Charleston Boulevard, I renounce you. I reject you. I shout it with the supernal gusto and cosmic finality of a cross-swinging exorcist: I rebuke you! So, yeah: The city’s been chopping up Charleston for, what, like, two years now as it upgrades water mains, sewer lines, and storm drains in multiple projects spanning the boulevard from Rancho to Fremont Street. The $90 million improvements are supposed to be completed by the end of 2024, but I don’t believe it. It feels like an infrastructural Groundhog Day. East Charleston has taken on a bleak aspect of grim Beckettian futility, permanently cloaked in dust, clogged with cars, jumbled with concrete divvies and orange cones. It’s not a construction project. It’s some atmospheric manifestation of dystopia straight out of a DeLillo novel. When I need to self-yeet from my downtown bubble and access other parts of town, Charleston Boulevard is on my Categorical Hard Nope list.
On the upside, it’s forced me to take alternate routes that I’ve quickly come to love: Oakey Boulevard and Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s reminded me that Vegas has scenery, that driving can bring pleasure. East Oakey offers a cheerful lineup of quirky historic homes on my drive through Crestwood, Huntridge, and Beverly Green, from stately restorations to sharp modernist revamps, from vibrant Guanajuato Redux styles to hoarder-house-with-the-forest-of-lawn-ornaments.
The northern stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is, shall we say, grittily quaint. To paraphrase poet Steve Perry: streetlights, people, shadows searchin’ the night, etc. But it’s also distinctly human. As Las Vegas enters its mature megastructure phase with all kinds of freaky stadiums, spheres, arenas, and racetracks of unnerving size, this part of the boulevard, with its dinky hostels and faded hotel signs, wedding chapels and small restaurants, is an island of human-scale architectural sanity.
Look at it all! And wow: I am sightseeing in my hometown. I am enjoying the intrigues of the cityscape. Best of all, I arrive at my destination relaxed, even refreshed, subtly energized by the reminder that Las Vegas does, in fact, have character — and that no matter where you are, you can always take the scenic route.
Pairs nicely with: Our favorite Las Vegas shortcuts. [City Cast Las Vegas 🎧]