What Kind Of Las Vegas Local Are You?
When I moved to Las Vegas, conversations with new friends or strangers in a bar would reflect our histories. Questions like, “Are you married?” or “Do you have kids” or “Where do you work?” would come up. I suppose this is common at any bar across America. But that is likely where similarities in bars across America and Las Vegas stop.
In Vegas, these conversations are a mix of locals wanting to be welcoming to the video poker player next to them and part inquisitive, trying to determine just how local their new friend is. How local you are is ambiguous around here. In a town known for being transient, I’ve yet to find an official ruling on how many years you must live here before you can be considered a local-local. I know that once you are local, you can refer to the major road connecting the east and west sides as DI instead of Desert Inn. I don’t know precisely when that happened, but I switched over at some point in the past 20 years, and saying Desert Inn now feels weird.
There are two types of Las Vegas locals, those that moved here at some point in the past and those who have been here since your house was an empty desert that they rode their bikes on. I am sort of joking, though this is something I was told by a friend when I purchased a home off Blue Diamond back in 2005. You, too, have some of these people in your life, born and raised locals.
And most likely they are the ones at a bar asking a question uncommon in other bars, “What school did you go to?”.
When I was first asked this question, I remember saying, “Oh, I didn’t go to college.” And the person replied, “No, I mean, what high school?”.
I remember thinking, “Who gives a shit?” as it wasn’t something anyone cared about where I grew up; In fact, I was trying to escape my hometown and its small-town varsity blues vibe where everyone knew your business.
But looking back, this was my first introduction to a unique aspect of Las Vegas culture and making friends with born and raised locals. If they learn you are born and raised here, the next question without fail is, "What High School did you go to?"
Most born and raised locals have a distinct pride in being so. It doesn’t come off as arrogant but rather nostalgic and in awe of what their hometown has become. I can’t say I have ever thought of my hometown or high school with the same level of affinity that many of them express. I don’t know why this is, but it could be that there are over 50 Las Vegas high schools and only one major college, so the celebrity and professional athlete alums, by and large, are from local high schools rather than UNLV.
Asking what high school you went to is also a way for them to identify what type of local you are. Are you one of them? Can you now call it DI, or did you just get done unloading your UHAUL and need a drink because you chose to move here in the middle of August? They are going to reminisce either way, so you should answer. You may get some incredible history or local knowledge that only born-and-raised Las Vegans can share. I have long professed my love for this city. It is why I started Vegas Built. Most of the positive things in my life, professionally and personally, I owe in part to this town. I met my wife and best friends, and I’ve built successful businesses here. Hell, my daughter was born and raised here, something she gleefully rubs my nose in when the opportunity arises. So while I am not Vegas Born (Go Knights Go!), I am Vegas Built.
Not all lifelong locals are thrilled with being considered a novelty in a town now mostly made up of people from other places. But I am always delighted when I meet a lifelong Las Vegan and enjoy hearing the history of Vegas from their perspective. The stories are always more detailed, gritty, and often chalked with historical nuggets. For instance, the place you used to party at, called Ice, was previously called The Drink, and apparently, it was the hottest spot in town pre-2000.
In the 20-plus years I’ve been a local Las Vegan, I am fortunate to have made many friends born and raised here. My first boss in this town is a born-and-raised, Runnin Reb season ticket-holding local with whom I am still friends today. He also happens to be the person who used to ride his bike on the empty desert that is now my home.
Are You Local? How Local? Let us know in the comments.
Check out our collection for OG Las Vegas High Schoolers.