The last time I looked at the fold out map contained in an in-room magazine, such obscure places as Arden, NV, the Wild West Casino, and the Wynn Resort were noted. Most maps even have housing designations such as Summerlin, Desert Shores, and The Lakes noted on the page. This being the case, finding places that most maps omit can be a challenge.
This will not, however, stop me from trying. While some of the places below will probably be on some maps, they certainly are not considered "must-see" tourist destinations.
Since I am the type of person who actively seeks out places which are undiscovered, under-discovered, or just plain out of favor with the public at large -- I could make a several page list of places I go that most others don't.
Because of this, this is a hard list to create. What do I include and what do I omit? Since all of the places enjoy a certain amount of obscurity, there would not be a huge difference between #1 and #100.
It would simply depend on my mood and memory at the specific point in time that I was typing the list. Were I to type the same list tomorrow, it would probably be completely different than the one I am typing today.
You have to draw a line somewhere, however, and at this point -- we will draw this line at the round number of 15.
As such, join me as I attempt to extol the virtues of the path less traveled in Las Vegas and its immediate surroundings.
1. Sunrise Manor
The only time most tourists visit Sunrise Manor is when their airplane flies over it on their way back to the East Coast. Sunrise does not have any attractions per-se, with the exception of one ... the finest view in the entire Las Vegas Valley.
Whether it's to watch fireworks, observe air shows, or to use as my own personal fortress of solitude, Sunrise is a frequent destination when I want to go somewhere to do absolutely nothing.
2. The Arts District
Most people have been to The Strip and Downtown, but few people have bothered to do more than quickly drive through the area in-between. Frankly, it's hard to blame them.
Not much happens down here that the average tourist from Iowa would be interested in, but for those who like to explore the path less traveled, those who visit Harlem on their trips to NYC, those who look for the soul of the towns they visit ... it might be worth a visit.
Otherwise known as 18b, "Rexville", or Central Las Vegas, it is where drug dealers and prostitutes ply their trades outside of strip clubs, motels, wedding chapels, and furniture stores.
Since most people go out of their way to avoid the area, it can be spooky and deserted -- especially at night. This is our "inner city". If you can forgive the lack of glamor and excitement, you just might find a taco stand, custard shop, art gallery, or rock of cocaine that makes the excursion worthwhile.
3. First Friday
Sort of a twist on the entry above, First Friday is a celebration of our fledgling and questionably existent "Arts District".
Since there are only a few galleries, the "Arts" distinction mainly exists to make the area sound less dangerous to white people. That being said, First Friday is fairly entertaining.
It draws local music talent from polished bands to 60 year olds with acoustic guitars and a boombox as backing instrumentalists. Everyone from bedheaded wannabe artists to breakdancers are well-represented, and it's a good way to check out the area when it is actually populated with people.
4. Alta Drive
Our Beverly Hills. Just like the more opulent version in Los Angeles, our old money area is remarkably close to our inner-city. Summerlin and Green Valley just don't have the same connotation.
They are new, sterile, and full of McMansions. If you want to see where the real money of Las Vegas lives, the rich people with deep roots in Vegas, the people who aren't faking it with huge mortgages and low equity, the real deal ... take a drive through Alta and explore the area of 1-2 miles on either side of this street.
5. White Cross
It's a pharmacy, it's a diner, it's a place to arrange $20 fellatio ... it's all of the above. Well-known among locals, but fairly obscure to everyone else, it's worth a visit.
Tiffany's Cafe inside is a good, reasonably priced eatery, and is a viable alternative to eating in the casino for the third morning in a row.
6. Blue Diamond
At the southern end of Red Rock Canyon, Blue Diamond is a small mining town originally designed in the shape of the State of Nevada.
Only 20 miles outside of Las Vegas, it's in a completely different world. With a desert backdrop and an omnipresent wild burro population, it's probably like no place else that you have ever seen.
Blue Diamond is a great place to get out of the city while still being 30 minutes from all of the action.
7. Commercial Center
A sex club, a couple of gay clubs, a fetish clothing store, a couple of Korean grocery stores, an optometrist, a famous billiard club, a liquor store, a spa, business offices, restaurants, a jeweler, dry cleaners, a church, a bookstore, travel agency, and a wig store.
What more could a human being actually need? Located four blocks from the Vegas Strip, this is probably the most unusual strip mall in all of America. Whether you need to be cornholed or you just have a craving for kimchi ... this is your place.
8. The Neon Boneyard
Rarely does anyone recommend that you visit a place that is not even open, but there is something about doing chin-ups on a barbed wire fence to get a peek at vintage Vegas signage that makes it that much more ... interesting.
Sure, you can wait until the place officially opens and pay an entrance fee like a civilized person, but where's the risk in that? The Neon Boneyard is in a rough neighborhood, with the possibility of gangbangers knocking you over the head, and the omnipresent threat of a razorwire cut makes the crappy photographs you procure that much more meaningful.
9. The MAX
It's a train, it's a bus, it's both, it's neither. The MAX is the future of transit in Las Vegas, but you can ride it today. Not only that, but it's the greatest way to tour beautiful and scenic North Las Vegas.
10. Rub-and-Tug Row
We proudly advertise nudie shows, scantily-clad waitresses, and strip clubs in our magazines, but for some reason ... we refuse to go the extra step and tell you how to turn the blue gourds we have given you into a slightly more fleshy color. As a tireless ambassador of goodwill to our fine city, this is where I come in.
Located on Paradise Road between Sahara and St. Louis, Massage Parlor Row can send you home with some of the best therapeutic stress relief in the city. With an unloaded gun, you'll also find that you save large amounts of money not buying ladies drinks, nor trying to impress the opposite sex with your sizable bankroll.
This bar is a Rexville institution. You never know what you will get on any given night, because anything is possible. Transexuals, angry war veterans who hate transexuals, tone-deaf karaoke singers, neighborhood locals, and self-loathing hipster suburbanites are all well-represented. If you are sick and tired of "theme bars" in the local casinos, this place is the cure.
12. "Real" Downtown Las Vegas
Yes, we have a Downtown. Not Fremont Street, but an actual business center. We have courthouses, bank buildings, street hot dog vendors, and a plethora of other businesses in our urban core, and it's actually busy and bustling during the day as is most any other city of our size.
While it's probably not much different than other Downtowns, it's ours nonetheless, and few tourist maps indicate its presence.
13. Lake Las Vegas
It's on a tourist map, but not many tourists actually visit the place. To some extent, this is a shame. It's more like an European city than Paris, Forum Shops at Caesars, or Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes.
Lake Las Vegas is much like a small island gambling destination, and is well worth the trip at least once. The Hoover Dam is nearby, and when the new bridge opens this year, it should be easy to get in and out of the area.
14. The Air
Be it from a helicopter or an airplane, Las Vegas is one of those places that look more interesting from several thousand feet in the air. Even though Vegas is a relatively new city with "only" 2 million people in the metro area, it can look downright huge from up high. Unfortunately, this one can be expensive.
Helicopter rides are not cheap, and you typically have to have aviator buddies to get into the air. Word has it that you can "rent a pilot" at North Las Vegas Airport, but I've never tried it myself and I doubt it's that simple.
If you want to truly explore the Vegas Valley in a way that few others can, it may be worth looking into. An obvious cheaper variation would be the Stratosphere, but that is probably still on a tourist map. For now.
15. The "Las Vegas Strip"
Few people are aware of this, but there is a four mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard between Russell Road and Sahara Avenue that is lined with casinos and hotels. Some people unofficially refer to this area as "The Strip".
Given a consolidation of ownership and poor gaming odds, this area is understandably shunned by the typical Las Vegas visitor.