A Downtown Favorite: The Container Park

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Downtown Container Park

The Downtown Container Park on a weekday morning

I can’t believe I haven’t written about this place yet! The Downtown Container Park has quickly become one of my favorite places in Downtown Las Vegas. It’s so different from the upper blocks of Fremont Street–very laid-back and mellow. Yet it’s got pretty much everything you’d want to occupy yourself for a couple of hours (except gambling).

Keep in mind that the following details pertain to just two visits I’ve made to the Park: Once in the evening in June 2014 and once during the day in January 2015. Other people visiting at different times or more frequently may have different experiences than I did. Many of you repeat visitors will already have been here yourselves and have formed your own opinions about it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Continue reading

Harrahs Revisited: Nostalgia Isn’t Enough

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Harrahs will always have a special place in my heart as the first hotel I ever stayed at in Las Vegas. I stayed there another couple of times after that, but eventually found other properties I preferred. Last summer, when my flight home was cancelled and I was rescheduled on a redeye, I booked a room here for the day so I’d have a place to change and take a nap. (I was sick at the time.) I was only there for less than a day, so it was hard to judge, but I liked the room they gave me and how easy it was to use it as a base for the day, and also the fact that they had an airport shuttle (not free, but cheaper than a cab).

When I was looking at winter escapes this year, I knew I would be on a tight budget, because my May cruise was very expensive and took up more than its fair share of my annual travel budget. As usual, when trying to find an inexpensive trip, Vegas emerged the winner. Harrahs was offering unbelievably cheap hotel rooms (cheaper than the Riviera even!). Since it was winter and not pool season, Harrahs’ lack of a decent pool area wasn’t a strike against it. I decided it was time I revisited the experience of staying at this budget hotel.

Now, I remember why I stopped staying at this property.

Don’t get me wrong, Harrahs has a lot of positive features going for it–cheap prices, small property (so less walking between your room and the Strip), lots of eateries and entertainment on site (I can especially recommend Big Elvis and Mac King), as well as being a monorail hotel located in a very desirable area of the Strip.

But the smoke. Cough, cough. Dear God. Continue reading

Dinner at the Bar, Ruths Chris Steakhouse

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Harrahs: Specializing in steak and menopause, apparently.

I don’t normally spend a lot of money on meals in Las Vegas. I have this mental block about paying $50 for a steak I could buy at the store and cook myself for less than $10. Same with eggs. Same with everything, pretty much. I realize you have to pay for the labor and ambience, etc. but sometimes it seems a bit excessive to me–especially in Las Vegas. But every once in a great while, I’ll treat myself to one of those expensive meals. Because you know, when in Rome. . . .

Since I was staying at Harrahs anyway, I thought it would be a good time to try Ruths Chris Steakhouse. I’d heard great things about the view, and the Happy Hour menu looks pretty good. Ruths Chris is located on the second floor of Harrahs. You take an elevator up from near the front of the casino.

Unfortunately, I was running late and didn’t get there early enough for their Happy Hour deals, but that turned out okay in the long run. I didn’t have a reservation, but there was a free seat at the bar, so I grabbed it. I wound up sitting next to a nice local couple. The wife told me they had recently moved to Las Vegas and still enjoyed coming to the Strip to Harrahs to eat at Ruths Chris.

This, dear readers, is a ringing endorsement, because typically locals will tell you how much they hate coming to the Strip for any reason. Continue reading

Street Art in Las Vegas

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Welcome to Las Vegas painting

Welcome to Las Vegas painting in the Arts District

One of my favorite activities when I’m visiting a new city is hunting for street art. Believe it or not, there can be as much artistic talent on the side of a building or on a city sidewalk as there is inside an art museum–and best of all, it’s totally free to view! Street art can make for great photo opps and selfies. It can almost be like a treasure hunt to see what you can find in any given city.

What made me start writing this post is that I noticed so much street art on my last visit to Las Vegas that I hadn’t noticed before. I don’t know if it’s that I wasn’t paying attention before or if street art has been proliferating in Vegas over the past year or so. In any case, I like the trend, and I hope it continues.

Here are a small sampling of photos of some of the free art you can find on walls and in public spaces in Downtown Las Vegas:

The Market

This mural adorns the side of the building housing The Market on Fremont Street.

Preying Mantis

This preying mantis sculpture at the Downtown Container Park was originally at Burning Man. It breathes fire periodically.

Fold 'Em

This is one of several works of street art you can spot in the 18b Arts District,

Street art

More street art in 18b.

Continue reading

An Introduction to the 18b Arts District

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Retro Vegas

Retro Vegas in the 18b Arts District, north of the Stratosphere.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who lives in Las Vegas said to me that “Vegas has no culture.” I think he was joking; it’s hard to tell sometimes. But I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. It may be hard to see the culture from inside a casino-resort on the Strip, but it’s there. Who creates the culture of a place? Its artists, of course. Find out where the artists spend their time, and you’ll find the culture.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been hearing a lot about “the 18b Arts District” in Las Vegas, mainly due to its popular monthly First Friday event, featuring artists displaying their works, food trucks, live music and a general block party vibe. Sadly, I am almost never in town on a Friday night, let alone the first Friday of the month, so I’d never made it to 18b to check it out.

Prior to my January Vegas trip, I received an email from a PR/marketing firm offering to show me around the Arts District so I could get a sense of what’s there. I thought it was high time I visited the neighborhood, so I took them up on that. If you, like me, don’t have access to a car when you’re in Las Vegas, you can get there via SDX or Deuce bus from the Strip or Fremont Street and get off at the 18b Arts District stop on Casino Center Drive. (If you have access to a car, you’ll also find parking along the street in this neighborhood.) Continue reading