Living In Las Vegas: What’s It Like?
Las Vegas is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. You come, you gamble, and then you go back home. That’s how most tourists perceive Las Vegas.
But people actually live in Vegas! Outside the tourist areas, Las Vegas is a regular city where people live, work and do everything people in other cities do. So, what’s it like to live in Las Vegas?
Living in Las Vegas is fun! While day to day life is similar to other cities, Las Vegas has a never ending supply of entertainment and things to do close at hand. The city is surrounded by beautiful natural areas and the cost of living is low. The educational system is poor and it is very hot in the summer.
In this article, I want to tell you what it’s like to actually live in Las Vegas. You’re going to find out whether Las Vegas is a good place to live, or not.
I’ll tell you about the main benefits of living here, but I’m also going to share the downsides. We’ll discuss the costs of living in Las Vegas and finally I’ll tell you about some of the things that surprised me the most after my family moved to Las Vegas.
Table of Contents
Is Las Vegas A Good Place To Live?
The answer to this question depends a lot on who ask, but most people agree that living in Las Vegas is – what you make of it.
Las Vegas is primarily a transient city (a lot of people moving in and out of town on a regular basis) with a fixed population of around 2,200,000. Based on these numbers, it’s the 23rd to 28th largest city in the United States, depending on what population number you’re using (urban or metro).
The greater Las Vegas Valley, or what people commonly refer to as Las Vegas, is actually made up of several cities and townships. They are:
- Las Vegas (city)
- North Las Vegas (city)
- Henderson (city)
- Paradise (unincorporated township)
- Summerlin (unincorporated township)
- Spring Valley (unincorporated township)
- Sunrise Manor (unincorporated township)
- Enterprise (unincorporated township)
- Winchester (unincorporated township)
- Whitney (unincorporated township)
All together these areas are considered to be “Las Vegas” when speaking in general terms.
If you ask people living here if they like living in Las Vegas, you’ll basically get one of three answers. They either love it, hate it, or love it and hate it at the same time!
My wife Wendy and I fall into the “Love it” category. We moved here in 2016 from a small town in Washington State, and we love the weather, the entertainment and the overall lower cost of living. We also don’t have school aged kids which would have probably been a deal breaker for us as the educational system here leaves something to be desired (more on that later).
Let’s take a look at the main pros and cons of living in Las Vegas.
Pros of Living in Vegas
There are a lot of benefits to living in Las Vegas, they are:
Let’s face it, while most of us locals wouldn’t want to live on the Strip, it’s hella fun that it’s there just waiting for us anytime we get the urge to party!
While many Las Vegas locals only go to the Strip or downtown when they absolutely have to (like when they have out of town guests) some locals (like us) enjoy heading down to the Strip for date night, dinner, a show or just to hang out for a bit.
Find out more about reasons why locals Do or Do Not go to The Strip in our article here.
Plenty of Elbow Room
For a good sized city, Las Vegas still has plenty of elbow room. If you grew up here (or anywhere in the western United States) you might not think anything of this but for those of you who grew up in one of the more densely packed cities in the eastern part of the United States this could be a significant pro!
Many/most people in Las Vegas drive their own car and there is abundant parking available throughout the city (even in the tourist areas). The homes in Las Vegas aren’t built on top of one another (unless you’re living in an apartment, of course). Older single family homes have the biggest lots but even newly constructed homes have some space between them.
Once You Move Here, You’re A Local
A lot of cities can be kind of cliquey when you first move there. You’re kind of considered an outsider until you’ve been around for a while. Las Vegas is not like that at all.
Since most of the city’s population wasn’t born and raised here, that vibe doesn’t exist. Once you’ve moved here, you’re in the club! Welcome to Vegas!
The job market here is good if you’re in the hospitality business, but you’ll need to have some experience before expecting more than an entry level job in Vegas. For more information on the Las Vegas job market, you can check my article: Is it Hard to Find Work in Las Vegas? (Top Employers!).
Outside the tourism sector, Las Vegas has all the types of jobs you’d expect in any town in order to support the city and the people who live here. Jobs such as retail, auto mechanics, dentists, construction workers, real estate, accountants, etc.
As for the climate, except for a few extremely warm months during the summer, Las Vegas is generally a great place to live weather wise. Even better if you’re hoping for drier weather conditions.
I’m personally still drying out from twenty years of living in the rainy Pacific Northwest. The weather here is great with mostly sunny days, and warm conditions.
It gets a little cold for a couple of months (January & December) and really hot for a few months (June – August) with the rest of the year being exceptionally nice!
If you prefer rain, you probably won’t be happy in Vegas (find out how often it rains in Las Vegas here), but there are some beautiful thunderstorms during the year and a lot of amazing sunsets!
Close To Many Beautiful Natural Areas
This is actually one of our top reasons for moving to Las Vegas. Vegas is surrounded by some of the western United States most amazing natural areas.
Nearby you have easy access to places like Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Zion, Bryce Canyon….and the list goes on and on. You can find out more about visiting these destinations from Las Vegas in our article here.
Some people don’t care for desert environments but I find the desert to be quite beautiful. If you like rocky, desert areas, you can do a lot of sightseeing in the surrounding Mojave Desert, which offers genuinely beautiful landscapes… if you’re into that sort of thing.
Las Vegas Is An Airline Hub
Not only is Las Vegas a gateway to all the amazing locations found in the American Southwest, it’s also a hub for several major airlines in the U.S. Because of this, Las Vegas is an inexpensive city to fly in and out of.
If you’ve got friends or family in other parts of the country, you’ll be able to find good airline deals to many of these places. If you just generally like to travel, this works for you too as there are relatively inexpensive flights to just about anywhere, including many international destinations.
Lower Cost of Living
The cost of living is much lower here compared to many other big cities. While the Strip and other tourist areas can get quite pricey, it’s actually pretty reasonable in terms of expenses to live here. Homes, food, utilities, and services all cost less than I was expecting when we moved here.
I’ve done an in-depth review of the costs associated with living in Las Vegas in my article: Is it Expensive to Live in Las Vegas? (Average Costs To Live)
No State Income Tax
This is one of my personal favorites and depending on your level of income, this could a biggie!
Nevada has no state income tax.
Let me repeat that so it sinks in. Each year when you’re doing your federal income taxes, there is no need for you to also do your Nevada State income taxes because there aren’t any.
If you’re living here and you find yourself occasionally getting anoyed with the tourists, just remember that all the taxes and fees that tourists pay while they’re visiting are eliminating the need for you to pay any state income tax. This alone can be worth several thousand dollars each year depending on your income. Thank you tourists!
Cons of Living in Vegas
As with any city, there are certainly some downsides to living in Las Vegas. I promise that I won’t sugar coat these so that you’ll have a better idea if Vegas living is for you or not.
Many Jobs Are Tourism Related
Las Vegas is built and sustains itself on the tourism industry, which means if anything goes bad and negatively affects tourism, the whole city suffers.
The Great Recession of 2007-09 hit Las Vegas especially hard. If the economy goes soft, the first thing people do is stop spending money on non-essentials like travel and entertainment. When this happens Las Vegan’s lose jobs.
Las Vegas is starting to diversify a bit with big companies like Amazon and Google moving into the valley. So hopefully in time, the entire Las Vegas economy won’t be reliant on just one industry.
Poor Education Environment
Another thing that is generally considered a negative in Las Vegas is education. People living in Las Vegas mostly agree – the schools (from elementary to high school) are pretty poor.
The state of Nevada ranks 50th in overall school ratings in the country, surpassing only New Mexico. Having said that, there are good schools in Las Vegas but it seems to be dependent on what area of town you live in.
For a list of some of Las Vegas’s best schools and areas to live, take a look at our article: Is Las Vegas a Good Place to Live for Families? An Essential Guide. It will give you a lot of information about moving to Las Vegas with your family.
Las Vegas has a lot of homelessness. To be fair, homelessness has become a huge problem in many areas of the country. In the city center, you’ll see signs of homelessness pretty much everywhere. From people looking for handouts on street corners to makeshift homeless encampments.
As you move further away from the center of Las Vegas you’ll typically see fewer issues with homelessness but it’s possible to see it pop-up just about anywhere. It’s an unfortunate problem but one you should be aware of if you’re thinking of moving to Las Vegas.
Dating and Relationships
If you’re single, dating and looking for a serious relationship, I’ve heard repeatedly that Las Vegas is not a very good place for that. I think it has to do with Vegas’s transient nature and party atmosphere. People come and go all the time in this town and it’s not the most stable of places to begin a relationship.
That being said, there are wonderful, beautiful, caring people everywhere and Las Vegas is no exception. I personally know of more than a few long term couples who met, fell in love and got married all while living in Las Vegas.
In that regard Vegas is like anywhere else. If you’re going to the bars hoping to find a quality partner, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.
I’m not going to mince words here. The crime rate in Las Vegas is higher than the national average. It’s also higher than similarly sized metropolitan cities such as Charlotte, NC and Orlando, FL.
But again it really comes down to what area of town you’re living in. The crime rate in Las Vegas falls rapidly as you move away from the city center.
In fact, by the time you get out to the City of Henderson, you’re in one of the safest cities in the country. AdvisorSmith recently rated Henderson, Nevada as the second safest large city in America.
Not Good For Addictive Personalities
Las Vegas is not a good place for people with addictive personalities. If you’ve had or have problems with drinking or gambling, you should think twice about moving to Las Vegas.
The temptations here may be too great. You’ll be surrounded by alcohol and gambling everywhere you go. For example, even many of the grocery stores in town have a gaming section where you’ll be enticed to play the slots or a few hands of video poker every time you come to get groceries.
Also, unlike every other place I’ve ever lived, there’s no such thing as “last call” in Vegas. Alcohol can be sold and purchased at any time of the day or night, anywhere that sells liquor.
Driving in Las Vegas
Driving in and around Las Vegas is a mixed bag. While we don’t have the insane traffic of some other large cities (I’m thinking of you Los Angeles), Las Vegas is home to some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen. You’ll need to be a very defensive driver to drive successfully in Las Vegas.
I’ve written a couple of articles that go into great depth about the traffic and what it’s like to drive in Las Vegas. You can find them here.
- Driving in Las Vegas (What To Expect – Plus Tips!)
- How Bad is the Traffic in Las Vegas? (What You Need to Know)
We’ve already talked about the weather in the pros to living in Las Vegas section above, but we need to mention it again here. Like I previously mentioned, Las Vegas has great weather overall, but it does get insanly hot during the summer months.
How hot you ask? During the months of July and August you can expect most days to be around 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42°C). On top of that, you should expect many days in the 110 – 115°F (43 – 46°C) range.
Personally, I love it! I spend the day inside with the A/C on and spend every afternoon in the pool. But if your job requires you to be outside much of the time, it can be miserable. We live in an older section of town and our mailman has to walk his daily route through our neighborhood. I’m not sure how he does it!
If you can’t take the heat for a few months of the year, it’s best to stay out of the fire!
How Much Does It Cost to Live in Las Vegas?
I’ve already covered the issue of living expenses in Las Vegas in great detail in a separate article, so I’ll refer you to that one for more information, but I’ll give you a brief summary here.
You’ll find Las Vegas right around the national average when it comes to official “cost of living indexes”. In my experience, however, I find it really inexpensive to live in Vegas.
I think what happens is when these cost of living indexes are created they’re including prices from the Strip and other tourist areas in town that artificially drive up the costs. For instance, a beer on the Strip will cost you somewhere around $10 – $12, while a local will head to an off-Strip casino and get a beer for $1.50.
This holds true for food and lodging as well. On the Strip you’ll be paying a lot, whereas a Vegas local is living outside the tourist bubble and pays nowhere near these prices.
Plus, there are a lot of deals in town (pertaining to food and entertainment) if you’re a Nevada resident that you can’t get otherwise.
On a general level, I’ll say that Las Vegas is more expensive than other cities in the state of Nevada and is officially somewhat more expensive than the national average, but when compared to large cities like New York or Los Angeles, it’s way cheaper.
It’s also much cheaper than the neighboring state of California, which is why a lot of people from California are moving to Las Vegas.
Things That DIDN’T Surprise Us About Moving To Las Vegas
When choosing to move to Las Vegas, there were some things Wendy and I were expecting. These included;
- Heat – We knew it would get really hot in the summer.
- Fun – We expected that there would always be something entertaining to do.
- Location – We knew that Vegas was in a great location for many of the road trips we wanted to do.
- Less Expensive – We knew Las Vegas was a cheaper place to live than where we lived previously (Washington State).
Okay, that’s a pretty good list, and we were right on the money about these, but it may be more illuminating to talk about what actually surprised us.
Things That DID Surprise Us About Moving to Las Vegas!
These are the things we were not expecting (both good and bad) when we moved to Las Vegas.
- The Wind – Everyone always talks about how hot Las Vegas gets but I’d never heard anyone talk about the wind. It’s not the windiest city in the world by any means, but we have regular wind and the occasional extreme wind and dust storm. Spring through fall is the windy season (so a good chunk of the year) and while it’s not really a huge deal, it did catch us by surprise. Every time the wind gets whipping, the pool fills with dirt and palm fronds. Ughh!
- Auto Insurance – Auto insurance rates are really high here! We weren’t expecting that one. I guess it has to do with the fact that Las Vegas is a true 24/7 town, the number of poor drivers, and all the tourists that come into town on the weekends.
- It Gets Cold – Everyone talks about the heat here, but it does actually get cold overnight in December and January. There are often several nights of below freezing temperatures.
- Awesome 4th of July – The best fireworks are technically illegal here. Anything that shoots into the sky and explodes is not officially allowed. Having said that, there’s an Indian reservation just outside of town that sells every kind of firework imaginable and the entire population of Las Vegas must go there because on the 4th of July the whole city erupts in fireworks! We don’t have to go anywhere or fight any crowds on the 4th. We just sit on our driveway and experience the best 360° fireworks show we’ve ever seen, year after year!
- Utilities – I was kinda worried about the cost of utilities when moving to Las Vegas. I knew we’d be running the A/C day and night all summer long and I expected our bill to be huge. It wasn’t. In fact, our electric bill is very reasonable. I also figured that water would cost a lot, being that we’re in the desert, but our water bill is also quite low.
We absolutely love living in Las Vegas, but it’s not for everyone. Vegas has it’s good and bad points. In the end it will be up to you to decide if living here is a good idea or not for your situation.
It’s a large city with a lot of big-city benefits and some big-city problems. Some of the pros and cons are unique because of Las Vegas’s standing as a major tourist destination and the fact that the economy of the city is dependent on this one industry.
The climate is good, the living is inexpensive, and it’s a great jumping off point for a whole lot of travel adventures!
On the other hand, Las Vegas has several downsides that might make it less appealing to you. The summers can get really hot, job opportunities outside the tourist industry are fairly limited, the educational system is notoriously bad, as are many of the drivers in Las Vegas.
All in all, living in Las Vegas is what you make of it – it can be great, in which case you’ll stay, or it can suck, in which case you’ll simply move away. In the end – it’s all up to you and your preferences. I hope the information in this article has helped you decide if Las Vegas living is right for you.
Additional Living in Las Vegas Articles
- The Average Electric Bill In Las Vegas (Sharing My Energy Bills)
- Is Las Vegas a Good Place to Retire? A Guide for New Seniors
- How Much Do Dealers Make in Vegas? The Real Deal!
- Why Don’t Las Vegas Homes Have Basements? ( 3 Reasons )
Wikipedia – Las Vegas Valley
World Population Review – The 200 Largest Cities in the United States by Population 2020
The Nevada Independent – Education
US News – Las Vegas Crime Rate