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.

Shakira Gets Eye-Rousing Light Show at Fremont Street Experience

We worked at Fremont Street Experience for several years, and whenever ideas for new light shows were being batted around, we always said one thing: “Duran Duran.”

When it became clear that wasn’t happening, we gave our second suggestion: “Shakira.”

Half a wish granted is still a wish granted, and now Shakira fans can enjoy three of her hits on the huge-ass Viva Vision screen in downtown Las Vegas.

Shakira Las Veas

Fun fact: Shakira’s full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll. Hawt.

Shakira’s new light show at Fremont Street Experience features three songs, two of which we actually recognized.

The three songs are “Whenever, Wherever,” “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Can’t Remember to Forget You.”

By the way, the one we didn’t recognize, “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” has more than a billion views on YouTube, so we should probably surrender our Shakira fan club membership card.

Anyway, here’s a peek at Shakira’s new light show.

Shakira’s light show visuals felt a little light on, you know, Shakira, but the show definitely makes the most of the recently-renovated Viva Vision screen.

The renovation quadrupled the screen’s resolution and made its official debut on Dec. 31, 2019. The cost: $32 million.

With Shakira’s new light show, the designers pretty much threw everything at the screen, and a lot of it sticks.

In “Whenever, Wherever,” we get schools of brilliantly-colored fish, water snakes like in “Abyss,” desert sands, horses and hummingbirds darting among streams of lava.

Shakira horses

Sigmund Freud believed riding a horse in a dream represents sexual intercourse. Then again, he thought pretty much thought everything in dreams represented sexual intercourse.

In “Hips Don’t Lie,” there are musical instruments, graphical lyrics, multi-colored dancers, plumes of vibrant smoke, concert crowds and a headless, gyrating hottie.

In “Hips Don’t Lie,” there also the classic lyric, “And when you walk up on the dance floor, nobody cannot ignore the way you move your body, girl.” This song came out in 2005 and we’re still trying to figure out if this is a compliment. Because, technically, if “nobody cannot ignore” something, it means they can ignore it. We’re pretty sure he meant nobody can ignore the way she moves her body. Girl. All due respect to Wyclef Jean, whomever that might be.

And don’t get us started with Paul McCartney singing, “And if this ever changing world in which we live in…” Redundancy isn’t not the only thing worse than double negatives in terms of redundancy.

Shakira light show Vegas

The Viva Vision screen has 16,433,152 pixels. Shakira’s light show uses all of them.

In the last song of the light show, “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” we see flowers, butterflies, laser beams, a massive serpent, space phenomenon, sound-sensitive cityscapes and snippets of Shakira’s music videos.

Shakira’s new light show is a feast for the eyes and ears, although it’s weird to think about ears feasting, so let’s not spend too much time thinking about it.

The light shows at Fremont Street Experience continue to be one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.

Check out the new Shakira show and see what’s shaking.

First Look: Downtown’s Welcome Arch is Fleek AF

Before you get started, we use “fleek” ironically, so get off our back.

Secondly, sorry about the “AF,” Mom.

Most relevantly, sign company YESCO (which is redundant, since “SCO” stands for “sign company”) is testing downtown’s new welcome archway.

To cut to the chase, it’s infinitely better than anyone anticipated.

Downtown Vegas arch

All due respect to Betty Willis, designer of the other welcome sign, this is pretty badass.

Not surprisingly, we’ve got the first video of this new downtown photo op!

The video was captured by loyal reader Ester Goldberg, who you may remember hosted a comedy-variety show at a north Strip casino whose name shall not be mentioned because we’re not giving them publicity anymore.

The video shows YESCO putting the arch through its paces.

Honestly, we thought the arch would pretty much just have an “on” and “off” switch.

We’ve been watching this $6.5 million project closely and previously observed the archway involves an inordinate number of bulbs.

Beyond the bulbs you can see, there are apparently thousands of LEDs embedded in the arches as well.

Let’s just say the daytime arch is just a fraction of the “wow” factor of the nighttime version.

downtown arch

As with so many things in Las Vegas, less impressive with the lights on.

The downtown Las Vegas welcome archway is going to draw a lot of eyeballs toward downtown from The Strip. It remains to be seen if those eyeballs will continue their journey downtown to drink and gamble.

Yes, the idea of eyeballs drinking and gambling is a little disturbing. You should mention it to your therapist.

No date has been set for the official unveiling of the downtown arch, but you’ll know when we do.

We’re always in the mood for some fresh Vegas bling, and the downtown welcome arch more than qualifies.

The Cal Gets a Colorful New Paint Job

The California has been going through a rough patch recently, but that hasn’t kept the downtown casino from sprucing up in honor of the arrival of a new neighbor, Circa Las Vegas.

The Cal is in the process of an exterior rejuvenation, so allow our boots on the ground to keep you in the loop on what’s up. Full disclosure: It’s impossible to find a comfortable pair of boots, so we don’t wear them. We love you, but not enough to suffer foot discomfort.

Cal paint

The Cal got a renovation inside in 2016, now the titivation moves outside. You’re welcome for the new word.

The California has gone “full Hawaiian” with its floral motif.

The Cal, of course, relies heavily on guests from Hawaii. Which sort of ties into the aforementioned “rough patch.” Travel restrictions due to the pandemic have resulted in downtown Las Vegas revenues dropping 71 percent from the third quarter of 2019. Read more.

Another Boyd Gaming casino, Main Street, has yet to reopen.

But back to the happy colors!

Cal painted

When you get a shiny new neighbor, you have to up your game.

The Cal’s signature red has been refreshed, but some new colors have been added to the casino’s palette.

We’re getting a bit of a Baskin-Robbins logo vibe, but we’re hoping somebody leaves a comment on this post that reminds us where we’ve seen this combination of orange, purple and pink.

Cal paint job

For the record, Lappert’s at The Cal has excellent ice cream.

The new flair makes the building pop, and it’s very much a response to the Cal’s new neighbor, Circa. Circa Las Vegas opened on Oct. 28, 2020, and everyone in the neighborhood is primping.

For example, Plaza, just across the street from Circa, recently replaced 9,740 bulbs in its old-school porte cochere.

Plaza lights

Plaza wants to make sure price-sensitive visitors to Circa know they’re a a short stroll away.

The Cal was starting to look a little long in the tooth, as it was built in 1975.

Artwork adoring the building has all been replaced. By “artwork,” of course, we mean “awkward attempts at art.”

One of the tile-based art pieces (pictured below) caught our eye back in 2013. We are so glad we captured it for posterity, as it’s been replaced by floriculture.

Cal mural

Don’t judge. These settlers are consenting adults.

The new paint job certainly brightens The Cal up, and longtime guests will appreciate the investment by Boyd.

Cal paint job

Hang in there, Cal. Your Hawaiian fans will be back in force soon.

Enjoy more photos of The Cal’s vibrant facelift.

Circa Resort Opens in Downtown Las Vegas

It’s the best thing to happen to Las Vegas since thongs. Circa Las Vegas has opened downtown, and it’s straight-up glorious.

We already shared a metric hell-ton of preview photos, so check those out.

Vegas Vickie is back

Vegas Vickie’s back on Fremont and her hubby, Vegas Vic, is happier than a masochist in a cactus patch.

Circa provided all the hoopla befitting a Las Vegas casino opening celebration, and made sure to hit all the right notes, including a clever twist on a longtime Vegas tradition: The first craps roll.

Rather than inviting one Vegas heavy-hitter to roll the dice first, Circa’s owner Derek Stevens invited a gaggle of them.

Here are the folks around the Circa craps table for the first official dice roll: Ryan Growney, G.M. of South Point; Jonathan Jossel, CEO of Plaza; Scott Sibella, Pres. of Resorts World; Andy Abboud, V.P. at Las Vegas Sands; Chris Latil, Sr. V.P. of Golden Nugget; Terry Caudill, owner of Binion’s and Four Queens; Mike Nolan, G.M. of El Cortez; and Brendan Gaughan, grandson of Jackie Gaughan.

Vegas VIPs

We’re definitely not the one who’s going to point out nobody from Boyd was there. That would be awkward.

Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel snagged the honor after a draw of cards (he got an ace), and the first roll at Circa was a six. That tidbit will win you a bar bet someday.

Circa dice roll

That’s some Vegas immortality right there.

After months of anticipation, guests finally got their first in-person look at the newest casino in Las Vegas.

Circa features what’s billed as the world’s largest sportsbook, the “country’s largest destination pool experience,” a bevy of new restaurants and lounges and Nevada’s longest bar, Mega Bar.

Here’s a quick look inside Circa.

The centerpiece of Circa is a refurbished Vegas Vickie. She looks amazing, after a three-year absence from Fremont Street, and her leg is kicking again.

Also getting some buzz is the return of the 99-cent shrimp cocktail, once so beloved at Golden Gate. Circa owners Derek and Greg Stevens also own Golden Gate (as well as The D), so it was a natural to serve up the popular treat at Circa.

There are some caveats. The 99-cent shrimp cocktail is only available from 3-5 a.m. at Saginaw’s. To get the 99-cent price, you have to purchase a meal at the restaurants.

Outside those hours, the shrimp cocktail is $11. Hey, casinos don’t subsidize restaurants anymore, so not really surprising. Anyway, it’s there for nostalgia lovers.

Circa shrimp cocktail

Die-hard Vegas fans won’t want to miss this throwback drunchies shrimpfest.

The prices overall at Circa’s restaurants provide a bit of sticker shock to downtown regulars. We trust those will be adjusted based upon demand.

In the meantime, we predict Plaza’s Pop-Up Pizza stand is going to be overwhelmed.

You know we were excited for Circa to open because we wore a tux. No, not a tuxedo T-shirt, an actual tux.

A highlight of our evening was being “tiered out.” Circa’s One loyalty club just introduced tiers, and we’re a Maverick, as if you didn’t already know that.

Here’s more about the new One loyalty club tier system.

Circa Las Vegas tiers

We didn’t need a loyalty club to confirm our Maverick status, but we’ll take it. Free parking!

It’s worth noting two of the tiers get free self-parking. Circa does not validate as The D and Golden Gate do.

Parking in Garage Mahal is $4 an hour, with a $15 daily max. (Note: Parking is $5 at Plaza next door.)

There’s one tier that hasn’t been announced yet. It’s invite only, so fancy.

Garage Mahal Circa

We love the floor numbers at Garage Mahal.

Yes, we got closer. Do you know this blog at all?

Garage Mahal

The cars in the floor number sign are vacuum-sealed for freshness.

Overall, the opening of Circa was pretty much flawless, and it was great to see the enthusiasm for this new destination in downtown Las Vegas.

Downtown needed Circa, Vegas needed Circa, we all needed Circa.

Circa uniform

Circa’s dancing dealer uniforms look amazing. Yes, we had a chaperone.

Amidst so much bad news, Circa is a ray of hope. Derek and Greg Stevens have really done it right and this shiny new adult playground surpasses all expectations.

While it hasn’t been publicly announced, our sources say Circa cost $1.156 billion, and it shows.

Circa cage

You’re not supposed to photograph a casino cage. We don’t live by society’s rules.

If you’ve got a few spare minutes, hear some exclusive scoop about how Circa became a reality from the resort’s owner, Derek Stevens.

Circa’s elevated experience, and prices, are a bridge between downtown and The Strip. There’s nothing gritty or seedy here. Circa is Strip-style gorgeous with a downtown vibe. It’s the best of both worlds.

From the jaw-dropping video screens in the sportsbook and pool complex to the dancing dealers and free pours, Circa isn’t just the dream of the Stevens brothers, it’s the dream of everyone who loves casinos and downtown.

Circa sportsbook

Circa squeezes a lifetime of sports into every visit.

Circa is a dream made real, and you’re going to absolutely love it.

Behold the Biggest Circa Las Vegas Resort Preview Photo Gallery in the World

Circa Las Vegas, the first new downtown casino resort for decades, opens Oct. 28, 2020.

As usual, we couldn’t wait, so we’ve put together the biggest pre-opening photo gallery of Circa in existence.

Vickie Circa

Nearly done, but Vegas Vickie’s already a knock-out.

During our recent visits, we got the witness the resort putting the final touches on Circa (which is why you’ll see some ladders, exposed wires and plastic-covered tables in the pics).

We can’t thank Circa enough for letting us get an early look at this amazing new Las Vegas destination.

The bottom line: We loved every inch of the place. If you get our drift.

Circa

This isn’t even her best side.

We were literally breathless seeing Circa’s massive sportsbook for the first time, and we are not even a sports person.

Rumor has it the manufacturers of Circa’s sportsbook screen, upon seeing it for the first time, were equally stunned. And they made the thing!

Circa sportsbook

Come get your swoon on, sports fans.

Circa’s restaurants were cranking out delicious food during an employee play date as bartenders and dancing dealers were put through their paces.

Thanks to Circa owner Derek Stevens, we were given the honor of being the first to share Circa’s chips (photo below).

The reveal of the chips was topped by Stevens’ “secret” project, the creation of casino plaques. He was giddy to share these beauties he describes as “highly desirable.”

Circa's casino chips plaques

One of each of Circa’s chips and plaques, please.

There was some truly unique and remarkable moments at the Circa play date, as Derek Stevens actually got to gamble at his own casino, a no-no for owners when actual money is being wagered.

Stevens tried his hand at video poker, roulette and craps.

Derek Stevens slot machine

Top casino tip: You don’t have to be a casino owner to get freebies. Always use your players card.

Fun fact: Stevens and his wife Nicole won $183,000 in pretend money at dice thanks to his wise choice to find a “virgin” shooter, his executive assistant, Yivi.

Circa is as beautiful as the renderings, and Circa has pretty much delivered on the hype, much of it ours. Yes, we’ve been a Circa cheerleader. That’s because beyond loving what we’ve seen and consumed so far, it’s objectively awesome. Circa is also the good news Las Vegas could use right now.

Mega Bar

Let’s just say Circa isn’t “under-barred.”

The only asterisk is Circa’s much-touted “adults-only” status isn’t technically accurate. A contractual loophole means kids will be allowed into the resort’s steakhouse, Barry’s. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

The centerpiece of Circa features the long-awaited return of Vegas Vickie, an iconic Las Vegas neon sign which sat above the former Glitter Gulch strip club.

She is absolutely glorious, and Circa is making the most of this newly-refurbished blast from the past.

We are confident enough in our masculinity to admit seeing Vickie lit up for the first time was one of several times we started opening weeping during our initial visits to Circa. Ditto our first Captain Morgan and diet.

Circa cocktail

Seal broken.

There’s far too much ground to cover in one blog post, so we’ll set you on your visual journey through Circa via our photo gallery.

There, you’ll get an inside peek at Circa’s special places (hello, high limit slot salon), its restaurants and menus, its artwork and its casino floors.

Circa screens

Want behind-the-scenes? You’ve got it. This is the hidden area where technicians can replace modules in the sportsbook’s video screen without the use of cranes.

We’ve made no effort to hide the fact we’re smitten. We love what Circa co-owners Derek and Greg Stevens (more from the latter on our next podcast episode) have done downtown and Circa is the crown jewel.

Big socially-distanced hugs to Circa for letting us share these work-in-progress, unretouched, plastic-wrapped, home stretch blemishes-and-all images.

Circa casino

Nothing beats that new felt smell!

Circa has already exceeded expectations and it hasn’t even opened yet! Say “hello” to our new home away from home, Circa Las Vegas.

Related: We get the question about how much Circa Las Vegas cost often. Since we’re the only one with the answer, here it is: While it’s never been officially announced or confirmed, our information is Circa resort cost $1.156 billion to build.

Downtown Grand Offers $1 Blackjack, It’s Complicated

Downtown Grand is serving up a rare deal for its casino guests, blackjack with a $1 minimum.

Downtown Grand Tweeted the news on Oct. 16, 2020, along with the fact it’s the only downtown casino to offer $1 blackjack.

Downtown Grand $1 blackjack

How’s this for a little throwback action?

The response to this news has been counter-intuitive, to say the least. Responses to Downtown Grand’s Tweet include the following.

“Oh, dear.”

“That’s terrible.”

“That’s gonna reel in some quality patrons.”

“I feel for the dealers.”

“Poor dealers.”

That’s because $1 blackjack is a little, well, awkward.

Downtown Grand has struggled to be profitable for years, and offering $1 blackjack could be perceived as a little bit desperate.

The only other casino we can think of with $1 blackjack is Oyo, formerly Hooters.

The economics of a $1 blackjack table are such it’s pretty much a loss leader for a casino due to labor costs.

If everyone at a $1 table actually plays that amount per hand, a $1 6-to-5 blackjack table will only generate about $43,300 in an entire year.

A 6-to-5 $5 minimum blackjack table generates a meager $25 per hour in revenue, or $216,000 a year. A $5 3-to-2 table earns about $86,000 a year.

Now you know the answer to the question, “Why can’t I find any $5 3-to-2 blackjack tables?”

The general idea is to lure players into a casino for $1 blackjack hoping they’ll spend money on other games, whether at other tables or slots or restaurants or the bar.

blackjack

Fun fact: Playing blackjack is the closest we get to liking math.

While a $1 blackjack table may seem enticing, the games often have rules that hurt players.

For example, $1 minimum tables tend to be 6-to-5 payouts for blackjacks, rather than 3-to-2. (It’s worth noting a lot of higher limit tables are 6-to-5 as well.)

In low minimum blackjack games, dealers also hit soft 17, not optimal for players.

Value-seekers should take note of the $1 blackjack at Downtown Grand and enjoy it while it lasts.

We always enjoy Downtown Grand, as we like the generous video poker pay tables and frequent drinks (from the bottle, not the gun) at Furnace bar, and if you like a mellow, quiet casino, Downtown Grand’s hard to beat.

Also, one of our favorite restaurants, Triple George, is mere feet away.