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.

Peyote Restaurant to Debut Downtown

The restaurant and bar visionary responsible for some of the coolest spots in Las Vegas, Ryan Doherty, has another project in the works: Peyote at Fergusons Downtown Motel on Fremont Street.

Doherty’s newest restaurant and bar concept debuts in Sep. 2021.

Peyote Las Vegas restaurant

Peyote, of course, is a cactus plant with hallucinogenic properties made famous in the Oscar-worthy film, “Young Guns.”

Ryan Doherty is the creative powerhouse behind Commonwealth, Park on Fremont, Discopussy, Lucky Day (all part of the Fremont East district), as well as Oddwood lounge and Museum Fiasco at Area 15.

Fergusons Downtown Motel is in a funky spot downtown, sitting in a sort of a seedy no-man’s land that used to be far seedier. It’s near Bunkhouse Saloon and PublicUs, two places you also
probably haven’t been. Fergusons is about 2,206 feet from Neonopolis and Hennesey’s.

However, Fergusons is well worth a spot because it’s home to Big Rig Jig, easily one of the best pieces of art in Las Vegas.

Big Rig Jig downtown Vegas

Anybody know a good chiropractor?

But we are straying from the point of this story. Thanks a lot, Captain Morgan.

The point is Peyote opens soon, and it is partnering with “a collection of local culinary, cocktail and design architects,” per the news release.

They include Kim Owens and chef Justin Kingsley Hall, the folks behind Main St. Provisions in the Arts District; Jolene Mannina, founder of Secret Burger and Vegas Test Kitchen; and Max Solano, formerly head of whisky education for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits who will act as the restaurant’s cocktail program consultant.

They were going to name the restaurant after Peyote’s scientific name, Lophophora williamsii, but neon ain’t cheap.

We’re especially looking forward to the decor as it’s being done by the artist behind must-see Discopussy and Lucky Day, Keegan Arthur Olton (the most artisty name in the history of art).

Peyote’s patio will have a custom 3D-mapped LED bistro light canvas. According to the release, “more than 1,500 individually addressable lights include full color RGB pixels to work together, creating a glimmering mirage from above that responds to music controlled by custom lighting control software.”

Trust us on this one, it’s going to be badass, they just can’t use the word “badass” in a news release.

Peyote downtown

You are welcome to chill here, but not the way the kids mean it, because even downtown has public indecency laws.

Peyote has already firmed up its menu.

We’re going to rattle off some of the words in the news release as if we understand them.

“Peyote’s upscale dinner menu will offer a decadent arrangement of appetizers, such as an heirloom tomato summer squash tart; mini shrimp toast topped with wild smoked salmon roe; American country ham on toast served with tangy pickled mustard seed, carrot aioli and wild arugula topped with red eye gravy; and more.”

We’re sort of hungry, you?

“Savory main dishes include Carolina Gold rice risotto with grilled corn, sunflower seeds, leeks and almond milk; heritage pig sandwich with grilled pork belly, grass-fed butter, radish, plum mustard, rouge creamery cheese and red pepper pickles; Santa Maria vintage tri-tip grilled on oak served with grilled baby gem, corn salad, pickles, chili preserved radish, butter ball potatoes and fry bread designed to feed three to six guests and more.”

Who doesn’t love a “heritage pig sandwich”? Other than pigs, obviously.

There was more, but we are getting carpal tunnel, so we’ll skip to the hours of operation.

Peyote will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; noon to 2:00 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

Ryan Doherty and his team keep knocking it out of the park, so we can’t wait to try his new place when it opens. Props to Doherty for his ongoing faith and investment in downtown Las Vegas.

Live Music Venue Planned for Plaza, Disco-Inspired Photo Op Opens

Awhile back, we shared some sweet scoop about a new bar concept coming to Plaza casino, Carousel.

Now, we’ve got more Plaza news, and it’s going to make live music fans dreamy-eyed.

Plaza has a new live music venue in the works, and it’s going to live in a space formerly occupied by The Swingers Club miniature golf.

Yes, Plaza had a mini-golf attraction at one time, but let’s keep our eyes on the ball!

This space has played host to mini-golf, The Drink lounge and, most recently, special events. Next up, grooves.

The new venue, with live music and an ambitious beer program, is in partnership with “dive bar” beloved by locals. Don’t ask for the name. If we could share the name, we’d have shared it in this paragraph. We didn’t. That’s now it works. It’s called a “tease,” not a “here’s everything all that once.”

The new venue is expected to launch in October 2021. Here’s what it looks like pre-project.

Yes, there will be bartop video poker, too. We know how you are.

Word of a new live music venue should take some of the sting out of the fact the existing live music lounge, Omaha Lounge, at Plaza has closed permanently.

It was sort of an informal affair, anyway, and we weren’t a fan of live music in the casino. That area (pictured below) is expected to host stadium-style machines in the near future.

We love us some Wonderboogie, but time and place.

As mentioned, while the entrance to the new venue is in close proximity to the casino, the space is enclosed, so the music won’t bleed onto the casino floor. The way Mother Nature intended.

In other Plaza news, a new, disco-themed photo op just opened in the former party pit.

The space has been dubbed Studio 71 and it’s glorious, especially if you were alive during the era which inspired it.

We love us some party pit girls, but time and place.

The room, free and open to the public, is decked out with a disco ball tree, a wall of colorful skates, a neon-drenched backdrop with iconic gambling symbols and other “Grammable” flourishes.

Plaza 71 is five photo ops in one, so pace your pixels.

We like this quirky space so much, we’re not going to point out they got the pips wrong on the dice. We’re classy like that.

So many things to love, all in once place.

Oh, all right, it’s these pips. Four and three are across from each other, not side by side!

We’re seeking help about our pip obsession, thanks.

Studio 71 is open Monday through Friday, 4:00 p.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday noon to midnight.

The signs are explicit: No horseplay.

Please restrict the horseplay to Fremont Street, where it belongs.

While the visuals are great, we especially love the fact Studio 71 features non-stop disco music. Disco is our musical sweet spot, and the entire space is like a glittery time machine.

Studio 71 takes its rightful place among the many quirky photo ops on and around Fremont Street, including the vintage slot machines at Golden Gate, the Blarney Stone at The D, The Mint’s exposed facade at Whisky Licker Up at Binion’s, Vegas Vic, the weight scale at Heart Attack Grill, the abandoned bras and Jim Morrison mugshot at Hogs & Heifers, the semi truck cab at Pizza Rock, the laughing Buddha at The Cal and just about anything at Circa.

Here’s some slickly-produced video of Studio 71 at Plaza.

Just when you thought the cavalcade of Plaza newness was done, you thought wrong.

In addition to the new outdoor Carousel bar, there will also be a revamp of the now-closed beer garden space next to the hotel’s ogle-worthy porte cochere.

The venue will have a carnival theme, in line with the nearby Carousel bar, and serve snacks among other things.

We knew Plaza would replace its beer garden sooner or lager.

An additional upgrade at Plaza is mostly invisible, but involves a substantial investment in how guests experience Plaza. The hotel, which just turned 50 years old, is overhauling its 18 elevators at a cost of $350,000 each.

Plaza is also shopping for partners to develop an adjoining space formerly soiled by a Greyhound bus terminal. It’s telling a group of developers from Hawaii attended a recent Oscar
Goodman dinner series event.

Plaza could have its eye on visitors from Hawaii, as they flock to the nearby Fremont casino and The Cal. (No word on when Main Street Station will reopen, but the over-under is September

Greyhound station Plaza

Downtown currently has more big, red arrows than any time in its history.

In other Plaza news, the excellent “On the Corner of Main Street” podcast recently celebrated its 50th episode. Well worth a listen, despite our having appeared on two episodes (#10 and #40).

Plaza has a lot of plans in the works, no doubt spurred by a recent bump in business resulting  from not only a post-pandemic visitation increase but also the opening of Circa Las Vegas across the street.

The return of live music is drawing more visitors to the west end of Fremont Street, and Plaza has been a beneficiary. The re-launch of the free Downtown Rocks concert series has also been a boost for the neighborhood.

We’ll share anything else we hear about developments at Plaza, so stay tuned. If staying tuned is even a thing anymore, what with streaming or whatever the kids are doing now.

Update (7/16/21): Plaza officially announced its partner for the live music venue is Sand Dollar Downtown.

Fremont Street Experience Moves Forward With New Year’s Eve Festivities

Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas will hold its annual New Year’s Eve party, albeit without live entertainment.

The cost of entry to the event, $25, is being referred to as a “security fee.”

It was widely reported Fremont Street Experience wouldn’t have its New Year’s Eve event, but that was related to the denial of a specific permit request.

Apparently, a new permit was requested and granted.

It’s unclear what, if any, conditions were attached to the permit approval, but it seems Fremont Street Experience is keeping promotion of the event to a bare minimum to avoid potential blowback related to public safety concerns.

Fremont Street Experience New Year's Eve

Will Fremont Street Experience have a New Year’s Eve party this year? Yes. Will it be weird without live music? Definitely.

The NYE page on the Fremont Street Experience Web site is atypically understated, merely providing an opportunity to purchase tickets along with a FAQ covering the basics of the event.

Typically, one of the biggest draws of New Year’s Eve at Fremont Street Experience is live entertainment, but the venue’s FAQ states, “Due to COVID restrictions mandated by the state, there will not be live entertainment or bands on Fremont Street Experience this year.”

No live entertainment includes no DJs.

That means the evening’s festivities will feature ambient music, and the only entertainment, aside from people-watching, will be on the venue’s Viva Vision video screen.

Last year, the screen got a $32 million renovation. It was unveiled a year ago on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Fremont Street NYE 2021

Ah, New Year’s Eve 2020, when communicable diseases were almost adorable.

Presumably, the term “security fee” makes reference to the fact there will be controlled access to Fremont Street on New Year’s Eve, and as always, a heightened level of security will be provided to party-goers.

It’s unclear if the event will be subject to any capacity limits, but NYE typically draws tens of thousands of guests to Fremont Street Experience, a five block entertainment district in downtown Las Vegas.

The “Safety and Security Restrictions” section of the venue’s FAQ states, “Fremont Street Experience’s security measures will include bag checks, I.D. scans and screening through metal detectors and COVID assessment.”

The Fremont Street Experience Web site continues, “Yes, everyone will need to wear a mask at all times and practice six feet of social distancing. If you are not feeling well or have any symptoms of COVID, please stay home. Upon entrance you will be required to answer a few COVID screening questions.”

Thank goodness nobody drinks excessively on Fremont Street or that “six feet of social distancing” thing would come across as a tad whimsical.

A number of other health and safety precautions are listed on the Web site as well. Take a look.

The NYE event at Fremont Street Experience will be limited to those 21 and older.

While the Las Vegas Strip canceled its fireworks, Plaza hotel, adjacent to Fremont Street Experience, still plans to have a fireworks display.

Given how strange 2020 has been, it’s probably no surprise New Year’s Eve 2021 in Las Vegas will be awkward, too.

Happy Awkward New Year

Let’s raise our socially-distanced glasses to toast the end of a year replete with WTF.

Venues know people will be up for a party, but they have to balance risk versus reward, as do we all. As we always have.

It’s likely Fremont Street Experience will draw a significant number of revelers, but it’s an outdoor venue and medical officials seem to agree most of the COVID-19 cases being reported are happening in households, with extended interactions, not passing encounters in public venues.

Hosting New Year’s Eve festivities this year is a balancing act. People seem ready to celebrate the passing of 2020, but many remain wary about large gatherings.

We’re curious to see how “Awkward New Year’s Eve 2021” unfolds.

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.