The secret is out and the cat has left the bag! Downtown Las Vegas is a hidden gem in the city of glitter and glam. Metaphorically speaking, the new Downtown experience is the winning jackpot in casinoland!
- Courtesy of city of Las Vegas, Erin O’Boyle Photographics
A BRIEF HISTORY
On May 15, 1905, a railroad land auction created the Las Vegas Township, and launched the development of a dynamic city whose legend would be brought to life through a commitment to pioneering and entrepreneurship. Located in Las Vegas’ historic downtown area, the birthplace of Las Vegas, Fremont Street has been the site of numerous “firsts” for the city. Through mid 1900’s until the late 1990’s, the famed STRIP became the highlight of the city drawing in millions of visitors from around the world. However, the plethora of themed casinos and world famous entertainment acts on the Strip meant visitors had little reason to venture beyond. Other factors such as dramatic increase in land prices on the Strip and the growth of suburbia led to a stagnation of the Downtown sector. It was around the late 1990’s, when the Downtown Revitalization had just commenced, that I had visited Downtown. Back then it was an area you did not hang around for long unless you were looking for trouble. In 2014, I visited the Downtown again. It has been so trans-formative that it is now THE place to hang with the cool kids of Vegas and a place where you go to seek fun and adventure for both singles and families.
- Downtown Container Park Credit: Emily Wilson for Downtown Container Park
THE FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE
The redevelopment of Fremont Street began in the 1990’s with the opening of the Fremont Street Experience in 1995 that converted three blocks of the road into a pedestrian-only plaza and offers visitors a spectacular light and sound show under a $70 million canopy. This entire area is closed to vehicular traffic and becomes an outdoor nightclub [A Night at the Roxbury, anyone?]
Check out this short video (1 min) of the Canopy show (wait for the spectacular ending)
The attraction is now also home to Slotzilla zip line that is 77 feet high and 850 feet long. Imagine zooming over a street party at speeds faster than 35 miles per hour. [Crazy. Love it. This is THE place where I would love to see Moby play live]
Fremont East Entertainment District opened just east of Las Vegas Boulevard and consists various non-gaming nightclubs, lounges and entertainment hotspots to the area.
Money Saving Tip: The first Friday of the month holds a free-entry street festival called……what else…First Friday that hosts a plethora of visual and performing arts, live music, food, and people.
DOWNTOWN CONTAINER PARK
The Downtown Container Park opened in 2013 and is the highlight of the Downtown Project. Located at Seventh and Fremont Streets, the Downtown Container Park is a sustainable shopping and dining attraction that is home to numerous small businesses, which set up shop inside more than two dozen, 250 sq. ft. re-purposed shipping containers and 41 modular metal cubes. The Downtown Container Park also has a center courtyard with a giant tree-house playground, a stage for live entertainment, and its iconic, fire-breathing praying mantis! [That last one is a tribute to another very famous festival held in Nevada every year. Can you guess which one? Hint: Desert]
- Container Park Entrance Credit: Emily Wilson for Downtown Container Park
Money Saving Tip: Container Park offers free live music every day, and every Thursday night there is a free movie in the park. Additionally, families are always welcome to come and play at the Container Park Treehouse, regardless of whether or not they make a purchase at Container Park
THE ARTS DISTRICT
Culture took a front seat in downtown Las Vegas in 2012-2013 with the openings of the $453 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts, as well as the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum.
- Courtesy of city of Las Vegas, Erin O’Boyle Photographics
Other notable places in this District include the Neon Museum and Boneyard and the educational and entertaining Mob Museum.
- The Neon Museum Boneyard
Money Saving Tip: Look for combo tickets to the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum (plus other attractions) to save money on entrance fees. If you are an existing member of any Museum in Canada, check to see if it participates in the North American Reciprocal Museum Association which allows you visit member museums free of charge.
The famous shoe retailer (now part of Amazon) relocated in to the 40-year-old former City Hall building and invested more than $40 million dollars worth of renovations. It offers complimentary tours to the public (limited space and gets booked up well in advance). A tour of the space gives you insight on the workings of the creative class that occupy the space, as well as a glimpse in to the historical building and some notable artwork inside. You can book your tour by signing up here.
Courtesy of Zappos.com
Money Saving Tip: Not only is the Zappos Culture tour offered complimentary to the registrants but also at the end of the tour the company offers you the option to purchase notable bestsellers (book format only) at subsidized prices.
THE GRACELAND WEDDING CHAPEL
One of the first things people think of when thinking of iconic Vegas is a wedding chapel and Elvis! Even better to combine the two at the Graceland Wedding Chapel.
- Image Source: Graceland Chapel
Notable Canada Link: Brendan Paul (seen in image above) is the owner of the chapel and has traveled throughout Canada every year for the past decade. For years Brendan was the traveling Elvis to help promote Las Vegas throughout the world. He has been to almost every province in Canada, including Alberta. Canada is their #1 international market with over 650 couples from Canada last year tying the knot there.
Celebrity appearances include Elvis Presley himself, Jay Leno, Johnny Depp, while Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Ray Cyrus, Rob Zombie and band members from popular rock groups such as Def Lepard, Deep Purple, KISS, The Beastie Boys and The Thompson Twins were married here! Ceremonies are in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese.
Tip: As the chapel is open every day of the year, securing a wedding date is usually no problem. However if the time of day is important to a bride and groom, the making a reservation as soon as possible is highly recommended. Keep in mind that popular matrimonial dates such as Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve fill up quickly. Many chapels in town will assess a surcharge for large groups or weekend weddings. Graceland Wedding Chapel is NOT one of them! Come one, come all; the more the merrier, there’s no additional fees for Saturday or Sunday weddings or for ceremonies with large groups.
PARK ON FREMONT
Park on Fremont spruces up Downtown Las Vegas with innovative bar fare and an eclectic art collection set in a laid-back area for dining indoors and antique tables in a lush garden outdoors.
- Image by Anthony Mair. All rights reserved.
The rustic 2,500-square-foot interior boasts dark woods, a reclaimed herringbone floor and a 1960s-era jukebox. Out back, plants and flowers overtake the landscape of the patio, creating objects d’art from eroded items such as a footed bathtub overlooking the outdoor bar and a Cinderella-style carriage situated on the rooftop. [There is a secret area out back here that is not obvious at first glance to visitors]
I have highlighted only a few of the notable places to visit in Downtown Las Vegas. There are several others but why would I spoil the surprise for you. Instead I leave it to your sense of adventure to discover other notable secrets and delights of the modern Downtown district.
Acknowledgements: The Downtown District media tour was arranged by Amy E. S. Maier of Faiss Foley Warren. This story is part of a series of blog posts on Downtown Las Vegas revitalization projects.
Category: Budget Adventure Travel, Las Vegas, USA Jaunts