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Pros/cons of downtown destinations

Discussion in 'Downtown Hotels & Casinos' started by ClownHo, May 21, 2014.

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  1. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    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    I am working off this outdated map, going from upper left to lower right, essentially.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.
     
  2. Auggie

    Auggie Dovahkiin

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    It looks like you put a lot of thought in to it, but maybe too much thought?

    There are some who really love Downtown and are often hurt/surprised/disappointed if others don't love it as much as they do... for this instead of doing the big hard sell I'd just pitch it like: "I really like Downtown Las Vegas, its got an old school Vegas feel to it. If you get a chance maybe you should go check it out - there is lots to see and do there, cheap eats, cheap gambling, the Fremont Street Experience, street entertainment and the casinos themselves are half the charm"

    Might be too much info as well, like would a casual Vegas tourist really care that Vegas Club's hotel might be closed or that Fitzgeralds was bought by the guy that owns Golden Gate? Some of the descriptions seem to go from describing vibe and atmosphere to having snippets of excess and out of place information.
     
  3. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    Good point, but given the audience, I know she wants tidbits beyond "go here for deep-friend death," "go here for a decent buffet."

    She's part of a group that's going, so they'll end up wandering to and from haphazardly, without a doubt, but she'll want to know a little history about this place and that place when it comes time to do a little exploring, hence I provided it. But to your point, a bullet-point list of what to see/eat/experience at each destination is much easier to read on a smartphone.
     
  4. Oxygenator

    Oxygenator Low-Roller

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    Too much info, and some of it innacurate.

    Plus , if it's a group of casual visitors you don't really know like you said, you almost tell them not to go into the Nugget. Poor advice IMO. It's the one place DT that is astetically pleasing for those that are first timer. You tell them more about Vegas Club , which in it's current state is a rat hole. And Four Queens and Fremont aren't all that glamourous lately either.

    And it's called Binions now. The will be looking for the Horseshoe and wondering what on earth your talking about.
     
  5. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    i meant to amend this to strike references to the horseshoe but didn't. my bad.

    while i don't know the entourage, i know the person i'm writing it for, so a bit of history and perspective is appropriate. i hope that's finally clear. this is not intended to be a visitor's guide for all downtown rookies.

    perhaps i should have said "go see the nugget at all costs" so they'd see the swankiness for themselves, which may very well happen. it has been a while, so perhaps there's something very cool to see in there that i'm forgetting. i have eaten there, i have gambled there, but not lately. what is so special in there that they need to see? perhaps you can get a better view of the fancy pool than i remember.

    from the great beer and odd artifacts of Main St. Station to the million dollars at Binion's, i'm trying to point out interesting things to see downtown. i'm interested in what unique and distinct things there are to see along Fremont St., besides the obvious light show an hucksters under the zip line.

    did i forget any? that's what i'm trying to figure out. i think it's clear at this point that this guide is not appropriate for your target audience and doesn't jive with your perceptions of what's fascinating downtown.

    and what's inaccurate? i'm sure a few details are off, besides the name of the Horseshoe, which is referred to as he Horseshoe on the map i'm using. (i should have asked, i assume there's a good online map somewhere, but i couldn't find an up-to-date version that provided the same detail after several minutes of searching.)
     
  6. aaisack

    aaisack High-Roller

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    Some additions:

    For MSS I would add that the brew pub is excellent and has great late night specials. They also have very good video poker, including full pay at their bar which has excellent service. MSS, along with California, is pretty popular with craps players.

    For California - tons of coin video poker

    Vegas Club - You're spot on. Nothing to add

    Plaza - They have a cool electronic poker table for sit and go poker, they have a decent sports book. Love Hash House A Go Go.

    Golden Gate - Small, a little claustraphobic in the table games area. Some cool restored classic slot machines worth looking at in the back of the casino. Dupars is a excellent choice if you want a older style diner. They're known for their pancakes

    Binions - If I was a slot player Binions would have a good shot at my business, they're pretty generous with comps. Their burgers are really good. Check out the poker room if you have any interest in poker history (original home of the world series of poker)

    Golden Nugget - Cool pool /shark tank. Mostly crummy gambling. Most popular poker room downtown.

    Four Queens - I second that this is a good place to gamble at. Cash back is pretty good. Magnolias is definitely worth checking out They have a bunch of specials. A good deal even without a coupon. Rooms are nothing to write home about.

    Fremont - You're pretty spot on. Nothing here really stands out in a good or a bad way.

    The D - It's loud and a lot of it's employees are new and inexperienced. They're trying to target a younger crowd.

    El Cortez - They have a awesome 5 dollar 1/2 pound burger special in their diner that comes with chips and a beer or soda. Very good video poker and blackjack. Kind of sketchy clientele.

    Downtown Grand - They're trying to be a miniature version of the Golden Nugget. Crummy gaming. Nothing really worth checking out.
     
    First time staying at the Flamingo
  7. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    this is more the format i should have used in highlighting the destinations. nicely done.

    i left out a lot of gambling details because the cousin is not a big gambler. bar/drink/atmosphere tips would probably have been more useful, unfortunately i'm not well connected with that scene. you're right, i should have hyped the pub at MSS more. and i forget about the vintage slots on display at Golden Gate. i miss the old days of the old cafe in the back when it seemed there were more antiques on display around there.
     
  8. Auggie

    Auggie Dovahkiin

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    I think it depends how each person views Downtown: to me The Golden Nugget has about the most to offer. You cover a lot of dining choices at the different properties but they are probably only going to be there for one meal (dinner) since you should be recommending they don't go down there until after 4PM.

    Once you take dining and drinking out of the equation most of the properties Downtown have very little to offer in the way of things to see and do.

    At Golden Nugget the big thing would be seeing The Hand of God nugget that the place is named after and at night you can go in to the pool area and see the shark and they usually have fire pits set up where you can go get a drink and sit down around the fire.

    You might say "Yeah, thats two whole things to see there! Wowee!" but realistically what else does anything else have if you take drinking and dining out of the mix?
    Binion's has the million dollars and the steakhouse, but little else
    The D has its long bar and sigma derby upstairs, but little else
    Four Queens has cheap gambling but little else
    Fremont has cheap gambling but little else
    Vegas Club has cheap gambling but little else
    Golden Gate has cheap gambling but little else
    Mermaids has deep fried foods and almost nothing else
    La Bayou has fast drink service and almost nothing else


    Don't get me wrong, I actually like Downtown and we try to stay a night or two down there every trip, but of whats there Golden Nugget is one of the main things to see along with the canopy show, zip line and then whatever live shows they are doing

    And the live shows would be something you could add: you can check what day they will be down there and get the schedule from the Fremont Street website which will list the live shows and concerts they are putting on while they will be down there.
     
  9. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    i left out the live stage music, canopy and tipsters, as she knows that goes on every night, and there's not much else i could say.

    having spent so little time in recent years inside the nugget, i forget you can see a giant nugget... i can't remember the last time i read a reference to it, so thanks for the reminder. as for the pool, i didn't realize you could see the shark in the evening and wander back there, so i'll pass that along, too. thanks!
     
  10. aaisack

    aaisack High-Roller

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    I miss the old cafe at the back of Golden Gate as well. We would eat shrimp cocktails until we had to take off our belts. They also made great soups and sandwiches.

    There's also a pool hall and an old school arcade/bar called insert coin? on Fremont East between FSE and El Cortez.

    I can't say enough good things about the Boars Head bar or the Brew Pub at MSS. MSS is the place to get drunk before wandering out to the FSE.
     
    First time staying at the Flamingo
  11. Texas Gramma

    Texas Gramma Low-Roller

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    You need to add 2 restaurants to your downtown list for your selection for downtown dining... both are extremely good!
    ---
    Hugo's Cellar in the 4 Queens... dining in an old time Las Vegas atmosphere... and all courses are included with your entree choice... very unusual.

    Andiamo's in The D... voted #1 for downtown restaurants... great food!
     
  12. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    thanx for the suggestions!
     
  13. Royal Flusher

    Royal Flusher Savvy Gambler

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    Nice of you to provide all this info for your girlfriend's cousin, and to share it here.

    I've been meaning to mention this but I would no longer recommend the cut-through the Vegas Club casino to the Cal.

    The last time I did this, I headed for the back, near Main street per usual, and got shunted into a temporary walkway which went back, then turned this way and that and finally turned east and spit me out near the Vegas Club back valet entrance, across from Binions.

    This hallway was small and cramped and completely deserted. I simply can not believe they would create a space like this with no security presence.

    This is a disaster waiting to happen.

    IMHO the street on either side of Vegas Club is safer.
     
  14. mwig

    mwig High-Roller

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    The route we always take from MSS to Fremont is the walkway to the Cal, down the escalator, continue straight through the Cal and cross the street into to old poker room at Binion's by the now defunct valet. Straight shot through Binion's to the canopy.

    Less time on the street is key on a couple of levels. The walkers away from the canopy aren't always a comfortable presence. Also, our long trips are in June/July and air conditioning is good stuff.

    I second the Hugo's recommendation. We were given a $100 comp by a very kind host for our anniversary and were able to have a great meal for the cost of a tip. That won't happen at most any other good steakhouse in Vegas.
     
  15. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    good point. i know it's a bit of a deserted wasteland back there. i'll pass your note along.
     
  16. Viva Las Vegas

    Viva Las Vegas Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

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    Head through Binion's past the old poker (current tournament) room, and The Cal is kitty corner - the fastest way to get from Fremont Street to the Cal.

    We also walk down Ogden to get from The California to Fremont East, to avoid the crowds on Fremont Street at night, and never have a problem.
     
  17. Sallymander

    Sallymander Low-Roller

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    The Golden Nugget is a great place to eat. Landry's owns the Nugget so this shouldn't be much of a surprise. Check out the GN website for the menus. My favourite is the Chart House...they have an awesome Happy Hour!...try the sliders! :licklips: The bar/restaurant itself is beautiful...you're seated by a massive aquarium and all of the modern chrome/glass/leather provides a really classy atmosphere. IMHO the Chart House rivals anything on the Strip...and at half the price!
     
  18. topcard

    topcard Older than the Stardust!

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    Just a few differing opinions on the original post:
    Best blackjack rules downtown? Plaza, LVC & El Cortez. 3:2 double-deck games, with DAS - with decent penetration, and minimums ranging from $3 (ElCo), to $10 (LVC) to $25 (Plaza).
    You won't find better blackjack downtown under $50.

    As for Golden Gate? I think it has a great vibe, and about the best looking dealers to be found downtown. Drink service has always been good as well.

    The Nugget? Well, they do have 'Free-bet blackjack' for $5, and plenty of 3-card tables with $5 min. - the most tables downtown, by far (I think they have 5 open at night).

    As far as the ease of finding a non-packed 2-deck blackjack table at $5 or $10? You can't beat the Cal & MSS. Only downside is the 'no DAS' rule at downtown Boyd properties... (stupid rule, by the way).

    The Fremont has a Dunkin' Donuts - pretty good coffee there if you don't want to mess with the Nugget's Starbucks. Good breakfast sandwiches as well. Fun $3 crap table there too. Also, a $3 min. 3:2 blackjack (6-deck shoe).

    'TheD' can be fun - very friendly dealers and pit-crews. Good drink service. It is quite loud at night.

    DTG? Worth a walk-though, but it seemed sort-of antisceptic to me...like it didn't quite fit-in with the rest of the downtown properties. But very 'clean', and everything still looks "new". It is unique in that sense.

    If I were advising a group of 'newbies' about downtown, I'd just tell them to walk through every casino there.

    That will still take less time than exploring any two large casinos on the strip.
     
    Seems like forever from now, but the flights are booked, so it counts!
  19. blissfulignoramus

    blissfulignoramus Low-Roller

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    Interesting thread.

    I'll add a few comments about the Strip versus Downtown. It boils down to personal preferences. With things being so unsettled on the Strip in recent years (major construction projects), my friends and I will be going Downtown for our annual trip this year, for the second time in a row after years of staying exclusively on the Strip.

    1. Closeness: On Fremont, the casino/hotels are very close together, so moving from place to place is easy. They are also relatively small, so the distance from the front door to your room is small. Even at Golden Nugget, which is huge, it's not that far from the sidewalk to the furthest room, maybe 500 feet. At the big Strip joints, it could easily be more than twice that. To get from the casino in Bellagio to the casino in Caesar's (neighboring properties), that's at least a quarter mile. That's about the same length as the entire Fremont Street enclosure, or from Golden Nugget to Downtown Grand.

    2. Cheapness: Downtown is cheap. A truly nice room at Golden Nugget will usually run less than a marginal room in one of the lesser Strip hotels.

    3. Gambling: The gambling downtown varies a lot, and nowadays I don't think the house edge is better for players, but for table games you will find more lower stakes tables than you do on the Strip. Also, a lot more of a fun, relaxed vibe at the tables in my experience. One of the things that used to keep us going to the Strip was the great Bellagio sports book where it was easy to get a drink ticket -- they put the kibosh on that. Golden Nugget's sports book is packed but a lot of fun.

    4. Restaurants: Downtown does not offer anything close to the array of dining options that you find on the Strip. If fine dining is one of your major reasons for going to Vegas, you will find a few things Downtown, but the Strip is truly exceptional in this regard.

    5. Pools: Many Strip places have spectacular pool layouts. The Golden Nugget pool is beautiful, but people are packed in like sardines on a busy weekend. Otherwise downtown is probably not your destination if a great pool is key. Of course, you only need one pool, and many people rave about the GN pool.

    6. Shows: The big famous shows are on the Strip. There is plenty of live entertainment downtown, but it's mostly not the "Vegas Show" experience.

    7. Street scene: Walking down Center Strip, you see all kinds, from porn slappers to people with Gucci bags. It's a bit of a freak show, but avoidable if you don't like that. Under the Fremont Street enclosure, the freak show is a little more in your face. You have godknowswhat going on right outside Golden Nugget, the nicest place Downtown. There are also the band shells on Fremont, which feature talented cover bands, and are very loud. They also provide free entertainment for the local homeless. Personally, the freak show is one of the things I like about Vegas, but someone who prefers the more refined atmosphere of the Wynn is unlikely to appreciate it.

    8. Shopping: The Strip has everything, from low end to the highest end. Downtown is really not about shopping.

    9. Drinking: You have a much wider range of options for getting your drink on on the Strip, but it's hard to find a place with reasonable prices. The $5 bottle of Bud is standard at the major Strip places. It is much, much easier to drink cheaply Downtown.

    Anyway, I love downtown, but I realize it's not for everybody.
     
  20. ClownHo

    ClownHo High-Roller

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    it's not a question of strip versus downtown, as this group will be downtown.

    as for gambling, it's not the primary draw for this group, but i appreciate seeing topcard's assessment of downtown conditions, as that's where i do a bunch of my gambling. i couldn't pass up a plug for sigma derby, however, given its uniqueness and how beloved it is. i don't find it to be much fun, but then again i still love watching reruns of Match Game on the game show network.
     
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