When most people come to visit Las Vegas, they come to see the Strip. The Las Vegas Strip is where the hotels are, the shows, the nightclubs, concerts, etc. But if you only ever see the Strip while you’re visiting, you’re missing out on a lot of what gives Las Vegas its character. Downtown Las Vegas is a colorful section of the city packed with a lot of history, things to do, and places to eat, including but not limited to:
The D Las Vegas
For the best chance at a Golden Knight sighting, check out the D. Formerly known as Fitzgerald’s, the D has operated under its new name and branding since 2012. Its located right on Fremont Street, so you can experience a bulk of what downtown has to offer without a lot of driving, including Fremont Street Experience. It’s the only hotel that accepts Bitcoin (if that’s your thing) and their partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights organization means they host a number of events with the team throughout the season, including Fan Fest and watch parties. If you’ve got the cash for it, eat at Andiamo’s one night – you might spot a hockey player doing the very same thing.
The Golden Nugget
For an old school Vegas experience, stay at The Golden Nugget. It’s one of the oldest operating hotel/casinos in the city, second only to the Flamingo, which opened in 1946. The Golden Nugget served as a backdrop for a handful of films over the years, including Smokin’ Aces with Ben Affleck and the Bond installment Diamonds Are Forever. If you decide to stay or visit, check out the Hand of Faith on display (it’s one of the largest gold nuggets known to exist), or the sharks inside (or around, really) the swimming pool.
The 4 Queens
The 4 Queens has been welcoming guests to downtown Las Vegas since 1966. They are one of the few hotels in the city without a pool or a buffet, but they also don’t charge resort fees so it’s a great option if you’re traveling on a budget. They also have free slot pulls, so you might not only save money by staying at the 4 Queens, but you might even make some money.
Places to Eat
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If you want to go bar-hopping in downtown Las Vegas, start at the Smashed Pig. It’s a little gastropub on Fremont Street, across the street from Evel Pie and the neon martini sign. The featured menu item is their pigtails, which pair well with many of the beer selections they have to offer. I’m more partial to the Pub Burger myself, but that’s because it’s got one thing that the pigtails don’t – a fried egg. The food selection is limited, but the quality of what they offer more than makes up for it.
Park on Fremont
Park on Fremont is a new favorite of mine. If you’re not paying attention you might miss it; it’s located right next to Evel Pie, and the layout almost makes it look like Park is an extension of the pizza place. It’s not. This tiny little restaurant is situated between the pizza parlor and the Lyft art installation from this year’s Life is Beautiful festival. Their menu is mostly American, and the cocktails are to die for. Eat on the patio if weather permits; the view is unbeatable, especially on a warm summer evening.
If you’ve never been to a ramen restaurant, or you love ramen, try Shinya. It’s a newer addition to downtown, around the corner from the El Cortez and Emergency Arts Building. Besides the delicious food, Shinya gets extra points for its creativity with its dishes. There’s the “Endless Edamame Love”, “Killing Me So Softly”
Check out free art
Downtown Las Vegas has gotten a face lift in recent years, and that has a lot to do with the urban artists that use the space as a means to showcase their work. Park on 6th Street, get out of your car and just start walking. I wouldn’t recommend doing this at night if you’re by yourself, but it’s a free (other than parking), easy way to experience a different side of Las Vegas.
Fremont Street is full of performers at any given time of day. You’ll find drummers, break dancers, Stormtroopers dressed as mariachis, women dressed as pirates in pasties, contortionists and, if you’re luck, live bands playing on the 1st and 3rd Street Stages.
Swim with sharks
Mandalay Bay isn’t the only place with sharks in this town. The Golden Nugget keeps a few of the predators on deck, with their tanks running adjacent to the guest swimming pool. The sharks can’t get anywhere near you if you’re in the water, but it certainly looks like they can. If you don’t want to get near the sharks, it’s still worth checking out; the entire pool area, including the 200,000 gallon tank, cost nearly 30 million dollars to make.