Planning a trip to the brightest city in Nevada?
As you probably know, most people head to Las Vegas for the casinos and nightclubs. The most popular place to go nowadays is the Strip: a glittering street of resort hotels, luxury restaurants, bustling nightlife and of course, gambling. But that’s not all Las Vegas has to offer.
In fact, it used to be that downtown Las Vegas was where all the action happened. This area of the city was the first to develop, founded in 1905 with the arrival of the railroad. Soon thereafter illegal gambling took root until its legalization in 1931, when casinos and showgirl venues began to open up along Fremont Street. This is the area that would become Old Las Vegas, and it’s where you can glimpse the history and beginnings of this wonderful city.
While it might not be the top destination within the city anymore, it’s certainly worth a visit during your Las Vegas vacation. Be sure to follow this Old Las Vegas guide to get the most out of your trip.
Brush up on your history
If you’re looking for a break from the gambling and partying, head to the ‘cultural corridor’ of downtown Las Vegas to see some history instead.
Here you can find the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, opened in 1991 and displaying a collection of wildlife and prehistoric exhibits. You can see a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, or the giant marine reptile Ichthyosaur. Explore exhibits like Treasures of Egypt where you can walk through a recreation of the entrance to King Tutankhamun’s tomb. This is a perfect place to bring the whole family, far away from the strip clubs and bars.
Another nearby attraction is the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park. This park is home to the first non-native, permanent settlement in the area. You will witness the very same adobe building that Mormon missionaries built in 1855, along with other artifacts of the time. It is a staple of the region and a must-see for locals and tourists alike.
Re-acquaint yourself with the wonder of dinosaurs or learn how people lived more than a hundred years ago in this special part of Old Las Vegas.
Visit Fremont Street
Not the type for museums or state parks? Then head on down to the heart of downtown Las Vegas: Fremont Street. As we mentioned, Fremont Street was the first official street built in the city, and it has a lot going on for tourists looking to diversify their experience in Sin City.
Fremont Street is perhaps most known for its free concerts. This summer they hosted stars like Good Charlotte, Nelly, Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, and many more, all free of charge! You can even zipline over Fremont Street during these concerts, above the crowds and the performers. For this opportunity alone, it’s worth a visit.
Another popular attraction is the Viva Vision light shows, which, yes, are also free. These shows take place on a giant, 90 foot-wide, 1,500 foot-long screen suspended above Fremont Street’s pedestrian mall. 12.5 million LED lamps emit dazzling colors accompanied by concert-quality music, an experience that is sought by 22 million people each year. Oh, and you can zipline during this as well!
Other things to see along this famous street include the Neon Museum, a 200,000 gallon shark tank, and Fremont East’s many bars and restaurants.
The Arts District
Not far from Fremont Street lies downtown Las Vegas’ Arts District. This is where you should go to visit hip new art galleries like Arts Square and R.Cline Arts showcasing the work of local artists.
Not only are there dozens of art studios and galleries, but this area is also known for its vintage and antique shops. Most notable is the Las Vegas Oddities and Antiques store, where you can find everything from Amethyst crystals to Krewe’s of Satan to a Lilith mask with eyes carved out of real human skull. Creepy? Maybe. Eccentric? Definitely. The quintessential Las Vegas place to go.
Also located next to the Arts District is the Zak Bagans Haunted Museum. This is another classic Las Vegas attraction, featuring all kinds of objects with paranormal pasts and artifacts from other haunted sites. Its 30 rooms are housed in a 1938 mansion, said to be haunted itself of course. If you’re into the spooky and mysterious, you must visit this quirky museum.
Above all, the best time to visit the Arts District is during the First Friday monthly street festival. First Friday takes place all over Las Vegas, but in the Arts District you will find live musicians, street vendors, and artists out and about hosting lively activities or selling their craft. It’s when the area is most busy, and you will be sure to find that special piece of artwork to take home with you to remember your travels in Las Vegas.
As you can see, Las Vegas isn’t just about gambling and fast-track marriages. It has a lot more going on if you know what to look for, especially in the downtown area. So don’t let the Strip be the only thing you see in the city!
Follow this Old Las Vegas guide and you will have many more stories to tell your friends, more unique experiences, and a better understanding of the history and development of this city that is truly one of a kind.