Long a bastion of budget casinos and yards of frothy frozen drinks, downtown Las Vegas — Fremont Street and beyond — has undergone a renaissance in the past years. An array of cocktail lounges, restaurants and boutiques are popping up on the famous street, and after the grand opening of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in 2012 and the move of Zappos.com headquarters to the heart of downtown, the neighborhood’s transformation is in high gear. Here are a few places you don’t want to miss next time you visit Sin City.
Must-Have Ticket: Gone are the days when visitors (and locals alike) lamented the lack of culture in Sin City. The Smith Center is the glittering Art Deco heart of the new era in Vegas culture. The 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall has lured performances from Broadway hits such as Wicked andWest Side Story, and will host the much-lauded Book of Mormon in 2014.
Foodie Destination: While downtown dining isn’t as advanced as the Strip, there are plenty of places to enjoy a Vegas-caliber meal. The Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino features upscale steak and seafood restaurant Chart House, but for those seeking a more local feel, Triple George Grill on Third Street serves classic American dishes with a side of mob-style Vegas character. Looking for a hipper dining experience? Grab a seat on Le Thai’s back patio and enjoy Southeast Asian favorites (the oxtail fried rice is delish) while enjoying a cool Thai beer.
Sip on a Classic Cocktail: The Fremont East Entertainment District on Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Sixth Street boasts an array of watering holes to suit any taste, from dive bar to mixology lounge. The newest and hottest of the bunch, Commonwealth, features edgy cocktails with names such as “The Little Hot Mess” and the best rooftop patio in this part of the city. For an intimate experience, in-the-know guests call ahead for a reservation in the venue’s back room speakeasy The Laundry Room—but you didn’t hear that from us.
Fully Clothed: Coterie’s quirky bohemian flavor starts right at the store’s signage — or lack there of. The upscale boutique’s former incarnation was a check cashing store and new owner, fashion designer Sarah Nisperos, never changed the outside marquee making stumbling upon this oasis of retail downtown like finding a hidden treasure. Once inside, peruse the racks of uniquely Vegas staples such as maxi dresses and beaded kaftans from outside-the-box labels such as LnA, Lauren Moshi and Twenty8Twelve.
What the Future Holds: Within the next six months a bevy of designer options are slated to debut. Park on Fremont, the street’s only beer garden, is scheduled to open mid-March with a menu of small bites and a full inventory of bar games such as darts and corn hole. Restaurateur Michael Morton is getting in on the game with his first downtown venue, La Comida, poised to add a bit of high-end Mexican flavor to the burgeoning district when it opens in spring.