Best spots to watch Strip fireworks off the Strip

As nature reminded us last week, it’s not good living in a valley when it rains. However, it’s plenty good when there are fireworks to be seen.

Hundreds of miles of sloping vantage points encircle the Strip, where a gigantic eight-minute fireworks show takes place at midnight Friday from the Stratosphere in the north to the MGM Grand in the south.

As usual, locals are wise to avoid the area the way "Jersey Shore" stars avoid libraries. As long as you stay at least a mile distant — and steer clear of Spring Mountain Road, Flamingo Road and Tropicana Avenue, which can back up for miles from their 6:30 p.m. Las Vegas Boulevard closures — you should be fine. The Strip will be closed from Sahara Avenue on the north to Russell Road on the south.

Whenever former cabdriver Rick Contratto picked up Strip fares asking for panoramic fireworks views, he drove them to the Steinberg Diagnostic Medical Imaging building at 9070 W. Post Road, near where the Las Vegas Beltway meets Sunset Road.

"You’re high, you’re above everything, and it’s right where the economy took a dump, so nothing got built to get in your way," said Contratto, who still tweets at twitter.com/vegascabbie, although he traded his cab for a bus.

Being farther away from the action means catching more fireworks, too — not just the display directly above your head on the Strip as a University of Arizona student jabs his purple beer bong into your ribs.

Las Vegas Fire Department spokesman Tim Szymanski says the top of any tall and open parking structure should be OK for viewing — as long as it’s not marked with towing signs.

"But don’t stop on any main thoroughfares," he warned, "and don’t crawl on the roofs of buildings."

If you want to get as close as possible without getting caught in snarling traffic, Contratto recommends a dirt lot at Polaris Avenue and Russell Road, which does not close at Las Vegas Boulevard like some other east-west streets. He says "a couple hundred" cars gather there every New Year’s Eve, although there is room for thousands.

"Between Terrible’s and the freeway, you have a view of the whole Strip — all the way down to the Stratosphere," he said. "It may take you five or 10 minutes to get out if you got there first, but that’s it."

Contact reporter Corey Levitan at clevitan@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0456.

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