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First Friday for the fresh 

Tips for the unprepared to prep for monthly downtown art festival

Event-goers paint on a self-expression wall at First Friday on July 6, 2012. CHRIS COONROD/THE REBEL YELL

Event-goers paint on a self-expression wall at First Friday
on July 6, 2012. CHRIS COONROD/THE REBEL YELL

Though you just missed your chance to experience the festival, if you’ve never been to First Friday, you’ll be happy to know that it’s coming back again — next month, that is. Because, if you couldn’t already tell from the art fair’s name, First Friday only occurs on the first Friday of every month. But for now you can check out these four street-savvy tips to make your first time at First Friday easier and more enjoyable.

First — Choose public transportation: The art fair takes place within the Arts District of downtown, consisting of small corridors with little space for parking compared to the expansive boulevard of the Strip. I can’t even begin to explain how hard it is to find parking during and near the First Friday area. My best solution is to take public transportation, whether it’s the public buses or the shuttles that run from various places downtown that do have parking. It’s also encouraged that you even ride bikes, but if you don’t like either of those options, it’s strongly encouraged that you carpool to reduce traffic. While parking is scarce, if you get there early enough you might be able to find at least one spot, and you’ll feel safer walking from your car to the event area if you’ve got someone to walk with you.

Second — Come early for the art galleries: Though First Friday starts at 5 p.m., the fun doesn’t really start until later at 8 p.m. Unfortunately, by that time the downtown area becomes extremely congested and you are forced to start the “wading” game (wading through crowds, that is). Wherever I am, there is nothing I dislike more than trying to get past slowly moving groups of people walking side-by-side, thereby creating an impenetrable fortress preventing me from reaching my destination. It’s for this reason that I suggest that you come early, usually around 5:30 p.m to browse through the art galleries which will fill up and become near untraversable later.

Third — Eat now, shop later: If you have decided to come early at 5 p.m., that’s good. However, if complications force you to arrive at a later time like 7 p.m. then now is the time to eat. First Friday has a diverse selection of gourmet food trucks hawking every type of cuisine. Whether you’ve just finished appreciating the art in the galleries or if you’ve just made it to the festival, you should know that once again, by 8 p.m. that the craziness begins and hungry people will be lining up to sample the gourmet grub. Depending on the popularity of the truck in particular, you could be waiting up to 45 minutes for whatever you ordered if you arrive late. Case-in-point, save shopping for later and eat now. Plus, having eaten now, you’ll have the energy for less dropping and more shopping.

Fourth — Shop outside vs. inside: Depending on what your priorities are, you may want to skip the galleries and eating and go straight to shopping. However, if you head straight for the galleries you’ll be quickly met with prices starting in the triple digits and climbing. Most of the art in the galleries are by professional, schooled, and well-established artists that are renting out spaces to be able to show off their art for a season or year-round, thereby making their art more expensive. For those who don’t have a thousand-dollar budget (that’s most of us) you’ll be relieved to know that much more affordable art can be found in the outside tents. The only downside is that these unique, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted goods will be available only once a month on this night, but on the other hand, this makes First Friday all the more special.

For more information on First Friday including festival times, shuttle schedules, parking, featured artists and general events check out http://www.firstfridaylasvegas.com.

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