While the Strip is typically the top destination for tourists in Las Vegas, you’ll want to spend at least one day in the area known as Downtown.
Located in the official city of Las Vegas, Downtown is a little looser and low key. It’s also synonymous with vintage Sin City style and history. So check out some of the best attractions in this exciting can’t-miss part of Las Vegas.
The Fremont Street Experience
Downtown is most famous for the Fremont Street Experience. The five-block stretch is closed to traffic and now operates as a pedestrian mall with shops, bars, restaurants, and casinos. Most of it sits underneath the massive Viva Vision canopy, which displays music and video shows on high-definition screens. Make a point to snap a photo with “Vegas Vic”, the iconic neon cowboy.
Downtown Container Park
This is one Downtown attraction everyone always wants to check out. The collection of shops, bars, and restaurants is built from old cargo shipping containers. It’s a great place to buy souvenirs, grab a cocktail at Oak & Ivy or eat one of the best hotdogs in Vegas at Cheffini’s. At the center of it all is a playground and treehouse to keep youngsters busy while the adults focus on shopping. The giant praying mantis out front, which shoots fire, is a sure sign you’ve arrived.
Explore Vegas history at a museum
Learn about the culture and history of Las Vegas at a wide range of museums. The Neon Museum is an outdoor collection of vintage marquees preserved, restored and maintained in optimum condition. It’s best to visit at night when the sun is down and the lights are on. The Mob Museum is dedicated to Las Vegas’ long history of organized crime. It’s in the old courthouse where mobsters were once prosecuted and recently added a working Prohibition-style speakeasy and distillery in the basement. The newest museum is Cannabition, an art installation dedicated to marijuana, which is now legal in Nevada. You can’t smoke here, but you can take plenty of selfies among the photogenic exhibits.
Take flight with the only Downtown zipline. Slotzilla shoots riders out of a towering replica of a slot machine, sending them speeding across the Fremont Street Experience and over crowds of tourists below. Choose to fly either vertical or horizontal like Superman. At 40 miles per hour, it’s definitely one of the best ziplines in all of Las Vegas.
On the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard is Fremont East, a small collection of bars and restaurants that are geared a little more to locals than tourists. Highlights include Beauty Bar (designed after a vintage beauty parlor with an outdoor patio for concerts), the Griffin (which stays busy with fire pits and a nice beer list) and the Downtown Cocktail Room (which helped set the standard for the craft cocktail revival in Las Vegas). Eureka has great burgers, cocktails and a patio for people watching, while Therapy serves modern American food in a modern gastropub setting. For some of the most player-friendly gambling in town, head to the casino at the historic El Cortez.
Take in a show
While the entertainment doesn’t have the big budgets of what you’ll find on the Strip, Downtown has more than a few options for having fun and saving a few dollars. A Mob Story is hosted by a former real-life mob boss, Michael Franzese, who share stories from his life in between high-energy dance numbers. Marriage Can Be Murder is an interactive dinner theater experience at The D, in which guests watch a mystery unfold throughout the evening. Defending the Caveman, also at The D, is a long-running comedic look at relationships. You’ll find the combination of comedy and magic with Adam London at The D or Mike Hammer at the Four Queens. For more traditional Vegas-style entertainment, catch Spirit of the King, a tribute to Elvis at the Four Queens or Hypnosis Unleashed with Kevin Lepine at Binion’s.
Discover Downtown Dining
Downtown Las Vegas has some of the best restaurants in Vegas — often at prices far lower than what you’ll find on the Strip. Your best bet is Carson Kitchen, the final business venture for late chef Kerry Simon. It’s an inventive place for gastropub cuisine and a menu that changes with the season. If you prefer a classic steakhouse, Oscar’s at the Plaza, Andiamo at The D, Vic & Anthony’s at the Golden Nugget, Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens, Top of Binion’s or the Triple George Grill might be more your speed. Pizza Rock leads the downtown pizza options, followed by Evel Pie and Pop Up Pizza at the Plaza.
One of the busiest tourist destinations in Vegas is the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars. The lines are long out front, but fans love to see where the reality show is filmed — and maybe even buy a few things for themselves. It’s next door to Pawn Plaza, a two-story retail complex with awesome East Coast pizza from Good Pie and barbecue from Rick’s Rollin’ Smoke.
The Smith Center is a magnificent building where Las Vegas goes to celebrate the performing arts. Reynolds Hall hosts touring Broadway shows, the Philharmonic, and the Nevada Ballet. There’s also Myron’s Cabaret for small concerts and jazz acts, and the Troesh Studio Theater for minimalist black box productions.
Downtown Arts District
The fastest growing section of Downtown Las Vegas is the Arts District. The area is famous for its second-hand thrift stores and budget shops but also has a vibrant culinary scene. Visit Esther’s Kitchen for farm-to-table Italian, Jammyland for Jamaican tapas or Cornish Pasty Co., where hot meals are served inside baked pastries. Try the Velveteen Rabbit for craft cocktails and either Makers & Finders or Vesta for coffee prepared with a local touch. The Downtown Arts District is home base for First Friday, an outdoor festival of art, food and culture that takes place on the first Friday of each month.