Las Vegas

14 Ways To Celebrate Indigenous People's Day in the Southwest

State parks, art museums, and Native marketplaces.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya
Hyatt Regency Tamaya
Hyatt Regency Tamaya

More than 20 percent of the Native American population lives in the Southwest United States, with an especially strong presence in New Mexico and Arizona. The culture, art, and commerce of the region’s indigenous people is reflected in businesses, landmarks, and tourist attractions built on heritage that’s often thousands of years old. There’s much to learn and explore. When planning visits, check in advance for the latest information and operating hours. Visitation may be temporarily limited due to COVID-19 concerns.

Sky City Cultural Center/Haak'u Museum
Sky City Cultural Center/Haak’u Museum
Sky City Cultural Center/Haak’u Museum

Acoma Sky City

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Just west of Albuquerque, you’ll find Acoma Pueblo, which consists of four Native American communities. Most famous is Acoma Sky City, where 250 adobe dwellings reach into the sky on an elevated sandstone cliff. The Acoma people have lived there for centuries and continue to do so today. Tourism is a big part of their economy with handmade pottery for sale and endless resources found in the Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum. Break for lunch at the Yaak’a Cafe, where you can order chilé stews, corn enchiladas, and other authentic native dishes. 

nootprapa / Shutterstock
nootprapa / Shutterstock
nootprapa / Shutterstock

Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon, Arizona
Yeah, the Grand Canyon is a pretty big place. The west rim is operated by the Hualapai and draws a big chunk of tourism from Las Vegas. (Taking a helicopter from Sin City is worth the money over the longer, bumpy road trip.) Grand Canyon West is best known for the Skywalk — a glass-bottomed bridge that stretches out nearly 5,000 feet above the canyon floor. In addition to soaking in the majesty of the mammoth landmark, you can also get familiar with local culture (and do a little shopping) with the Native American Village at Eagle Point, which has performances by Hualapai “Bird Singers” every half hour. 

NuWu Main
NuWu Main
NuWu Main

NuWu Cannabis Marketplace

Las Vegas, Nevada
NuWu is more than just another dispensary in Las Vegas. Owned by the Paiute community on tribal land, it represents the strength and importance of Native American autonomy in a growing industry of the future. In addition to having the first drive-thru window for legal cannabis sales in Nevada, NuWu also opened the first and so far, only public consumption lounge. (Nevada state regulators are having trouble finalizing legislation to approve them on a widespread basis.) The original location is Downtown, not far from the casinos and hotels of Fremont Street. A second smaller location is in the northwest valley by the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort.  

KOLI Equestrian Center
KOLI Equestrian Center
KOLI Equestrian Center

Koli Equestrian Center

Chandler, Arizona
Just south of Phoenix, the Kofi Equestrian Center is one of the best ways to experience the culture of the Gila River reservation. Trail excursions are open to riders of all levels, including beginners. Instead of traveling single file, participants are encouraged to spread out side-by-side while exploring the desert terrain of Wild Horse Pass. Carriage and hay wagon rides are well suited for families and kids. Plan a visit in the early morning to avoid the peak heat, and then visit the Huhugam Heritage Center with exhibits dedicated to the art, culture, and history of two tribes: the Akimel O’otham (Pima) and the Pee Posh (Maricopa).  

Zachary C Person / Shutterstock
Zachary C Person / Shutterstock
Zachary C Person / Shutterstock

Downtown Historic District

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Downtown Santa Fe offers eye-opening exposure to not only Spanish colonialism, but Native American culture — much of it reflected in the city’s reputation as an art mecca. Explore Native American works in the galleries of Canyon Road or the art and jewelry shops in the center Plaza. Take a short excursion to Museum Hill and visit the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and Museum of International Folk Art. If possible, plan your trip around the annual Indian Market, which takes place in August — and will hopefully return next year after going virtual in 2020.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande

Coolidge, Arizona
A visit to the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument may leave you with more questions than answers. The mysterious remains date back to about 1350, when the Sonoran Desert people developed a somewhat sophisticated trade stop with a widespread irrigation system. Abandoned in 1450, the site is punctuated by Casa Grande itself (or as translated, the “big house”). The once four-story adobe structure is now protected from the weather by an overhead canopy and surrounded by houses and offices from the late 1930s that are so old and true to native architecture, they’re now considered historic as well.  

The Stand
The Stand
The Stand

The Stand 

Scottsdale, Arizona
Not to be confused with a nearby burger joint of the same name, The Stand is a roadside open-air kitchen that’s earned bucket list dining status when exploring the Native American culture of central Arizona. Tree stumps are used for seats and the menu is relatively simple, featuring tacos made with a choice of tortillas or fry bread — a puffy, chewy fried dough. While in the area, pay a visit to the Huhugam Ki Museum, dedicated to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Lost City Museum
Lost City Museum
Lost City Museum

Lost City Museum

Overton, Nevada
The Lost City Museum is a fascinating dig into the archeology of Native American history in Nevada and Arizona. Most of the artifacts were recovered from sites that would eventually be flooded by redirected water due to the construction of the Hoover Dam. The museum is just outside the Valley of Fire State Park, where ancient Native American petroglyphs were discovered among the colorful sandstone formations. Even if you stay in your car, it’s one of the most scenic road trips near Las Vegas.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya
Hyatt Regency Tamaya
Hyatt Regency Tamaya

Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Who says you can’t get familiar with indigineous culture while enjoying luxury accommodations at the same time? The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort is owned and operated by the Tamayame people on the vast Santa Ana Pueblo outside Albuquerque. Guests are invited to ride horses, take part in pottery classes, and watch authentic tribal dances. Ask for a room with a view of the Sandia Mountains.

Puye Cliff Dwellings
Puye Cliff Dwellings
Puye Cliff Dwellings

Puye Cliff Dwellings

Los Alamo, New Mexico
Think of them as old-school, high-rise apartments. The Puye Cliff Dwellings were the home of more than 1,500 Santa Clara Pueblo inhabitants between 900 and 1580. The dwellings include two levels of caves on the side of the Pajarito Plateau with additional homes on top of the mesa. Tours are available on the hour to all parts of the cliff. The Harvey House is an old bed and breakfast from the early 20th century that’s now a gift shop and exhibit hall. If you’re wondering whatever happened to the Santa Clara people, they moved about 10 miles east to the Santa Clara Pueblo, where they still live today. Book a room at Inn at the Delta, which has 10 suites and an impressive collection of Native American and Spanish Colonial art.   

Wisanu Boonrawd / Shutterstock
Wisanu Boonrawd / Shutterstock
Wisanu Boonrawd / Shutterstock

Navajo Nation

Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah 
Navajo Nation covers more than 17 million acres, making it the largest reservation claimed by a single tribe in the United States. (If it was a state, it would be larger in land mass than at least 10 others.) So yes, there’s lots to explore, especially the colorful rock formations of Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and the capital Window Rock, named after a distinctive sandstone landmark with a large, circular hole in the middle. For something more contemporary, visit the street murals of the Painted Desert Project, an effort in beautifying buildings and other structures in the nation for more than 10 years. Save most of your dollars for the Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling native art and other items since 1878.  

Dan Kaplan / Shutterstock
Dan Kaplan / Shutterstock
Dan Kaplan / Shutterstock

Taos Pueblo

Taos, New Mexico
Dating back nearly a thousand years, Taos Pueblo is considered the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. It’s built entirely from sun-dried adobe bricks with more than 150 indigenous people still living there year-round. The town of Taos is just south with hundreds of shops, art galleries, and restaurants overloaded with Native American authenticity. Nearby Blue Lake was claimed by the U.S. government at one point, but returned to the Taos people. It’s a scenic destination for ambitious hikers. However, it’s considered sacred and photography is forbidden.  

Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.
Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.
Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bow & Arrow Brewing Company was founded by two Native American women, Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay, who honor their ancestry while brewing some of the most robust, complex craft brews in New Mexico. The business is relatively new, opening in 2016, but is already earning raves from beer lovers around the country — especially for the line of inventive sours. The Albuquerque taproom is a charming, rustic space for enjoying a drink. It’s a five-minute drive from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which features a rotating lineup of exhibits dedicated to 19 Pueblos and the Pueblo Harvest Cafe.

Heard Museum
Heard Museum
Heard Museum

Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art 

Phoenix, Arizona
Often mistaken for an old home due to its warm and welcoming feel, the Heard Museum was built in 1929 to house a private family art collection that’s only grown in size and scope over the years. There’s a heavy emphasis on western U.S. Native American art, including more than 1,200 katsina dolls, some of which were donated by Barry Goldwater. On any given visit, you can trace the history of Native Americans through more than 3,600 pieces, ranging from historic artifacts to contemporary works. The Heard Museum is unique in its eagerness to showcase pieces from newer, younger artists, making frequent return visits worthwhile.  Sign up here for our daily Vegas email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than seven years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.

Las Vegas

A Fresh Take on Italian Dining Opens in Southwest Las Vegas

A first look at Basilico Ristorante Italiano.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.

Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.

“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.

The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.

“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”

Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora

The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.

Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.

Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.

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Rob Kachelriess¬†has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in¬†Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and¬†Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

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