What It's Like to Live in a Tourist Town

Locals share the ups and downs of living in five world-famous vacation destinations.

Photo by: iStockphoto/Thinkstock There's more to Las Vegas than bright lights and casinos.


Most famous for the four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip, Las Vegas draws in more than 35 million visitors each year in search of nonstop gaming, world-class cuisine and fabulous shopping. Despite the millions of visitors the city receives, Alyssa Anderson, a Las Vegas resident of eight years, thinks of the Nevada city as "a big small town."

"We have all the great advantages of living in a big city -- amazing food, great entertainment -- but when you live here, it's like six degrees of separation. Everybody knows everybody somehow," she says.

Getting around: During major holiday weekends, Anderson says Las Vegas locals abide by one important rule: Avoid the Strip. Last year, Anderson made the mistake of forgetting this rule two days before New Year's Eve, when she attempted to drive from one hotel on the Strip to another for a business meeting.

"Normally, the drive would take less than five minutes, and it took me more than half an hour," she says. "I thought, 'What a rookie mistake I just made. Why did I think I could just hop in the car and get from point A to point B two days before New Year's Eve?'"

Owning a home: The words "Las Vegas" often conjure images of glittering lights, casinos and quickie wedding chapels. But venture beyond the neon lights into the neighborhoods surrounding the Strip -- where most Las Vegas locals live -- and you'll find classic suburbia, Anderson says.

"You've got your malls and your shopping centers with your grocery stores," she says. "Sure, you go to the gas station and there might be slot machines on one side, but after you've lived here awhile you sort of block that stuff out."

Finding fun: Anderson first moved to Las Vegas when she was 22, hoping to get a small market under her belt in the television news business. "It's a great place to be in your 20s -- every weekend you have the opportunity to be a tourist," she says. Now, she still enjoys an occasional night out on the Strip.

"The Strip is a huge part of our town -- it creates the majority of the jobs -- but most locals only go there if they've got people visiting from out of town or if they're having a special night out," she says.

Tallying the cost of living: Las Vegas was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, and the city’s home prices are now at their lowest levels since they peaked three or four years ago. Anderson and her husband currently own a condo, but they’re trading up to a house because of the great deals. But while buying a home may be affordable, the city's status as a top vacation destination makes other aspects of living in Las Vegas pricey.

"We get spoiled because we have such great dining and entertainment options, but at the same time, it's expensive because it's tourist prices," Anderson says. "In the neighborhoods it's much cheaper, but if you want to go out on the Strip, you have to pay a little extra to enjoy what the tourists do."

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