If you’ve got a preconceived image of Downtown Las Vegas, it’s probably a list of tired hipster stereotypes: tech start-ups, mustaches, Instagrammable cupcakes… However, if you wander the neighborhood in search of Portland or Austin, you’ll be disappointed. Downtown Las Vegas is not Brooklyn—and that’s precisely what makes it great.
Yes, if you walk east on Fremont Street (the area’s main artery), you’ll find elderflower cocktails in mason jars, vintage T-shirts and art installations from Burning Man. But you’ll also witness the things that make Vegas Vegas: smoky casinos, Elvis impersonators and visitors from around the world dancing in the streets because it’s Vegas, and you can.
Stand on the corner of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard at dusk and watch the neon lights transform the neighborhood into a surreal, technicolor landscape where one gets the sense that anything could happen. So what’s next? Here’s how to do Downtown right.
If you only do one thing…
What was once an abandoned 1940s motel on East Fremont is now Fergusons Downtown, a community space centered around ‘Big Rig Jig’: a 42-foot art piece made of 18-wheeler trucks suspended in the air. Shop for stained glass jewelry at Neon Cactus, sip a matcha cucumber spritzer at the Art Deco-inspired Mothership Coffee Roasters and dream about living in Private Residential, the nearby village of tiny houses.
Soak up the sun
When 110-degree days make the pavement sizzle, head to the Citrus Grand Pool Deck at the Downtown Grand to drink frosé in a rooftop infinity pool overlooking Downtown Las Vegas.
Nestled among the bungalows and trees of the Lawyer’s Row subdistrict you’ll find The Writer’s Block: an independent bookshop, café and self-proclaimed “artificial bird sanctuary”. Attend a poetry reading, find your next great read and maybe even leave with a faux blue jay.
Venture away from the casinos to find the neighborhood’s best brunch at PublicUs. Order the buttermilk fried chicken with spicy bourbon sauce and kimchi and savor it in the sun-soaked space.
A half-mile away on Carson Avenue is VegeNation, serving plant-based takes on everything from buffalo (cauliflower) wings to pho.
Over on Third Street, Pizza Rock offers every style imaginable, from Neapolitan to Detroit red-top. Don’t skip the award-winning Cal Italia, topped with fig preserve, gorgonzola and prosciutto.
Slip into the ground floor of The Ogden and you’ll find the James Beard-nominated Flock and Fowl. This sleek, intimate joint is famous for its simple yet memorable Hainanese chicken rice.
No trip to Downtown Las Vegas is complete without a drink at Atomic Liquors, the city’s oldest freestanding bar. Grab a craft beer, take a seat on the patio and imagine the days when patrons would watch mushroom clouds unfurl at the Nevada Test Site.
For another dose of history with a side of liquor, head to The Underground. The password-protected basement speakeasy at The Mob Museum distills moonshine on-site and throws Prohibition-themed parties with live jazz.
If you’re looking for a cocktail bar with a view, check out Whiskey Licker Up at Binion’s Gambling Hall. Situated beneath a glass dome on Fremont Street, this circular bar rotates 360 degrees every 15 minutes.
How to get to Downtown Las Vegas
Downtown Las Vegas is located a full two miles north of the Strip. If that’s where you’re coming from, ride The Deuce bus to Fremont Street – it leaves every 15 to 20 minutes, 24 hours a day.
What else is nearby?
The nearby Arts District is home to galleries, antique shops, bars, restaurants and street art. Visit during the monthly First Friday event and tour open studios.