Today the Las Vegas Strip is packed to the brim with mega casinos, trendy restaurants and high-end retail establishments. But there’s another side to Sin City — a side that celebrates a simpler time, when neon was king and slot machines still took coins. And there’s no better way to catch a glimpse of this bygone era, than to hop off the Strip, and take a short stroll down Fremont Street.
Located in downtown Las Vegas, Fremont Street was once home to some of the top casinos, including Binion’s Horseshoe, The Fremont, The Mint, The Pioneer Club and the Golden Nugget. Today a large section of the street has been converted to the Fremont Street Experience (www.vegasexperience.com), an open-air pedestrian mall that’s filled with tacky souvenir shops, concert venues and even an overhead zip line. That said, if you can look past the modern trappings, it’s definitely worth a visit.
It’s easy to spot the facades of the grand old gems, including the Golden Nugget and the Four Queens (built in the 60s), and the good news is there’s level access throughout the entire length of the modern mall. Don’t miss the Vegas Vic neon sign, which stands above the former Pioneer Club (now a souvenir shop); along with his counterpart, Vegas Vicky, who beckons him from across the street. Not only is this famous couple a Las Vegas icon, but they were also legally married during the construction of the Fremont Street Experience.
If you’d like to try your luck at some vintage slot machines, then step inside The D. There’s level access to the building and elevator access to the second floor casino. That’s where you’ll find a collection of classic machines that still take and pay out coins. And if slots aren’t your thing, there’s also a simulated horse race game on the same level.
Top off your Fremont Street visit with a stroll through the Fremont Street East Entertainment District (www.fremonteast.com), located just past the Slotzilla Zip Line entrance. Access is good in this downtown area as well, with wide sidewalks and curb-cuts at every corner. Although there are plenty of restaurants and clubs on both sides of the street, the big attraction is a collection of vintage neon signs strategically planted in the center median. These works of art have been lovingly restored, and you can’t miss the red slipper, the showgirl and the classic martini glass. Although the signs are lit up during the day, time your visit for after sunset for a real vintage Vegas experience.