Category Archives: Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas is a quirky alternative to the Las Vegas Strip, with good gambling, a grittier vibe and a diverse collection of restaurants, bars and casinos. Downtown Las Vegas isn’t for everyone, but many locals and tourists enjoy it for the value, authenticity and lively atmosphere.

Pop-Up Casinos Appear for a Day at Former Las Vegas Club and Mermaids

We love pop-up casinos!

No, that’s not what they’re called officially, but just play along.

Recently, temporary casinos opened at the former sites of the Las Vegas Club and Mermaids in order to meet gaming requirements to extend the licenses associated with these demolished venues.

For exactly eight hours each.

The sites are now part of the construction site of a new resort, Circa Las Vegas, so guests got the chance to be the first to gamble as the new casino. Sort of.

Here’s the temporary casino at the Las Vegas Club, open for a day on June 11, 2019.

Pop-up casino

No drink service, but charming nonetheless.

Each pop-up casino had exactly 16 video poker machines.

Las Vegas Club and Mermaids closed back in 2016, but the current owners, Greg and Derek Stevens, need to keep the gaming licenses active, so they get to indulge in this fun (but expensive) ritual.

Here’s a look inside the miniature casino at the Las Vegas Club site.

Circa pop-up casinos

Ever get lost in a Vegas casino? Not this one. You’re looking at the entire thing.

We say “expensive” because these pop-up casinos cost $50,000-$60,000 to set up and operate for a day. Century Gaming is the go-to vendor for such temporary casinos around town. The money wagered in the machines goes to them, not the company that arranges for the pop-up casino.

After the first day, on June 12, 2019, all the machines were moved a few feet away to where Mermaids used to serve its infamous deep fried Oreos. We know, because we had the last one ever served there. We still don’t feel quite right.

Mermaids pop-up casino

Even on a construction site, still cleaner than Mermaids was.

For whatever reason, people don’t tend to flock to these pop-up casinos. The pay tables aren’t great, but they aren’t horrible.

Just five people played on the machines at the first location, and about the same played the second day, reportedly.

Let’s look inside the Mermaids pop-up casino for no good reason other than for posterity.

Mermaids temporary casino

The easiest way to tell a loose slot machine is to see which one we’re playing.

We love them, however, and have yet to lose when playing at a temporary casino. In fact, at the Mermaids location, we hit two four-of-a-kinds and walked away with $100 in profit.

Circa popup casino

Construction dust is lucky!

The real question, of course, is were we among the last to play at Mermaids or among the first to play at Circa?

We would be remiss if we didn’t share the latest from the Circa construction site.

Circa 2019

Circa is going vertical.

Up above, Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job) is in the throes of a $32 million renovation of the Viva Vision video screen. Here’s an update on the progress of that project as well. Don’t you know this blog at all?

Viva Vision upgrade

The upgraded screen looks bomb, or possibly fleek. See more.

Pop-up casinos are quirky part of Las Vegas casino culture.

While we think they’re sort of dumb and a waste of time and money, we will rarely turn down the chance to gamble outside and stick it to The Man with a win.

Fremont Street Experience Finishes First Section of Viva Vision Upgrade

Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas recently completed work on the first portion of a $32 million upgrade to the world’s largest video screen, Viva Vision.

The renovation started May 6, 2019.

The first completed section, near the Golden Gate casino, was tested on June 5, 2019.

Viva Vision upgrade testing

The technical term for this visual display is “big-ass test pattern.”

The Viva Vision upgrade is being done in eight 150-foot sections to avoid disruption to the nightly light shows.

When fully renovated, Viva Vision will be four times the resolution and up to seven times the brightness of the current screen.

This is the second time the screen has gotten a facelift. It opened in December 1995, and got an LED upgrade in 2004 at a cost of $17 million.

Here’s a close-up look at one of the new LED panels. The holes allow sunlight to shine through during the day.

Viva Vision LED module

The renovation will involve 67,456 of these bad boys.

The new Viva Vision screen will have 49,299,456 LEDs. Probably. We sure as hell don’t have time to count them. We are very busy being a smart-ass.

When completed, the new screen will have 16,433,152 pixels. Ditto what we said about the counting thing.

What does all this mean? Well, for the first time in the history of the attraction, Viva Vision can show content during daylight hours.

Here’s some video of the daytime testing of the first section of the canopy.

The fully upgraded Viva Vision screen is scheduled to debut on Dec. 31, 2019, on New Year’s Eve.

Visitors will get a sneak preview of the newly upgraded canopy during the reveal of a new light show featuring Steve Aoki on June 13, 2019.

The Aoki light show is the second new show in recent weeks. Another, with the music of The Chainsmokers, debuted May 31, 2019.

Chainsmokers light show

We weren’t particularly familiar with The Chainsmokers, but have come to love them because their Viva Vision show features a hell-ton of neon.

Because the new canopy be used 24/7, a substantial amount of new content will be created in the months to come intended to make the most of the screen’s dramatically increased resolution.

The Viva Vision renovation is a big deal for downtown, as surveys show most Las Vegas visitors make their way downtown because of Fremont Street Experience and the light shows. Hit the official site for more information.

It’s also worth noting we work at Fremont Street Experience in digital marketing as our day job and we can personally confirm many people visit downtown specifically to buy us a Captain Morgan and diet. Hint, hint.

Viva Vision upgrade

If this is how it looks during the day, bring on the night.

The Viva Vision screen renovation is moving along at a brisk pace, so stay tuned for more updates.

Downtown Grand to Open New Showroom, The Spare Room

Downtown Grand is getting into the comedy game with the opening a new showroom dubbed The Spare Room.

The new showroom hasn’t officially been announced yet, but it will open May 15, 2019.

Downtown Grand

You can find Downtown Grand downtown. Hence, why were are considered a Las Vegas expert.

The new showroom will be located in the former Mob Bar space, just across the street from the Mob Museum.

For the showroom launch, The Spare Room will feature two shows, “Hypnomania” and “Delirious.”

“Hypnomania,” a comedy-hypnosis show featuring 20-year comedy veteran Don Barnhart, runs at 7:00 p.m.

“Delirious,” with traditional stand-up comedy, happens at 9:00 p.m.

The showroom will be open Wednesday through Sunday.

The Spare Room will have a full bar, thankfully, and a capacity of around 100 people.

Comedy fans will be able to find tickets at the official Downtown Grand Web site once they go on sale.

Downtown Grand has faced some challenges in the past due to its location, but the resort has recently perked up with the beginning of construction of a new hotel tower.

Downtown Grand construction

Downtown Grand’s new hotel tower is coming along nicely.

If you’re checking out the new showroom at Downtown Grand, we recommend making it dinner and a show by stopping in either at Pizza Rock or Triple George, a few steps away.

10 New Things Happening in Downtown Las Vegas Right Now

It’s time to dive headlong into a metric ass-ton of downtown Las Vegas updates. The alternative is for us to get a life, and you know that’s not happening.

Enjoy this hastily slapped-together list of things going on downtown at the moment, including some new things to do in downtown Las Vegas, in no particular order.

1. Flamingo at Lyft Art Park

The Lyft Art Park, in the parking lot next to Park on Fremont restaurant, has updated its collection of “Grammable” art with Phoenicopterus Rex, a 40-foot flamingo. The giant flamingo made its debut at Burning Man in 2017.

Flamingo Lyft Art Park

About 750 pounds of steel are used for each of the flamingo’s legs.

2. Circa Las Vegas Gets Its Pour On

Circa Las Vegas, a new casino resort coming to Fremont Street, has already made significant progress, including a couple of recent, massive concrete pours. Here’s the latest from the site.

Circa

While Circa is expected to eventually have 777 rooms, it will open with 500 rooms and 71 suites.

On Apr. 9, 2019, 205 concrete trucks lined up to deliver 2,050 cubic yards of concrete for the foundation of Circa. Here’s where some of it went.

Circa

We will not bore you with the technical details of what’s happening here, mainly because we don’t know what those are. We do know these are elevator shafts. One bank will go halfway up Circa, the other will go all the way up.

Circa is slated to open in 2020, and the good folks at Circa have thoughtfully put up a schedule so we can keep abreast of what’s happening when.

Circa

Thanks, Circa. Suitable for lamination.

Here’s a bonus new thing you need to know about: If you’re a fan of the Project BBQ truck, please know it’s relocated. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding it, as it’s only moved 20 feet.

Project BBQ

Consider your visit to the Circa site a catered affair.

Oh, and here’s a bonus bonus: In a nearby location, we spotted some early exposure tests of the Circa windows.

Circa windows

Fun fact: The spots without glass are LED panels. So, the entire side of Circa will essentially be a video screen. The mind reels.

3. Golden Gate Sports Book Underway

Just across from the Circa site, Golden Gate is quickly working on its news sports book. We popped our head in, because that’s sort of how we roll, despite it’s being related to sports. The new sports book at Golden Gate will open June 1, 2019, under the Circa Sports brand.

Golden Gate sports book

While the sports book at Golden Gate will be one of downtown’s smallest, the one at Circa is being billed as the world’s biggest.

4. Santos Tacos & Beer Opens

We’ve spoken often of “Restaurant Row” on Carson Street downtown, as it boasts several popular dining establishments including Carson Kitchen, Vegenation, 7th & Carson and Eat. Now, Santos Tacos & Beer has taken up residence in the former Bomb Tacos space.

Santos Tacos downtown

This space has hosted a string of restaurant concepts. Let’s hope this one sticks.

Santos Tacos is a solid offering, and well worth a stop to help manage those drunchies. One of the quirky aspects of this new restaurant is its “Saint of the Day.”

Santos Tacos

The day we visited, Celine was the “Saint of the Day,” and we can all get onboard with that.

5. Cat’s Meow Karaoke Bar in the Works

Despite our best efforts to keep karaoke from being a thing in Las Vegas, Cat’s Meow at Neonopolis actually seems to have potential.

Cat's Meow

In case you’ve wondered what’s going on in there. This is that.

Cat’s Meow has its roots in New Orleans, and will take over a massive, 10,000-square-foot space on the second floor of Neonopolis.

Cat's Meow

Curiosity is the only thing we have in common with cats.

You can see Cat’s Meow from the street, and the owners say they’re trying to get approval for a staircase from Fremont Street. Access has proven a challenge for a number of businesses in Neonopolis.

Cat's Meow Las Vegas

Cat’s Meow will have multiple bars, a necessary amenity when there’s karaoke.

It sounds like Cat’s Meow will open in May 2019, and another sing-along business, OD’s, will follow in a adjacent space.

6. Don’t Tell Mama on the Move

In other Neonopolis news, Don’t Tell Mama, a piano lounge with a passionate following, has moved to the retail complex. Don’t Tell Mama originally opened in 2009.

Don't Tell Mama

Now, you know where that place you know nothing about is.

7. Downtown Grand’s Gets a New Tower

While Downtown Grand’s casino is often under-peopled, the hotel side of the business is apparently booming, so Downtown Grand is building a new hotel tower. The new tower will sit in the space where the hotel’s porte cochere used to be and construction will add 495 new rooms to the hotel.

Downtown Grand construction

Rest assured, we’ll be keeping an eye on Downtown Grand’s new erection.

8. Whiskey Licker Up at Binion’s

Construction continues in dramatic fashion at Binion’s, making way for a new venue called Whiskey Licker Up.

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

Binion’s lost a little neon, but there’s plenty left.

Of course we poked our head inside. Do you know this blog at all?

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

Walls are highly overrated.

Whiskey Licker Up will be a bar and lounge with a rotating bar as its centerpiece. There will be food, dancing and live entertainment as well. Read more.

Whiskey Licker Up

Consider this the “before” photo.

The new bar will wrap around one corner of Binion’s providing a sweet view of the festivities below. Whiskey Licker Up is expected to open summer 2019.

9. Hotel Apache Takes Reservations

See what we did there? Back in February, which never seems correctly spelled, Binion’s announced it would open about 80 rooms in a boutique, hotel-within-a-hotel, Hotel Apache. The rooms are decorated in a vintage style, and Binion’s isn’t being shy about how some believe the place is haunted. Rooms can now be booked online.

Hotel Apache

We’ve heard Hotel Apache, like its sister hotel, Four Queens, won’t have a resort fee, so there’s that.

10. First Fremont Street Experience Canopy LEDs Arrive

Fremont Street Experience, where we work in marketing as our day job (opinions are our own, as if that weren’t readily apparent), is getting a $32 million renovation of its Viva Vision screen. The canopy upgrade is a huge undertaking, and the first shipment of LEDs were recently delivered.

Fremont Street Experience canopy upgrade

These crates hold just 1/16th of the LEDs needed for the Viva Vision upgrade.

We poked our camera into one of the crates to get a look at the new LEDs. The Viva Vision canopy renovation starts around May 6, 2019, and the upgraded video screen will debut on New Year’s Eve.

Viva Vision modules

These LEDs will give the Viva Vision screen seven times the brightness and four times the resolution.

The light shows at Fremont Street Experience will continue to play throughout the upgrade. Installation of the new LEDs will happen in the late evening through early morning in 150-foot sections (from the west end of the street, near Golden Gate, to the east, near White Castle), but the shows will play with little interruption.

This Doesn’t Fit With the Rest of the List, But We’re Sharing Anyway

We figured it was worth mentioning, Beauty Bar on Fremont East has closed and isn’t coming back. The entertainment venue didn’t go down without some drama, but the curtain has fallen for the last time on this beleaguered venue.

Beauty Bar closed

Beauty Bar opened in 2004, and was once co-owned by Corey Harrison of “Pawn Stars” fame.

We trust our list satisfies your thirst for downtown Las Vegas updates.

Downtown offers a distinct and idiosyncratic, to say the least, alternative to the Las Vegas Strip.

We do our best to keep you in the loop on all the latest news, mainly because it gives us an excuse to drink and gamble downtown more. We also love keeping you informed. But mainly the drinking and gambling thing. Just keeping it real.

Fremont Street Experience Announces Concert Series Schedule for 2019

Fremont Street Experience has announced its Downtown Rocks summer concert series schedule for 2019. Which we sort of just said in the headline, but we needed an opening sentence before the graphic, so there you go.

Fremont Street Experience concerts

The word “free” is music to our ears.

2019 Fremont Street Experience free concerts schedule:

googie May 24 – Good Charlotte
googie June 15 – Nelly
googie June 29 – Sugar Ray
googie July 4 – Eli Young Band
googie July 20 – Fuel, Toadies and Sponge
googie July 27 – Pop 2000 Tour hosted by Lance Bass, with O-Town, Aaron Carter, Ryan Cabrera and Tyler Hilton
googie Aug. 10 – Collective Soul
googie Aug. 17 – Buckcherry
googie Aug. 24 – Cheap Trick
googie Aug. 30 – The Wallflowers
googie Sep. 1 – I Love the ’90s featuring Vanilla Ice, Montell Jordan, All-4-One, Tone Loc and Coolio
googie Sep. 28 – Smash Mouth
googie Oct. 19 – Muddfest featuring Puddle of Mudd, Saliva, Trapt, Saving Abel and Tantric

Most of the free Fremont Street Experience concerts start at 9:00 p.m.

Fremont Street concerts

Free rocks. Shout-out to Mermaids.

When you’re visiting downtown for these free shows, look up. The Viva Vision canopy at Fremont Street Experience is getting a $32 million upgrade.

The upgrade is expected to begin in early May 2019, and will officially debut on New Year’s Eve. The light shows will continue to run during the upgrade, which will be done in eight phases, in 150-foot sections (starting at the west end of the canopy, near Golden Gate).

Here’s a look at what’s being replaced on the Fremont Street Experience screen.

Viva Vision LEDs

Fremont Street Experience debuted in 1995 and got an upgrade to its old-timey LEDs in 2004. They’re old-timey again.

Full disclosure: We work in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience as our day job. Our opinions are our own, despite the fact we haven’t really expressed any in this blog post. Though, we like Cheap Trick a lot. And that “All Stars” song from “Shrek.” And we are also a big fan of light shows.

Get details about the free concert series at the official Fremont Street Experience Web site.

Circa Las Vegas Resort Begins Construction

Just a month after the announcement of a name for Circa Resort & Casino, construction is officially underway.

The start of construction follows a lengthy demolition of the former Las Vegas Club, Mermaid’s casino and the Glitter Gulch strip club. Demolition of the one-block site at 18 Fremont started in February 2017. Note: Circa’s street address will be 8 Fremont Street.

Preparation of the site on Fremont Street took several months, much of which was spent chipping through a material which has caused headaches for innumerable builders in Las Vegas, caliche.

Circa construction

This Dec. 2018 photo shows a machine breaking up caliche. “Caliche” is a Dothraki word meaning “queen.”

Now, the Circa site is a hive of activity as crews drill holes for “caissons.”

Circa construction

We are proud to bring you all the Las Vegas dirt.

While we don’t pretend to know anything about construction, we have to care because this construction involves a Las Vegas casino.

A “caisson” in this context is a colloquial term referring to concrete poured into a hollow cylindrical form. Yes, we stole that from Wikipedia. We are a blog, not a Structural Engineer.

We were on-site to see the very first rebar “cage” at Circa lifted by a crane and inserted into a 120-foot hole, later filled with concrete. Which, trust us, sounds a lot sexier than it really is.

Circa construction

We were there to see Circa’s first concrete poured. And it is exceptionally rude for you to wonder if we have a life.

Anyway, crews are drilling and filling six caissons a day at Circa. They will be part of the foundation of the new resort, and there will be 308 caissons when all is said and done.

Thankfully, if we get any of this information wrong, there are a lot of experts on the Internet who will gleefully correct us.

Circa construction

We asked about those blue tanks. Apparently, they’re used to collect the “slug water” so it doesn’t go into the storm drains. Just pretend to know what slug water is, like we did.

Circa is expected to open in 2020, so crews are working 24/7, seven days a week, through rain and snow (yes, this was actually a thing recently).

While the caissons are rolling along (like we weren’t going to use that line at some point), crews are also busy over-excavating nine elevator shafts, whatever that might mean.

Circa construction

Quite the drill bit collection you’ve got there.

Here’s another shot of the drill guys doing their thing.

Circa construction

Shout-out to the Underminer.

Next, construction crews will drill cap footings for the building’s vertical components.

Again, we’re flying blind here, but we need words to keep the photos from slapping together.

Circa construction

We are determined to have the most “before” photos of Circa than any Las Vegas blog.

As a reference point, here’s what Circa is going to look like “after.”

Circa Las Vegas

Schwing.

While we may not entirely grasp what’s happening at the Circa site, we’re happy to see all the progress.

More than a few projects in Las Vegas have been taking longer than expected, or have completely stalled, so witnessing a project moving forward so quickly helps restore our faith in the rebar gods.

Circa construction

“Rebar Cages” would’ve been a great name for a Sting album.

Thanks to our friends at Tre Builders (Circa’s project management company) for some patient hand-holding with all this construction talk, and we’re sorry we don’t take better notes.

Circa Las Vegas

Useless fact of the day: Circa is an anagram of “ricca,” the feminine form of the Italian “ricco,” meaning “rich.”

We expect to visit the Circa site often (yes, the restraining orders are already being drawn up), so check back for all the updates you can stomach.

Hey, we like new and shiny, and Circa will qualify on both counts. Read more about Circa and check out some glorious renderings while you’re at it.