I was born and raised in Las Vegas. Yes, LAS Vegas, not “Vegas”. And its Nevada, not Nev-ah-da.

Before you ask, growing up there was like growing up anywhere else. My parents didn’t work for a casino. I hung out with friends, watched movies, the normal kid stuff. If you grow up there, you realize early on that gambling is for suckers, and generally stay away from the Strip because its crowded and full of annoying tourists.

And while I do regret never being able to have a “Vegas, baby, Vegas!” weekend, I like knowing about the hidden gems in the city that most visitors will never get to experience. After all, Las Vegas currently has a population of almost 2 million people, and not all of them are dealers and strippers. (Sorry to burst your bubble).

I thought I would share some of my secret spots here, in case you have a trip coming up and are longing for something a little off the beaten path. Enjoy!

-The Pinball Hall of Fame – http://www.pinballmuseum.org/

Everybody loves pinball, and this “hall of fame” has over 200 different types of machines! When I visited last time, the owner confided in me that this number is only a mere fraction of his collection, and that he has a warehouse with 900 more games! Every game at the hall of fame is in working condition, and date from the 1950’s until present day. Last time I was there, they were also selling 45s for 50 cents a piece. They have a machine called the Pinball Circus that is known as the “holy grail”of pinball machines. It was built as a prototype in 1994, an experiment in a vertical, as opposed to a horizontal  game. They only built two, and this is the only working one in the world. I’ve played it several times and it is tough. And, as if the place wasn’t cool enough already, it’s also a non-profit, so all of that money you’re dropping in is going right back into the place to repair non-working machines. GO.

– Jerry’s Nugget Coffee Shop – http://www.jerrysnugget.com/dining/pdfs/coffeeshop-menu.pdf

A recent discovery of mine, I heart Jerry’s Nugget Coffee Shop big time. They have the best sandwich I have ever eaten there. I know that’s a ludicrous claim, but its the truth. Slow roasted prime rib, carved and lovingly laid upon fresh-baked bread. Served with au jus and two kinds of horseradish. YUM. Plus, they have an entire separate menu for dessert, and trust me when I say that the milk cake will blow your mind. After you stuff your face, head on over to the roulette table and play a couple of hands. For a dollar per, even a cheap bastard like you can afford it.

– Savers – http://www.savers.com

If you’re into thrifting, check out Savers. There’s several all over the Las Vegas valley, and they are always stocked with awesome casino cast offs and clothes. Fun to explore.

– Valentino’s Zoot Suit Collection – http://www.yelp.com/biz/valentinos-zootsuit-connection-las-vegas

If you’re seriously into vintage clothes, check this place out. They are hardcore. Pricey, but worth it. I bought a gorgeous 1940’s peach swingers dress here to wear to my winter formal my freshman year of high school. I wore it with pride and was made fun of the entire night by my fellow students, who didn’t understand why I wasn’t dressed “modern”. (The story of my life). About six months later, the swinger craze caught on nationwide. I was punk before it was cool to be punk, you posers!

– Luv-It Frozen Custard – http://www.luvitfrozencustard.com/

You’ve had ice cream and gelato, but have you ever had frozen custard? It’s mad tasty. This place has been around since 1973 and has never expanded from the little walk up shack it still resides in. It’s incredibly cheap and delicious.

-Macayo’s – http://www.macayo.com/

I know, it’s a chain, but this is – hands down – my favorite mexican food. I always make my parents take me here every time I’m home. The tortilla soup and the chimichangas are out of this world. And this is where I learned the important life lesson – never eat your ice cream with a donkey.

– Farm Basket – http://www.farmbasketchicken.com/

Okay, so by this point you’re probably thinking that all I do when I go home is eat. That’s partially true. But sense memory is a powerful thing and Farm Basket just tastes like home to me. This used to be a fast food chain throughout Las Vegas, but sadly they have now all closed except for this location. Everything – from the Great Gobbler to the Super Clucker to the Clucketos are awesome. And come on, how often do you get to drive thru a barn? Every time I come I try to buy a Farm Basket shirt off of the employees and they look at me like I’m nutso.

The Double Down – http://www.doubledownsaloon.com/

I don’t know if I can really recommend the double down, since it’s really just the place I meet up with friends when I’m there, and since I don’t drink I can’t really take advantage. BUT. It’s located in a section of town that has a cluster of gay bars (affectionately known to locals as the fruit loop – hyuck!) But this ain’t no gay bar, its sleazy and loud and dirty and home to hipsters and scum bags alike. Their house drink is called Ass Juice and they won’t tell you what’s in it. The juke box is mainly punk rock. They are proud to be home to the bacon martini. They play exploitation over several TVs – last time I was there it was a grainy, jumpy 60’s educational birth film. (yuk.) BUT. I was crowned Miss Double Down in 2009 after being bullied into entering and deciding my “talent” was to beat the pageant host with a pool stick as hard as I could. So there’s something to be said for an establishment that rewards that kind of behavior, says I.

So there you are. Just a small taste of non-“Vegas” like fun. Happy trails!