Las Vegas is one of the most loved — and despised — travel destinations in the world. Some folks bask in and are energyzed by its non-stop action and adrenaline, the gambling, the booze, the neon lights — everything you imagine when you think of Vegas. Others visit once and never want to set foot in the city again. I’m sort of in between these extremes. I enjoy Vegas, especially if I’m there to meet friends or family, but only for short periods of time (a weekend visit is about perfect for me).
There are two main regions to Vegas that attract very different visiting clientele. “The Strip”, or Las Vegas Blvd, has completely transformed itself these past 25 years: from a miles long string of small-to-mid sized resorts has emerged a string a large-to-massive themed resorts. The Strip tends to cater to younger adults (millennials and the like), but also mature adults and even to families.
Downtown Las Vegas is the other tourist-oriented region of the city, the older more compact historic core where Las Vegas was first founded. The clientele you’ll see in Downtown are different than the well-healed youngsters on the strip in that most who stay here are hard-core gamblers. These folks don’t care about fancy resorts, gimmicky shows or upscale shopping. They care about what the slots are paying out and what their odds in a poker game or at the blackjack table might be. When they’re not gambling they like the 99 cent beer or hot dog or shrimp cocktail. Food is still cheap downtown, especially if you dine between midnight and 6 a.m.
Downtown Las Vegas has changed little with time, especially in comparison to the Strip, and much of it still looks as it did more than 30 years ago (in fairness, there are some attempts to modernize parts of it). The biggest change I’ve noted is the addition of extended roof canopy above Freemont Street whereon is played an hourly video presentation known as the “Freemont Street Experience” (see above YouTube clips). During this hourly show a band or artist’s music is played to a dazzling light show — beautifully done and definitely worth seeing at least once. These shows last about 10 minutes and thousands of people just stop what they’re doing and look up. When the canopy dims and the street lights come back on, the action on the street resumes. The Chippendale guys start to hustle ladies for photos (and tips), as does the 70’s Elvis character. Street artists paint posters and tourist profiles. And dancers jiggle on bars outside the casinos, wanting folks to stop for a drink (and to gamble inside, of course).
Love it or hate it, Downtown is dynamic, colorful and pretty interesting. Here then are some signs of Downtown Las Vegas: