Living in Las Vegas: A Look Beyond the Strip

Zillow
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Sky-high hotels, desert sun and entertainment galore. It’s not surprising Las Vegas continues to be one of the most popular Spring Break destinations attracting college students around the country.

Today’s Vegas reaches far beyond the Strip’s neon lights and slot machines. In fact, a growing number of families are putting down roots in the Gambling Capital of the World.

To get a feel for what it’s like to live in Vegas, we asked longtime residents Christa Schueler and Michelle Radcliff to share their experiences.

Family-friendly culture

“I moved here in the ’80s and the common belief was that you must work and live in a hotel, or have some affiliation to a casino,” said Schueler, who writes an online magazine geared toward local women. “Then in the ’90s, Las Vegas started trying to get that family demographic because growth started to explode here. They started trying to appeal to families living here as well as those who were vacationing.”

Schueler said efforts to make Vegas more conducive to a family lifestyle weren’t hugely successful in the ’90s, but she notes there’s been a recent movement to appeal to families with children.

“Now, we’re not just looked at as gambling town,” she said. “People are realizing families do live here and that there are things to do, whether you’re a tourist or a local.”

Radcliff, who also moved to Vegas in the 1980s, agrees.

“I have a daughter who was born here,” she said. “A lot of people raise families in Vegas. There are a lot of things you can do with children.”

Affordable real estate

A 3-bedroom home in Henderson's Green Valley North neighborhood is on the market for $175,000.

A 3-bedroom home in Henderson’s Green Valley North neighborhood is on the market for $175,000.

For starters, you can buy a 3- or 4-bedroom home for a fraction of what it costs in other cities. At the end of 2013, the city’s median home value was  $167,400, below the national median of $169,100.

Zillow Director of Economic Research Dr. Svenja Gudell says Las Vegas is a good bet for buyers seeking bargain-priced real estate.

“Home values in the Las Vegas area were among the hardest hit during the recession, and remain 45 percent below their prior peaks, which means current buyers can still expect to find good bargains,” she said.

Gudell says now is a good time to buy because strong demand from investors and vacation-home buyers, coupled with tight supply, has led to unusually fast home-value appreciation, topping 28 percent year-over-year in December.

“Homes values over the next year are expected to rise another 7.9 percent, a far cry from earlier appreciation levels but still very strong historically and a great return for anyone planning to buy in the area today,” she said.

Growing neighborhoods

Radcliff says the best way to make connections with people is to live in a neighborhood and stay put for a while. Today, there are several popular neighborhoods in and around Vegas including Henderson and Summerlin North, which has 11 top-rated primary and secondary schools.

“When we started having big growth, Summerlin, Aliante, Mountain Edge and Southern Highlands really tried to attract families by making those areas very community-oriented,” she explained. “Even though the economy tanked, those are still popular areas for families.”

For young adults without children, trendy downtown lofts are a top choice, although they can be on the pricier side.

“Even my teenage daughter says, ‘When I’m out on my own, I’d love to live in a place like that,’” she said. “There are great restaurants, bars and an artsy district for the 21-and-older crowd.”

Outdoor recreation

Calico Basin in Red Rock National Conservation Area. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Calico Basin in Red Rock National Conservation Area. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Radcliff says most locals rarely visit the Strip and, other than a few grocery-store slot machines, the rest of Vegas isn’t centered around gambling and entertainment.

“When we want to do something special, we go sightseeing,” she said. “We have Red Rock [Canyon] and the Spring Mountains, both of which are popular for hiking and camping. Mount Charleston is good for skiing and, on the eastern side, there’s Lake Mead. It’s a big recreational hot spot for boating, fishing and camping.”

Schueler says the Springs Reserve, a 180-acre attraction featuring botanical gardens, museums, family events, traveling exhibits and hiking trails, is also a great place to hang out.

Ethnic food

Sure, the Strip offers ethnic cuisine in the form of chain eateries like Panda Express or El Pollo Loco, but just a few minutes away, you’ll find small, locally owned ethnic restaurants offering up tasty, creative and authentic cuisine.

“My favorite Mexican spot is called Leticias [Mexican Cocina],” said Melly Allen, who works with Schueler at Recess LV. “It’s on the north side of town — off the beaten path for someone traveling here. We literally will wait 45 minutes on a Friday night just to get seats because it’s well worth it. The food is great — it’s authentic — and the service is amazing.”

Chinatown is a good place to get authentic Asian food, according to Schueler. “My husband lived in Japan for a while in the military. He Loves Cafe Noodle.”

Radcliff loves Vegas’ Thai food restaurants. “There are great mom-and-pop places,” she said.

Transformation

Overall, Schueler and Radcliff say Las Vegas is a work in progress. Downtown is better than it has been in the past because of a growing tech community there, but revitalization takes time.

“No one would go downtown before, but now it’s such a hip place to go,” Schueler said. “I love that there is so much transformation and growth. I can drive by somewhere 10 years later and bam — there are all these new new things that weren’t there before.”

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Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers celebrity real estate, industry trends and home improvement tips. Read more of her work here.

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