I wrote this for my girlfriend's cousin, who will be in Vegas this weekend. It's my opinions, obviously. I didn't cite any non-casino destinations as must-visit places, as I don't know them very well. I'm interested in checking out that pseudo-biker bar in the future. Anyway, I figured I should get some opinions on any notable details I might have missed. Grab a sandwich and sit back: Pros and cons of downtown Vegas. I am working off this outdated map, going from upper left to lower right, essentially. http://www.lasvegasmaps.com/downtown_map.gif Main Street Station: Lots of odd historical things, but you have to know what you’re looking for, and many of them aren’t that visually stunning. I think there’s a list that you can get from the info desk that points them all out. Brett and I have seen the weird old pool tables on the second floor, which is kinda hidden away. Take an elevator up to it. This building is very cool, so it’s worth a visit. Plus the micro brews are $1.75 a pint at the casino bar. MSS also has a decent, reasonably priced buffet. Not gourmet, but consistent, and kinda popular. Not all downtown casinos have buffets. An interesting place. Old rail cars parked outside the building are worth looking at one time. California: Across the street, and connected via a skyway, is the California. It has a popular, cheap café. (People line up at dinner time for the nightly prime rib special.) One of my preferred places to play blackjack downtown, but other than the restaurants (there’s a more expensive Italian joint that people like, and it’s small, so you typically need a reservation – and it’s only open for dinner) there’s not much to see. Vegas Club: Across the street from the entrance to the Cal is the Las Vegas Club, or Vegas Club as it is known these days. The hotel is closed, I think, and they’re trying to renovate the casino. This place has very little going for it. There use to be restaurants, and it use to have a sports theme throughout the place, but now it’s just a lackluster joint. They typically have a really cheap beer deal at the casino bar. Last I knew it was 50 cents for a 10-ounce glass of nothing special. The VC is at the end of Fremont Street, and there’s a stage right outside its front door. The VC is often used as an access to the Cal. Cut through the casino to the back and go out a door. You’re on the corner, across the street from an entrance to the Cal. You can walk down the sidewalk alongside the VC, and it’s not particularly unsafe. If you go over to the Cal/Main Street Station, cut through the VC one time so you can see how the back of the casino property is an abandoned mess. The Plaza: Facing Fremont Street is the Plaza. It is kind of screened from view by a stage and the end of the zip line. The Plaza is owned by the same group that owns Vegas Club. The Plaza had its rooms renovated in the past two years, and they cleaned up the casino real nice. There’s bingo on the second floor, and some bars and dining that most people don’t care about. It’s not worth going into unless you want to walk through every downtown casino. Despite the renovations, nobody seems to have much interest in the place. One thing it has going for it is Hash House a Go Go. People love the food, but it’s more expensive than Perkins and you’ll get more than you care to eat for a meal. There’s a new German-themed beer garden at the Plaza, which has indoor and outdoor seating. Haven’t seen it for myself. Doubt I will next time I’m in Vegas. Golden Gate: Across from Vegas Club, at the corner of Fremont and Main streets is the Golden Gate. It’s small, and run by smart businessmen. It is an old property, and its small casino has a certain aesthetic to it, but it feels too polished these days. There use to be a few artifacts from yesteryear inside the place, but not any more. It’s one restaurant, Dupar’s, is popular and seems to be reasonably prices. I’ve never eaten there. You can get decent shrimp cocktails for $2.99 if you stop in at the restaurant, but other than half-naked women dancing inside at the blackjack tables and outside at the sidewalk bar, there’s not much to see here. Horseshoe/Golden Nugget: Down the next block are two notable properties. The Golden Nugget is the finest property on Fremont Street, and therefore it doesn’t have low minimum gambling. It has a fancy pool, something the rest of downtown lacks. It’s where people stay if they are spending big cash. Nice place, decent restaurants, but not much to go out of your way to see. Across the street is the Horseshoe. Great history in this place, but a shell of its former self. The Horseshoe has a $1 million cash display that you can get a free picture with, but the casino is otherwise forgettable. They had a hotel, but the rooms have been closed for a few years, with no signs of opening. That has resulted in a decline in the casino and restaurant business there, although they still have a steak house and Benny’s Bullpen in the back of the casino has some decent bar food. The hotel’s rooftop pool is still open, despite the lack of a hotel, and perhaps you can wander up and look around, not that you’ll see much of the city from up there. The pool is open for guests of the Four Queens, which is under the same ownership. Four Queens/Fremont: Next block down is the 4 Queens. This casino is a favorite with some gamblers. It has a decent, low-cost café in Magnolia’s, and people love the brew pub and pizza joint in here. Sign up for a club card if you go and you should get a 2-for-1 coupon for a meal at the café. Or perhaps I imagined that. Across the street is the Fremont, which has a decent buffet, low minimum table games, usually has some sort of $2 bottled beer special at all casino bars, and there are also a few fast food eateries. If you’re not gambling and not looking for a downtown buffet, there’s not much to offer here. The D: According to the map, this is Fitzgerald’s. A few years ago the owners of Golden Gate bought it and made it The D. Main floor casino has loud music at night and they make a big deal about having the “Long Bar.” Yeah, it’s a long-ass bar, big deal. Great if you’re watching sports and paying for drinks, but otherwise overrated. Fun party atmosphere for evening gamblers, but it has little appeal to anyone else. On its second floor, however, is the old school casino. It has the old-fashioned coin-in, coin-out slots and video poker machines, as well as a bar area that has an overlook of Fremont Street. (There’s a bar at the Golden Nugget that has a second floor balcony, also.) People love the old school casino because it has Sigma Derby, a weird mechanical game of chance that is based upon horse racing. If anyone in your group likes goofy gambling or horse racing, go see the Sigma Derby machine on the upper floor of The D… it’s old school, hard to find and popular. Neonopolis: As you go further east toward Las Vegas Blvd., where buses run 24 hours a day from downtown to the strip, you’ll find Neonopolis, which should have succeeded as s downtown mall/entertainment center, but has failed consistently. There are some shops open there, but there’s not much to see overall. It’s a colossal failure, although the grotesque Heart Attack Grill seems to draw people in. Google it and see for yourself. When you go east of Las Vegas Blvd. you’ll find the Fremont East district, a revitalized area full of niche bars that tourists and non-tourists seem to enjoy. Years ago it was sketchy, but they’ve done a nice job of revitalizing it. El Cortez: Just when you think you’ve seen all the downtown casinos, a block east of Neonopolis is the ElCo, one of the few bastions of old school Vegas still around. There’s not a lot to see there, but it’s a good joint for gambling, and it’s café is reasonably priced, but the service is slow and it can take too long to get seated when it gets busy. And it smells funny in there. It has a piano bar and a definite antiqueness about it. If you’re nearby, walk through it. Two places on Fremont to note are La Bayou and Mermaids, both tiny little slot machine joints. La Bayou has frozen daquaries in the back, and they are strong. They sell them in three or four sizes and have discounted refills. Buy the small one and refill it. I did that last Halloween and two of ‘em knocked me on my ass. Mermaids has lots of super cheap foods, the kind of things you use to find all over Vegas. I’m not sure that tiny kitchen would pass a health inspection, and deep-fried Twinkies are best reserved for the MN State Fair, but if you want to gamble with your bowels, cheap greasy food can be had at Mermaids. Downtown Grand: Your map shows an old joint a block north of downtown called Lady Luck. It finally reopened last fall as the Downtown Grand. Nice place, an outdoor pool that is trying to appeal to folks who stay on the strip, but honestly I haven’t seen or read anything that suggests you need to make a visit to this place.