Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Downtown Vegas

Freemont Street Experience Downtown Las Vegas is old Vegas. Some folks don’t like the lack of size or flash that you find on the strip. I happen to like downtown. It is more personal than the strip. It is not more friendly. In fact, you can be dealt a load of attitude from the dealers and wait staff that you will likely not find on the strip. This just makes the downtown experience more real to me.

The biggest and best free entertainment in the downtown area is the Freemont Street Experience (FSE) ( Freemont Street is now a pedestrian mall down the middle of downtown Las Vegas and its casinos and shows. Every hour on the hour, the 5 block long overhead canopy comes alive with a light and sound show unlike anything on Earth. Some of the shows that I have seen are a patriotic show called “American Freedom” with jets, fireworks, and looooong waving flags, and “Lucky Vegas” with dancing girls and great special effects. The first show is at 6 pm and the last one is at midnight. You will find other things to do in Downtown, so schedule them around the FSE shows.

There is some killer entertainment under the canopy. There are two stages for bands that are kickin’ at night. You will also find artists, musician, and other various performers. If the weather is nice (this is all outdoors), you will probably spend an hour just wandering up and down Freemont Street.

Check out the historical marker that explains the story of downtown. I think it is located just west of the strip club and the Las Vegas Club. It has some great pictures of the old hotels. One picture even shows a mushroom clowd from a nuclear test rising in the distance. Spooky.Binions Gambling Hall and Hotel

At the east end of the FSE, you will find the Neonopolis shopping mall. Inside, there is a TV studio that is home of the most innovative poker venue anywhere, the Mansion.Net Pokerdome. On select nights, the Mansion.Net Pokerdome show is taped in front of a live audience in this location. I’ve seen this show taped at another location. They show the audience the cards, bets, and heart rates of the players in real time. This is highly recommended entertainment if they are taping while you are in town.

In the middle of the FSE, you will see Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel. This was the original site of the World Series of Poker. There is still quite a lot of that history if you know where to look. From Freemont, Gallery of Championswalk through the casino to the back left and follow the signs to the poker room. Judging from some recent photos, Binion’s has redecorated the poker room. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have done. They may have even included some photos taken by your truly. The really adventurous may want to ride the escalators up from the poker room to find Benny’s Bullpin which was the room used for many of the World Series of Poker. There’s not much to see there now, but you might soak up some good karma.

During the warm months, you can take the elevator up to the rooftop pool. This is one of the best views of Vegas. At night, the view can be absolutely spectacular.

If you are hungry, Binion’s is one of two places I like to catch a bite to eat. The coffee shop is open 24 hours. Both the food and the prices are good. The service is only fair, but this is old Vegas, so think of it as a feature. You will find the coffee shop downstairs. Just follow the signs.

While I’m on the subject of eats, the other place I frequent is the Upper Deck Coffee Shop in the Las Vegas ClubLas Vegas Club. The Club is at the end of the FSE near The Plaza. The coffee shop is upstairs. You will find the escalator up to the coffee shop in the back left of the casino. Be sure to check out the awesome collection of sport memorabilia that is mounted on the walls in and around the Las Vegas Club.

Getting there and back is pretty easy. Of course, if you are with a group, the trip downtown is just like any other. You get in a cab and split the fare. It will cost between $20 and $30 for the trip.

If you are traveling solo or in a pair, it can be fun and economical to take the Deuce. This is the double-decker bus that runs from Downtown to the far end of the strip. From anywhere on the strip, catch the deuce going north. The cost of the trip is $2 per person each way. You can also pay $5 to get a pass good for unlimited trips for the next 24 hours. There are a couple of warnings about the Deuce. You may want to plan to take the Deuce to downtown and a cab back to the strip. The stop for downtown can get pretty crowded late at night. You can avoid this by walking a few blocks more to the bus station. Girls won’t want to do this alone. Secondly, watch your head in the upper level if you are taller than 5 feet. But the ride can be entertaining for the sights you see and the characters you are likely to meet.

If you drive, I recommend parking at Binion’s parking deck. You can get your ticket comped at the poker cage by just asking. Each stamp is good for 4 hours and they’ve never asked if I’m actually playing poker there. You can also valet park at Binion’s if you don’t mind fighting the crowd, waiting 15 minutes for your car, and tipping for old Vegas service.


CarmenSinCity said...

I love it downtown! My parents do too. They always stay at the Golden Nugget where they usually get a great deal. They actually took us to Binion's steakhouse for dinner the last time they were in town and that place was great - wonderful view! And what's better than $3 craps??

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briangre said...

nice picture of the "experience" Special K. An original?

Anonymous said...

If anyone knows how I can get 8 superbowl party tickets from any downtown hotel will you please e-mail me? Willing to pay good money.