Downtown Las Vegas is located a few miles north of the main part of the Las Vegas Strip and is the oldest part of the City of Las Vegas.It is home to numerous businesses, government buildings and tourist attractions including the Fremont Street Experience, the new Las Vegas City Hall, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and dozens of casinos, restaurants, bars, shops and art galleries. It has become a popular hangout for both Las Vegas locals and tourists looking to get away fromt he mega resort on the Strip.
From Missionaries to Casinos
The area that would become downtown Las Vegas was first settled by Mormon missionaries from Utah in 1855, whose "Old Mormon Fort" is now a Nevada State Park. Yet the future of Las Vegas was far from a sure things as the Mormons left soon after. Eventually other settlers arrived and took advantage of the springs as a source of water for agriculture. It wasn't until the railroad came to town in 1905 that the City of Las Vegas was founded.
While Downtown Las Vegas was "Las Vegas" up until the mid 70s, it was the coming of the mega resorts to the Las Vegas Strip that killed old downtown. It wasn't until recently that efforts at revitalizing the area, spearheaded by Mayor Oscar Goodman and various business leaders, that downtown went from a seedier part of town to the heart of the local scene. Dominated by the Fremont Street Experience and the surrounding old school casinos the downtown area has once more begun to see major tourism.
Downtown Las Vegas covers about 110 acres and features numerous districts or "neighborhoods" all with a distinct feel. See a Map of Downtown Las Vegas.
Fremont Street: For most visitors to Las Vegas this is Downtown. Centered on Fremont Street and the massive blocks long video screen that displays images ranging from rock videos to psychedelic color montages. The show is free and remains one of the must see attractions in Vegas. Mix in the Fremont Street Casinos like the Golden Nugget and the Four Queens and there are plenty of things to occupy a evening.
Fremont East: In 2002 as part of the continued revitalization of Downtown the City of Las Vegas created Fremont East. Located at the east end of the Fremont Street Experience it is centered on Fremont Street from Las Vegas Boulevard to Eighth Street and continues one block north of Fremont Street to Ogden Avenue and one block south to Carson Avenue. Home to numerous bars and restaurants, including one of my favorites The Griffin, the area has become famous for its neon signage.
The Arts District: Home to the monthly First Fridays celebration the Arts District is named for the numerous art galleries and studios. It is literally the heart of the Vegas arts scene and is home to some of the most colorful and eclectic people watching in Sin City.
Symphony Park: This one time railroad yard was purchased by the City of Las Vegas in 1995 with the eventual goal of making it the heart of a revitalized downtown. Home to the new Las Vegas City Hall and the amazing Smith Center for the Performing Arts as well as numerous businesses (including Zappos) the area is midway through plans that promise to make it one of Las Vegas' hippest addresses.
What's Close By?
- The Best Downtown Breakfast Places
- Ziplining at Fremont Street
- First Fridays at Fremont Street
- Fremont Street Experience
- Las Vegas City Hall
- The Golden Nugget
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