Off The Strip: Las Vegas Like You’ve Never Seen It
In 1964, Elvis Presley made the world pine for a glitzy Las Vegas trip (“with your neon flashin’, and your one-armed bandits crashin’”) and that Casino-centric narrative has dominated the aura around the Nevada city for over 50 years. Don’t get us wrong, the Strip is incredible—full of fantasy worlds and unparalleled glamour—but Las Vegas is also home to half a million people and they most definitely do not all live on Las Vegas Blvd.
“We’re a really young city, when you look at what we’re doing,” says Craig Nyman, the head of music and live performances for Life Is Beautiful Festival. “Every other city wants what we have (the tourism, the infrastructure, the entertainment) and what we want that every other city has (a city centre, cultural centrs and sports teams) is growing [in Vegas] right now.”
Las Vegas has always called itself the “Entertainment Capital of the World” and with a bustling downtown, a thriving food scene outside of the Strip and an unparalleled music and arts festival every autumn, that claim is becoming more of a reality.
“[Life Is Beautiful] is just a piece of the puzzle,” Nyman says while excitedly talking about Vegas’s future. “We’re part of the revitalisation of downtown and our hope is that, for 3 days of the year, [visitors and locals] have the best weekend of their lives. If we can get people’s eyes and attentions to downtown then we’re helping Vegas show that there’s so much more to this city than just the Strip. You just need to get out there and explore!”
Here, the Vegas local and mastermind behind Life Is Beautiful’s consistently killer line-ups gives us the lowdown on the best places in Sin City off of the Strip.
“Atomic Liquors is the oldest bar in Las Vegas. It’s an institution and has great bartenders and great drinks. I typically go for an Old Fashioned made with Glenfiddich when I’m there. Another great part about Atomic Liquors is that it’s within the footprint of our festival and stays open during all three days [of LIB].”
HERBS & RYE
“Herbs & Rye is the quintessential cocktail lounge of Las Vegas… All the cocktails there are delicious, they’ve got a great team behind the bar. And besides the drink portion of it, they’ve got an insane happy hour where all steaks are 50% off. I would take anyone there over all other places as the first [Las Vegas] stop. When you want to show someone your side of Vegas as a local, in terms of having that great cocktail and steak dinner, this is where you want to go. Get that great bone in rib eye and a couple of Vespers. You look through the menu and you could eat everything on it. I’ve never had a bad meal or experience here.”
PINBALL HALL OF FAME
“This is a must visit stop for anyone when they come to town—it’s all old-school classic pinball machines. I can’t even tell you how far some of these date back! You can go with friends, on a date night or bring your whole family. It’s no frills, just off the side of Tropicana and you just watch people’s eyes light up when they see these machines [for the first time].
My brother and I grew up with pinball machines in the house and we saw the machine [that we had] in the Hall of Fame. It instantly brought us back to our youth. They’ve got some old-school video games too like NFL Blitz or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s a place that you would walk in and not know how you’ve never been here before. We get lost in the Pinball Hall of Fame for hours. It’s that bit of nostalgia—the minute you go in there you’re a kid again.”
“Le Pho is a relatively new dining option to downtown Vegas, but whether you go for lunch, happy hour, dinner or whenever, it’s just a great spot for Vietnamese food. It’s centrally located, it’s convenient and it’s fast. All that makes Le Pho ridiculously amazing. As for go-to items, they’ve got an array of spring rolls to order from, but the Le Pho roll is unbeatable—the pork in that is the business.”
TOPGOLF LAS VEGAS
“If you’ve been to Topgolf before, you know what a great venue it is. The Vegas [location] is enormous—there are 4 floors, 2 pools, tons of bars and more. It’s such a great night out. It’s located behind the MGM…and it is its own entertainment complex that has a little bit of everything. This specific location also has over 150 bays for driving.”
“Kyara is one of those hidden gems of Las Vegas—it’s located on the southwest side of town. It’s a Japanese tapas robata bar, but they’ve got sushi, robata and everything in between. [It’s so hidden that] you would not know it was there unless someone told you it was there. The staff is very welcoming and friendly and you’re not going to be breaking the bank—a good fair price for great food.”
“This place has a lot of history in Vegas. It’s got a really great late-night scene, the rooms are all fun and funky and they leave you a note about all the noise. When you go there, you know there’s going to be a lot of after hours happenings. The Artisan Hotel is located on Sahara—it’s one of those properties that’s that a perfect middle between downtown and the Strip.”
DOUBLE DOWN SALOON
“I love the Double Down. It’s the happiest place on Earth—it even says that on the sign before you enter. If you’re ever going to use the word institution, [this is it!] Double Down is the most Vegas-dive-bar institution of them all. The collection of people is amazing and it doesn’t have locks on its doors because it’s open all the time. There will be people in suits and gowns sitting next to people in cut off shorts and T-shirts [at the saloon]. There is no judging here, everybody’s accepted.”
“For all of us who live in Las Vegas, we get to take advantage of such an incredible national park right in our backyard. There’s the scenic view at Red Rocks [that you can drive up to] if you don’t want to hike, but there are tons of trails if you do want to get out there.
When you get to the top of the mountain, you look out over the entire city and it’s just breathtaking. It’s pretty crazy to think that we live with this desert heat all the time, but only 30 minutes outside of town, we’ve got some of the most beautiful mountains and hiking in the world.”