Now that I'm a part time Las Vegas resident, I've started receiving repeated questions from friends, co-workers, and customers alike asking about where they should eat "off the Strip" when they head out to Sin City. First off, I would never tell anyone to avoid Las Vegas Boulevard because it's a veritable wonderland of culinary delights, endless entertainment, and incredible cocktail bars. I love it. I'd go there every single night of the week if I had the energy and the liver space. If you're too cool for the Strip, maybe look into staying at the same hotel as the people who don't watch TV instead. I think it's right next door to the B&B for people who only drink alcohol because of the complex flavors, not to get a buzz on. You'll fit right in there.
However, if you're a veteran of all the major clubs and casinos, you've seen all the shows, and now you're looking for additional ideas beyond all the glitz and the glamour just to change things up a bit, I've got a great watering hole for you—literally. Head out to Summerlin and get onto Charleston, hang a left and make the drive to Red Rock. It's not far outside town; only about a fifteen minute ride from my front door to the park entrance. Go about ten and a half miles around the loop and park at the Pine Creek Trail lot. Make sure you've got a tall can of beer or a bottle of white wine, then start walking.
It's all open desert for the first mile or so, nothing but cacti, scattered brush, cottontail rabbits, and the sun blazing down upon you. As you get closer to the mountains, however, it begins to change dramatically.
When you reach what looks like the foundation of an old house (and is), that's when you can start to hear the water. Believe it or not, there's a pure mountain creek running through the middle of what you thought was the dry, barren Mojave desert. That's why old Horace Wilson originally homesteaded here in 1920: it's close to water! What's left of his house still remains for hikers like you and me to ponder over, marking what was likely once a beautiful place to live.
The deeper you go past the Wilson homesite and into the canyon, the greener and fuller it gets. It starts to look more like Yosemite than the desert terrain you saw only minutes earlier. When you get to what looks like a triangle shaped campground, hang a left towards the sound of the water and begin making your way through the boulders, trees, and over what looks like a dry river bed. You'll get there if you listen closely to the rustling of the creek.
When the clearing opens up into the rocky creek with its crystal waters running down towards your feet, pull that tall can out of your bag or coat pocket and plop it down in one of the numerous pools. If you're out in winter like we were today, it should get cold in ten minutes or less. There are dozens and dozens of great places to sit, take in the sights, and relax. Don't worry about the sun because you're deep enough into the canyon at this point so that the cliffs block out the heat. Let the trickle of Pine Creek calm your nerves and ease your senses, while you sip that cold brew in peace and solitude.
Once you've drained your beer, and finished the two-plus mile hike back to the parking lot, you're going to be hungry. Lucky for you, there are about 400 amazing breakfast spots between Red Rock and the Strip. I try and go to a different one every time I'm there. Today it was Rise and Shine on Flamingo. Man, did that bone-in ham steak hit the spot. From there it was a frozen Margarita crawl through Summerlin, bolstered by endless chips and salsa. There are countless scores of great places off the strip to sip those slushy delights. I can fill you in on those spots later if you're interested.
Needless to say, there's a lot going on in Las Vegas besides slots and shots. Most people think it's just a seedy cess pool in the middle of arid nothing, and I'm more than happy to let them go on thinking that. As a native Californian, I've heard countless people lament the idea of ever leaving the state or being forced to move from the Bay Area. "I would miss all the natural beauty," is a common utterance. I haven't missed it one bit because I've learned Vegas has some pretty special places. I've never been happier.