There's far more to see than casinos and shows. A whole lot more.
When one thinks of Las Vegas, the first things to come to mind—naturally—are casinos, big shows and celebrity restaurants.
Sure, there are plenty of those in Vegas, and most people are quite content to limit their vacations to just those things. But the truth is, there is a lot more to the city than meets the eye. And if you never leave the Strip, you’ll miss out on so much that makes Las Vegas one of the coolest and hippest cities in the world.
So the next time you head out west to what has long been known as “Sin City,” be sure to set aside some time to go off the beaten path and discover what we like to call “Fun City.”
Downtown Container Park
Sitting on the site of what used to be a rundown motel on Fremont Street, the Downtown
Container Park is a unique, open-air shopping center filled with boutique retail shops, fabulous restaurants, and live entertainment for the whole family.
One of the first things you see when you visit is a fire-breathing, 35-foot-tall praying mantis sculpture that was once featured at the Burning Man festival. Inside, in addition to shops, restaurants and bars, is a large grass-fronted stage—complete with comfortable couches and chairs—and most noticeable, The Treehouse, an interactive play area featuring a 33-foot-tall slide, NEOS play system, oversized foam building blocks (fun for kids and adults) and much more.
The brainchild of the Downtown Project, the innovative center is built from 43 repurposed shipping containers and 41 locally manufactured Xtreme cubes.
The containers—the same types you see on huge cargo ships—have been used as building blocks to house the small shops, restaurants and bars. But what makes it even more interesting is not just the unique architectural choice, but how the shop owners are selected.
The focus of the Downtown Project has been to foster small-business entrepreneurship, specifically first-time business owners. Each prospective tenant has to submit a short video explaining their business idea and goals.
This speaks to passion, which Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh believes is the key to business success. And considering that he has spearheaded the creation of the Downtown Project, investing over $350 million into the renovation and resurrection of the downtown area, he is someone quite familiar with passion. And business.
18b Arts District
One of the biggest changes already underway in Vegas is the burgeoning Arts District. The “18b” name relates to the 18 blocks located just south of downtown. The area is an urban mix of residential, commercial and cultural spaces, including eclectic galleries and studios, shops, eateries and bars.
In many ways, walking around the arts district, one is struck by how similar the area is to Chattanooga’s own Southside. And even though it is still in the very early stages of development, there is a palpable energy from everyone involved that things will continue to get bigger and better.
So, what exactly makes the area so interesting? First of all, there are more than two dozen galleries and studios that cover a variety of styles, from modern paintings and sculpture to photography and even iconic Vegas showgirl art.
One of the most intriguing destinations is the Arts Factory, located inside a restored and repurposed 50-year-old commercial warehouse. It’s the cultural heart of the district, not just for art but also hosting over 300 musical concerts, poetry readings and live theatrical performances every year.
There are also plenty of very intriguing (and affordable) restaurants, bars and one of the best coffee shops around, Makers & Finders.
With full support from the very active arts and business community, in partnership with the city, the 18b Arts District has to be at or near the top of your list of places to visit on your next trip to Las Vegas.
For more information—and there is plenty of it to discover—go to 18b.org
The LINQ Promenade
Las Vegas has often been described as the city that reinvents itself every five years (or less). Which is part of what makes it interesting to visit more than once, as every time you go there, you’ll find something new.
Case in point: While searching for “off-the-beaten-path” places, one of the newest and coolest shopping venues discovered turned out to be right off the Las Vegas Strip.
The Promenade is a large art-filled alleyway that connects the Strip to the newly renovated LINQ resort and offers one of the most eclectic collections of shops, restaurants and bars—even a bowling alley that combines live music, nightlife and gourmet dining.
And the high point (literally) of the Promenade is the High Roller, a 550-foot-tall wheel that eclipses both the London Eye and Singapore Flyer in size. It takes half an hour to complete a full revolution and each glass-enclosed cabin can hold up to 40 people, giving one a fantastic view of the entire city.
For more information, visit caesars.com/linq
Las Vegas is known for outside-the-box thinking, usually on a very grand scale. But what is more outside the box than taking an old downtown casino, removing all the gambling machines, and turning it into the hottest destination in town?
Another development by Tony Hsieh and the Downtown Project, the old building has been transformed into a 112-room boutique hotel with the casino replaced by an innovative restaurant, bar and social entertainment venue.
Where the gambling tables and slot machines used to reside has been converted into what they call “The Living Room.” Filled with couches, comfy chairs, small tables, even a bed, the room is designed for residents and visitors alike to gather and socialize. Step out back, and it’s more of the same, with party games, plush seating areas, and even a 100-space hopscotch grid.
For more information, visit goldspike.com
Photos courtesy the Las Vegas News Bureau, Downtown Project, The LINQ