Party like there’s no Strip

More than 300,000 visitors flock to Las Vegas to celebrate New Year’s Eve each year, but for many locals the Strip is the last place to welcome in 2013.

Don’t get them wrong. They love the party atmosphere the tourists bring and the celebratory setting they create. But many just don’t want to deal with traffic, overwhelming crowds and even the cold weather – Tuesday morning’s temperature might drop to as low as 30 degrees.

Instead, they flock to their neighborhood bars or casinos if they are in the party mood or spend a quiet night at the movies or even celebrate at home. Those who want the Strip-light atmosphere and want to avoid road closures and traffic go downtown to party.

"I think most of us have been there, done that at some point," said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor newsletter, about going to the Strip on New Year’s Eve. "They walk into that blender once or twice, and they don’t want to do anymore. They want to be smart enough to take advantage of what Vegas has to offer, but not dumb enough to do what the tourists do."

Many casinos and bars try to capitalize on that attitude. The Silverton, for example, markets its New Year’s Eve "Skip the Strip" in which it charges $20 for three hours of drinks at its bars and entry into its dance party.

Other casinos and bars offer similar specials. Even strip clubs – with a lowercase ‘s’ – are appealing to locals. For example, Crazy Horse III is offering $99 champagne bottles to locals only and featuring Las Vegas resident and Playboy model Nicolette Shea for its bash.

"Those parties tend to be good and all tuned in to what’s happening because you’re still in Vegas," Curtis said. "At midnight, people step out of the bar and watch the fireworks on the Strip and go back in."

The Fremont Street Experience is no exception to giving locals an option away from the Strip. It offers locals a $10 discount for its party under the canopy that will feature bands on three stages.

"It’s not very easy to navigate in and out unless you’re staying on the Strip, because there are a lot of road closures," Fremont Street Experience President Jeff Victor said. "You’re excluded from the casinos and out in the elements with little access to bathrooms and cocktails. We don’t have that problem. On the Strip, you have to stand in a large crowd to wait for fireworks to go off and not get to your car until after 2 a.m."

Some like to get as far away from the Strip and even downtown traffic a­ltogether. Lake Las Vegas has a fireworks show that appeals to families, and many locals choose to party at the resort’s two hotels if they want to spend the night away from home.

Others who want a more serene setting spend the night at Mount Charleston Lodge.

"We are the anti-New Year’s Eve," lodge General Manager Thomas Schneekloth said. "Most people come to get away from the hectic crowds in Las Vegas. They have a quiet dinner, and there’s some live entertainment and watch the ball drop in New York City on television and then retire."

For Ronald Smith and his wife, Dawn, the New Year’s Eve tradition they start the night with doesn’t fit the outsider’s perception of Las Vegas. They will attend Victory Missionary Baptist Church to give thanks for 2012 and pray for 2013. Afterward, they plan to go to a friend’s penthouse south of downtown to celebrate the new year.

"I went to the Strip when I first moved here 15 years go, but once is enough for locals unless you’re on the cusp of 21," said the 44-year-old Smith, a clothier. "It’s the closest thing to being in Time Square without having to travel far."

Although he and his wife want to avoid the Strip, Smith said that doesn’t mean they don’t want to celebrate and watch fireworks.

"We definitely take part in the spirit of the new year," Smith said. "It’s a celebration regardless of your age, and you want to be a part of it with your friends and family. Everybody doesn’t have to do the same thing, but it’s a monumental event that everyone celebrates throughout the world."

Jessica Towe, 24, a marketing and public relations assistant at Clear Channel Media & Entertainment, went to the Strip the past two years when she lived in California. Now that she has moved here, she will attend a smaller New Year’s Eve event themed after "The Great Gatsby," the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel set in the Roaring Twenties.

"It sounds cool and one of my favorite books, and I love the 1920s attire," Towe said. "The Strip is so crazy and driving is insane. My boyfriend and I didn’t want to go into the madness. We want to have a good time without worrying about getting stuck. Last year, we were walking shoulder to shoulder and people were getting sick all around us."

But even Curtis, who looks to avoid the Strip traffic and crowds, said some locals like him employ a more selective strategy to get the atmosphere of the Strip without the drawbacks, which is mainly getting home through traffic after the partying.

Some casinos at the south end of the Strip where crowds aren’t at their largest have better deals compared to the $200 to $300 a night that central Strip resorts charge.

Even if they don’t want to venture close to the Strip, plenty of locals won’t miss the big fireworks show it will offer at midnight, whether they are watching on television at home or from an elevated roadside in their car, with the radio playing music in sync with the fireworks, Curtis said.

"I think people who live in Vegas want to be part of the scene, but they will let the tourists go crazy and pour beer on one another and will watch from a distance," Curtis said.

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