Cigarette smoke, aged cologne, and alcohol is the perfume of the Excalibur lobby in Las Vegas, Nevada. Maybe not the most pleasant of smells, but it excited me. I had never been to the gambling capital of the U.S. The flashing neon lights of slot machines and the dimmed lights of the casino hotel were enough to put you in a party mood all day. Immediately I understood the appeal and the hope of a prize that came in the Las Vegas air. There was only one problem… my boyfriend and I are only 20.
No we are not people who feel the need to go gambling, and my drinking stops at the bi-weekly class of wine. It was a downer that I couldn’t take part in a key factor of a Vegas trip, but there was so much more to come. My boyfriend, William Rivers, moved to Las Vegas at a very young age with his family, so he has seen all of the lights and glimmer since he was a toddler.
Since I will always be the extreme tourist when we go places, Will took me to walk the strip the first night. The lights and sounds were exhilarating! Women from ages 20 to 55 dressed in too short dresses and pencil skirts with neon crop tops and low cut t-shirts and the men dressed in jeans, flip-flops, and a short sleeve plaid button down. The main accessory was a bottomless mug of beer or an alcoholic slurpy drink. Some may think this is a tacky look (I usually do), but now it was all part of the experience.
My face probably looked like the children’s cartoon when the characters saw something of amazing interest- big and starry eyed. I was probably the most obvious tourist the locals had ever saw. With my Las Vegas sweatshirt, sandals, cotton patterned pants, and camera on my phone open at all times, I got a couple eye rolls (a couple from Will).
While we were on the strip we went into the Miracle Mile Mall. Urban Outfitters, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and other usual “mall” stores where there along with tourist shops. A dome covered the mall walkway with an image of the sky. This section had the tourist shops, theaters, and more bars.
The next couple of days were spent off the strip. I always love going to thrift and vintage stores in every new place I go. We googled vintage shops in Vegas, and Glam Factory Vintage popped up. Walking into this cottage-y place, it felt very homey. The owner was big into color and prints. She had a lot of avant garde dresses from the forties and sixties. I got a pair of wool knit trousers that have minimal flecks of color spun into the black and white thread. After talking to the owner, I learned that her shop was the only free standing vintage store in the city. She buys out entire estates and hand selects pieces to put in her shop. She really captured the culture and liveliness of “Old Las Vegas” in her pieces.
On the opposite side of the street from Glam Factory Vintage, was a costume store with art lining their walls. It was called William’s Costumes. Will and I stepped in to find all of these materials to make your own costumes, masks, vintage buttons and embellishments; it was extraordinary. They had a back room filled with rental costumes. Entering this room was posters, magazine tear outs, and signed comp cards of drag queens and acts that used their costumes. The costumes were all vintage and the quality was impeccable. I found a Mary Poppins costume that had the dress, overcoat, hat, and gloves. There were flapper dresses and Vegas show girl costumes with huge feathered and beaded headdresses. Every costume imaginable was in this place. I found a few vintage patches for my patch jacket there. I was talking to an employee, and they said they were closing in four days because the owner had passed away. It broke my heart that a place with such vision and culture was being sold. This store is probably my most memorable moment of the trip.
The next place we went was Desert Industries Thrift Store. It is similar to Goodwill. I had so much fun digging through there color sorted racks. They had things from Forever 21 to Diane Von Furstenburg. The donators in that area have amazing style. I got high waisted acid wash jeans from the 80’s, a pair of white Caché trousers, and three pairs of heeled shoes. I would definitely recommend going to both of these places to find some treasures. The owner of Glam Factory Vintage and the employees at Desert Industries are so welcoming and willing to talk.
We went to visit Will’s high school. He was not kidding when he said this place was far away from everything. It had an amazing view. It was placed on a very tall hill that overlooked North Las Vegas and The Strip. The inside reminded me of the school High School Musical was shot in! Coming from a class of 64, this campus seemed massive. Here is the view from a trail on the side of one of the school’s buildings. After, we went to Sweet Tomatoes. They are a salad building buffet with fresh ingredients and homemade everything!
We went to The Old Strip on Fremont Street the next day. It is basically a mini version of the strip now. There are girls dressed as sexy police, angels, and bunnies and buff men walking around in jeans and cowboy boots. Both were desperately and successfully reeling people in for photos. Tourist shops lined the strip and restaurants. A zip line ran from one side of the street to the other. Will and I bought tickets for the highest zip lines! The ceiling of the dome above the street was lit up and dancing lights flashed from each building. The view was beautiful! The warm breeze across your face and flying like Superman was an experience I’ll never forget.
After The Old Strip we headed to the Stratosphere. The elevator that lifts you up to the viewing deck goes 21 miles an hour! Las Vegas was lit up and twinkling behind a thick pane of glass.
Our flight home got canceled because of a wind storm, so with the extra time we went laser tagging at Laser Quest. This was the largest laser tag arena I had ever been in! Wearing a light grey sweatshirt probably wasn’t the best idea with the lights. Will beat me twice, of course, but it was still really fun!
Not having the stereotypical Las Vegas trip and being shown the hidden gems by a local was so unique, and it gave Las Vegas a new perspective.