Shotgun weddings, belt-busting breakfast buffets and the mother of all hangovers are what you might expect from notorious Las Vegas. Most visitors opt for a stay on the infamous Strip – a stretch of road crammed with grandiose casinos, multi-storey entertainment complexes and themed hotels (varying from ancient Rome to logo-bearing American super-brands). But, while masses of holidaymakers listen to the ringing of Caesar's slots or sunbathe on Hard Rock Café's man-made beach, we suggest stepping away from The Strip and discovering what else is on offer.
This was the go-to street for Las Vegas entertainment, until it developed a not-so-rosy reputation; but now it’s back and decidedly booming. Thanks in part to a growing nostalgic interest in the area and in part to a multimillion-dollar investment, the Fremont Street Experience is now a pedestrian mall with street-length zipwire rides and nightly light and sound shows on its unique overhead canopy. Gift shops, bars and gaming halls line the street, while nonstop music, zany street performers and pop-up stalls add to the heady mix.
The Neon Boneyard
Aptly named, this is where neon signs go to enjoy a sweet, sunny afterlife. What started off as a storage yard is now a carefully curated exhibition of Las Vegas history, fronted by the refurbished entrance to La Concha Motel, a curvy art deco masterpiece which now acts as a visitor centre. Old Caesar's Palace and Tropicana signs lurk alongside the original frontage of the short-lived Moulin Rouge Casino. Worn and shattered as they are, the discarded neon signs are undeniably impressive in their lifeless state. The guided tours are led by knowledgeable volunteers who have a genuine passion for the stories and snippets of history behind the display.
Downtown hotels and casinos
Hotels and casinos in the Fremont Street area are generally much cheaper than those on The Strip. More kitsch than glitzy, hotels like The Golden Nugget or the Four Queens are popular for their retro vibe. The casinos themselves feel more authentic too, with their clunky one-arm bandits, middle-aged waitresses carrying trays of whiskey sours and cigars, and crystal chandeliers hanging above garishly patterned carpets (designed to keep patrons awake and looking at the machines rather than the floor). These are still the favourite spots of many Vegas veterans.
There’s much more to this adult playground than shots and slots -- other top picks include the Pinball Hall of Fame, the Mob Museum, the Rocket Fizz Soda and Candy Shop, and day trips to Death Valley or Grand Canyon.