Viva Las Vegas

I’m heading to Las Vegas this week to give a talk at the Virtuoso® Travel Mart. It’s a conference of travel professionals who craft high-end and unique travel experiences. As I always do, I’m making a list of some can’t-miss events to check out while in Vegas.

My can’t-miss this time? A photo exhibition, put together by the Las Vegas News Bureau and curated by Brian Paco Alvarez, of classic photos of Paradise Palms. Paradise Palms was created in the 1960’s as an ideal suburban enclave, with its own weather-controlled(!) shopping center, movie theater, schools, and golf course. The units themselves were designed for the 1960’s cocktail/pool party lifestyle, and Paradise Palms was home to many of the major entertainment celebrities of the time, including Johnny Carson and Debbie Reynolds.

There are two major reasons that this exhibit draws me. First, Paradise Palms was intended as a fiercely residential area, somewhat removed from the non-stop party atmosphere we associate with the Strip. There are similar developments all around Las Vegas, full of the normal everyday kids and families who call Las Vegas home and celebrate the ordinary community events, hidden to the tourist crowd. So, although the photos of Paradise Palms are primarily of its celebrity inhabitants, the exhibit reminds me of that other Vegas, full of the small victories and tragedies of suburban childhood.

The second reason is that Paradise Palms has had a renaissance recently. Young active professionals have embraced the uniqueness of the 1960’s architecture and the “community” inherent in a planned community. In January 2011, the community applied for a Historic Neighborhood designation, and residents have organized to be a part of the Clark County Pride Zone project, which gives communities small grants to organize a community project – in this case, a massive cleanup.

Paradise Palms developed a blog and a Facebook page, and has embraced digital culture as an organizing tool for its residents. I love this example of community building that is so wonderful in the digital culture. I’m anxious to see how it all began.