- I’ve lived in Las Vegas for two years, and I’ve noticed several misconceptions outsiders have of the city.
- Most Americans only think of Las Vegas as a hotbed of tourism, gambling, and partying.
- But I’ve discovered a city that has much more to offer – including a strong community that is proud to call Vegas home.
Most outsiders know Las Vegas only as a partying and gambling hotspot in the middle of the desert. While the city’s famous Strip does feed into stereotypes of the city, as do shows like “CSI” and “Las Vegas,” that’s far from the only side of the city.
There’s actually a sprawling city beyond the Strip with a rapidly growing metro population of 2.2 million people.
I moved to Las Vegas in 2017 – after years of never wanting to visit – when my girlfriend got a job with the new NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights. It only took a few weeks for me to realize the city has plenty more to offer than casinos and hotels.
Here are the biggest things people get wrong about Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is located in a barren, flat desert
Yes, Las Vegas is extremely dry, and technically in the middle of a desert. But one of the best parts about Las Vegas is its proximity to several amazing geographic features and beautiful national parks.
Lake Mead, thanks to the Hoover Dam, is essentially part of the city and offers every recreational water activity imaginable.
Valley of Fire State Park offers Mars-like landscapes just an hour to the northeast.
Not too far away is the Grand Canyon and national parks such as Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Joshua Tree. All are more-than-doable day trips.
Directly to the west of the Strip, not even 30 minutes away, is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Not far beyond that is Mount Charleston, which often offers a peek at snow each winter.
The city is blazing hot all the time
Because of its desert location, Las Vegas is often falsely believed to have hot temperatures year-round.
That’s not true. The past two winters have seen snowfall, including quite a bit of snow sticking to the ground this February.
While Vegas winters might not be full of snowstorms like other parts of the country sees, the city does regularly see winter low temperatures in the 30s and highs below 50.
The fact Las Vegas temperatures regularly reach 120 degrees in the summer really doesn’t help this misconception.
The city is nothing more than drunken debauchery
- “The Hangover”/Warner Bros.
Despite what “The Hangover” – and even the city’s own marketing slogan – might have taught us, there’s more to Vegas than forgetting what happened.
Yes, a party can be found pretty much 24/7, but there are many sober-friendly activities, too.
Meanwhile, the Springs Preserve offers a neat look at the Old West past and natural flora of Nevada.
Vegas has all the amenities of other major cities, and then some.
Food-wise, it’s all buffets and celebrity restaurants
Las Vegas as a food city certainly isn’t underrated. People know there’s good food and plenty of it.
But while it’s fun to eat at Emeril’s restaurants, or imagining David Chang, Bobby Flay, or Giada De Laurentiis whipping up your meals, there’s so much more just outside the Strip.
There’s an incredibly rich food scene developing off the Strip that’s worth leaving the hotels to discover. In the Arts District, awesome places like Esther’s Kitchen are making food worth drooling over, while establishments like Other Mama in Spring Valley are offering menus that could justify much higher menu prices if it were located just a few miles away.
And one of Las Vegas’ more surprising neighborhoods, Chinatown, has some incredible restaurants spanning several Asian cuisines.
There’s prostitution everywhere
Despite what pop culture might lead us to believe, prostitution isn’t legal in Clark County, the home of Las Vegas. In the neighboring county, yes, but on the Strip, that’s a big N-O.
Adult entertainment venues are more prominent than in most other cities – some even have their own Snapchat filters – but Las Vegas actually is a no-fly zone when it comes to the world’s oldest profession.
There are hardly any locals and no community
- Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Las Vegas is much more than just tourists and business travelers – in fact, the metro area is home to 2.2 million people.
Still, many people unfamiliar with the city assume it has little community. But I’ve found that people who live in Las Vegas are incredibly proud of their city and state.
Add to that the fact you can barely go anywhere without seeing someone in Golden Knights apparel, and that nearly anyone can hold a conversation about the team, and I can see there’s definitely unity in this town.
The economy is solely dependent on gambling
- Shutterstock/Joshua Resnick
Las Vegas – and Nevada as a whole – were among the hardest hit areas of the US during the Great Recession.
Much of that was because of the city’s long-time dependence on gambling and tourism. Now a decade removed from those tough times, Las Vegas is making great strides to diversify its economy.
It likely will never completely shred the dependence on gaming and tourism, but the city is breaking into fields like tech, medicine, manufacturing, and renewable energy, and has had a significant mining industry since the mid-1800s.
And the presence of professional sports, between Golden Knights and soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders, will contribute to the city’s economy. That diversification will help the strong local push for Las Vegas to be perceived as a “real” city with its own cultural identity.