What comes to mind when you think of Las Vegas? Neon, probably. Lots and lots of neon, the noble gas that lights up the Strip at night. It’s such a Vegas staple that there’s even a museum dedicated to the city’s glittering signs. But as New York City isn’t just Times Square, it would be reductive to limit your perception of Vegas to strictly bright lights and casinos.
Today, we go beyond neon to discover the hotspots and hidden gems of the city’s nightlife, food, and culture—exploring places both on and off the Strip—from Hakkasan, the megaclub where you’ll find names like Lil Jon or Tiësto playing on any given night, to The Laundry Room, a secret speakeasy on Fremont Street.
To help guide us on our journey, we’ve enlisted first-time visitor to Vegas, 22-year-old singer Lauren Sanderson, as well as veteran photographer and king of nightlife antics Glen Han (a.k.a. Glenjamn). Through their eyes and first-hand adventures, we get to see the people and places that make Las Vegas so special.
Lauren Sanderson, 22, started out as a “weird kid in Indiana,” according to her Soundcloud bio, becoming a motivational speaker and signed artist after giving a TED talk in 2015. She dropped her first EP, Center of Expression, in 2016, turning her inspiring speeches into song. Sanderson takes a tour of the city for the first time courtesy of her tour guide Glenjamn.
Glenjamn is many things: gonzo photographer and videographer, scene king, and party-goer. If you’re an electronic or rap music fan, you’ll definitely recognize his work. His Instagram bio simply says, “Historian. Sup.” which is on point, considering he’s documented pretty much every cool nightclub and festival worth going to in the past 10 years.
“On the Strip, there's nothing cooler, nothing that makes you feel more like a rock star, than bright lights, people living in the moment,” Lauren says. “I've never been to a place where I feel like I can have so much city and bright lights, so much going on.”
Walking along the Strip, you start to feel like, in spite of Washington D.C.’s standing, that maybe Vegas is America’s unofficial capital. People from all walks of life, from Minnesota gamblers and Texas newlyweds, to Los Angeles millionaires congregate in the 4.2 mile stretch that is the Strip.
(The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)
One thing you might not expect to find on the Strip is a streetwear boutique worthy of the most dedicated hypebeast. Santa Barbara, California-based CRSVR’s (pronounced “Crossover”) flagship store is tucked away on the second floor of The Cosmopolitan, specializing in limited-edition footwear and apparel. Stocking the latest from Nike, Adidas and more, CRSVR also has its own line of shirts.
(THE VENETIAN LAS VEGAS)
Two words: milkshake bar. Black Tap’s Vegas outpost inside The Venetian offers its signature CrazyShake Milkshake Bar, a Chef's Table-esque experience where you can watch your milkshake made right in front of you with full, Instagram-worthy theatrics on display. You can even make it boozy, with a recommended liquor to accompany each shake. Black Tap’s All-American burgers and huge craft beer menu will satisfy your more savory cravings.
Seeing the lights of the Strip while walking on foot? Beautiful. Seeing the City of Lights all at once with a birds-eye view? Transcendent. With a Maverick helicopter tour, you see it all, from the Luxor pyramid to the Bellagio fountains. In spite of Glen’s Vegas veteran status, it was the first time he witnessed the city from above. “For me, as a photographer, it's just a different perspective that I never, ever, ever get to see,” Glen says.
(MGM Grand Las Vegas)
On any given night at MGM Grand’s Hakkasan, performances from world-famous DJs like Calvin Harris and Tiësto (who loves the nightclub so much, his album A Town Called Paradise is a tribute to the city and Hakkasan) captivate Vegas audiences. The five-story, 80,000-square-foot venue recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, opening in 2013 and turning Vegas into a global EDM capital in the years since.
Right before the sun sets, Lauren takes an exhilarating zipline ride over Bootleg Canyon, a destination just 30 minutes away from the Strip but that makes you feel miles and miles from the bright lights. “I didn't expect Vegas to have nature,” Lauren says. “When I think of Vegas, I've always thought of big flashy lights. But seeing the mountains, the desert, when I was walking on the trails and seeing lizards, I wasn't expecting it. [Vegas] is underrated.”
Park on Fremont
Vegas has its very own secret garden that can be found in the Park on Fremont. A 2,500-square-foot outdoor oasis replete with greenery covering the walls and patio floors, salvaged barn wood, and even—for the kid in us all—a seesaw and oversized Jenga. The gastropub’s menu is Southern flavored, from tater tots to the beef brisket sandwich. The Texas Tuxedo, a Bloody Mary with Tito’s vodka, basil, and grape tomatoes, comes (of course) in a Mason jar.
Commonwealth / Laundry Room
Commonwealth, the rooftop bar with Pre-Prohibition era design and drinks, has a secret bar inside of it. The Laundry Room, the bar within a bar, is as Glen describes, a “very meta bar.” #Barception. It’s truly one of the city’s best-kept secrets, and all you need is the password. You’re guaranteed a discreet, relaxing time with the speakeasy’s list of house rules, from their no-telephone-calls mandate to no PDA allowed.