A Glossary of Local Names for Las Vegas Places
Maps provide names for places and landmarks, but they don’t let visitors in on local secrets, like what those names might mean or the alternative monikers favored by residents. Here is an incomplete list of some of the names locals use in Las Vegas for neighborhoods, streets, and points of interest. If you’d like to add to this list, please leave a comment!
D.I.: Desert Inn Road. The hotel Howard Hughes owned and once called home no longer exists, but the memory lives on in the street name.
Glitter Gulch: Now known as “The Fremont Street Experience” or, more casually, just “Fremont Street,” You’ll still hear long-time Las Vegans refer to these casino-lined blocks as “Glitter Gulch.” In the same breath, they are likely to lament the addition of “that awful canopy” and tell you how they used to cruise Fremont in their El Camino.
Hendertucky/Hooterville: Henderson’s old town. It has an adorable main street flanked by neighborhoods of small houses dating back to World War 2. Be careful how you use either term. They are pejoratives unless you live there.
Las Vegas Wash: This twelve-mile channel funnels the Vegas Valley’s runoff water into Lake Mead. The wetlands created by the wash are home to all sorts of birds and animals, including–according to reports–dam-building beavers.
Naked City: The neighborhood “behind the Stratosphere.” “Behind” means “west of.” The story goes that this used to be where all the showgirls lived, and they liked to sunbathe topless. The showgirls are gone, but the name lingers.
Neon Boneyard: Historically, this was the enclosure maintained by the Young Electric Sign Company to store all the old neon signs when they were retired from active duty. It’s now part of the Neon Museum.
Ninth Island: This is what Hawaiians call Las Vegas. It’s surprising, but since more than 50,000 Hawaiians call Las Vegas home, it shouldn’t be.
Over the hump: The whole phrase has a nice rhyme in it: “over the hump to Pahrump.” To get to Pahrump, you have to traverse the Spring Mountains via Highway 160 and Mountain Springs Summit. Why? To get to Nye County and the brothels, of course.
Rainbow curve: This is the benign name for the intersection of Rainbow Boulevard and U.S. Route 95. Because of its dangerous reputation, this junction is also sometimes called “Dead Man’s Curve.”
Spaghetti Bowl: An aerial view of the interchange that connects Interstate 15, U.S. Highway 93, U.S. Highway 95, and Martin Luther King Boulevard shows how it got its nickname. It’s a noodly tangle where daily rush hour traffic jams occur.
Summerlin: This large master-planned community on the northwest side of the City of Las Vegas sits on land once owned by Howard Hughes and is named after his grandmother. If it has a nickname, I haven’t heard it.
Sunrise Mountain: This is a little confusing, because while there is a peak called Sunrise Mountain on the east side of the Las Vegas Valley, its taller neighbor is regularly confused with it. The taller peak’s real name is Frenchman Mountain. Just say “Sunrise” for both, and everyone will know what you mean.
Test Site: This is localspeak for the Nevada National Security Site, which was known as the Nevada Test Site until 2010. It’s about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, far enough to be considered the middle of nowhere by folks in Washington DC, but close enough to the city that the mushroom clouds generated by nuclear bomb testing back in the ’50s could be seen from downtown.
The Lakes: If somebody claims to live at “The Lakes,” they probably mean the two-square-mile community on the west side of Las Vegas built around some man-made lakes. They could also mean Desert Shores, another community built around some manufactured lakes. But if they say “the Lake” (singular), they probably mean Lake Mead. Unless they mean Lake Las Vegas, another manufactured lake community in Henderson.
Tunnels: If someone talks about “the tunnels” in Las Vegas, they are most likely referring to the flood control channels that form a network under the city. Homeless people live in some of the more accessible ones, a practice that can be life-threatening when rainstorms occur, either locally or in the mountains.
Tule Springs: This beautiful oasis was once home to Tule Springs Ranch, where people came to live just long enough to establish Nevada residency and obtain a quick divorce. Now part of Floyd Lamb State Park, the area is still known locally as Tule Springs.
Westside: These days, if someone refers to Las Vegas’s west side, they probably mean any or all of the communities on the west side of Interstate 15. In decades past, the term referred very specifically to the African-American neighborhood northwest of the Strip bounded by Carey Avenue, Bonanza Road, Interstate 15, and Rancho Drive.
If you have additions or corrections, please leave a comment!