I actually wasn’t single when I pitched the idea of matching with men on Tinder in order to have them show me locals-only haunts in Las Vegas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, by the time I was on the plane out west, I was. Which helped. In every sordid little stint on dating apps I’ve ever pulled, I consistently come across dudes visiting New York making some version of the same request: “Show me around?” or “Looking for a beautiful tour guide.” My gut reaction to bios like those was always a firm, derisive left swipe. Why would anyone want to spend a trip 100 percent free dating sites talking to a stranger? I thought. Ew!
I Explored Las Vegas by Going on Tinder Dates With Local Dudes
When confronted with Las Vegas, the famously cool den of depravity that I had never before visited, I finally understood the business trippers and solo travelers looking for generous permanent residents. I was wrong to be scornful of the people who were s;re single, the best way to get to know a new place is to have someone cute take you somewhere cool that you wouldn’t find out about otherwise. In retrospect, it’s so obvious.
Of course, consummate professional that I am, I wasn’t looking for love on my Tinder tour de Vegas-I was looking for content. So I plastered the fact that I was a journalist looking to explore the city onto my Tinder bio and swiped right rapid-fire on anyone who had “Vegas local” in theirs. After wading through a handful of people who wanted to go on an actual date (fair enough), I locked in meetups with three guys who both seemed normal and promised to show me un-Googleable Vegas hotspots. Notepad in my hand and my heart in my mouth, I headed to Sin City ready to see some deeply weird shit and maybe do a smidge of sinning myself.
Date Number One: Mountain Springs Saloon/Las Vegas Alamo Casino
Cam, age unlisted, was the first and best candidate for this story. Clean-cut, responsive, and smiley, not only did he immediately and enthusiastically respond to my Tinder DM, he emailed me a five-part itinerary within hours. I love a hustler! We narrowed our agenda down to two of his five suggested spots. First, we’d meet at Mountain Springs Saloon, an all-day biker bar 30 minutes from the Strip, and then we’d head to Las Vegas Alamo Casino/TA Travel Center, a truck stop, convenience store, and gas station with fully operational table games-a one-of-a-kind location, according to Cam.
Cam ended up being a 23-year-old with distinction: He is one of the youngest commercially certified hot air balloon pilots in the world. He arrived at our date with his hair slicked down, wearing black chinos and a maroon button-up bearing the logo of the hot air balloon tour company he co-owned, the aptly named Vegas Balloon Rides. As a hot air balloon pilot, Cam told me that he works unorthodox hours: To catch the sunrise over the Mojave Desert while in the air, he needs to wake up at around 2:30 a.m. in order to get ready, commute to the flying area, and set up the balloon for his passengers. This means that he normally goes to bed at what must be a frankly boner-killing 5:30 or 6 in the evening.
Cam and I met in the front room of Mountain Springs Saloon a little past his bedtime: 5:45 p.m. With him was his friend/pilot trainee Amanda, a 40-something woman with bubblegum-pink curls and an infectiously chill demeanor who said she was in town to see Cam and log some flying time. She milled around respectfully while Cam and I started our date in the bar’s outdoor seating space. The backyard sprawled, featuring mismatched patio furniture for guests’ sitting comfort, sun-bleached landscape rocks that crunched underfoot, a permanent food trailer peddling generic fast food and Mexican fare, and-perplexingly-a koi pond. Cam told me Mountain Springs is where he brings his balloon passengers post-flight (so, around 10 a.m.) if they want to “keep the party going.”
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