IMG 2321Downtown Vegas. Old Vegas. The stretch of Fremont Street known as Glitter Gulch, with the Plaza Hotel on one end, and the Neonopolis Mall at the other, has seen a huge resurgence in the last 15 years or so.

By 1992, most of the business in Las Vegas had shifted to the Strip and many tourists had forgotten about Downtown Las Vegas. A $70 million investment helped transform the area and reverse its decline in popularity. In 1994, Fremont Street was closed to traffic and became a pedestrian mall. Soon after, these 5 city blocks were covered with a huge vaulted LED canopy which stretches from Main Street to 4th Street - the length of 5 football fields. This canopy, known as Viva Vision, using 12.5 million LED lamps, is capable of creating dynamic animated light shows, accompanied by fantastic and varied music coming from 220 speakers suspended within the canopy. The shows began bringing the crowds back to Fremont Street.

These days, nearly 19 million people visit downtown Las Vegas each year.

The first sound and light show premiered in 1995. My earliest memory of the canopy was a classic rock show, featuring many of my favorite acts from the 1970’s, like Elton John, and an amazing Motown show, which literally had people dancing in the streets. Since then, the shows have evolved and include a tribute to the bad boys of rock, called “Bad To The Bone”. You can also catch “KISS Over Vegas”, featuring the music of legendary rock band Kiss, and “A Tribute To Queen”, which is one of my favorites and which contains amazing visuals!

(Light Show Schedule: The shows happen every hour on the hour, from dusk until midnight and are signaled by the shutting down of all the neon signs and lights along Fremont.)

IMG 6110Aside from the canopy show, there are quite a number of other attractions in Downtown Vegas. You can take in the classic old Vegas neon signs or pose with various celebrity lookalikes. You can even catch a variety of live music acts playing on some of the small stages along the mall.

Of course not everything along Fremont Street is free, but you’ll definitely find some affordable entertainment as well.

Check out Mermaids Casino, one of my favorite spots in the area. It’s a small, noisy, bright, smoky, crazy little casino, which only offers slots and video poker. The all-female staff are friendly and cute, and it’s a great place to drop some money into a “one armed bandit” and try your luck. I’ve played for an awfully long time on just a $20 bill. Mermaids is also the go-to place for deep-fried Twinkies and Oreos, just in case you need a snack.

There’s also the Golden Nugget Casino Hotel, one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas, built originally in 1946. I always loved the old Golden Nugget. It was funky and felt like “Old Vegas” to me. In 2005, however, the Golden Nugget was sold and began a $100 million renovation. These days, with the addition of a huge new hotel tower and new restaurant choices, the place feels new, modern and still quite fun and funky. Stop in and take a look. Among other things, you’ll find the world’s largest golden nugget, known as The Hand Of Faith, and the renovated hotel pool, which features a water slide, the last section of which is made of clear plexiglass and goes directly through a large shark tank! Grab a drink at Gold Diggers, where you can sip a cocktail on a balcony overlooking Fremont. It’s a nice way to experience the craziness of the street...from a comfortable distance.

Elsewhere along Fremont, you can clog your arteries at The Heart Attack Grill, where waitresses dressed in nurse’s uniforms serve you gigantic burgers, or you can grab a zip line ride at Flightlinez at Fremont Street Experience.

IMG 6117If you want to hear some great singers, go to the Fremont East District, for a drink at Don’t Tell Mama Las Vegas, the West Coast branch of a New York favorite. This piano bar is very noisy and crazy, but features among others, my friends Traci Reynolds and Jennifer Kruskamp, who are amazing vocalists and will sing and sling for you all night long!

The crowds down on Fremont can be noisy, drunk, youthful, energetic, even a little dicey at times, but I definitely recommend checking it out. You’ll get a taste of Old Vegas...and in many ways, of NEW Vegas, as well!