How to Ring in the New Year Like a Local

Photo by Bryan Haraway/Las Vegas News Bureau

Photo by Bryan Haraway/Las Vegas News Bureau

If I want to ring in the New Year like a Las Vegas local, what should I do?

Stay home. Or at least close to home. While plenty of Vegas kids remember spending many a New Year’s Eve being led around a busy casino behind our swankily attired parents, not only do most of today’s locals claim they never go to the Strip, the idea of taking young children with them to a casino for a midnight celebration is tantamount to child abuse. Still, we somehow survived long enough to witness the transformation of our busiest boulevard into a New Year’s Eve destination on par with Times Square.

It may be hard to believe, but the Strip was not always closed to traffic on New Year’s Eve. For decades, it was a Vegas tradition to cruise the Strip as the calendar clicked over, honking and yelling at midnight as strangers ran from one car to another, exchanging quick kisses.

Though the precise year escapes me, those small-town shenanigans ended in the mid-1990s. One particularly busy Eve, pedestrian traffic in front of Slots-A-Fun casino was so congested that crowds spilled into a traffic lane, forcing cars to move around them. It took a moment for the groupthink to spread, but once it did, an organic human mass quickly occupied all the southbound travel lanes of the Strip in front of Circus Circus, and traffic was diverted. Thus began the long-running series of Strip street parties.

Most locals have either been dragged (or blindly volunteered themselves) into that mass of humanity at least once, and once is usually enough. Remember, most of your fellow partiers are only visiting, many of them boozing it up much more than usual. If you insist on being part of amateur hour, here are tips: dress in layers, carry only what you need, take a designated driver and stash a car in a casino parking garage the night before, on the same side of the Strip on which you live. You’re welcome.

What is a great way to start the New Year in Las Vegas?

Assuming the weather is cooperative and you aren’t nursing a killer hangover, I like to celebrate the end of the crazy holiday season with a chill day outdoors. That can mean a hike at Red Rock Canyon or a bicycle ride around my neighborhood. It can also be an indoor-outdoor brunch and a little hair of the dog. My favorite splurgy ones are at the Country Club at Wynn and the Veranda at Four Seasons, but even low-key spots like Park on Fremont are jumping on the brunchy bandwagon. It’s a good bet your favorite spot is, too.