I recently visited downtown Las Vegas at night for the first time this year and was, once again, reminded how much fun it can be. Downtown Las Vegas offers a very different kind of fun than the Vegas Strip. I’ve come to enjoy both equally for their differences since my first trip downtown.
The Vegas Strip is the Las Vegas that everyone knows from TV, movies, and the majority of visitors. Downtown Las Vegas isn’t as famous and that suits the area fine. “Old Vegas” has always offered a different experience from the Vegas Strip and that’s what has always made it special.
While the Vegas Strip continues to offer the “latest and greatest” of everything, Downtown Las Vegas offers a less flashy experience. A visit to downtown Las Vegas is closer to what visitors may remember from the 1990’s on the Vegas Strip. The gambling is good, even the nicest hotel rooms are affordable, there are plenty of good restaurants and there’s free entertainment everywhere you look at the Fremont Street Experience.
Increasing resort fees, parking fees, etc. on the Vegas Strip don’t bother me. I can budget for that stuff so Las Vegas is always fun for me. However, if you’re tired of all that (I know many of you are!) and looking for a different Las Vegas experience you might want to look downtown. Here are 5 reasons to visit downtown Las Vegas.
Fremont Street Experience Is Kind Of Amazing
There’s nothing like this mall of casinos at night anywhere in the world. There are three stages with, often free, entertainment and a light show on the canopy above that covers the mall. You’re free to wander without concern for vehicular traffic. There are street performers that are equally as entertaining as they are annoying. Just about every casino has access to a bar from the street. The alcohol helps fuel the chaos in the area. You’ll hear people riding the giant Slotzilla zipline screaming above you all night. A night out at the Fremont Street Experience is sensory overload in the best way.
The Gambling Is Great
If you’re the kind of person that enjoys a fun atmosphere, low limits, and good odds when you gamble then you’ll have a great time in the downtown Las Vegas casinos. The atmosphere is loose and not stuffy at all. You’ll find $3 and $5 minimum wagers for craps and blackjack at just about every casino. El Cortez even has quarter roulette. The casinos in downtown Las Vegas tout that they offer looser slots than the Vegas Strip.
For what it’s worth, I probably gamble more frequently in downtown Las Vegas than any other part of town. There seems to be more bang for the buck.
Great Drinking Options
My friends and I never hung out to eat or drink when I first started visiting downtown Las Vegas. That’s changed and there’s a great variety of restaurants and bars. The Vue Bar at The D has good video poker games and the bartenders are quick with a drink. If you prefer a non-gaming bar you can head to Downtown Cocktail Room, The Griffin or The Commonwealth. Beer drinkers can enjoy local brewery Banger Brewing or visit Pizza Rock for a great beer selection at fair prices. Beer prices (and food) are even better during Happy Hour at Pizza Rock.
Surprisingly Good Variety Of Dining
Downtown Las Vegas has grown beyond the mall of casinos at the Fremont Street Experience. Just walking a block or two outside of the canopy can bring more restaurants that may not be on the radar of most people visiting downtown Las Vegas. While the casinos boast some good high-end, but affordable, steakhouses like Andiamo’s at The D and Oscar’s at the Plaza you’ll find some great food options just a few steps away. Therapy, Eat, Carson Kitchen, and Pizza Rock are just a few good non-casino restaurants.
The Vegas Strip is great but it can feel a bit fancy at times with the newest of everything. It’s the hotspot of Las Vegas. There’s a time to dress nicely, have a great meal, and see a hundred dollar per ticket show. There’s also a time where a t-shirt, shorts, and a football of beer feel more appropriate. Las Vegas is great because you can enjoy both of those feelings in the same day. There’s just a more relaxed vibe in downtown Las Vegas than the Vegas Strip.
Las Vegas is always changing. While we tend to focus on the changes happening on the Vegas Strip, there are businesses opening and closing all over town. Today, we’ll look at some of the changes you may have missed in downtown Las Vegas.
Ten years ago, you might have thought of downtown Las Vegas as just an old part of town with nothing new to offer. Old Vegas has come a long way and continues to evolve. There are now things to do all over the area considered downtown Las Vegas.
The casino corridor, Fremont Street, is keeping up with the rest of Las Vegas. The casino area continues to change in ways you won’t see anywhere else in Las Vegas. Not only are casinos receiving updates but local bars and restaurants are changing hands.
You may remember last summer when the Plaza opened their new rooftop pool deck. Well, the changes haven’t stopped. The casino continues to move forward. They’ve recently added some beautiful giant murals outside of the casino and will continue inside with a new deli opening soon.
Last year Boyd Gaming renovated the entire hotel and casino. All of the rooms have been updated. Some of the restaurants have changed and there’s a new and beautiful sports book and bar. The Cal is located a block away from the Fremont Street Experience so you may have never seen this property. Another reason to visit The Cal — No resort fee.
One of the most popular breakfast restaurants in downtown Las Vegas just closed. DuPar’s at the Golden Gate abruptly shut its doors on February 8. Since this is the only restaurant at the hotel, expect to see a new restaurant move in quickly.
The Golden Gate is expanding to the casino formerly known as La Bayou. The new space will add additional slot machines and hopefully more breathing space. The small casino can feel a bit claustrophobic at times.
Siegel’s 1941 and Pizza Lotto aren’t new but they’re not old. If you haven’t been to the casino in a while, you may not recognize these restaurants. Siegel’s is a good all-around coffee shop with an excellent grilled cheese.
The newest addition to the El Cortez is a bar near Pizza Lotto and the Keno area. There is room to lounge on one side of the bar and video poker machines to play on the casino side. The addition of the bar also made room for the casino floor to shift around. You may not notice it but there are more table games for when it’s busy.
The D looks mostly the same as it did a year ago, but they’ve added a mobile coffee stand. The stand is open daily near the hotel lobby from 6 am to 5 pm. After it closes, the stand folds up to make room for the party. This is a welcome addition to The D since the only cup of coffee available at 6 am was at McDonald’s.
Las Vegas Club, Mermaids, Glitter Gulch
These three properties are closed and will become one massive casino-hotel in the future. Details haven’t been released yet, but don’t be surprised when you see this half of the block closed on Fremont Street.
Off Fremont Street
The area surrounding Fremont Street has become sort of a cool place for new bars and restaurants. Here are a few highlights of what’s come and gone in the past year.
Glutton, The Beat, and Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey have all closed. Donut Bar and Evel Pizza have opened. Atomic Kitchen should be opening any day now.
Las Vegas is one of the entertainment capitals of the world. There are fabulous shows and concerts almost every night of the week. However, there is one thing that’s noticeably missing from Las Vegas entertainment – comedy. I’m talking regular visits or residencies from touring comedians with name value.
Comedy clubs come and go in Las Vegas more often than most people notice. The Aces of Comedy series at The Mirage is a good option for very mainstream comedians. However, those are special engagements for some of the most popular comedians in the country. Las Vegas is host to some of the best touring concerts and shows, so it’s surprising that there hasn’t been a single steady comedy club for mid-sized touring standup comedians.
Many of these touring comedians appear in movies, TV shows, standup specials but don’t quite have the pedigree of the big names who can fill large theaters and arenas. Well, that might be about to change. The Crapshoot Comedy Festival will be coming to Las Vegas from May 18-20, 2017. The festival will bring more comedians to Las Vegas than we might normally see in 6 months.
The festival will take place all around downtown Las Vegas and be focused heavily on performance rooms in the Fremont East area. Crapshoot Comedy has already put down roots in downtown Las Vegas by presenting the comedy programming at the Life Is Beautiful Music and Art festival. Sean Patton, DJ Douggpound, Byron Bowers and Emily Heller all performed at this year’s festival. This is a big step for comedy in Las Vegas. It was the first time that Life Is Beautiful featured comedy.
According to The Laugh Button website (they also have a podcast) “The Crapshoot Comedy Festival is designed to be the premier Las Vegas comedy festival featuring nationally recognized stand-up comedians, as well as popular podcasts, screenings and much more.”
The Crapshoot Comedy Festival isn’t just a one-off idea. The festival is organized by the team that put organized the fantastic Maui Comedy Festival. That festival was chock full of familiar names and faces. There was something for anyone that likes today’s comedy from the alt to the funny people who appear in movies. Here’s a sample of who performed in Maui.
This is a legitimate reason for anyone who watches Comedy Central, reads or listens to Nerdist or just goes to comedy clubs at home to be excited about the Crapshoot Comedy Festival. Details are space for the Crapshoot Comedy Festival in 2017.
If you’re looking for more information of the festival, you can sign up to receive updates at crapshootcomedyfestival.com. If you’d like a little more background on the festival, Vegas Seven interviewed Paul Chamberlin, owner of Crapshoot Comedy.
On my first few visits to Las Vegas, I generally stayed on the Vegas Strip. The first time I stayed at a casino off the Vegas Strip was at the wonderful Gold Coast. That property remains close to my heart. Not much has changed at the Gold Coast, so every visit is like a trip to the past. Every December there’s a return visit to the Gold Coast that revolves around lunch or dinner at Ping Pang Pong. If you’re not familiar with PPP, it’s one of the best Chinese restaurants in any casino.
My first memory (actually memories) of visiting downtown Las Vegas all take place at the El Cortez. Unlike the Gold Coast, I still visit the El Cortez regularly. It’s a convenient place to park the car if I plan on hanging out on the east side of Fremont Street. Now that I think of it, I’ll make my last visit to The Beat coffee shop on Fremont East next week. In the course of my travels downtown, I’ll stop at the El Cortez for a little while since it’s right across the street from The Beat.
My first memory of the El Cortez was the wooden panels on the walls by the “sports book.” At the time the sports book was a collection of massive and dated rear projection TV’s that probably stood five feet tall and three feet wide sitting against a wall. The most robust memory from my first visit to El Cortez was playing $3 blackjack on tables with burnt felt while drinking dented cans of beer.
This was a far cry from the Vegas Strip experience and I loved it. The felt is new and the beer is in bottles but I still love it. The El Cortez has cleaned up quite a bit over the years but never lost its soul. It’s not the fanciest casino in downtown Las Vegas but it’s effortlessly vintage. Other properties try to be vintage. El Cortez is vintage.
The El Cortez still has the best low roller blackjack game in Las Vegas. The $5 minimum single deck game pays 3/2 when you’re dealt blackjack has a house edge of 0.30. There’s also a $25 table with the same rules if you’d rather play higher limits. The pit bosses watch players like a hawk, so advanced advantage players won’t be allowed to play very long. However, you should be fine if you keep your bets steady.
The good low rolling at El Cortez doesn’t end at blackjack. Every day, El Cortez offers $0.25 roulette with $1 minimums per spin. That’s another low rolling deal that you won’t find in many other casinos in Las Vegas.
The other games are fine and dandy but the $5 minimum craps game is one of my favorites in Las Vegas. You can find this minimum wager elsewhere with the same 10x odds, but you’ll never roll the dice with people like those you’ll find at El Cortez. It’s a random bunch that has its ups and down but it’s unique. The game is special and it’s unlike any other in Las Vegas.
Like the craps game, the El Cortez is a unique property. It’s not the best casino in Las Vegas. However, it’s a casino that offers an experience unlike anywhere else. In a town looking where casino corporations bring in well-known brands to meet the bottom line, the El Cortez stays true to itself and stands out in the best way possible.
If you haven’t visited Las Vegas very much then you may only know one “Vegas Experience.” People tend to stick in and around the Vegas Strip during their first visits. I, for one, rarely left the action on the Vegas Strip when I started visiting Las Vegas.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Vegas Strip experience. It’s one of the most amazing places in the world. However, there’s much more to Las Vegas than the Vegas Strip if you’re looking for something new.
I often write about visiting downtown Las Vegas because it’s a similar but different option to the Vegas Strip. The walkable mall of casinos acts almost as a gateway to experiencing Las Vegas beyond the Vegas Strip. There aren’t many other casino cities where you can walk from casino to casino. Actually, when you visit casinos outside of these two areas in Las Vegas you probably won’t be walking from casino to casino.
You may never need to leave your casino if you stay on the Vegas Strip. Sure you can easily visit other casinos but you don’t have to. Many of the casinos are full-service and offer everything you might need for a week or weekend. The same can’t be said for many of the off-strip casinos in the suburbs of Las Vegas.
The majority of casinos located off the Vegas Strip are built for local Las Vegas residents. You’re more likely to find a bingo hall or movie theater than a spa or lavish pool experience. However, there are a few casinos located off the Vegas Strip that offer everything that you would expect from a full-service Las Vegas casino. Each of these properties would fit nicely on the Vegas Strip, but stand out in their locations east, south and west of the action.
Green Valley Ranch
GVR is located about 25 minutes away from the Vegas Strip in Henderson, NV. This sprawling luxury resort, spa and casino fits perfectly in the suburbs but offers amenities you’d expect on the Vegas Strip. The location works best for visitors seeking high-end amenities while being able to relax. The excitement on the Vegas Strip is great, but sometimes we all need a break.
Many know M Resort because it’s one of the most beautiful casinos in Las Vegas that doesn’t charge a resort fee. The all glass exterior is stunning and noticeable when you drive about 20 minutes south of Mandalay Bay. M Resort has some of the best restaurants anywhere in Las Vegas, including Anthony’s Steakhouse.
Red Rock Casino
Station Casinos operates both Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Casino. Each casino is considered a luxury resort. The aesthetic difference between the two properties is that Red Rock feels more modern while GVR is traditional. The pool complex at Red Rock features over 10 pools, poolside gambling and an outdoor bar and restaurant. The experience here is different than the Vegas Strip but no less spectacular. If there’s something you can’t find inside the casino-resort, you can walk next door to Downtown Summerlin which has shopping and dining for days. Red Rock Casino is my local casino if I sound partial.
The Neon Museum is one of the best places to learn about or relive the history of Las Vegas. The museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs. Yes, signs. These signs tell more interesting tales of history than most books you’ll read.
Sure, there are other museums that are dedicated to history in Las Vegas but there’s a different kind of history in these original signs in Las Vegas. Many of the signs are geared towards the kind history that you either lived or may have seen in the movies or on TV. This isn’t like learning from a 4th-grade History book and this isn’t your typical museum and these aren’t the typical artifacts that you’d find in a museum.
The most popular part of the Neon Museum is the Neon Boneyard, which includes Neon Boneyard Park and Neon Boneyard North Gallery. All together you’ll see over 250 signs from different eras Las Vegas including infamous signs from the Stardust, Caesars Palace and Binion’s Horseshoe.
Guided tours of the Neon Boneyard not only give you the chance to see the signs up close but you’ll also learn about the history behind and around each sign. Each tour takes about an hour and they run fairly often. These tours are great for history buffs and anyone who really loves Vegas.
Anyone can take pictures while taking the Neon Boneyard tours but there’s a special tour if you’re a photography buff. This tour is great if you want better quality photos than a the kind that you’re just going to run through a filter on Instagram. Twice a month (you’ll have to schedule in advance) the Neon Museum offers a special one-hour-long photo tour.
Photo tours allow avid photographers to have access to the Neon Boneyard for one hour without the distraction of multiple guests who may get in the way of perfect photos of these artifacts. These tours are intended for personal, not commercial, use. You may use the photos for social media, personal (not commercial) websites and personal items like holiday cards. If you’re looking for professional photo sessions, like a wedding or for a print magazine, you can contact the museum to set up a photoshoot.
Regular and photography tours can be booked at neonmuseum.org. Costs vary depending on the day, time and type of tour. Prices range anywhere from free for children under 6 to $75 for a photo tour. Taking a tour around dusk is the perfect time to take a variety of pictures that may not even have to be filtered to look good. This gives different kinds of lighting which will give the pictures different looks.
One of the best annual rites of summer in Las Vegas is when the Fremont Street Experience announces its lineup of free summer concerts. The theme of the concerts this year is Rock of Vegas. Earlier this year the Fremont Street Experience announced that the 8th year of the annual concert series would kick-off the summer on Memorial Day weekend with a free concert featuring Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.
Last week the Fremont Street Experience announced the rest of the free concert series’ lineup for the summer and which stage you’ll find the bands performing.
May 28 – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – 3rd Street Stage
June 11 – 3 Doors Down – 3rd Street Stage
July 2 – Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – 1st Street Stage
July 23 – Robby Krieger of The Doors – 1st Street Stage
August 6 – Vertical Horizon – 1st Street Stage
August 20 – Melissa Etheridge – 1st Street Stage
September 3 – Smash Mouth – 3rd Street Stage
Each of these concerts begins at (or shortly after) 9:00 p.m. Some of these artists should be familiar if you’ve followed or attended the Rock of Ages series at the Fremont Street Experience in the past. The standout concert this year might be Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Their concerts usually sell well in Las Vegas regardless of price. The price of $0 might have an extra large crowd at the Fremont Street Experience.
These concerts are free and admission to the stage area is first come first served. Plan to arrive early if you want to be close to the stage for a particular artist. Entry to the stage area is general admission and your place won’t be guaranteed unless you’re standing in it. If you leave to use the restroom or buy a drink you might lose your spot in front of the stage.
Every one of these free concerts will be packed. The Fremont Street Experience and all of its casinos will be full of revelers all night. Everyone loves free entertainment and these free concerts featuring national touring musicians bring people out of the woodwork. It’s one of the few occasions during the year where you’ll see a large mix of tourists and locals in the same location.
This is one of the most fun times to visit downtown Las Vegas. That said, consider the large crowds if you don’t enjoy cramped spaces. The stage areas can be especially tight during the concerts. Regardless of your taste in music, the large crowds of people can provide a different level of fun than you might normally find on Fremont Street.
Visit Vegas Experience for more information on the Rock of Ages concert series and all entertainment at the Fremont Street Experience.
Downtown Las Vegas has become a destination for eating. This wasn’t always the case. There have always been restaurants to fill the stomach but very few were the kind of dining experience worth traveling for. That’s no longer the case as there are great dining experiences available for every time of the day. Here’s my perfect day of dining in downtown Las Vegas. You may have seen some of them mentioned on this blog before.
DuPar’s Restaurant & Bakery at the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino offers traditional cafe style food around the clock. The menu is huge and offers just about anything your mood could want. In my eyes there are only two things on the menu: pancakes and orange juice. The orange juice is fresh squeezed in an old fashioned juicer (like this). When you sit at the counter you may actually smell the juice as it’s made. YUM-O! The other item are the light, fluffy and most delicious pancakes I’ve ever had. They’re so good that I won’t eat pancakes anywhere else.
There are plenty of places to get pizza in Las Vegas but none really move the needle like Pizza Rock. They have multiple ovens for different styles of pizza but there’s one pizza that’s far and above the rest. The New Yorker is made in their 700 degree brick oven with all fresh ingredients including sliced mozzarella, tomato sauce, house link sausage, garlic, mini pepperoni and fresh ricotta. The pie is barely charred which allows for a delicious crunch dough base and crust. Veggies can just get a plain pie but make sure it’s from this over. The combination of dough, sauce and cheese is fantastic.
Coffee makes the day better and The Beat has one of the best cups you’ll find in downtown Las Vegas. There are plenty of places to caffeinate but none have the relaxing environment that you’ll find at The Beat. You can sit back and listen to vinyl records (like actual records which sound amazing) while you enjoy a cup of coffee and a snack. The Beat offers a different environment than you’ll find elsewhere on Fremont Street and that’s a good thing.
Not only is Andiamo one of the best steakhouses in downtown Las Vegas but it’s one of the best in all of Las Vegas. The Italian steakhouse offers steak and seafood that you’d find at a traditional steakhouse alongside Italian favorites like gnocchi and risotto. What sets Andiamo apart from other steakhouses, besides the great food and service, are the prices. While still a fine-dining restaurant you can find steak prices as low as $42 for a bone-in New York Strip.
Nacho Daddy might be best when it’s 2 a.m. and you’re ready to wind the night down but you’re not ready to stop altogether. Likewise, it’s the perfect restaurant to start or restart the evening. An order of street tacos and Dos Equis beer will cost about $10 and it’s it has just enough enough food and drink to reset the night or slide over to the off-ramp and end the night.
There’s a surprise after every step you take on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. When you first visit the Fremont Street Experience you’ll probably walk into every door and take in the atmosphere of everything from the larger hotel-casinos to the mom and pop souvenir stores. After your first visit you’ll probably decide which businesses you liked most and return to those specific locations again in the future.
When you walk into Mermaids and La Bayou it’s easy to be overwhelmed. They’re small casinos which may be loud and don’t have much to offer besides slot machines, drinks and some food. That’s part of their charm which I’ll get to that in a minute. You either love or hate the experience after that first visit and may not visit again on future trips to downtown Las Vegas.
It seems as though people visit Mermaids or La Bayou for at least one of three reasons. 1) Play cheap slot machines 2) Get a lot of booze very quickly 3) Eat Fried Twinkies or Fried Oreo’s. Neither of these casinos have sit down restaurants, nightclubs, shows, spas, table games or any amenities besides these three things. Again, that’s part of their charm.
La Bayou isn’t fancy and many people would consider it to be a dive casino. This is one of the few casinos in Las Vegas that still has slot machines that cash out in coins. If you miss the days where you can play nickel slots with real nickels then La Bayou and their 125 slot machines might be the place for you.
When you enter La Bayou you are greeted with beads and when you’re sitting at a slot machine you’re almost badgered by the quick cocktail waitresses to order another drink, honey. You can visit the Daiquiri bar in the back for a huge vessel of frozen booze or just sit and drink the well swill at the slot machines.
No matter what you’re told, sometimes you can tell what a book is about by just looking at the cover. When you look at Mermaids Tumblr you see pictures of fried food, mermaids and booze. That’s a good synopsis of what you’ll find when you visit the small casino on Fremont Street.
Sure you can play slot machines at Mermaids but this is the only casino on Fremont Street that you’re going to buy deep fried Twinkies and Oreo’s for 99 cents. Just to be clear, people come here for cheap booze, snacks and a little slot machine fun on the side. If you’re a germaphobe playing the slots you might want to have some hand sanitizer as the machines can gets a little grimy from the greasy and boozy fun times.
La Bayou and Mermaids are often overlooked casinos in downtown Las Vegas. They’re certainly not casinos for everyone but they can be a blast if you’re into fried foods, low rolling and/or cheap booze. There’s a charm that you won’t find in most other properties – for better or worse.
If you’re a long time visitor to Las Vegas you may want to take a step back to your first time visiting downtown Las Vegas. If you’re a new visitor into the less fine things in like you should definitely check one or both out. Either way there may be an excuse to discover or rediscover La Bayou and Mermaids.
It’s been awhile since we’ve taken a trip to each of the casino hotels in Downtown Las Vegas. These properties aren’t quite as robust as you’ll find on the Vegas Strip since many of the buildings are older and smaller. Less space means less options for just about everything that’s not a slot machine. This leads to a fairly amazing variety of dining options ranging from quick serve to casual to the finest dining around. Here is a look a some of the best restaurants in each Downtown Las Vegas hotel casino.
Binion’s – Benny’s Smokin’ BBQ and Brews offers exactly what you’d expect – BBQ and beer. It’s actually kind of a nice quiet place to relax and grab a bite since it’s hidden (in plain sight) in the back of the casino.
California – California Noodle House offers some thing rare in a Downtown Las Vegas casino hotel – Asian fusion dining. You won’t find many Asian in too many other Downtown Las Vegas casinos and you won’t find fusion.
The D – Andiamo Steakhouse is one of the best steakhouses anywhere in Las Vegas. Great service, great food and great prices make this a must visit if you’re looking for a nice upscale meal.
Downtown Grand – Even though it’s not inside the actual casino Triple George is affiliated with Downtown Grand. They offer typical and excellent American classics including a great burger, steaks and chicken parm.
El Cortez – Siegel’s 1941 is the only restaurant at El Cortez so this must be the place to eat. Then again the gambling gourmet will bring food to you while you’re playing in the casino. Hmmmm…
Four Queens – Hugo’s Cellar is a throwback to the great restaurants of Las Vegas from the 50’s and 60’s. This is fine dining like you won’t find in many restaurants in Las Vegas.
Fremont – This is Tony Roma’s only location in Las Vegas. What more do you need besides ribs, BBQ, Seafood and one of the best prime rib specials in Downtown Las Vegas?
Golden Gate – DuPar’s is the only restaurant at the Golden Gate and that’s perfectly fine. They have the best pancakes in Las Vegas. ‘Nuff said.
Golden Nugget – Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar is a unique restaurant inside of a Downtown Las Vegas casino. This is the only Mexican restaurant located inside a casino. Tacos? Tacos!
Main Street Station – 777 Restaurant & Brewery offers traditional pub food along with delicious freshly brewed beer. This is one of the best places to watch football while you dine in Downtown Las Vegas.
Plaza – Popup Pizza is a traditional pizzeria located next to the sports book. You can order by the slice or by the pie. Its quick serve design has a few tables available to eat at the restaurant or you can take the food to go.
Sometimes you just want cheap eats in Las Vegas. Got it. How about eating way more than anyone should for under $20 a day? Got that too.
There is a plethora of fine dining in Las Vegas but you can also find some insanely cheap deals. Once again, we head to Downtown Las Vegas for a day of overstuffed cheap eats. Actually, we give you a smallish lunch so you can breath between stuffing your face. Here’s how you can eat in Las Vegas for under $20 a day.
Start your day off soaking up whatever you had the night before with All-You-Can-Eat pancakes for just $4 from Denny’s at Neonopolis on Fremont Street. You may know this Denny’s from its neon lights, you may know if as ‘the Denny’s where you can get married’ or you may not even know it exists since it’s not in a casino. Denny’s on the corner of Fourth Street and Fremont Street near the entrance for Slotzilla. I recommend you wait a little while after stuffing your face before you fly down Fremont Street. If you’re looking to stretch your budget or just don’t need AYCE pancakes you can have a normal stack of pancakes for only $2. There are plenty of deals on the Denny’s $2-$4-$6-$8 menu. Check for yourself.
Lunch – $3.25-$3.95
Pizza isn’t technically a “light” dining option but on this day it feels that way. After you fill your face with pancakes for breakfast you can have a smaller lunch on the other side of Fremont Street at the Plaza. Pop Up Pizza at the Plaza is located just off the sports book at the Plaza and has some of the best affordable slices of pizza you’ll find in Las Vegas. A slice of cheese pizza is only $3.25. If you’re a big eater you shouldn’t worry about just having a single slice pizza. This should be large enough to get you through the afternoon after having all of the pancakes for breakfast. If you’re looking for a slice with toppings you can still find options under $4. You can see the full Pop Up Pizza menu here.
Sometimes it seems as though the most famous food in Las Vegas is Prime Rib. You will find prime rib dinner specials at almost every casino on Fremont Street. Some are cheaper than others but few come with an overwhelming positive impression like the $11.99 Prime Rib dinner at Magnolia’s inside 4 Queens. Your full dinner includes a salad and a side with your Prime Rib. This isn’t the cheapest Prime Rib in downtown Las Vegas but sometimes it’s worth paying a few bucks more for better food. Besides, you’re only spending $20 on meals for the day. Note, you’ll need a 4 Queens players club card for the $11.99 price. The meal is $13.99 without the card.
Downtown Vegas aka Old Vegas aka Fremont Street brings a great collection of new and old Las Vegas fun. Downtown Vegas was more of a gambling pit stop than an destination for much more. That’s changed a lot in the past few years as casinos have been renovated, new shopping areas have been built and new restaurants and have opened.
Today you’ll find some great places to eat that offer a wide spectrum of options from modern to classic and casual to fine dining. Whether you stay in Downtown Vegas or just visit the area it’s now a fantastic location for destination dining. Recently a friend visited Las Vegas from out of town and we specifically made plans to go downtown for dinner one night.
You’ll see that (dinner) recommendation below as I outline 3 meals that you can eat throughout the day for under $30. With that in mind these restaurants are all casual and all delicious. These are all meals that will make you rethink how you dine on a budget in Las Vegas.
Breakfast – $7.75
DuPar’s Restaurant & Bakery at the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino offers diner/cafe style food. To be honest most of the menu is pretty average and few dishes really stand out. The superstar at DuPar’s are the pancakes. Ohhhhhh, the pancakes! These are the most fluffy and perfectly cooked pancakes you’ll find in Las Vegas. They’re topped with a ladle of drawn butter which seems like the secret ingredient that makes the dish. Stick with the short stack for $7.75 so you don’t get too weighed down. This makes the perfect late night snack if you’re in need of a “4th meal” but it’s a great way to start the day.
Lunch – $9.95
Le Thai is one of the newer free standing restaurants you’ll find in Downtown Vegas. It’s located just outside of the Fremont Street Experience in the Fremont East section downtown. The food is all fresh and affordable with most, if not all, dishes under $15. The quality of the food and relative small size make this one of the more crowded restaurants for lunch as it has become a favorite of people that work in Downtown Vegas. Nothing on the menu is outrageously priced but the lunch special may be one of the best deals you’ll find. For $9.95 you’ll get a large, delicious plate of food and a drink. It’s worth the wait if you show up on a busy day.
Dinner – $8
Pizza Rock is another great new(ish) free standing restaurant in Downtown Vegas. It’s located on 3rd Street across from Downtown Grand and one block from the Fremont Street Experience. It’s a fairly progressive pizza restaurant with a menu full of great options. To date, I haven’t had a disappointing meal here. If you’re not in the mood for pizza or other Italian dishes you can step over the the burger section of the menu and have one of the best you’ll find in Las Vegas. While some items on the menu may be pricey there you’ll find one of the best Happy Hour deals in Vegas here. The 3-5-7 Happy Hour is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. until close. You can enjoy an appetizer of 3 meatballs for $3 and a main course of a personal pizza with one topping for another $5. Together you’ll be perfectly full for the night. If you’re a beer drinker you might want to enjoy a few craft beers they offer on tap but we’re just focused on the food today.
These three restaurants offer a great variety of dining from breakfast through dinner. 3 meals for under $30 is hard to beat when you’re on vacation in 2015. If you want to add drinks to your breakfast and dinner you can still dine all day at these restaurants for under $50 per person. Welcome to 1990’s pricing for some of today’s best food!
We’ve discussed the Downtown Vegas resurgence ad nauseam over the past year. It’s easy to forget “Old Vegas” with all of the new restaurants, bars and places to shop that have opened. Today, I want to go back to the roots of Old Vegas. Yes, I’m talking about the casinos. Just about every casino, even the new casinos, have a unique reason to visit.
Plaza – Go here for massive quantities of the twisted farm food at Hash House A Go-Go. This is a great excuse to visit the Plaza whether you’re hungry, hungover or just looking for a bargain.
Main Street Station – Gamblers might want to check out the 20x odds craps game. These are the best craps odds you’ll find in Las Vegas.
California – Visit Lappert’s Ice Cream shop for gourmet ice cream that’s probably unlike any ice cream you’ve had before.
Vegas Club – There are so many rumors as to the future of the Vegas Club that you might want to check it out now. There’s no telling what its future holds.
Golden Gate – If you enter at the Fremont Street entrance just walk all the way to the back. In between the restroom and hotel check in you’ll find a handful of vintage slot machines from the early 1900’s.
Binion’s – Check out the original home of the World Series of poker and take a picture with $1,000,000 cash!
Golden Nugget – Sports fans might want to hang out at one of the best sportsbooks in Downtown Vegas. If you’re looking for something unique check out the largest piece of real gold in the world – the Hand of Faith.
Four Queens – The Patio Bar at 4 Queens is one of the best people watching spots in all of Las Vegas. Grab a drink and have a seat.
The D – Head upstairs to the Vintage Vegas casino and play one of two remaining Sigma Derby games in Las Vegas. The game still uses quarters so you’ll have to visit the cashier before playing.
Downtown Grand – This casino was built on the bones of the Lady Luck casino. It’s the newest casino to open in Downtown Vegas. Unlike some older casinos downtown, everything you’ll find is new so check it out.
El Cortez – The $5 burger and beer lunch special is one of the least expensive lunches you’ll find anywhere in Vegas today!
When I first started visiting Las Vegas my trips were mostly contained to the Vegas Strip. That was the Las Vegas that my friends and I saw on TV and movies and that’s what we wanted to experience. We’d make a day trip to Old Vegas (AKA Downtown Vegas) to see what Las Vegas used to be but we always returned to the Vegas Strip. This was the Vegas vacation that we were supposed to have.
A lot has changed in Old Vegas since I first visited and especially over the past few years. Downtown Vegas still has that “Old Vegas” feel but everything from bars to restaurants to hotels and casinos is far from being old. Not only have many of the hotel-casinos been renovated over the past few years but there are more bars and restaurants than you may remember from visiting years ago. The rejuvenation of Downtown Vegas makes it a great way to flip your vacation upside down and save money on your next trip to Las Vegas.
There are many different Vegas experiences you can have. The difference from spending the majority of your time on the Vegas Strip or in Downtown Vegas is drastic. Let’s look at the prices. You will find a mid-level hotel room in Downtown Vegas for well under $100 per night during the week. That same hotel room might even be under $100 on the weekend. Good luck finding rates like that on the Vegas Strip.
Not everything in Downtown Vegas is cheaper than the Vegas Strip but a lot of things are. You can find less expensive hotel rooms, dining, drinks, casino gaming limits and more in Downtown Vegas then you will on the Strip. Using Downtown Vegas as your headquarters for a Vegas vacation is a great way to experience Vegas and save a little money.
Like every part of Las Vegas you’ll find some fun and free activities available in Downtown Vegas. Here are some of the best free things to do in Downtown Vegas that you can enjoy at all times of the year.
Visit Downtown Container Park
Downtown Container Park opened last year to a lot of fanfare. This opening is a major part of the revitalization of Downtown Vegas beyond the Fremont Street Experience. Located on 7th Street and East Fremont St., the Container Park is laid out like a small outdoor mall surrounding a park with a treehouse for children to the kids. The mall type stores are independently owned shops located inside prefabricated spaces that look like shipping containers (hence the name). There’s a variety of bars, restaurants and stores to enjoy. There’s also a park and a grassy events area for live music or just lounging in the sun.
Summer is here and we’re keeping the fun outside. We’ve recommended some places to eat outside on the Vegas Strip and people watch. We’ve also recommended a handful of places to enjoy ice cream and desserts outside on the Vegas Strip. It’s great to enjoy the heat while beating it with some sweet ice cream.
This week we want to head downtown for 13 great bars and restaurants where you can grab a drink outside. One of the best parts about some of these bars is that they’re located outside but in the shade of the Fremont Street Experience. Sitting in direct sunlight can make it feel upwards of 20 degrees hotter. That makes a world of difference when it’s 115 degrees in the shade.
Bar 46 (Golden Nugget) – Bar 46 is located right on Fremont Street and is a cut out lounge from the Golden Nugget casino. You may even get a slight breeze from the casino air conditioning if you choose the right seat. Note: there may be a 2 drink minimum on busy nights here.
Bier Garten (Plaza) – Bier Garten tries to replicate a traditional beer garden with American craft beer. The beer selection isn’t huge but it’s better than you’ll find in many bars. Sitting outside and drinking beer on fresh grass under the pergola is a nice way to enjoy a day.
Bin 702 (Downtown Container Park) – There are a few bar seats at this wine bar inside of a mock shipping container. Don’t worry about seating, there is ample seating in Downtown Container Park and a lawn nearby. A plate of cheese and meat and a couple glasses of wine are a great way to spend an evening outside in Vegas.
One of the niftiest off the radar free things to do in Las Vegas happens one day a month – and that day in June is the 6th. First Friday happens from 5pm until 11pm on the first Friday of every month (duh). Many cities have First Friday celebrations of their arts and culture areas. Las Vegas’ First Friday celebrates music, art and crafts in Downtown Vegas and it’s a Free event. You can spend all night enjoying music and art for no cost besides any food, drink or art you may purchase.
Unlike many things in Las Vegas, First Friday is family oriented event. It’s variety of artists, vendors and activities are fun for all ages. They have a Kid Zone within the event that has different themes each month. You should not be afraid to bring your kids to First Friday. There’s really no reason for them not to appreciate art while they’re young.
First Friday doesn’t take place underneath the Fremont Street Experience canopy that many people think of when they hear Downtown Vegas. First Friday is celebrated in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas. The hub of First Friday is on Casino Center Blvd in between Colorado St and California St. with an extension on 3rd St and Colorado. As Downtown Vegas has grown so has First Friday. It now includes Fremont East district where you’ll find live art activations and music in Get Back Alley behind Beauty Bar and The Griffin.
Last April Gold Spike Casino in Downtown Vegas closed its doors. A month later Gold Spike reopened under new management as a bar and restaurant and without a casino or hotel. Gold Spike is owned by Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Downtown Project. They own much of what’s new in Downtown Vegas. Gold Spike was great if you were in the mood for $5 Sexy Blackjack but not much more. Gold Spike is different but now has a lot to offer both tourists and locals alike. Here are 6 great things about Gold Spike.
The Gold Spike Grill is open 24 hours a day and offers what you’d expect from a typical casino cafe. The food may be traditional but the neon green paint color and simple white Ikea-style white furniture give this restaurant a modern feel. On the surface the concept of Gold Spike was to leave the casino vibe in the past but it’s not totally gone. It lives at this grill where you can still buy breakfast for $6. In a strange way this is kind of a nostalgic part of Gold Spike
2. Craft Beer
The real winner in the transition of Gold Spike being a casino are the beer drinkers. There are plenty of things to like about Gold Spike and the large, affordable beer menu might be on the top of that list. Craft beers can be found for as little as $5 at all times of the day. You won’t find craft beer at this price in many places unless it’s happy hour.
Downtown Vegas is also known as Old Vegas. It is old Vegas in that much hasn’t changed with the hotels in this area. The transformation into Downtown Vegas is bringing a whole new world to the old into what was once just old. One of the best way’s to understand this is in the restaurants. You can still get the world famous $1.99 shrimp cocktail at DuPar’s inside the Golden Gate hotel but now you can get some of the best pizza in all of Las Vegas in a stand alone restaurant called Pizza Rock.
Casino restaurants and stand alone restaurants are offering both new and traditional dining experiences that cover all cravings. New restaurants are opening regularly and there’s no end in sight. It’s always fun trying new restaurants but it’s even better when those restaurants are good. Not every good restaurant is band new but many are. Here are some of my favorite places to dine downtown.
Pizza Rock – Pizza Rock features 4 different ovens that produce 4 different types of pizza. Good crust is important for good pizza but having top quality sauce and fresh ingredients go a long way in making this some of the best pizza in Las Vegas. The 185 seat restaurant is a relaxed atmosphere that plays rock music at a pretty good volume and has TV’s all over for sports fans to keep an eye on the games. They even have live acoustic music on Sunday for Brunch. While pizza is the main attraction here, don’t sleep on the 100% kobe beef burgers which are delicious. Pizza Rock is located just off Fremont Street at 3rd and Ogden across the street from Downtown Grand.
Now that Treasure Island has cancelled the Sirens of TI show Viva Vision becomes one of the best free shows you can see outside anywhere in Vegas. If you’re not familiar with Viva Vision by name you may be familiar with it from previous visits to Downtown Vegas. Viva Vision is the name of the 10-15 minute long audio and visual show on the Fremont Street Experience canopy every night.
Viva Vision has started in 2004. The loud audio and stunning visuals have captivated people in Downtown Vegas for almost 10 years now. The Fremont Street Experience includes casinos, bars and restaurants over five city blocks that are covered with this canopy of over 2 million lights enhanced by 550,000 watts of sound and special effects. The LED display portion of the canopy runs along the Fremont Street Experience promenade from Main Street to Fourth Street.