It seems like Downtown Las Vegas is giving the strip a run for the money – attracting locals and visitors; showing that Downtown Vegas is where it’s at! What is spurring on this interest in reviving the downtown area? There’s a combination of events including redevelopment and employment that are creatively bringing back the nostalgia and the cool to the Downtown scene. It’s working because downtown Las Vegas is where it’s at!
Here’s what to do and see in downtown Vegas
With a huge infusion of support from local business groups and funding from private and public enterprise, over 1.55 billion has been invested in development projects throughout downtown Las Vegas. A large part of the downtown district has been revitalized and new civic projects have opened including the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and one of a kind museums like the Mob and Neon museums. Even mega apparel giant Zappos (Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a big fan) has donated over $350 million to downtown revitalization projects. He even moved his company’s headquarters downtown. Zappos employees often visit many eateries and attractions close by along with hipsters, creative types, and the younger generation looking for something new and fun to claim as their own. The development has spurred popular new hangouts and attractions to the area and bringing in locals and tourists and there’s lots of free and cheap things to do in Las Vegas especially in the downtown district.
Fremont Street Experience – Of course, the main feature and draw to downtown Las Vegas is the Fremont Street Experience, a cool covered promenade with light shows beaming overhead into the largest ever video walkway. Now you can walk any time rain or shine under a stream of larger than life animation and video. At night the energy kicks up a few notches with live street performances, main stage singers, go-go dancers and the dazzling neon lights from old school casinos turned hip. The entire Fremont Street experience is a fully charged and unique experience that only happens in Downtown Vegas.
East Fremont Street
Just on the other side of the covered promenade and Las Vegas Boulevard, is the uber hip East Fremont Street. an area of old tacky casinos that have been revitalized into cool hangout spots for locals and tourists. Now the area is populated with swanky bars, delicious eateries and night clubs with a variety of evolving performances from indy bands to open mic nights. Start by visiting some of the trendy retro lounges like the Park on Fremont with its quirky outdoor patio or the upstairs rooftop lounge at the Commonwealth bar.
The Mob Museum – 300 E Stewart Ave.
Located in a large, historic neoclassic style building that used to be the courthouse, and post office. It is now filled with educational and interactive displays about organized crime, law enforcement, and the Mafia’s involvement developing Las Vegas. Inside are fascinating artifacts, photographs, dioramas and items used or collected by the mob to control its vast international empire. Fascinating stories, artifacts and interactive displays bring the mafia and their undertaking to life, showing how law enforcement dealt with connected crime syndicates from around the United States. To find out more about the museum and their guided tours, you can check out their website here.
Photo credit: Emily Wilson/Downtown Project
Container Park – 707 Fremont Street
A cool hangout spot in a reclaimed area next to East Fremont street and filled with actual shipping cargo containers that have been refashioned into shops, eateries and galleries. Most nights the amphitheater in the park offers free live performances including music performances, children’s programming, movie nights and variety shows. To find out more about the park and for a calendar of events, you can check out their website here.
The Neon Museum – 770 Las Vegas Blvd. North.
Just beyond the freeway and Las Vegas Blvd North is the Neon Museum, a sprawling outdoor complex lovingly called the ‘Boneyard’. The park has many of the iconic vintage neon signs (over 150 of them) with four still working signs which are restored. Day tours are done on a reservation and there are special night tours to see the neon lights that are still working. To find out more details about the Neon Museum and hours, check out their main website here.
Antique district in downtown Vegas
Within walking distance from the art district is a string of antique stores mostly centered around S Main Street and East Charleston Blvd. Funky and cool shops like Retro Vegas, Vintage Vegas and Medusa’s antiques are the place to go for Vintage Las Vegas swag, kooky collectibles and other kitsch finds. Just look for the giant ape sitting on the sidewalk, colorful buildings and giant dice on the roof and you know that you are in the right location to start finding some antiques and treasures.
Art district 18B
In the downtown district is an area of smaller galleries and shops known as the 18b, just south of the Downtown business district and consisting of 18 blocks of galleries, one of a kind shops, eateries and mixed cultural buildings including the Arts Factory, Arts Square and the Emergency Arts building. Inside you will find emerging artists, fashion designers and other media artists offering a variety of services, art and products from local artists. First Friday of every month is the popular Las Vegas Art experience with live bands, food trucks and art exhibits featuring local talent in a variety of art media and shows for local audiences and occasional tourists that happen to be in Vegas on First Fridays. For more details about the Downtown Art district, programs and calendar, check out their web site here.
Las Vegas Premium Outlet, North – 875 S Grand Central Pkwy.
The North premium outlets contain over 150 discount stores with many popular name brands including: Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, Armani Exchange, Coach, Cole Haan along with many other impressive brands offering great discounts from everyday prices. It is a very popular tourist destination spot and popular with locals in the area. Brands offered include a variety of high-end, middle to mass market brands. There is bus service to the outlets coming from downtown, the strip and the regional bus center. To find out more details about the premium outlets, check out their website here.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts – 361 Symphony Park Ave.
Located downtown is the new world-class performing arts center with three theaters in two buildings. The art deco inspired center features international performing artists including dance companies, touring musical performances and symphony orchestras. The center also hosts local art performance companies including the Las Vegas Ballet theater and the Las Vegas Philharmonic. The center includes the new Discovery Children’s Museum. A unique feature of the center includes a 17 story bell tower with over 47 bells carillon that ring out in four octaves and creates a new focal point in the downtown landscape. For more information about the center and events happening in the various theaters, check out their main website here.
As you can see there’s a lot more going on downtown than old casinos and gambling, the downtown scene is hot again and a very popular draw for tourists and locals to enjoy a different vibe than the Las Vegas strip. To find out more details about activities and current events happening in Downtown Las Vegas, check out their website here.
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Disclaimer: Thank you Downtown Las Vegas Tourism for hosting me on some of the popular venues to visit downtown, all opinions and comments were my own and I had a fantastic time in downtown Vegas.