What’s It Like on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas?
What’s it like? It’s like rabid maniacal slaphappy haywire gaga nobody-home lunacy.
Simply put, it’s the most hyped-up night of the year in the most hyped-up city in the world. Yahoo! named Las Vegas the top place in the world to ring in the new year.
Upwards of 340,000 people jam the Strip every Dec. 31 to party, get rowdy, and ring in the new year. That’s more than twice as many people in Las Vegas as there are during the Consumer Electronics Show, the largest convention of the year.
What’s been called “America’s Party” since its first year, 2002, gets going a mere seven hours before midnight, as soon as the cops close Las Vegas Boulevard. The Strip gets ever more crowded as the minutes tick by and the bodies jam up.
The Strip is closed to traffic from 5 pm till the wee hours. (I-15 on and off ramps eastbound and westbound are also closed at Tropicana, Spring Mountain, Flamingo, and Sahara; the Harmon overpass is closed in both directions as well to all but guests of the hotels in the immediate area).
At 5:45 p.m., all other thoroughfares, including alleys, that lead westbound onto the Strip between Sahara Avenue and Mandalay Bay Road begin closing; it takes about 15 minutes for all the barricades to be put in place. It takes another half-hour for police to direct any cars remaining off the Strip. Pedestrians can start crowding the boulevard at about 6:30 p.m.
Escalators and elevators on pedestrian bridges across the Strip also close at 6:30 p.m.
The Scene Leading up to Midnight
By around 10 p.m., the equivalent of the entire population of Reno (and Sparks) are all shoulder to shoulder on the four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South, between Sahara Avenue and Russell Road.
The totally clueless are out there in shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops, freezing their butts off in the usual sub-40-degree temperatures (they’ll never think it’s always hot in the desert again). The half-clueless are out there downing copious quantities of beer, with nowhere to piss it off (they’ll never think that they can just duck inside a casino bathroom on New Year’s Eve again).
That’s just outside, on the street. Inside, hotel guests, invited guests, and other partiers and patrons pack the casinos from stem to stern until, finally, the whole tourist corridor reaches critical mass.
At that point, the casinos lock their doors and you have to show a hotel key — or in some cases, a players club card — to door-manning security guards to get into a joint. That lasts until the wee hours when enough people have left through the back doors for the casinos to start allowing people in the front.
If you’re staying at a Strip hotel, make sure everyone in your party has a key and get them early, because the lines at front desks for extra keys get ferocious after dark.
It’s not quite as constrictive downtown, where the party on Fremont Street charges admission to attend. Though 10,000-15,000 people cram a five-block stretch of Glitter Gulch, it’s easier to come and go from the casinos.
You’ll find a mostly younger crowd (20s and 30s) on the Strip, while the 40- and 50-something partiers tend to be inside the casinos or downtown at the Fremont Street shindig.
Happy New Year!
A five-minute $500,000 fireworks show (produced by New York’s Fireworks by Grucci) takes place at exactly midnight. The fireworks are choreographed to music and launched from the roofs of seven hotel-casinos along the Strip.
Back down on the Strip, it’s strictly bring all the booze you can drink with you. The later in the evening it gets, the more difficult it is to move around and the harder it is to buy alcohol, even if you can get to a store.
As for the bathroom conundrum, as mentioned, forget about relieving yourself anywhere inside. It might be tough to do so outside anywhere as well. Wall-to-wall people is somewhat inhibiting. And 1,000 uniformed Metro police officers are deployed along the Strip, with another 300 plainclothes cops lurking in the shadows where you might think to take a leak. They’ve been known to arrest people for urinating in public, then charge them with drunk and disorderly.
Also watch out for the people with half-gallon beer mugs: They don’t care where they spill it. And try to stay away from barricades and other crowd-control impediments, which can collapse in the crush. If you’re leaning on or near one, you could go down with them and get hurt.
Many years, in addition, some Darwin Award candidate climbs a lightpost or the side of a building and falls to his death or electrocutes himself, sometimes taking whoever he lands on with him to the grave.
After the fireworks extravaganza, the crowds on the Strip begin to disperse. The escalators and elevators at pedestrian bridges come back on around 12:15 a.m. The barricades on the Strip are gone by around 1:30 a.m., and the street sweepers are out about 2. Roads around the Strip should be open from 3:30 to 4 a.m.