Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 | 1:15 p.m.
Many Las Vegans believe there’s no better place to hang out in Las Vegas than the downtown area.
Unlike the Strip, it isn’t flooded with tourists (though the canopied Fremont Street Experience can get packed on weekends). The taverns on East Fremont can get busy but they have a true local atmosphere. It feels natural to extend a hand to get to know other customers and employees.
And there may be no place in Southern Nevada that has the energetic vibe that currently exists downtown. On any given day or night, you may meet musicians, developers, lawyers, casino workers, poets, writers, bloggers – all the people you know live here but who aren’t always easy to find.
Downtown is becoming a locals central hub.
So enjoy it but don’t get carried away. Downtown Vegas isn’t Sheboygan.
An influx of new workers, sparked by Zappos’ and the Downtown Project’s downtown moves, have to remember: Downtown isn’t Henderson or Summerlin.
“Be aware,” one barista advised.
Here’s some other tips for living, working and hanging out downtown:
Don't dangle cash or valuables
At Starbucks in the Bank of America building four years ago around Thanksgiving, a woman holding a $20 bill had it snatched from her hand by a thief who dashed out the door. “I’d have given him some money if he had asked,” the woman said. Or maybe not. In any case, lesson learned: Don’t stand around with money dangling from your fingers. Or smart phones. Or iPads. Or even cigarettes. These currency/survival items might be too tempting to a tweaker not to steal.
Don't be caught alone
Don’t walk around alone at night, especially if you’ve been drinking. I was mugged three years ago on my birthday late at night. They got $8; I got a sore jaw. And if mugged, don’t run after said muggers. As one city slicker scolded me for doing just that: “Where are you from, Mayberry?” Pretty close, actually.
Stick to East Fremont Street
For local flavor, stick to East Fremont Street and stay out of the surrounding neighborhoods. They aren’t as well-lit and people actually live there and are trying to sleep. Also, I live downtown and anyone seen walking the streets at night is immediately considered suspect.
Keys as a defensive weapon
One barista demonstrated a defensive tip passed on by her mom back in Buffalo, N.Y. Holding keys between her fingers like metal claws, she stabbed at the air, gouging the flesh of an imaginary attacker.
Hang out in downtown businesses
Don’t just parachute into Downtown, go to work, run to your car and head back to the ‘burbs. Visit The Beat or other businesses more than once and get to know some of the people. You never know when one of them might come to your aid, or let you into a bar when you forget your ID. Bring dollar bills for tips; faster service may follow when it’s packed.
Parking tip No. 1
The best parking are the 26 spaces operated by the El Cortez between The Ogden and East Fremont. The meters take credit cards for up to three hours ($1 per hour). They fill up fast on weekend nights. It also has another metered lot of 43 spaces at the southwest corner of 7th and Fremont. Use these to avoid potential parking tickets from city coin-operated meters on the street. (Update: The city last week put out a request for proposals for credit-card parking meters; a city spokesman said the hope is to have get proposals soon and have new meters installed early next year.)
If valuables are in car, hide 'em
This is standard police fare but it’s true in any part of the city: Don’t leave anything remotely valuable visible in your parked car, not even a pack of smokes. “People are crazy,” says one downtown worker. “They’ll break into your car for anything.”
Parking tip No. 2
Stay out of lots with “no parking” signs. Avoid like the plague the clean, empty lot at Carson and 6th. They will readily tow your car and charge you hundreds of dollars to get it back. (Happened to me.)
East Fremont feels pedestrian-friendly and, compared to the Strip, which is jammed with people, it is. That said, don’t jaywalk. In the words of a downtown barista: “People just dash across the street. This isn’t a pedestrian city even if it feels more like it downtown.”
Sun reporter Joe Schoenmann lives and works in downtown Las Vegas.