I have to admit it: When you live in Vegas, you sort of become a little bit blind to all the spectacle of this town. You just sort of… get used to it.
Unfortunately, this goes double for the older parts of Vegas that don’t always have the same kind of modern dazzle as a lot of the newer resorts.
When I was assigned to write about the full Fremont Street Experience, I was worried I wouldn’t do it justice, especially compared to my point of view a few years ago when it was all brand new and exciting to me.
But when I found out a few friends of mine had never experienced Fremont Street, I knew it would be the perfect chance to rediscover why I love this town.
It often takes a fresh perspective to really help you appreciate things again, so I’d be taking care of two birds with one stone: Rediscovering my love of Downtown Las Vegas and telling you all about it, summed up in quotes overheard from our own group and others throughout the night.
“They’ve got that ‘Shots’ song on loop, that’s a sign.”
It was a busy Friday night as we arrived and decided to take on Fremont Street, and it was obvious the party had already started. LMFAO’s “Shots” was playing full blast from somewhere outside Fitzgeralds as people lined up for blended drinks.
Maybe 20 feet away, a Gene Simmons lookalike in a very well-put-together costume posed for photos with tourists, while just a few feet away an Iron Man lookalike in a very well-store-bought outfit looked for people to do the same with him. People flew by overhead on ziplines as Fremont’s famed neon signs were in full effect. Sightseers and partiers alike were starting to filter in and out of the various casinos, gift shops and eateries facing Fremont Street’s pedestrian mall. This place is pretty popular.
“They have real coins here?”
The first reminder of Downtown Vegas’ classic street cred: Coin buckets. That’s right, these machines (mostly) pay out in real money!
Sure, it might be marginally more of a hassle to bring the bucket of coins to the cashier to exchange for cash (rather than a simply putting a ticket into an automated kiosk), but it also gives you the chance to get some more interaction with someone that surely has an interesting tidbit or two to share about Vegas. Plus, the sound of real money clanging as you cash out is oddly therapeutic. That’s the sound of victory!
“Is there any cherry mix in this at all?”
For how small the few blocks from Las Vegas Boulevard to Main Street are, there are ridiculous amounts of mixed frozen drinks for sale. We noticed frozen drinks for sale or in someone’s hand in silly plastic footballs, yard sticks, chalices and even a hookah-shaped container with two straws as the “hoses.”
Be warned: They tend to be VERY strong, so please be responsible.
There’s also an abundance of places to order a drink both indoors and outdoors, a Chicago Brewery restaurant and the Fremont Street Experience is within walking distance of some of Vegas’ coolest bars just a few blocks east.
“It’s Rick James!”
No, that’s not the real Gene Simmons out on Fremont Street (at least I don’t think it is), but getting your picture taken with him is almost as cool as getting a photo with the real one.
Like some stretches of The Strip, Downtown is home to people dressing up as celebrities, rock stars, cartoon characters, superheroes and more, who take photos with tourists for tips. We couldn’t resist snapping a few with Chewbacca and Rick James.
“Psh, he doesn’t look like a fortune teller.”
Ever since being transformed into a pedestrian mall area in the mid-’90s, Fremont Street has had a range of salespeople and artists manning kiosks with all sorts of goods for sale. You’ve got the aforementioned booze-sellers, but there are also street artists painting unique works of art before your eyes, every imaginable permutation of the phrase “Las Vegas” on a T-shirt, fortune tellers, oxygen bars, fine Italian coffee, temporary tattoos and anything you need for your camera or phone’s camera (you can even buy a camera if you didn’t bring one — you’ll need one.)
“They’ve even got the LG logo and everything…”
One of the outstanding parts of the Fremont Street experience is, of course, the Fremont Street Experience – the concave canopy over five blocks of Fremont Street with a screen made up of 12.5 million LEDs designed by LG Electronics. The display has free shows throughout the night, with an ’80s theme throughout the summer. If you think the Fountains of Bellagio are a bit too pretentious, this is the show for you.
Throughout the summer, the FSE will have ’80s music playing on the PA all day, in addition to live concerts. We’ve got more details in this post, including your guide to dressing the part.
“It’s one of those reacher-grabber… things.”
In addition to satin jackets, T-shirts and tiny glass sculptures, we found this gem of a prize at the Fremont casino’s club info desk. Say what you will, but the loyalty club prizes on Fremont Street are very practical.
“If they can fry it, you can eat it.”
Fremont Street is possibly the place in Vegas with the highest concentration of relatively affordable eats within a small area. I tried counting how many eateries were in the immediate area and lost track at about “a zillion.” We opted for some burgers at the Chicago Brewery at the Four Queens, but you’ve got everything from chains like McDonald’s and Tony Roma’s to local favorites like Tinoco’s Kitchen and Hugo’s Cellar.
Besides, where else are you going to get fried Twinkies and Oreos for dessert within walking distance of some of the best restaurants in town?
(That’s a trick question: If they serve fried Twinkies and Oreos, they already ARE the best restaurant in town.)
Fremont Street: Experienced
In the end, the experiment was a success. Some of us remembered why we loved this part of town so much, some of us “got” the appeal for the first time and best of all: An affordable fun time was had.
Now it’s your turn: What do you love most about Fremont Street?