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.
Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gaming and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Check out his blog at Edge Vegas.
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