretaries, IT folks, etc.  CCSD and LVMPD seem to always be hiring.
  86. A couple of caveats about our airport: while the weather in Las Vegas may be perfect, flights can be delayed or cancelled because the weather where you are going is bad.  Also, when it is really really hot here (120+) planes can't fly.
  87. And some driving caveats: when it rains the oil on the roads will rise to the surface and the slick roads cause numerous accidents; drive with extra caution when it is raining.  Don't drive through rushing flash flood water (you can't tell if the road is washed away under the water and even several inches of rushing flood water can carry your car away).  Also, make sure your tires are in good condition, blow outs are common when it is very hot outside and people's tires are in poor condition.
  88. Some wind caveats: the worst weather you might find in Las Vegas is wind.  Strong winds can bring down trees and power lines, the wind stirs up dust causing breathing problems, working or exercising outside when it is really windy is a misery.
  89. And did you know Las Vegas has an allergy season?  It usually takes a few years of living here before full-fledged allergies hit but they can be miserable in the spring when everything is blooming.
  90. Las Vegas offers locals some unusual and interesting opportunities: you can try out for the circus, be in a TV show audience, audition for acting and other positions, work at a famous restaurant, you can even apply to 'scare the hell out of people'.
  91. My favorite restaurants: dim sum (Ping Pang Pong), Indian buffet (Delhi), Filipino food (Island Pacific on Silverado Ranch), late night special (Southpoint Cafe $4.99 steak and eggs), old-time Las Vegas $1.99 breakfast (Rainbow Casino Cafe), breakfast spot (Blueberry Hill). inexpensive buffet (Rampart), Mexican restaurant (Lindo Michoacan).
  92. My favorite outdoor activities: hiking at Lake Mead, hiking with this group at Red Rock, watching rodeo events at Southpoint, running the Strip in the early morning, walking around Sunset Park (it's green and has ducks!).
  93. Everyone should: watch a sunrise at the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, watch a sunset at Red Rock Canyon, wander the Grand Canal Shoppes (be sure to stop in at Bauman's Rare Books), take photos downtown (see photo at top of this post for an example).
  94. Everyone should also: do something amazing in Vegas (attend DEFCON, play poker at the WSOP, jump off the Strat, Scale the Strat, race a lambo...)
  95. My favorite deals: $4 movies for seniors at Southpoint ($5.25 for everyone on Tuesdays there), $5 senior lunch buffet at Rampart, bingo (a basic hour's worth of games is less than $10 and comes with free drinks), $1 entry to the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort, $1 bowling after midnight at Orleans and Southpoint.
  96. Finding your tribe: artsy people tend to congregate at First Friday, the bars on Fremont tend to draw more of a local crowd than bars on the Strip, there are numerous meet up groups in Vegas depending on your interests.
  97. Some of our holiday traditions: looking at the Ethel M Christmas lights, checking out the Bellagio Conservatory seasonal displays, picking pumpkins at Gilcrease Orchard, watching fireworks on the Strip.
  98. Famous people: I've never met so many famous people (actually before I moved to Vegas I had never met ANY famous people) than I have since moving to Las Vegas.  I've met famous writers at a library event, bumped into an American Ninja Warrior, listened to internationally renowned lecturers at UNLV, hung out with famous folks in the running world.  
  99. After living in Vegas for a while it won't even seem odd to see Elvis walking by you on the street, driving past a mid six figure Aston Martin, seeing slot machines at the gas station, buying hard liquor 24/7/365, or any other shocking thing that is extremely normal in Las Vegas.
  100. Finally, everyone is welcome in Las Vegas.  There doesn't seem to be much racism here, every day you can hear dozens of languages being spoken, LGBTQ people are part of the social fabric of the city, there are poor poor people and rich rich people and everyone in between, you will see people of all ages everywhere you go.  Overall Las Vegas is a very welcoming city for everyone!

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