The New Downtown Las Vegas
When I first began going to Las Vegas in the early 80’s, the downtown area was known mostly as being rather rough and unseemly, full of drunks and the folks who had blown their weeks pay and were trying to give blood or panhandling for cash for a bus ticket back to get back home and to work. To put it mildly that has changed.
The Downtown area of Las Vegas has seen some very significant changes over the last few years. Gone are the cheap low-end hotels, and the dumpy casinos, replaced by remodeled and improved hotels and clean, quality, casinos and something called the Fremont Street Experience. The Fremont Street Experience is the byproduct of cooperation between the city, the hotels and casinos in the area, and local businesses. The result is a 5 block long stretch of Fremont Street running from Main St. to Las Vegas Blvd. that has been closed to vehicle traffic. It is covered by a video canopy that operates at night and becomes a part of the overall entertainment experience. Where cross streets used to exist, now you will find live stages with bands and entertainers performing various styles, so that there is something for most everyone. There are casinos, hotels, bars, shops, and restaurants that open directly onto the walkway that connects it all together. If all that isn’t enough for you, it is now possible to ride Slotzilla, which is a giant 12 story high slot machine, that regularly pays out by sending folks zip-lining for 3-5 blocks underneath the canopy, and over the crowds below.
About 3 years ago I was invited to be a judge for the World Food Championships being held in the Fremont Street Experience area in Downtown Las Vegas. It was the first time that I had ever stayed in that part of town, and what a pleasure it was. I was there to judge the World Chili Championship portion and that year it took over a large part of Fremont Street east of the Experience and set up cooking stations for the chili contestants right in the street for a few blocks; just past that were the BBQ contestants. I spent a fair amount of time there over the few days that I was in town. While going back and forth, I noticed that a really unique and interesting transformation was taking place. Their were a number of new bars and restaurants on the few blocks, where previously had existed some small outdated businesses and dive joints, plus a good amount of construction demonstrating that a major transformation was taking over this part of Fremont Street.
The median of this stretch was now adorned with some of the old neon displays from the old hotels. It creates a nice mood and atmosphere, which was bringing in a more local crowd, while also catering nicely to the tourist trade which is the engine that makes Las Vegas run.
A key element in the success of this stretch of Fremont Street is a recent addition called “The Container Park.” Inside you will find some very nice small businesses offering unique wares and crafts in combination with some very unique restaurants and bars. As the name suggests, all of these businesses run out of re-purposed cargo containers. Yes, the same ones that float around the world on cargo ships. One of these is an exceptional little American Whiskey bar called Oak & Ivy. These folks have taken this small cargo container and rocked the world of whiskey and cocktails in the Las Vegas market, having gained tremendous recognition throughout the city and with the media. They have an excellent selection of primarily American whiskies, (due to space restrictions) and award-winning bartenders/mixologists to create whatever your heart desires.
Just a couple of blocks further at Fremont and 9th St is Las Vegas’s oldest bar, Atomic Liquors. Here you will find a comfortable place to have a quality drink and enjoy some true Old Las Vegas history. They have an excellent whiskey selection and 20 craft beers on tap.
While you are in town, if you are interested in seeing how your favorite beverage is made, I recommend a short trip down the 95 to Henderson where you will find Nevada’s first ever distillery, Las Vegas Distillery. Started less than five years ago, they have 3 whiskeys available and more aging, plus a solid compliment of vodkas, gins, a rum, and moonshines, including a tasty little remedy called Grandma’s Apple Pie Moonshine.
For my detailed reviews on the places mentioned please select their link.