The large casinos on the Vegas Strip are always upgrading and renovating. Downtown Las Vegas is growing in popularity and that’s showing. Last year the Plaza renovated their rooftop pool deck. The property continues to renovate and upgrade the experience for their customers.
Two other casinos in downtown Las Vegas recently reveals plans to upgrade and expand. The Golden Gate will reveal its new expanded casino in late August. Downtown Grand is just beginning the planning stages of a hotel expansion.
Finding good and unique food in Las Vegas on the cheap can be a challenge. While they might offer great food, some of the restaurants on the Vegas Strip can be pricey. Finding a delicious and interesting meal for under $15 is nearly impossible. Sure you can grab a quick bite a food court or get a sandwich for under $10, but you can do that anywhere.
There’s always something new around the corner in Las Vegas. The Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum was founded in 2002 and moved to Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas in 2008. I’d like to think I know everything, everywhere in Las Vegas but I had no idea about this gallery.
Neonopolis is located at 450 Fremont Street and next to the Slotzilla zip line and across the street from the Fremont Street Experience. This three level complex is now home to Denny’s (and the Denny’s Wedding Chapel), Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum, Fremont Arcade, Banger Brewing, Nerd Bar and much more.
If you’re a tourist you might not be aware that downtown Las Vegas is actually synonymous with art. The Arts District in Las Vegas is located in-between Fremont Street and the Stratosphere. There are plenty of art galleries and stores on the Vegas Strip. However, the Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum is the only art gallery located in the touristy area of downtown Las Vegas.
The Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum features over 20,000 square feet of exhibit area. The space includes the main gallery, a special exhibitions gallery, and a small works gallery. The non-profit gallery provides exhibit space for local, regional and International artists to display their current work. You can actually donate money to show your own art.
Beginning Thursday, June 1 Cirque du Soleil will have its annual art exhibition at the Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum. The Collective is a collection of artworks created by the company’s performers, technicians, and staff in Las Vegas. This is the 12th year of the art exhibition. Serving as a creative outlet for employees, the exhibit will be on display for a limited time, June 1 – 30 from Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12 – 5 p.m.
“Residents will have the opportunity to ‘get to know their neighbors’ as we reveal another side of our employees through their artwork,” said Lou D’Angeli, Vice President of Marketing & Public Relations for Cirque du Soleil. “In hosting The Collective each year, we are able to shine the spotlight on their unique talents, creating an even greater connection between us and the community.”
This art show isn’t just for locals. Tourist will enjoy The Collective display that includes Cirque du Soleil-owned art pieces, props, and costumes from various productions along the Vegas Strip. Among the items featured will be a Jester-patterned aluminum chainmail shirt by Michael Rawlins of “O”, a 3/4 scale animatronics robot by Preston Altree of Michael Jackson ONE and memorabilia from the Cirque du Soleil shows on The Strip. The full list will be announced at a later date.
The full list of items will be announced at a later date. You can visit mglv.org for more information. The Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum entry fee for this show is only $5.
Art isn’t the only thing on display at Neonopolis. Banger Brewing offers free tours of their brewing facilities daily. These tours are limited to 8 people so reserving a space in advance is recommended. Thankfully, you can make reservations online at bangerbrewing.com.
You’re never more than a few minutes from a drink when you’re in Las Vegas. The time to find a drink can be reduced in downtown Las Vegas where just about everything is closer than the Vegas Strip. There’s a drink for everyone whether you’re grabbing a yard of red slushy booze or sitting down for a craft cocktail that has so many ingredients that takes five minutes to create.
There was a day when drinking in Old Vegas was limited to well drinks and draft beer. That’s not the case any longer in downtown Las Vegas. Not only are there some great standalone bars but the casino bars have gotten better. Here’s a look at some of the best places to grab a drink in downtown Las Vegas.
You can find a mixed drink at any casino bar. However, not every bar can craft a delicious cocktail where every ingredient is carefully measured and poured. You’ll have to leave the casino in downtown Las Vegas to find some of the best cocktails in town.
- Commonwealth – Watch the bartender carefully make a cocktail, sneak away to the semi-private Laundry Room or just grab a beer and head outside to the second-floor deck,
- Downtown Cocktail Room – Dark and viby lounge with a unique cocktail menu. The drinks are delicious and different than you’ll find in the casinos. Good luck finding the door on your first visit.
You can find mass distributed beer everywhere in downtown Las Vegas. Heck, you can get a football filled with Coors Light. While a football of beer is fun, there’s something to be said for a delicious craft beer.
- Banger Brewing – Fremont Street’s first craft brewery makes their beer on site. Sit and relax with a flight of beer or grab a strong beer on to go. They offer free tours if you’re curious about beer making.
- Pizza Rock – Fantastic craft beer selection at great prices. Visit during Happy Hour for discounts on already low prices. The food is a great addition but you really can’t beat these prices in downtown Las Vegas for craft beer.
Just about everything in downtown Las Vegas is less expensive than the Vegas Strip. Drinks are no different. Here are a couple of options for extremely inexpensive drinks. You won’t find the fanciest drinks in town but you’ll find some good low priced options to get the day rolling.
- El Cortez – They have cheap beer and drinks every day with even more special Happy Hour deals. You’ll even find top shelf drinks $5 (as of this writing a Patron margarita is $5).
- Fremont – This casino is located right by the 3rd Street stage at the Fremont Street Experience. This is the stage where many of the free concerts are held. Run into the casino for $3 Corona, Bud Light or Heineken in between songs.
Casino bars in downtown Las Vegas are great because they’re still serving up complimentary cocktails while you gamble. I’m partial to one casino because they offer two very different great casino bar experiences.
- The D – Longbar – Energy, excitement, loud music, flair bartenders, new TV’s and a good beer selection highlight this bar on the main casino floor. This is a great bar to get the party started or to watch the games in downtown Las Vegas.
- The D – Vue Bar – Great video poker, mellow vibe, and heavy pours are the highlights of this bar on the second floor of the casino. The video poker pay tables are better at Vue Bar than most in downtown Las Vegas casino bars – including Longbar. This is one of the best places to play video poker while drinking.
Grab n Go
Casinos are great but there’s so much more to the Fremont Street Experience. Walking the mall of the casinos, watching bands and the Viva Vision light shows can be nicely complimented with a drink. Grab a beer, frozen drink, or mixed drink in a souvenir cup and enjoy VEGAS BABY!
- The D – D Bar takes the Longbar outside with a good selection of beer, frozen drinks, souvenir containers, and dancers across the bar. The location next to the Third Street stage is great for concerts but you may end up hanging closer to the bar to make sure the dancers are safe.
- Golden Gate – Very similar to D Bar but next to the First Street stage. This is a great place to start your trip down the mall of casinos.
Las Vegas was made for drinking outdoors. The weather is beautiful most of the year so why not enjoy it? Between bars, casinos, restaurants, and malls there are more places to drink outside in downtown Las Vegas than ever.
- 4 Queens – The patio bar is right on Fremont Street. Watch a show on the 3rd Street stage or enjoy some of the best people watching in Las Vegas. Drinks are cheap and there are tacos nearby.
- Gold Spike – The backyard at Gold Spike is chock full of games from giant cornhole to massive beer pong. If it gets chilly at night, but snuggle up near one of the fire pits. The outdoor part of this bar is one of the unique adult playgrounds in Las Vegas.
This year the Life Is Beautiful festival takes place Friday, September 22 through Sunday, September 24 in downtown Las Vegas. Gorillaz, Muse, Lorde, Chance the Rapper, and Blink 182 will headline the music portion of the three-day festival. There are plenty more popular artists performing at the festival this year. Here’s the lineup announcement.
Since being introduced Life Is Beautiful has become a part of the evolving culture in downtown Las Vegas. Over the years musicians like Kendrick Lamar, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, and the Foo Fighters have graced the main stages of the festival. Hundreds of more bands have performed at Life Is Beautiful over the years. You can see a list of performers here.
While music may be the calling card of the Life Is Beautiful festival there is so much more. The Life Is Beautiful festival is more than just another concert. This is a music, arts, culinary, and learning festival is spread out all over the Fremont East section of downtown Las Vegas. In addition to bands you’ll see, hear, and taste food, science, art, comedy, and more.
Life Is Beautiful will have an interactive art experience once again. The festival will bring back the popular Art Motel installation. It will be reimagined by Santa Fe art collective Meow Wolf. The festival will bring back the popular “Crime on Canvas” art exhibit. Festival guests can view and purchase original artwork and rare prints by local, national, and international artists. The gallery will display work by Matt Skiba, Mark Ryden, Shag, Tara McPherson, Shepard Fairey, Brandon Boyd, and more.
The education portion of Life Is Beautiful will be highlighted by another appearance from Bill Nye (the science guy). Thousands saw Bill Nye’s 2015 appearance where when he talked about the changing world and being a speck in the universe. You can watch the 30-minute talk below.
The comedy showcase will return to the festival with performances by comedians that you may be familiar with if you watch Comedy Central. Matthew Broussard, Mike Lawrence, and Jo Firestone headline the lineup this year.
Food, Drink, And More
There will also be a culinary and cocktails section at Life Is Beautiful where you can enjoy food and beverages created by famous chefs and mixologists. Even more entertainment and art and entertainment will be announced leading up to the festival.
Downtown Las Vegas
The festival isn’t the only thing that makes Life Is Beautiful a unique experience. Life Is Beautiful isn’t contained to one giant space like other festivals. Everything is spread out throughout the urban areas of downtown Las Vegas. You’ll have to navigate a huge map and many street blocks to find everything. You should wear comfortable shoes for walking. The location is part of the fun for many people that have attended in the past.
You can find more information on tickets and performers at lifeisbeautiful.com.
Downtown Las Vegas hotels are getting better every year. There was a time where some of the properties were run down and beat up. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case for a few years now. Many of the hotels have been renovated in the past 5 years or so. If you visit the California, you may find room renovations that were finished in the past few weeks.
The rooms and casinos aren’t the only improvements you’ll find in downtown Las Vegas casino-hotels. Many restaurants have been updated and upgraded. Unfortunately, there’s one important renovation for the summer that you won’t find at every hotel. There’s nothing like the pool scene on the Vegas Strip. There’s something for everyone whether you just want to relax or you want to enjoy music.
Well, when Downtown Grand opened in 2013, the property brought a new and improved pool experience. The pool was one of the nicest pools at a downtown Las Vegas hotel. Much like the casino as a whole, the pool area at Downtown Grand has already been improved. There’s new decor, outdoor gaming, food, and drink.
The pool area at Downtown Grand, known as Citrus, is now more than 35,000 square feet large. This pool deck has an infinity pool, restaurant and full bar, very affordable semi-private cabanas, a fire pit, backyard games like cornhole, foosball, and table tennis. There’s even a grassy seating area with umbrellas and outdoor day beds.
This year, Downtown Grand is adding, even more, fun to their pool scene beginning May 4. Take a look:
Thursday – Old School by the Pool
Enjoy “back-in-the-day” R&B hits poolside every Thursday night, presented by the valley’s own KOAS Old School 105.7. For the launch on May 4 at 8 p.m. catch Next Movement. Upcoming bands and performers include Phil Flowers, NA Fect, Sons of Soul, and Rhythm Nation.
Friday – Dance Party Kicking Off with Shakira Tribute Band featuring Lorena Peril
Poolside dance party every Friday night? Yes, please. Kicking off on May 5 – Cinco de Mayo – with a Shakira Tribute Band featuring Lorena Peril, hangout poolside every Friday night with KLUC’s Morning Zoo personality, Kayla, and watch local favorite on-air talent Davey The ShowKiller serving as DJ.
Saturday – Rock Nation
Summer Saturdays will rock at Citrus with 92.3 KOMP and 97.1 The Point alternating throughout the weeks. A combination of live bands and DJ-driven nights including a monthly Albumpalooza show – a concert that highlights classic and timeless albums played live – will turn the pool deck into a classic rock concert every Saturday night. The fun kicks off on Saturday, May 6 with Albumpalooza: A Tribute to “Zeppelin IV.”
Sunday – Noche de Ritmo
La Buena 101.9 presents a tequila-friendly combination of live bands and a DJ. Noche De Ritmo or Rhythm Night begins Sunday, May 7 with Banda Corazon Sinaloense taking the stage.
This is the perfect use of a pool area in Las Vegas. You can relax at the pool during the day with a book while you work on your tan. At night you can party outside with a beautiful summer breeze. In-between time at the pool you can grab a drink and snack during Happy Hour at Pizza Rock, play some blackjack in the casino, or walk down the street to see the Fremont Street Experience.
There are many people looking for places to stay in Las Vegas that are less expensive than the Vegas Strip. The great pool scene at Downtown Grand will help separate it from the other options in the area.
One of the very best free activities in Las Vegas is the free entertainment in downtown Las Vegas at the Fremont Street Experience. During most of the year, you’ll find local bands, tribute bands, DJ’s and other forms of entertainment on the three stages under the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience.
The quality of the entertainment gets even better during the summer when the Fremont Street Experience hosts a variety of well-known national touring bands. That tradition will continue this summer as the Fremont Street Experience presents The Downtown Rocks summer concert series.
The big-name free entertainment gets a boost this summer from a different venue. The Downtown Grand casino, just a block away from the Fremont Street Experience, offers their free Rock The Street concert(s).
Downtown Rocks will host performances by the Rock’n Road Trip Tour with Fuel, Tonic, and more (June 10), Rick Springfield (August 12), Seether (August 26), Collective Soul (September 1) and Chevelle (September 30). Rock The Street with Vince Neil will take place on Sunday, May 27, and will be headlined Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe. Todd Kerns & the Anti-Stars and open the show.
“This year we’re kicking things up a notch with our new summer concert series, Downtown Rocks,” says Patrick Hughes, CEO, and president of Fremont Street Experience. “The free concert series is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our tremendous, loyal fans. Their support and patronage allow us to show our appreciation in the best way we know how, by throwing parties and free concerts featuring top acts all summer long that deliver exciting, quality entertainment experiences for our fans.”
The Fremont Street Experience will be adding, even more, national touring bands as the summer gets closer. Keep an eye on this post as we’ll update the list of events. All concerts are free to enter but have different entry processes. The concerts at the Fremont Street Experience are ticket-free shows so just show and and have fun.
You should note that these free concerts are always crowded. Arrive early for the best spot. The best spot for these concerts will be different for everyone. Some people may want to stand close to the stage for the best view while others might want to stand near an exit for a quick run to the bar or restroom. It will take a few minutes to navigate from the front of the stage through the huge crowd if you don’t plan on watching the entire concert.
While “Rock The Street” is free, you need a ticket to enter. You can obtain tickets for the Vince Neil performance from the Downtown Grand website. Tickets are limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Downtown Grand will have other events during the summer so keep an eye on this page of their website.
Here’s a current list of free concerts in downtown Las Vegas this summer (all shows at the Fremont Street Experience unless noted):
May 26: Theory of a Dead Man
May 27: Rock The Street with Vince Neil (tickets here for Downtown Grand)
June 10: Rock’n Road Trip Tour with Fuel, Tonic, Marcy Playground, and Dishwalla
July 3: Ann Wilson of Heart
July 22: Good Charlotte
August 12: Rick Springfield
August 26: Seether
September 1: Collective Soul
September 30: Chevelle
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!
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