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.

“Brilliant” at Neon Museum is an Illuminating Vegas Must-See

The Neon Museum is a national treasure, and now it’s even better with the debut of “Brilliant.”

“Brilliant” brings 40 vintage signs back to life through the miracle of projection mapping.

As you view photos and video of the new Neon Museum show, remember, not a single one of the signs actually functions.

Neon Museum Brilliant

There are few pursuits more noble than making neon glow again.

“Brilliant” is the work of artist Craig Winslow, and his digital skills and creativity are very much on display at the Neon Museum.

The signs aren’t just re-animated, they’re elevated. It’s reality, or more accurately history, heightened and amplified.

And speaking of amplification, “Brilliant” features about 20 songs by performers like Frank Sinatra, Elvis and others.

Neon Museum Lady Luck

“Luck be a Lady” kicks off the show and immediately activates the tear ducts. Allegedly.

“Brilliant” lasts about 30 minutes, but you’ll wish it would never end.

While photos and video aren’t allowed during the show, the Neon Museum, very thoughtfully, lights up all the signs at the end of “Brilliant” so guests can capture images.

Neon Museum signs

These weren’t part of the show, we just like old Vegas signs.

Here’s a glimpse at “Brilliant,” courtesy of the Neon Museum. And, no, video doesn’t do it justice.

We didn’t use the word “miracle” lightly.

“Brilliant” is a marvel of technology. Craig Winslow used photos and video to create a digital model of each of the 40 signs in the Neon Museum’s north gallery, basically an overflow storage area now put to much better use.

Winslow then created a light show that uses the defunct Las Vegas signs as projection screens. If you look closely, you can see that many of the bulbs on the signs are broken or missing, but during the show, the signs are better than new.

Binion's Horseshoe sign

You will be tempted to lick this, but don’t. Seriously, what is wrong with you?

Beyond replicating the pattern of the bulbs, the show also features film footage projected on the signs.

The eight projectors used in “Brilliant,” which is shown in the round, are housed in two 20-foot towers.

Part of the fun of “Brilliant” is trying to identify the signs and the casinos and other businesses whence they came.

Yes, people still occasionally use the word “whence.”

Neon Museum Brilliant

Talk about an odd couple. The ball is from a Denny’s sign, the bottom is from Flamingo.

Beyond the Lady Luck sign, our favorites included letters and Googie stars from the Stardust and the Binion’s Horseshoe, from a time before it was just Binion’s. Also gorgeous was a Golden Nugget sign, as well as one with the word “Famous,” once used by the Pioneer Club.

Stardust sign

We’ll take a partial Stardust sign any day.

The signs in “Brilliant” are nothing if not eclectic. There’s also the cowboy from Terrible’s (now Silver Sevens), a Liberace sign, one from Denny’s, another from O’Sheas and even one from the Sweetheart Wedding Chapel.

Brilliant Neon Museum

In 2017, Las Vegas experienced a 26-year low in the number of people getting married here. You go, rationality.

There’s even a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign in the mix. Listen for a chicken during the show.

“Brilliant” shows four times nightly, with tickets at $23. The price is even more reasonable ($15) for Nevada residents, those 65 and older, students and active and retired members of the military. The show is free to children younger than six.

The Neon Museum also offers a combination price ($42, or $32 for all the groups mentioned above) for “Brilliant” and the Neon Boneyard, which we not only recommend but consider a non-negotiable part of any Las Vegas visit.

Terrible's cowboy

Nobody was really clamoring for the Terrible’s sign to make a comeback, but just go with it.

Both the Neon Museum Boneyard and “Brilliant” require a reservation, so try being proactive for once in your life and book a ticket ahead of time. Go here.

Neon Museum Brilliant

Yes, it’s technically “Brilliant!” with an exclamation point. Not in this blog, however, we have sensitive hearing.

One of our favorite parts of visiting the Neon Museum isn’t actually inside the museum, it’s the welcome center.

The Neon Museum’s welcome center isn’t just a replica of the former La Concha Motel lobby, it’s literally the La Concha Motel lobby, and it’s gorgeous AF.

La Concha Las Vegas

The La Concha was designed by Paul Revere Williams, one of the first prominent African-American architects in the country.

The Neon Museum is about three minutes from downtown’s Fremont Street, or about a $6 Uber ride. Do not try to walk there, by the way. Fair warning.

In case we haven’t made it abundantly clear, “Brilliant” more than lives up to its name.

In fact, it’s so mesmerizing, we sort of want the whole world to be projection mapped.

Catch “Brilliant” at the Neon Museum and we guarantee you’ll fall in love with Las Vegas all over again.

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Eureka Restaurant Opens on Fremont East and People Seem to Like It

The opening of Eureka restaurant on Fremont East was bittersweet for many denizens of downtown.

The chain restaurant opened in a space formerly home to the Beat Coffeehouse, a popular haunt until it closed in Sep. 2016.

Eureka restaurant

Downtown is a special place to have patio dining. You’re sure to meet new people, some of whom have little to no need of delousing.

Eureka opened just a few weeks ago (Feb. 12, 2018) and has been doing brisk business since day one.

We don’t exactly get what people like so much about the place, but far be it from us to tell others what to like. We’re Switzerland like that.

To get a feel for Eureka, imagine Claim Jumper, but without the kids.

Eureka Fremont Street

Bonus points if you can guess why Eureka should cross-promote with a Cirque show at MGM Grand. We’ll wait.

The menu at Eureka is made up of a lot of words we didn’t recognize, so we went straight for the Eureka American Cheeseburger.

At $11, the price is a tad aspirational. It’s downtown, after all, where some of the best burgers in Las Vegas reside. Specifically, at Binion’s and El Cortez, where great burgers run around $5.

Eureka

Our medium well burger was decidedly medium, and the meat had a funky aftertaste, but look how pretty we made it, anyway.

Burger aficionados will no doubt want to explore the menu further for items like the Bone Marrow Burger, Bison Burger, Jalapeno Egg Burger, Veggie Beet Burger and Fresno Fig Burger.

To us, that list pretty much represents the five circles of Hell.

We had better luck during another visit to Eureka, where we enjoyed a respectable pair of fried chicken sliders ($13.50).

Eureka Fremont Street

If “perfectly acceptable” is a compliment, then we’re giving Eureka a compliment!

The Mac N’ Cheese Balls are worth a try, and not just because we wanted to make our mom blush while reading this sentence.

Eureka

Think of the cheese as the yin and the macaroni as the yang. No real reason. We just wanted to see if you’d do it.

Other appetizers include Lollipop Corn Dogs, Truffle Cheese Fries, Cauliflower Bites and Crispy Glazed Brussels Sprouts.

Salads, sandwiches and tacos round out the Eureka menu.

The dessert menu is limited to a Bourbon Barrel Cake and American Chocolate Budino, but they looked tempting on their way to other diners.

One of the big draws of Eureka is its hooch.

Eureka boasts 40 craft beers on tap. We have never personally had a beer, but that sounds like a robust selection for those who imbibe in the rocketsauce. Which has to be a legit name for beer because we found it on the Internet.

Eureka Las Vegas

Beer and vaginas have about the same acidity levels. We are not making this up.

Eureka has a welcoming central bar perfect for solo diners who like slow, inattentive service.

Eureka has a slew of signature cocktails we look forward to trying on someone else’s tab.

Signature cocktails run the gamut, which is what we typically say when we don’t have time to actually read the menu.

Specialty cocktails run from $10-15, and the first we’re likely to try is the Electric Butterfly, which features a “buzz button,” otherwise known as a “Szechuan button,” the herb made famous in Las Vegas by the Cosmopolitan’s Verbena cocktail.

Eureka’s happy hour runs from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. to closing.

Eureka happy hour

For a mere buck off beer, it’s more of a “mildly amused hour” than a happy hour, but a discount’s a discount.

Overall, Eureka is an adequate addition to the restaurant and bar options on Fremont East. The atmosphere is lively without being too loud (unlike it’s neighbor across the street, Commonwealth, which has been known to implode an eardrum at 100 yards).

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Fremont East district, here’s a better look at one half of it.

Fremont East district

From left, it’s Park on Fremont, Evel Pie, Red, Vanguard Lounge, Therapy and Eureka.

As we said, Eureka is consistently busy, but it remains to be seen if that’s more the result of a honeymoon period than compelling fare or libations.

Our beer-swilling friends swear Eureka has one of the best selections in town, so give it a try and let us know what you think.

Eureka Restaurant at Fremont East

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Guy Creates Las Vegas Race for Friends and It’s Amazing

Everyone needs a friend like Gabe Sinna.

Sinna recently celebrated a birthday, and decided to invite some friends to join him in Las Vegas for the festivities.

Lots of people have done that. But Gabe Sinna isn’t everybody.

After months of planning, Sinna created an ingenious game for his friends to play, inspired by the hit travel competition on CBS, “The Amazing Race.” And his game has raised the bar for Las Vegas scavenger hunts forever.

Amazing Gabe

Trust us, the word “amazing” isn’t used lightly here.

See, just about everyone has a friend who’s a planner. But Gabe Sinna is more than that. He’s a savant. He’s a genius. He’s a freak.

And we’re not just saying that because Sinna dove deeply into the recesses of this very Las Vegas blog for nuggets to inform his “Amazing Gabe” race.

Amazing Gabe

Gabe and the better half of the teams competing in the “Amazing Gabe” race.

While Sinna orchestrated an entire Las Vegas trip for his friends, we tagged along on the part that featured downtown. Not only do we work downtown (in marketing at Fremont Street Experience), the area is home to some of our favorite places in Las Vegas.

Sinna did extensive research about downtown before creating his race, then built his “race” using elements of “The Amazing Race,” including “Detours” and “Roadblocks.” He even used artwork inspired by the show. Told you he’s a freak.

Amazing Gabe

This is the photo caption where we don’t mention how much free time Gabe clearly has.

At the beginning of each leg of the race, Sinna distributed clues (“Route Info.”) and his friends, all couples, got to explore downtown in a fun, unique way.

It should be noted Sinna’s friends are also sort of freaks, as they made matching T-shirts with Sinna’s face on them for each team.

Amazing Gabe

Gabe’s friends weren’t messing around. It’s a little thing called “bragging rights.”

The “Amazing Gabe” race included a carefully-curated list of things to do downtown:

  • Take a photo with the gold nugget replica at Golden Nugget
  • Get a pic with a million bucks at Binion’s
  • Try a scorpion shot at Nacho Daddy
  • Visit Banger Brewing
  • Ride the SlotZilla zipline
  • Visit Golden Gate
  • Rub Buddha’s belly at The Cal
  • See the Berlin Wall at Main Street Station
  • Ride the Downtown Loop to the Gold & Silver Pawn shop
  • Take in the Neon Museum
  • Grab a dog at American Coney Island at The D

The downtown race culminated at Pizza Rock, of course. Did we not mention Sinna reads this blog?

Gabe Sinna’s friends are apparently fellow Las Vegas aficionados, because they navigated his clues with relative ease. (It was determined later the Internet may have made some of the clues too easy to solve. Thanks a lot, blogs!)

Amazing Gabe

Everyone got to express their feelings about Communism at the Berlin Wall display inside the restroom at Main Street Station.

Ultimately, the red team won.

Amazing Gabe Las Vegas

Congrats, Joe and Angie. You’re Internet famous. Not redeemable for cash.

As mentioned, the downtown “race” was just part of the fun. Sinna created a nearly 20-page, spiral-bound booklet for his friends.

The booklet included, among other things, his friend’s favorite drinks.

Amazing Gabe

This is what we meant when we said, “Everyone needs a friend like Gabe.”

There were also agendas for other days of their trip, shuttle schedules, maps of The Strip and downtown and a page for his friends to note which Vegas casinos they’d visited.

One of our favorite parts of his booklet was devoted to a photo hunt. Sinna created an extensive list of Las Vegas-themed photo ideas, including images of:

  • Bachelorette with a sash
  • Slot win of more than $50
  • Any celebrity (yes, a photo with this blog qualified)
  • A doppelganger
  • Guy with a mullet
  • Bike cop
  • Tasteful side boob
  • Pink flamingo
  • Vegas sunset
  • Neon sign
  • Party pit dancer
  • In line at White Castle
  • Any Elvis
  • Showgirl with feathers
  • Guy named Don (I.D. required)
  • David statue at Caesars Palace
  • Pay phone
  • Night club line
  • Kissing at the Bellagio fountains

Now, that’s a Las Vegas photo hunt right there.

Amazing Gabe

What happens in Vegas goes into the Cloud.

Sinna’s booklet also included another scavenger hunt list with items like “business card from a pit boss,” “slot ticket worth .01 (exactly),” “show ticket stub,” “deck of casino cards” and “trifecta of porn cards (brunette, blonde and redhead).”

While we love Las Vegas a lot, we bow before the love Gabe Sinna clearly has for this town. Seriously. His name even has “sin” in it.

Thanks to Gabe for letting us tag along on several legs of the “Amazing Gabe” race! We were truly impressed with his knowledge of Vegas, as well as his organizational ability, as it’s well-known we are personally bereft of the planning gene.

Amazing Gabe

We are not a heights person, but for some, winning prevails over woozy.

If you’ve done anything even remotely as creative as Gabe for a Las Vegas visit, we’d love to hear about it. We won’t hold our breath.

Amazing Gabe

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Fremont East’s Eureka Restaurant Reveals Menu

Eureka restaurant is coming to Fremont East, and we’ve got a peek at the menu.

Eureka Fremont East

The Emergency Arts building was started as a “arts and cultural business complex.” Some bemoan the deminse of The Beat Coffeehouse, but we aren’t them. Coffee is gross.

The Eureka menu exclaims, “All-American scratch kitchen and craft bar driven by energy, discovery and community.” Translation: “Look! We got a marketing copywriter!”

Anyway, here’s the left half of the menu, featuring shareable appetizers, salads, sandwiches and tacos.

Eureka restaurant menu

Every single item on the “Share It” menu would make a great band name.

We want to point out the Mac N’ Cheese Balls, mainly because we like saying “Mac N’ Cheese
Balls,” and also get to point out they’re serving balls in a scratch kitchen. Yes, we’re 14.

Here’s the right side of the menu, including signature dishes, a robust, funky selection of
burgers and a couple of token desserts.

Eureka restaurant menu

Thanks, Eureka, for narrowing down our dining options by including bone marrow, bison, veggie beet, jalapeno egg and fig.

Here’s a larger version of the whole Eureka menu so you don’t herniate yourself.

Eureka opens Feb. 12, 2018 in the space formerly occupied by the beloved The Beat Coffeehouse, just across from El Cortez.

If you’re having difficulty imagining where Eureka is located, we’ve got a handy photo that
covers the whole north side of Fremont East.

Fremont East district

From left to right, it’s Park on Fremont, Evel Pie, Red, Vanguard Lounge, Therapy and Eureka.

While those price points on the menu don’t seem outrageous compared to The Strip, this restaurant is opening on Fremont East. Revelers can get two of the best burgers in Las Vegas at El Cortez or Binion’s for about $5, so we’ll see how Eureka fares.

We look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

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The Killers Light Show Debuts at Fremont Street Experience

The free light shows at Fremont Street Experience are a big draw for Las Vegas visitors, and a new show from The Killers has been added to the rotation at the downtown pedestrian mall.

The new Viva Vision show showcases three songs by The Killers: “Mr. Brightside,” “When You Were Young” and “The Man.”

The Killers light show Fremont Street

Fremont’s light shows are one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas, along with the Bellagio fountains, the Mirage volcano and rejecting the sexual overtures of bloggers.

This blog is a big fan of “The Man,” mostly because the video for the song was shot in Las
Vegas.

The Plaza casino is featured prominently in the video, and former Mayor Oscar Goodman even has a cameo (he’s the one with the martini at the roulette table).

The Killers got their start in Las Vegas when the band formed in 2001.

The unfortunately-named band’s members include Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer and Ronnie Vannucci, Jr.

Their new light show was designed by a Canadian firm, Moment Factory.

Here’s a look. It’s better in person.

Other recent additions to the Viva Vision line-up include shows devoted to Imagine Dragons (another Las Vegas band), Green Day, Linkin Park and Tiesto.

The Viva Vision screen at Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job) is about to undergo a major upgrade at a cost of $33 million.

The project will be paid for by Fremont Street Experience, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Installation of the upgrade is expected to begin mid-2018 and is expected to take a little more than a year to complete. The Viva Vision canopy will continue to operate during the improvement process.

The upgrade project will vastly improve the resolution of the screen, making it visible even during daylight hours, and will create a “floor-to-ceiling, interactive” experience.

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Pizza Lotto to Close, Naked City Pizza to Open at El Cortez

Pizza Lotto, a perfectly good pizza joint at El Cortez casino in downtown Las Vegas, is closing.

Another pizza restaurant, Naked City Pizza, is taking its place.

While we haven’t tried Naked City Pizza, 1) it’s pizza and 2) “Naked.” What’s not to like?

Pizza Lotto Italian restaurant

When it opened, Pizza Lotto promised it would have lottery-inspired scratch-off cards with discounts, but it never delivered. (We’ll wait.)

Reports are Naked City Pizza will open at El Cortez after the new year.

Naked City Pizza seems to have lots of die-hard fans, but it’ll be up against a couple of pizza joints that aren’t just good, they’re great. Specifically, the incomparable Pizza Rock near Downtown Grand and Evel Pie on Fremont East.

To its credit, Naked City Pizza was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” We are not entirely sure which category it fell under.

As we tend to eat pizza at least three times a week, we can’t wait to give Naked City Pizza a try.

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