Dan Reynolds reflects on his hometown's hidden gems as he prepares to take part in the Vegas Strong Benefit Concert for the victims of the October mass shooting.
On the night of October 1, the Grammy-nominated rock band Imagine Dragons walked offstage at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles to devastating news: a gunman had opened fire on an outdoor music festival in their home base of Las Vegas.
“We turned on the television and watched it unfold,” lead vocalist Dan Reynolds, who is from Las Vegas, told Travel + Leisure. “We were all just devastated and shocked and making frantic calls home to friends and loved ones, to make sure everybody was okay. I connected with one of my best friends [from childhood] who was a bartender [at the festival] when the shooting happened. Luckily, he escaped; he jumped in a car with a random stranger and got away. I talked to him that night, and he was in tears on the phone. He’s still shaken up and still trying to recover. It’s definitely close to home.”
And so, in the aftermath of the attack — which killed more than 50 people and injured more than 500 — the band wanted to find a way to support the victims and their families. They soon connected with their friends, the fellow Vegas-based rock outfit The Killers, and began organizing the Vegas Strong Benefit Concert, which takes place on Friday, December 1, at the city’s T-Mobile Arena.
The show will feature the two bands, plus Las Vegas headlining comedian Jay Leno, Washington Nationals outfielder and Las Vegas native Bryce Harper, Boyz II Men, Cirque du Soleil, David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and more. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Las Vegas Victims Fund.
“We wanted it to be [an evening of] by Vegas, for Vegas entertainers, who have been here or represent the city in one way or another,” Reynolds said. “[We wanted to] really bring out the community and try to have a sense of healing — a night of tears and happiness and entertainment — for a good cause.”
Additionally, for Reynolds, who grew up not far from the Strip, the concert represents the city’s solidarity and will to move forward, together: “There’s obviously a real feeling of sadness here [since the attack],” he said. “But there’s also a feeling of unity and resilience: people going out to the Farmers Market, people going out to shows, and continuing. It’s been really beautiful, because it shows the sense of community and culture that exists here, that most of the world doesn't really know about. This has only bonded us stronger, and brought us together as a city even more.”
Read on for a few of Reynolds’ favorite spots in his home city.
What are some of your favorite insider spots in Vegas?
“There’s actually a music scene here, and so [I’d say] venues — like the Beauty Bar, the Bunkhouse Saloon — that we played at in our early years. If you’re looking to see a local band, those are really rad places to go that are off-the-beaten-path of the congestion of the Strip.
And, as far as nature, there’s a lot that Vegas has to offer. There are lots of dirt trails up in the mountains, for incredible biking. Red Rock [Canyon] is a hiking place that most people don’t know about, which is crazy, because it’s so epic and scenic and beautiful.”
What’s the ultimate Las Vegas souvenir that you recommend people bring back with them?
“I’m not about the little cheap trinkets down on the Strip. Those are a dime a dozen, and they usually break really quickly. Honestly, I would say the ultimate souvenir would be something from one of the local venues — a ticket to one of the rad bands that plays here in town that’s on the up-and-up, or a flower from the Red Rock mountains. I also think [the perfect souvenir is] more of a memory … because it’s a city where you can really lose yourself, and create a night that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
What’s one tourist attraction that even locals love?
"The ride on the top of the Stratosphere — the Big Shot. It’s one of the those rides that you sit down in a seat, and it shoots you up in the air. It’s on the needle on top [of the Stratosphere], and you overlook the entire city. If you do it at nighttime, it’s really incredible."
What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions in the city?
“The Pinball Hall of Fame, which is crazy and cool. There’s also [the band] Kiss-themed, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf. I highly recommend it, if you’re into the more kitschy and strange parts of Vegas."
If you have friends coming into town, where would you recommend they stay?
“You really can’t go wrong, but I love the Cosmo, the M Resort, and the Aria. You can get this secret pizza at the Cosmo. It’s incredible. You just walk in this little back corridor in the casino, and then you’re at this place called Secret Pizza. I don’t even think there’s a sign — you just have to be in the know. It’s the best pizza ever.”
If you go: Tickets to the Vegas Strong Benefit Concert range from $75 - $125 and are available at axs.com, or by calling the AXS Call Center at 888-929-7849. Tickets also may be purchased at any MGM Resorts International Box Office or Concierge Desk.