Downtown Las Vegas • Area guide

Get to know Las Vegas district by district—the best local restaurants and bars, arts and entertainment and things to do in Downtown

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Fremont East is a taste of the old Old Las Vegas

Fremont East is a taste of the old Old Las Vegas © Shutterstock


North of the Strip, Downtown Las Vegas is another world. Sure, there’s been a splash of paint here and an outrageously uninteresting electronic canopy there, but Downtown hadn’t changed much in spirit for decades.

In the 1930s and ’40s, hotels and casinos dotted Fremont Street, then the city’s main commercial drag. But the rise of the Strip and suburban expansion drew trade away from Downtown. The construction of the Fremont Street Experience in 1995, which turned a five-block section of the road into a pedestrian-friendly gambling mall and covered it with a canopy that screens light and sound shows, succeeded in luring some tourists back to Glitter Gulch. Then a 21st-century Downtown began to sprout in 2006. Huge cranes and land-movers arrived, bringing steel beams, glass panes and concrete. With them came entrepreneurs armed with small-scale business plans and modest amounts of capital.

Now there’s never been a better time to discover Downtown, an amorphous amalgamation of things gone right and wrong. By turns sleazy and chic, downcast and upmarket, desperate and enthusiastic, it’s a section of town in which constant and concerted efforts to make something incredible have failed only in specificity. Something wonderful is emerging, just not quite as originally intended.

Downtown restaurants and bars

Atomic Liquors

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

The oldest surviving freestanding bar according to local lore, Atomic Liquors reopened under new ownership after a two-year hiatus. Once a restaurant and later, in the 1950s, a viewing point for the bomb tests conducted in the desert, Atomic toughed it out for many years while Downtown faded away. This stretch of Fremont has greatly improved, so here’s to drinking at the Atomic again! 

  1. 917 E Fremont Street, between S 9th & S 10th streets
More info

Eat.

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

Despite naming her restaurant in a manner guaranteed to be overlooked by anyone searching for food on the internet, owner/chef Natalie Young (who did previous stints at Mr Lucky’s among others) has one thing going for her: she produces damn good comfort food at reasonable prices. Choices like a truffled egg sandwich (breakfast) or a shrimp po’boy (lunch) ensure that the place won’t be mistaken for a old greasy spoon. And that’s a good thing.

  1. 707 Carson Avenue, at S 7th Street
  2. Main courses $9–$13
More info

Griffin

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

This putatively Brit-styled joint is the place to go medieval. Windowless, with an eerie but romantic glow fed by candlelight and fireplaces, the Griffin doubles as an after-work beer pub and a late-night indie-rockin’ haunt. Tattooed hotties pull Stellas while a dollar stirs T-Rex and the Smiths from the juke.

  1. 511 E Fremont Street, at Las Vegas Boulevard South
More info
More restaurants and bars in Downtown

Things to do Downtown

Las Vegas Natural History Museum

This small, enthusiastically run museum doesn't offer much in the way of bells and whistles. The Marine Life Room features small sharks in a large tank, the Wild Nevada Room has exhibits on the flora and fauna of Nevada and the Young Scientist Center has some interactive displays. However, the big draw is five roaring, robotic dinosaurs, among them a vast T-rex. Combine a visit with a trip to the nearby Lied Discovery Children's Museum.

  1. 900 Las Vegas Boulevard North, at E Washington Avenue
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Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort Historic Park

Built by a group of Mormon missionaries in 1855 and then left to become part of the Las Vegas Ranch, this is Vegas's pioneer settlement site, the oldest Euro-American structure in the state and an example of what Vegas was like before the railroad arrived. Though only remnants of the original structure remain, restoration and reconstruction have brought the compound back to life, and guides are on hand to answer any questions you may have.

  1. 500 E Washington Avenue, at Las Vegas Boulevard North
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More things to do in Downtown

Casino highlights in Downtown

Golden Nugget casino

  • Critics choice

The Nugget’s elegant marble lobby may seem out of place on Fremont Street, and the high minimums (mostly $10 for craps and blackjack) in the nicely renovated casino are unusual for Downtown. There’s a segregated pit for players with larger bankrolls who want to play baccarat and blackjack without the hoi polloi; it’s the only high-limit pit Downtown. However, there are also good selections of slot and video-poker machines from low to high denominations. The sports book was relocated to where the buffet used to be; it’s now full-scale. Games: Blackjack ($5–$2,500); craps (3x, 4x, 5x; from $5); keno; Let it Ride; mini baccarat ($5–$2,500); pai gow poker; poker (13 tables); roulette (double zero); three-card poker. Gambling lessons (blackjack, craps, poker, roulette; 10am daily).

  1. 129 E Fremont Street, at S Casino Center Boulevard
More info

El Cortez casino

  • Critics choice

Boasting slots "41%" looser than the Strip, El Cortez is the place to go if you’re short on cash and high on hope. Here you can also still find coin-operated slots, an all-but-extinct animal everywhere else in Las Vegas. Craps minimums go as low as $3, but 10x odds are continuous. Test your luck at roulette for a measly 25 cents. The poker room also has one of the last seven-card stud games you’ll find in Vegas outside tournaments. Games: Blackjack ($3–$500); craps (10x; from $3); keno; mini baccarat ($5–$1,000); poker (3 tables); roulette (double zero).

  1. 600 E Fremont Street, at N 6th Street
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Hard Rock casino

  • Critics choice

A mid 1990s beast it may be, but this is still a hip and extremely popular gambling den. The casino remains small by Vegas standards: only some 800 slots and video-poker machines, and 76 tables. The main floor is one big circle, with an outer hardwood walkway and an elevated bar in the center. Dealers are encouraged to be friendly and enthusiastic; some will even give you a high-five if you hit a natural blackjack, a stunt that would give the pit boss a heart attack anywhere else. Games: Baccarat ($100–$3,000); Big Six; blackjack ($10–$5,000); craps (3x, 4x, 5x; from $5); Let it Ride; mini baccarat ($5-$2,000); pai gow poker; roulette (double zero); three-card poker.

  1. 4455 Paradise Road, at E Harmon Avenue
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More casinos in Downtown

Hotels and resorts in Downtown

El Cortez

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

While not particularly amazing, the rooms have been remodeled and are considerably nicer than they were a few years back. The Ogden House, across the street, has been renovated in an attractive modern design and renamed the Cabana Suites. Recommended if you’re staying Downtown.

  1. 600 E Fremont Street, at N 6th Street, NV 89101
More info

Stratosphere Hotel & Casino

A large pool located on the 8th floor offers sweeping Las Vegas views at this hotel and casino. A flat-screen cable TV is available in all modern rooms. Fashion Show Mall is 2 miles away.A seating area and work desk are available in each room at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. Pay-per-view channels and free toiletries are also included.A 24-hour fitness centre, a Roni Josef spa offering a balance of ancient and scientific approaches to pamper and revitalize guests, and the 1,149 foot tall tower are all featured. The Hotel and Casino Stratosphere features death-defying rides at the top of the tower, as well as unparalleled views of the area.Top Of The World restaurant, 800 feet high and rotating 360 degrees, is on site at the Stratosphere. A classic Las Vegas buffet, offering a Sunday champagne brunch, and the 50s style Roxy’s Diner are also available at the hotel. Level 107 Lounge offers upscale cocktails and appetizers.The Fremont Experience is less than 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel and casino. The Las Vegas Country Club is less than 2 miles away.

  1. 2000 South Las Vegas Boulevard, 31
  2. $31.99 to $274.99 per night
Book online

Excalibur

This castle-themed resort and casino is located in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. The unique resort features a full-service spa, 6 restaurants, 100,000-square-foot casino and live nightly entertainment.Rooms at Excalibur are spacious and equipped with cable TV. Every room has a large bathroom with a hair dryer.The Las Vegas Excalibur provides a large business center and a tour desk. Guests can browse the numerous on-site shops and enjoy a variety of musical and theater entertainment acts, including "Tournament of Kings."The Royal Treatment Spa offers a variety of treatments, saunas and a hair salon. There are 2 outdoor pools featuring a water slide and poolside cabanas. A large gym with modern equipment is also available.Interstate 15 is 1 mile from the resort offering easy access to area attractions. McCarran International Airport is 2.8 miles away and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas is 2.5 miles from the hotel.

  1. 3850 Las Vegas Boulevard South, 09
  2. $27.00 to $267.14 per night
Book online
More hotels in Downtown

Downtown music and nightlife

Beat Coffeehouse & Records

  • Critics choice

Part coffeehouse, eaterie, bar, vinyl record store and music venue, the Beat is Las Vegas’s epicentre for all (anti-establishment) things Downtown. Local musicians play on the stage-less floor at the front of the store, while their fans and friends spill out on to the sidewalk of Fremont Street. Cheap food and strong coffee is available during the day; after 7pm even cheaper beer is served.

  1. 520 E Fremont Street, at 6th Street
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Bunkhouse Saloon

This former country bar closed in the summer of 2013 for a makeover. While that wasn’t welcome news to Bunkhouse fans, who liked the taxidermy-and-cowboy decor, the management promised the redo wouldn’t sacrifice BH’s charm. It’s still too early to tell, but as long as the Bunkhouse keeps up the steady diet of fabulous music nightly, we’ll be OK with it.

  1. 124 S 11th Street, at S Fremont Street
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More clubs and music venues in Downtown

Downtown Shopping

Gamblers General Store

  • Critics choice

This well-stocked shop is packed with gift ideas for that special gambler in your life. There’s gambling-related merchandise here to suit all budgets, from a single casino chip costing a couple of coins to vintage video poker machines. Along with the collectibles are pretty much everything you need to play any of the casino games, including a library of ‘how to’ gaming books

  1. 800 S Main Street, Commerce Street, Downtown
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The Arts Factory

Located smack in the centre of the 18b Arts District, the cavernous Arts Factory – a former warehouse – is home to more than 20 commercial-art tenants. Inside you’ll find the 25-year-old Contemporary Arts Center (382 3886, www.lasvegascac.org), which showcases exhibitions of working artists, as well as studios, a bar and eaterie, and a store (with items created by co-owner Debra Heiser’s design company, www.heiserdesign.com). Exhibitions change monthly, and if you want a sneak peek at what’s coming up, visit on Preview Thursday, which, of course, falls on the day before each month’s First Friday.

  1. 107 E Charleston Boulevard, S 1st Street, Downtown
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Retro Vegas

What happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas – especially if you take a piece of it home with you. This offbeat little shop traffics in Sin City’s ephemera, everything from furniture to curios to vintage ashtrays.

  1. 1131 S Main Street, at W Charleston Boulevard
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More stores in Downtown

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