Back to the future for downtown Las Vegas
Vegas always has to be different. In most cities, downtown is where the action is. But in Vegas it’s where the action was — before the development of The Strip five miles south.
Downtown Vegas is bouncing back. The city and local businesses are actively revitalizing the area, which centers around Fremont Street, the first paved street in the city. Nicknamed Glitter Gulch, Fremont Street is where famous casinos like the Golden Nugget and Binion’s Horseshoe stand. Both have stayed happily retro compared to the modern luxury resorts on the Strip.
Apart from old-fashioned casinos, downtown’s main attraction has long been the nightly lightshow at the Fremont Street Experience. Four blocks long, the canopy above the street has 12.5 million LED lights and provides a display as spectacular as anything you’ll find on the Strip.
However, until recently there wasn’t much else to persuade people to catch a cab or take the Deuce bus out to Fremont Street if they were staying on the Strip. That’s all changed, though, and downtown has new hotels and restaurants, more shopping, and several major Vegas attractions getting a second life.
One of the best is the Mob Museum, officially named the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (www.themobmuseum.org). Since it opened in 2012 it’s been reason enough on its own for visitors to head downtown. It’s an enthralling look at organized crime, and the battle against it, throughout history, with Las Vegas playing a major role, of course. It’s housed in the former courthouse, where many Mafia trials took place.
Insert Coin(s) (www.insertcoinslv.com) on Fremont East is a bar with DJs and a huge collection of vintage video games, some going back over 30 years, like Frogger and Defender.
Also for vintage fans, The Boneyard at the Neon Museum (www.neonmuseum.org) in northern downtown collects and restores old neon signs. A guided tour here is a fascinating walk through Las Vegas’s history, as downtown celebrates its past while now also looking to its future.
Other attractions downtown:
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts: Check out the programs for the three performance spaces in this impressive new $470-million center in Symphony Park, home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre.
DISCOVERY Children’s Museum: This three-story house of fun and education in Symphony Park that will keep kids happy for hours.
Downtown Container Park: This unique place takes old shipping containers and converts them into fashionable shops, bars, and restaurants, with live entertainment too.
For more Las Vegas travel tips, go to www.insightguides.com.