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.

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.

Binion’s Announces Whiskey Licker Up Venue and Boutique Hotel Apache

Binion’s Gambling Hall has announced two expansion projects: Whiskey Licker Up and Hotel Apache.

Whiskey Licker Up will be a full-service saloon with a rotating bar as its centerpiece.

The new bar and restaurant will be 6,500-square-feet and will be located on the southwest corner of Binion’s, just above the existing Whiskey Licker Bar.

The new venue will feature drinks, food, dancing, live entertainment and a mechanical bull.

Binion's Whiskey Licker Up Bar

A new place to get bucked in Las Vegas.

While the venue will play up the casino’s western theme, a variety of music will be available, based upon feedback from guests.

There’s already evidence of work being done for Whiskey Licker Up.

Binion's facade

Be gentle with that gorgeous neon, please.

The second floor of Binion’s, formerly The Mint, has been gutted to make way for the new venue.

Binion's Whiskey Licker Up

That entire back wall is going away so guests get a bird’s eye view of the circus that is Fremont Street.

Here’s another shot of the space, just because nobody else has them and that makes us look cool.

Binion's

A number of the venue’s design elements are built around structural features of the original casino. Yeah, we should’ve taken notes.

And speaking of The Mint, easily one of the best features of Whiskey Licker Up will be the integration of an original wall from The Mint, complete with petrified wood.

Binion's Mint

These stairs will give guests easy access to the venue via a new entrance off Fremont.

Here’s a look at the location of what will be the entrance to the upstairs bar and restaurant and mechanical bullery.

Binion's

A new entrance will help guests avoid having to navigate their way to Whiskey Licker Up via the casino.

Whiskey Licker Up will overlook Fremont Street Experience’s 1st Street stage.

Here’s the view from the balcony, likely to become a go-to spot for people-watching. This will all be seating, with arena-style levels so everyone can enjoy the views.

Binion's new bar

See more photos from behind the facade in our photo gallery thingy.

In anticipation of your question, yes, the new venue will mean a loss of some drop-dead gorgeous neon, but there’s a matching facade on the east side of Binion’s, so don’t have a freak-out.

Binion's facade

No pain, no gain. You’ll survive.

Construction of Whiskey Licker Up will be completed by the summer 2019.

The second expansion project is the opening of a boutique hotel, Hotel Apache.

The concept was inspired by the colorful history of the casino. The original Hotel Apache opened on the site in 1932.

Benny Binion purchased the Apache Hotel (and Eldorado Club) in 1951, and re-opened them as Binion’s Horseshoe. The rest is history. History we don’t have time to research because we are busy playing Wheel of Fortune, so cut us a break.

During our eight seconds of research, we did determine the hotel at Binion’s closed in 2009. You’re welcome.

Hotel Apache will have a modest 81 rooms, decked out with old-timey decor.

Hotel Apache Binion's

Hotel Apache, where every day is Throwback Thursday.

A unique element of the Hotel Apache project is it will play up rumors of the hotel tower being haunted. Ghost hunters and true believers will have the opportunity to explore a hotel owners claim has a “long history of eerie occurrences.”

Trust us, there are a lot of people who are really, really into this.

As with the new saloon, it’s expected Hotel Apache will be open this summer.

We know how you are: No word yet about whether Hotel Apache will have a resort fee, but its sister hotel, Four Queens, doesn’t have them, so fingers crossed.

The new offerings at Binion’s follow on the heels of a number of projects slated for downtown, including the new Circa Las Vegas resort (on the site of the former Las Vegas Club), as well as new hotel towers at Fremont casino and Downtown Grand.

Binion’s has always been one of our favorite Las Vegas casinos, with some of the best dining (try the BBQ) and drinking (generous pours) values in town, and we can’t wait to check out the new saloon and hotel.

But especially the saloon. Do you know this blog at all?

Whiskey Licker Up Vegas

This rendering is a lot like the other one, but we will never let a rendering fail to fulfill its destiny of being on this blog.

Begrudging props to VegasChanges.com for ferreting out some of the Binion’s news prior to the official announcement.

Full disclosure: Binion’s is a partner casino of Fremont Street Experience for whom we do digital marketing. Our opinions are our own.

If you’re into historic Vegas architecture, check out the Nevada Preservation Foundation. They have an event coming up that includes a “backstage tour” of Binion’s, The Mint and Hotel Apache.

Whiskey Licker Up and Hotel Apache at Binion's

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Demolition Sets Stage for New Downtown Grand Tower

It’s taken awhile, but there’s finally some construction activity at Downtown Grand in preparation for a new hotel tower.

Technically, it’s deconstruction, but let’s not get bogged down in details. Things are happening!

Downtown Grand construction

We can’t find a “before” photo, but trust us, it didn’t look like this before.

Downtown Grand’s porte cochere structure is being demolished, with plans to erect a hotel tower with 495 rooms.

The new hotel tower will sit at the corner of Ogden Ave. and 4th Street, just across from Gold Spike, a place we used to visit until they took out all the slot machines.

Here’s a rendering of the new hotel tower, because renderings are life.

Downtown Grand tower

The new tower will have three presidential suites, as if one president weren’t already far too many.

While Downtown Grand has struggled to become profitable since it opened in 2013—it’s rumored the resort loses about $4 million a year—the resort’s hotel is a strong revenue driver, so it makes sense the owners (CIM Group) would try and exploit that asset.

The demand for accommodations downtown exceeds capacity. Downtown accounts for only about five percent of the rooms in Las Vegas, despite an estimated 24 million-ish people visiting downtown each year.

Downtown Grand hotel tower

Sorry, we can’t share this photo because a guy at the site, clearly an expert in both demolition and constitutional rights, said, “No photos.”

The new Downtown Grand hotel tower is expected to open in 2020, as is everything ever announced in the history of Las Vegas.

Some of the things expected in 2020 include Raiders stadium, the new Circa resort, the Las Vegas Convention expansion, The Drew (don’t hold your breath) and MSG Sphere.

The start of construction at Downtown Grand is a welcome relief from untold delays since the project was first announced in July 2017.

Downtown Grand

Never before have so many taken so many photos of so little.

It should be noted there were also plans for an entertainment complex at Downtown Grand, complete with a tavern, fitness center and outdoor climbing wall. The project was apparently scrapped at some point. The fact the project was to be called “The Quad” did not bode well, anyway. Long story.

Beyond Downtown Grand’s mellow casino and appealing pool deck, we’re a big fan of its restaurants, especially Triple George Grill and Pizza Rock.

It’s great to see Downtown Grand playing to its strengths, despite a tricky location. More hotel guests means more gamblers, more restaurant patrons and more hope this boutique casino resort can turn its fortunes around.

Update (1/24/10): Boom, gone.

Downtown Grand demolition

Downtown Grand seems to have a handle on demolition, now let’s see how it does at building.

Sigma Derby is Done at MGM Grand

A popular, old-timey horse racing slot machine called Sigma Derby has finally been put down for good at MGM Grand.

Sigma Derby has a passionate following, and until recently, there were just two in Las Vegas (and possibly the country).

And then there was one.

An MGM Grand rep confirmed to us Sigma Derby won’t be back. The company said it has “done everything possible to prolong its active lifespan but that’s simply no longer possible.”

Sigma Derby MGM Grand

MGM Grand’s Sigma Derby was in its Level Up lounge for a minute. Guests were less than whelmed. It was moved back to the main casino floor for the remainder of its life.

That leaves just one Sigma Derby standing, the one at downtown’s The D Las Vegas.

Sigma Derby has built a fan base for a number of reasons.

There’s a communal element to the game, because up to 10 players can join in the fun. The cheering at Sigma Derby is about the only sound louder than a dice table in a Las Vegas casino.

Also, the machines only take quarters, so guests can play for an extended period of time (while enjoying free beverages) for relatively little cost.

The game is easy to understand as well. Players wager on two horses in each race. The horses they pick must finish first and second, in any order.

Sigma Derby

One of the great things about Sigma Derby is, no matter how much you drink, it’s hard to screw up too badly.

Noting the popularity of Sigma Derby, a company called Konami attempted to make an updated version of the mechanical horse racing game, Fortune Cup.

It’s fine. But it’s no Sigma Derby.

While fans of Sigma Derby will bemoan its passing at MGM Grand, we have to believe the casino is relieved to have it off the floor once and for all.

The machines break down frequently, and parts are nearly impossible to get, and many of the parts have to be fabricated from scratch.

Sigma Derby

Sigma Derby isn’t so much a slot machine as a cult.

In addition, casinos have moved away from coins to TITO (ticket in, ticket out) systems because of the cost of labor and maintenance involved.

Sigma Derby

You never know what people will grow attached to. Welcome to Sigma Derby.

It’s unknown how long the sole remaining Sigma Derby might last. The D installed Fortune Cup right next to the classic machine, possibly hoping customers would migrate to the new game so the old version could be retired.

That didn’t happen, and now there’s an additional incentive to keep Sigma Derby around. There’s major P.R. value in being the only game in town.

Downtown Grand Lends a Hand to Make Downtown Gateway a Thing

It doesn’t happen often, but when we get something wrong, we admit it. We got the downtown gateway wrong, it’s actually a thing.

“What’s the downtown gateway?” you ask, impertinently. It’s this.

Downtown gateway sign

The original Las Vegas sign may not be in Las Vegas (it’s in Clark County), but this one is. Long story.

The new downtown gateway was built by the City of Las Vegas to the tune of about $400,000. It replaces another welcome sign, inspired by the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the south end of The Strip, smashed to bits by a bonehead in a truck in 2016.

When we first saw the gateway display, we thought it was fairly lame. All due respect, City of Las Vegas.

While it featured some of our favorite gambling things—dice, chips and a roulette layout—it very prominently featured two cartoon showgirls.

Downtown gateway

On the bright side, Googie stars. They’re the things floating over the “a.” You can never go wrong with Googie stars.

Not that there’s anything wrong with showgirls.

It’s just that showgirls are a somewhat antiquated symbol of Las Vegas, the last true showgirl show, “Jubilee,” having closed in 2016. The same year the “Welcome to Downtown Las Vegas” sign was destroyed. Las Vegas has no shortage of metaphors. Or ironies. Or analogies. Take your pick. We can never keep those straight.

Googie stars

If anyone ever asks what Las Vegas ninjas throw, now you know.

There was also a location problem.

The gateway was built where it was impossible to take a photo without getting a billboard in the background with an ad for a restaurant in the background. It was akin to the power lines at the welcome sign on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Downtown gateway showgirls

All the meh.

And we should also mention the fancy “Las Vegas” typography was taken from a logo the City of Las Vegas abandoned less than a year after it was unveiled.

Anyway, we figured the backward-looking display would be ignored by visitors, but over time, we’ve rarely passed the corner of Main and Las Vegas Boulevard without seeing tourists snapping selfies with the sign.

Hey, we can’t be right about everything.

Downtown gateway display

Great perk of this sign over the other Las Vegas sign: No lines.

In a completely cool move, Downtown Grand even changed up its billboard to enhance the photo op.

Props where they’re due, Downtown Grand took one for the team and made advertising secondary to giving downtown Las Vegas a much more “Grammable” photo.

Downtown Grand billboard

We actually don’t have an adequate supply of props to give to Downtown Grand for this classy move.

The gateway cost about $400,000 to construct, and morons are already finding ways to make it so we can’t have nice things.

Somebody stood on the “L” in Las Vegas and broke it. Word is the City designers are looking for ways to make the display elements more “durable.”

Downtown gateway sign

Please, people, it’s only been there three months.

We suggest the City of Las Vegas buy the billboard from Downtown Grand and swap it out with this one.

downtown gateway Vegas

Seriously, we know a guy who could make this billboard happen.

And, naturally, asshats wasted no time tagging the display.

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman once got into hot water for suggesting people who do graffiti should have their thumbs cut off. We knew there was a reason we’re such a big fan of Oscar Goodman.

downtown gateway

We checked all the pips on the dice. They’re good.

The City of Las Vegas isn’t done with its welcoming efforts, either.

The City recently started taking bids for an 80-foot-tall “double arch gateway” to complement the existing welcome display.

The location of the arch hasn’t been determined yet (it’s shown in two different locations in two renderings released by the City), but it’s expected to cost $2 million.

Downtown gateway arch

This seems the most likely location, at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara.

The call for bids says construction of the arch will start in June 2019 and be completed by the end of 2019.

While downtown’s welcome display won’t ever be as iconic or popular as the Las Vegas sign known around the world, maybe it doesn’t need to be.

Downtown Las Vegas doesn’t aspire to be The Strip, and its welcome sign has a distinctive vibe all its own.

If you don’t have a chance to stop at the downtown gateway for a photo, we’ve got a back-up plan. This gem outside the new marijuana museum at Neonopolis might do the trick.

Downtown White Castle photo op

You’re welcome.

No visit to Las Vegas is complete without a metric ass-ton of photos, so get busy.

Make sure to check out our list of 25 Offbeat Las Vegas Photo Ops.