Upon moving to Las Vegas four years I quickly discovered it’s not cheap to party on the new strip. Seven dollar domestic beers, ten dollar mixed drinks, and twenty dollar cover charges were bankrupting me faster than any blackjack dealer ever had. High prices and serious summer heat are the only sure things in this desert. It’s a phenomenon most travelers become painfully aware of soon after arriving at McCarren International Airport.
Determined not to squander my limited funds I searched for alternatives to the new strip. Las Vegas is unlike any city I’ve ever lived in; dodgy somewhat seedy areas are not uncommon. Embarrassingly I didn’t realize there was an old strip downtown. My perception of Las Vegas was based on images of Caesars Palace and the fountains at the Bellagio. So when I happened on the Fremont Street Experience I was pleasantly surprised.
What is the Freemont Street Experience?
Fremont Street is where all the action was back in the day. In its current state it is a singular walkway comprised of shops, bars, and old school casinos topped off by a zip line and lighted canopy. Casinos like Binion’s, Four Queens, and the Golden Nugget line the street on either side. There are street vendors, movie characters, and showgirls dotting the walkway making the experience more colorful. In recent years a lot of money has been invested in the historic downtown area to renovate and draw in bigger crowds.
Fair warning you will not find the same glitz or glam on Freemont Street that you do on the new strip. However you will find drinks that average two to three dollars less, free concerts, and table games with lower minimum bets. Normally the El Cortez has free parking unless there is a special event so that is where I park. However free or $5 parking is common downtown. Since Freemont Street is jammed packed with casinos and attractions it cuts down on driving and cab fare.
Admittedly you won’t find clubs like Pure or Tao on Freemont Street. However if you are like me you grew out of those places in your early twenties. I’m more of a dive bar guy now. Places like The Griffin are more my speed. There are piano bars, lounges galore, and laid back spots all over allowing for a more enjoyable experience. In a noisy club you can’t really talk to people you are with anyways. So I definitely recommend checking out Freemont Street Experience if you come to Las Vegas. Just be careful not to wonder east past the El Cortez otherwise you might run into a different kind of nightlife.