Meeting in Las Vegas Like a Local

Seeing Vegas from a local P.O.V. can unlock new meeting possibilities

Las Vegas Local opener

One of the most unusual cities in America, Las Vegas is a meetings destination like no other, as Chris Meyer, CEM, CMP, vice president of global business sales for Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA), will tell you. "Beyond the casino floor," he explains, "part of what makes Las Vegas so enticing is there's always something new and exciting to offer first-time or repeat visitors, from unique attractions to outstanding culinary and entertainment experiences, to world-class shopping. Beyond the endless options for leisure travelers, the destination also has a long-standing reputation as a professional place to do business."

With attractions like these, it's no wonder that Vegas welcomed an all-time high of 6.3 million convention attendees in 2016. But what do the new offerings and changes mean for the people who live there? It means, according to Meyer, that Las Vegas "just keeps getting better, because there's always something new to experience." He points to the openings of T-Mobile Arena, The Park and Park Theater, Topgolf, Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, and a number of new restaurants.

As the city continues to develop and add new, meetings-friendly offerings, some of the most exciting developments are happening Downtown. This area, once a footnote for visitors to Vegas, is becoming a destination in its own right, providing attractions for tourists and locals alike. Successful Meetings spoke with some Las Vegas locals about these changes, and what groups are likely to find most appealing about this dynamic part of their city.


Downtown: This Time It's for Real
"I love Downtown Las Vegas!" says Marina Nicola, who co-owns the Vegas-based public relations firm Vox Solid Communications. "From the museums where I can learn about the city's history to the great restaurants, it's urban, it's authentic, and it's interesting."

Praise for Downtown was a long time coming. Like many such areas throughout the nation, Vegas' historic Downtown has been a stop-start work in progress. For a while, the ever-more-elaborate Fremont Street Experience, which some braver groups can experience by zip line, was that part of town's only attraction. "The Fremont Street Experience is great for tourists," says Bri Steck, Las Vegas party planner. "It's somewhere we always take our first-time guests." But Steck also loves "the old-school Vegas feeling of some of the hotels and casinos that are there. The Strip has imploded all of our history, so it's nice to walk into the Golden Nugget and realize the history that this property holds."

Downtown now comprises a number of defined neighborhoods; among them the Arts District, the Fremont East Entertainment District, and the remarkable Downtown Container Park. All feature eccentric and unique venues, like the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum. Reina Herschdorfer, director of marketing, national sales and conventions at Caesars Entertainment Corporation, says about the Mob Museum: "It's a world-class museum, and [it's] very interesting to learn about the history of our town and the mob within the United States."

But there's more than nostalgia in the area, says Herschdorfer. "Our downtown area is becoming trendy, developing new breweries, cool independent restaurants, and shops. We also have the Discovery Children's Museum with beautiful modern architecture, right next to Symphony Park and The Smith Center for Performing Arts. It's a complete revitalization."

Yes, says Steck, "Mayor [Oscar] Goodman and [Zappos CEO] Tony Hsieh have done an amazing job at trying to revive Downtown and bring a little more culture to our city."


Downtown is also the traditional venue for many (but not all) festivals -- of which there are more than a few. Some popular annual experiences include Life is Beautiful and Vegas Uncork'd, a beloved culinary and wine event held here each year.

Perhaps most impactful for locals has been the explosion of restaurants in Downtown. Herschdorfer visits the area for the newer trendy eateries and bars ("there are some cool speakeasys"). "For a locals' experience," says Steck, "I enjoy visiting places like Commonwealth and some amazing restaurants like Glutton." And unlike the luxury CityCenter complex, Downtown is all about casual. Lee Papa, the mindfulness speaker, trainer, author, and Las Vegas resident, says, "It's great for date night, a fun afternoon, or a pit stop between meetings."

Vegas-based Lip Smacking Foodie Tours hosts a Downtown tour where, according to its president, Donald Contursi, "Visitors can immerse themselves in a neighborhood community surrounded by locals. It allows them to experience our culture in a tourist-driven destination."

Then there's the fact the city is getting its first professional sports team, the NHL's Golden Knights. "The only negative for me, being a sports fan, was not having a professional sports team," says Mike Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, "which has now been solved with the NHL beginning next year."


Vegas Proud
Just like everywhere, Las Vegas locals are proud of their hometown. "Las Vegas is unsurpassed in entertainment, restaurants, and even outdoor activities," boasts Patti Shock, CPCE, CHT, who's spent nearly 30 years at University of Nevada College of Hotel Administration. Herschdorfer agrees, adding, "We are also a nightlife and business destination with luxurious hotels and an array of high-end retail options. We are one of the few, if not only, destinations in the world where you can host a conference for thousands of participants and house them in one incredible venue with an amazing room product, a variety of high-end beautifully designed restaurants, and incredible shows."

Unlike many who complained about the city's unending infrastructural projects, Steck opines that, by and large, "We have minimal traffic compared to other major cities, so you can get just about anywhere in the city in 30 minutes or less."

Nicola adds that what locals accept as normal may be far removed from what many others experience of their hometowns, but "that's what makes being from Las Vegas so great!"  



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.

Amusements for All Ages
Las Vegas used to be a town filled with signs that read: "You must be this old to play." Not anymore. "I have a new perspective," says Bri Steck, a Las Vegas native, "because I now have a three-year-old." So, while she still helps bachelorettes find their naughty side as CEO/owner of VegasGirlsNightOut.com, Steck herself enjoys "finding the kid-friendly side of Vegas. I think of all of the fun places to take her: the lion habitat, Springs Preserve, and the Discovery Children's Museum."

Marina Nicola was born and raised in Las Vegas. Now that she's a mom "raising a second generation of Las Vegans," she offers this advice to prospective attendees: "Bring the kids! There's more to do than ever before in Las Vegas. Both the Strip and the suburbs have activities for the families."

"For participants traveling with families," says Herschdorfer, "there is an array of activities for the whole family. Caesars has The LINQ Promenade and The High Roller, the tallest observation wheel in the world! You get a great view of the Strip and you can pair it with bowling at the Brooklyn Bowl or a concert open to all ages.

Mike Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, details some more unique offerings to the family list: "The Dolphin Experience at Mirage, the Shark Reef at Mandalay, and the two kid-friendly parks and rides at Circus-Circus' Adventuredome and the New York-New York Casino are great kid experiences." He also suggests a ride to the Grand Canyon on a Maverick Helicopter -- "it will be an experience of a lifetime for them."

Even so, Lenny Talarico, CSEP, CHE, and executive director of events at MGM Resorts Event Productions, advises that, while "Las Vegas has a diversity of offerings for families, it is important to know in advance how best to incorporate those into the schedule to make it a fun experience while still balancing one's conference or meeting obligations."


Vegas Uncork'd is one of the city's
annual events that draw visiting
groups and locals alike
Vegas Uncork'd is one of the city's annual events that draw visiting groups and locals alike

Downtown is also the traditional venue for many (but not all) festivals -- of which there are more than a few. Some popular annual experiences include Life is Beautiful and Vegas Uncork'd, a beloved culinary and wine event held here each year.

Perhaps most impactful for locals has been the explosion of restaurants in Downtown. Herschdorfer visits the area for the newer trendy eateries and bars ("there are some cool speakeasys"). "For a locals' experience," says Steck, "I enjoy visiting places like Commonwealth and some amazing restaurants like Glutton." And unlike the luxury CityCenter complex, Downtown is all about casual. Lee Papa, the mindfulness speaker, trainer, author, and Las Vegas resident, says, "It's great for date night, a fun afternoon, or a pit stop between meetings."

Vegas-based Lip Smacking Foodie Tours hosts a Downtown tour where, according to its president, Donald Contursi, "Visitors can immerse themselves in a neighborhood community surrounded by locals. It allows them to experience our culture in a tourist-driven destination."

Then there's the fact the city is getting its first professional sports team, the NHL's Golden Knights. "The only negative for me, being a sports fan, was not having a professional sports team," says Mike Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, "which has now been solved with the NHL beginning next year."


Vegas Proud
Just like everywhere, Las Vegas locals are proud of their hometown. "Las Vegas is unsurpassed in entertainment, restaurants, and even outdoor activities," boasts Patti Shock, CPCE, CHT, who's spent nearly 30 years at University of Nevada College of Hotel Administration. Herschdorfer agrees, adding, "We are also a nightlife and business destination with luxurious hotels and an array of high-end retail options. We are one of the few, if not only, destinations in the world where you can host a conference for thousands of participants and house them in one incredible venue with an amazing room product, a variety of high-end beautifully designed restaurants, and incredible shows."

Unlike many who complained about the city's unending infrastructural projects, Steck opines that, by and large, "We have minimal traffic compared to other major cities, so you can get just about anywhere in the city in 30 minutes or less."

Nicola adds that what locals accept as normal may be far removed from what many others experience of their hometowns, but "that's what makes being from Las Vegas so great!"  



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.