Downtown Las Vegas Walking Tour:
Location: Downtown Las Vegas (Fremont Street)
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Optional Costs Listed Below)
Start: Main Street Station Casino
End: The Mob Museum
Distance: 1 Mile
Time: 30 Minutes of Walking (with attractions around 5 hours)
Fun Scale: 9 out of 10
Way before The Las Vegas Strip, and even 6 years before Vegas became a city in 1911, they started building for the future on Fremont Street Downtown. The Golden Gate, Vegas’ oldest casino dating back to 1906 still stands, but many other things have changed over the years. Fremont Street became home to many other firsts in Vegas including the 1st paved 1925, later the 1st traffic light, and city’s 1st neon light at the Oasis Café in 1929.
Today the highlights of Downtown still center on Fremont street with its mixture of vintage touches and modern technological features. Visitors looking for flares of Americana and old world Vegas will love the historic neon signage, nightly free concerts, cheap drinks, loose slots, and a compact feel. Seekers of more modern flair will enjoy not only the zip line that cuts right through Downtown, but also the Fremont Street Experience which is by far Downtown’s main highlight.
Downtown Vegas Walking Tour Sights:
1. Main Street Station Casino: The Main Station Casino serves as a living museum of Casino antiques in the hotel lobby, main gambling flooring, and even outside. The sights can be seen 24 hours a day and the front desk has really handy self-guided maps showing where each one is and explaining it. By far the coolest artifact in the Main Station is in the mens bathroom where the urinals are mounted to an actual section of the Berlin Wall! A close second to the Berlin Wall is the 100 year old train outside the Casino complete with the private car used by Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley. The two of them used the train to travel the country in Buffalo Bill’s Old West Show from 1906 to 1917. Every couple feet on the railing by the train are helpful plaques explain each car in detail. Casino Website: (HERE).
2. Fremont Street Experience: The intersection of Fremont and Main Street is where Las Vegas was first founded in 1905 and is now the marks the beginning of the Fremont Street Experience. Sitting at the foot of Fremont Street is the Plaza Hotel (website), known as the poor man’s casino. Even if you are not a penny pincher, head to the top of the domed viewing platform before entering the Experience to get a great elevated view down Fremont Street.
The full Fremont Street Experience is seven blocks long but you’re sure to be drawn to the 4 block long, 90 foot wide canopy over the street filled with 12.5 million colored LED bulbs called Viva Vision. The entire area really comes to life the top of every hour from 8pm to 1am when Viva Vision turns into a full on light and video show synced to music on a concert quality sound system. The light shows themselves are a reason to put Downtown Vegas on your to do list, but stay a little longer and you’ll find a lot more to love. Free Light Shows: Daily 8pm-1am at the top of the hour. Free Live Music: With 3 stages there is nightly free live music. 360 Degree Photo: (HERE). Experience Website: (HERE).
3. Golden Gate Casino: Founded in 1906, the Golden Gate is the oldest casino in Vegas and where it all got started. The Golden Gate was technically an illegal casino as gambling wasn’t legalized until 1931. Today the bars are the main attraction at the Casino as they are where Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr drank during the Rat Pack days. The quality of bar tending is just as good today as it was then as the current staff has over 100 bar tending championship trophies between them. An insider tip is that you can get great shrimp cocktails for just 99¢ if you sign up for their free Players Club Card. Casino Website: (HERE).
4. Las Vegas Club Casino: The main draw to the Las Vegas Club is that they have a ton of vintage slot machine where you actually get to put real coins in. That may not sound like a big deal but if you are a gambler it is a great blast from the past in a world where every thing else is electronic. Sports lovers with really enjoy the hoards of genuine autographed sports memorabilia line the walls of the Las Vegas Club. The Casino also has some great hotel deals including promotions where you can get 3 nights hotel for as low as $69.
Before moving on appreciate the huge Vegas Vic Cowboy and Sassy Sally Cowgirl neon signs sitting at Fremont Street’s first intersection which are our favorite vintage signs. The iconic Cowboy Vic was built in the 1950’s for the Pioneer Club and Sassy Sally was built for Sassy Sally’s strip club. The Sassy Sally sign was added to the club in the 1980’s but when it was bought by the Mermaid Casino in the early 2000’s Sallys was renamed Glitter Glutch and the sign was renamed Cowgirl Vicki. When the Freemont Experience was completed Vic and Vicki were actually married in a ceremony covered by the local newspapers and news stations . Casino Website: (HERE).
5. The Golden Nugget Casino: Known locally as The Nugget, the Golden Nugget offer the most unique experiences in Downtown Las Vegas. The experiences start when you check out the Hand of Faith (website), which is the biggest gold nugget in existence at 61 pounds 11 ounces. The Nugget also has the most unique pool experience in Vegas called the The Shark Tank Pool (website) where they have you swimming with the sharks. A 30 foot high glass slide forms a long tunnel taking your right through the heart of a giant aquarium full of sharks.
If you want to learn more about the sharks you can get a professional biologist tour of their 200,000 gallon shark aquarium. You will learn what the sharks eat, how the feeding process works, and you even get to take home a real souvenir shark tooth! Tickets for the tours are $30 per person and run Thursday through Saturday beginning at 3:30pm. If you are looking for a hipper place to get a drink to escape the old feel of many Downtown Bars try the Nugget’s Gold Digger Club (website). While the Casino has a lot of music shows, the most popular is the Country Music Legends Show (website) where impersonators perform all of Country’s biggest hits. The Nugget is also a frequent home of the World Series of Poker. Casino Website: (HERE).
6. Binion’s Casino: Texas cowboy Benny Binion opened this Casino in the early 1950s in an effort to class up the neighborhood. Although it seems outdated now, in its heyday the casino was considered the poshest place to be and forced all the surrounding joints to upgrade. Binions innovated in other ways than just style when he helped the World Series of Poker off the ground by frequently hosting it his casino.
We love Binions as it is the home of the Million Dollar Photo (website) which is the best photo op in Las Vegas!! In the Casino’s Player’s Club you can have your photo taken with the Binions girls and a stack of ONE MILLION DOLLARS in cash! Although it is free, you are only allowed to go into the Player’s Club if you are 21+ and it is open from 9am-11:30pm. Casino Website: (HERE).
7. Fremont Casino: This Icon is one of Sam Boyd’s first Vegas casinos and has some of the best food and drink deals around. Tourists and locals both love the amazing drink specials at all of their bars from $2 to $0.99 Margaritas. The food specials are awesome too with a $8.99 prime rib served with a baked potato daily from 4:30-6:30pm and from 9-11pm they throw in a lobster tail for only $3 more. If you are looking from accommodations the Fremont Casino has very nice rooms starting under $40 a night when booked online and more basic rooms as low as $29 a night. Casino Website: (HERE).
8. Four Queens Casino: Not the nicest place, but they have rooms as low as $23 on weekdays and $48 on weekends. Their LA Comedy Club has pretty good shows Tuesday through Sunday at 9pm and the neighboring Canyon Club has magician shows at 7pm. Casino Website: (HERE).
9. The D Casino: Formerly called Fitzgerald’s Casino which was considered to be one of the luckiest casinos in Vegas. The new casino has a very modern feel but still has great drink specials like the Fitzgerald had. As part of the renovation that added a very long bar they aptly named the Long Bar and another one called the VUE Bar where you are able to go upstairs and get great views of Fremont Street. Casino Website: (HERE).
10. Neonopolis Mall: Although this mall is horribly overrated as a shopping experience it is the new home to a cluster of vintage neon sign that were restored by the nearby Neon Museum. These signs include Aladdin’s Lamp, The Hacienda Horse and Rider, and the Flame Restaurant sign. If you really want to do shopping off the main part of The Strip, there are two really good outlet malls in Las Vegas here many high end shops you wont find in most outlet malls, www.premiumoutlets.com. There is also a huge and really famous souvenir shop just to the south of here at the intersection of Las Vegas Blvd and Sahara Ave, www.worldslargestgiftshop.com.
Our favorite place to stop at the Neonopolis is the Heart Attack Grill (website). Known for their greasy food and nurses that will spank you if you don’t finish your meal, this place really is trying to give you a heart attack. The burgers are to die for and if you are over 350 pounds they let you eat for free.
11. Slotzilla Zip Line: Ever zip line in the middle of a city? At Slotzilla you have the opportunity to zip above the crowds from a 12 story tall slot machine and glide into the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience. If regular zip lining isn’t enough, you can also zoomline in a Superman position! The ride is a third of a mile and starts 114 feet off the ground. Hours: Sunday-Thursday Noon-Midnight; Friday-Saturday Noon-2am. Cost: $20 for zipline; $40 for zoom line. They often have specials before 6pm and for repeat trips. Address: 425 Fremont St; next to Walgreen’s. Zip Line Website: (HERE).
12. Downtown Grand Casino (Former Lady Luck): In 2013 the Downtown Grand opened up the the former Lady Luck Casino. Superstitious guests gamblers has always loved the location as the grounds are rumored to have loose slots and be oozing lucky vibes. The Downtown Grand has a bar that sounds really cool, The Mob Bar, but the decor and atmosphere can be a let down as the theme isn’t executed very strongly. Casino Website: (HERE).
13. Mob Museum: Amazing 3 story museum highlight the artifacts, culture and history of notorious gangster life from the early years of Las Vegas. One of the most famous mobsters was Bugsy Siegel, who was the primary force driving the development of Las Vegas as both gambling and booze became illegal in most of the United States. Mobsters like Bugsy wanted to create an escape from prohibition with glitzy luxury hotels, restaurants, shows and adult indulgences they couldn’t get anywhere else. The Mob’s influence shaped the city’s earliest development and played a role in its ultimate evolution as the Entertainment Capital of the World. The Mob Museum does a great objective job of telling both side of each story they tell whether it’s of rival gangs or both the mobsters and police.
One of the highlights of the museum is the actual St. Valentine’s Massacre Wall, moved here from Chicago, where Al Capone had members of his rival North Street Irish Gang executed in 1929. Bugs Moran was the leader of the North Street Irish Gang and had been trying to take Capone and his South Side Italian Gang out for years. The two groups had run ins and assassination attempts on each other all over the country but the evens of February 14th 1929 are the most famous. Capone and his friend Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn came up with a plan to wipe out Moran’s entire gang. The two men had a 3rd party set up an a whiskey sale, but when Moran’s gang showed up they were greeted by the cops. This wasn’t an uncommon thing to happen so when the cops asked the men to turn around a face the wall for questioning they did. Unknown to Moran’s gang, the cops where actually imposters in a stolen squad car and unloaded their guns on the gangsters once they turned their backs. The fake cops pretending to be arresting two of their cohorts when they left in case anyone was watching so they could make their getaway.
When the smoke cleared Bugs Moran wasn’t among the dead, because he had been running late and was scared off by the cop car as he was pulling in. Although Moran lived, Capone had struck a fatal blow to the North Street Irish Gang. The company who owned the warehouse thought the bullet hole filled wall was bad luck and had it tore down, but a Chicagoland businessman snatched up the bricks in hopes of displaying the wall in a future restaurant he planned on building. The restaurant never came to be and when the businessman died the bricks found a new home and were re-assembled in the Las Vegas Mob Museum.
Beyond St. Valentine’s Massacre Wall there are hours of activities to keep you entertained at the Mob Museum. The activities are so wide ranging that you definitely wont get bored. We love shooting the replica tommy gun and they also have some great exhibits highlighting which mobsters were connect to different Vegas Casinos and another interactive one where you can listen to the actual wiretaps the U.S. Government used to bust the Mob operations. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-7pm; Friday & Saturday 10am-8pm. Cost: $19.95; Discounts for Seniors, Veterans, Police, Teachers and Students. Museum Website: (HERE).
Other Sight Near Downtown:
14. Neon Museum: The first neon sign in Las Vegas was put up in 1929 at the 1929 at the Oasis Café on Fremont Street. The use of neon signs boomed and Sin City, especially Downtown, became a sea of neon through the 1980’s. As aging casino were replaced in the 1990’s many of them moved away from neon to a crazy of individually themed casinos like Caesar’s Palace. As LCD and LED signage became available the old neon were disregarded at an even faster pace. Seeing the culture of neon disappearing, the Allied Arts Council formed the Neon Museum and started an effort to save an important piece of Las Vegas history. The group worked with Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO), who was the company that manufactured most of the Vegas signs, and began to collect them for refurbishing. Some of the signs have been fully resorted and placed back into the Las Vegas landscape including a collection of them near the Neonopolis on Fremont Street which include Aladdin’s Lamp, The Hacienda Horse and Rider, and the Flame Restaurant sign. Other signs have been placed right in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd including the Binion’s Horseshoe, the Bow & Arrow Motel sign, and the Silver Slipper which sits in front of the Neon Museum.
Today the Neon Museum is made up of a main museum visitor center an a 2 acre display yard known as the Boneyard. You can easily peak through the fence or over the wall to get a peak of the signs frozen in time, but taking the official tour is a great experience. Before you even take the tour you know it’s going to be awesome from the giant high heel street lamp to the eclectic mix of sign letters spelling out “Boneyard”. The standard tour last one hour, takes you through a staged collection of 120 signs and includes some very entertaining stories of the of the vintage sign fossils. There is a great mix of urban decay and bright colors among the massive neon skeletons that will make your photographs really pop. If you are looking from more private time with the photos they have a separate staging area for photographers and video shoots that you can submit requests for a fee, but you need to submit your request at least a week a head of time.
Guided Tours: You can only tour the museum on a 1 hour guided tour which leaves every 30 minutes Mondays-Sundays starting at 10am until one hour before sunset. Cost: $18. Location: 770 Las Vegas Blvd North. Museum Website: (HERE).
15. Gold & Silver Pawn Shop: The most famous pawn shop in Las Vegas became a pop culture icon thanks to the History Channel show Pawn Stars. Address: 713 Las Vegas Boulevard South Store Website: (HERE).
16. First Friday Art Show: The 1st Friday of each month Downtown Las Vegas has a cool art festival featuring local artists. Artists set up stands along Casino Center Rd from Charleston to Colorado. It is a great free event. Art Show Website: (HERE).
18. Stratosphere: Standing ar 1,149 feet above Las Vegas Blvd, the Stratosphere is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. With such height the Tower’s observation deck has some sweet views but it’s the worlds highest thrill rides. Insanity is a fast roller coaster sitting 900 feet above the ground, jutting 64 feet over the side of the Tower, and even reaches forces of 3G’s. X-Scream is a crazy man’s teeter-tooter as at 866 feet off the ground it shoots you face first 27 feet over the edge then dramatically tips giving you a falling feeling. The Big Shot gives you maximum height starting 920 feet but then shoots you 160 feet straight up the mast of the Tower to a scary 1080 feet. The last thrill is the World’s highest bungee jump called the SkyJump where you jump from the 108th Floor!
This hotel is a great place to catch the connecting city bus if going to the northern outlet mall. It is extremely questionable neighborhood to walk at night, you will see a few crackheads. Thrill Ride Cost: Observation Tower $18; Rides $15 each; Bungee Jump $109; The best value is to buy an unlimited all day pass for all four rides which includes admission to the top of the tower for $34 or $44 if you want an express front of the line pass.