|An artist’s rendering of what Downtown3rd will look like when the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino opens later this year.|
While the casinos and attractions along the Las Vegas Strip will always see the bulk of development, the Downtown area—the original Las Vegas—is growing and improving as well. Here are a few notable recent and upcoming additions in Downtown Las Vegas.
Perhaps the biggest change Downtown is the rebranding of the Lady Luck Hotel & Casino as the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino, reopening later this year. When completed, it is expected to have 650 rooms, and will be the centerpiece of Downtown3rd, a collection of bars (eight are anticipated), restaurants (11) and shopping on 3rd Street between Stewart and Ogden Avenues. We hear that the renovation has already topped $100 million.
The hotel will stand next to the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement (also known as The Mob Museum), close to the Fremont Street Experience, and two blocks from the Fremont East Entertainment District and its bustling collection of bars, lounges and live music venues.
The Golden Gate, Las Vegas’ first casino (which dates back to 1905), completed its first major expansion in 50 years this past fall. The hotel added a 35,000-square-foot, five-story luxury tower with 16 suites (dedicated to Rat Packers like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.) including two penthouses; an extended casino floor; a high-limit gaming pit; and a new lobby.
This past fall, Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel reopened as The D Las Vegas Casino Hotel. The renovations covered 638 rooms and suites, a two-level casino with both modern and vintage gaming floors (for those who miss old-style Vegas) and two bars. Inside the casino, Longbar serves cocktails and frozen beverages, while the all-day (and all-night) D Grill serves contemporary American cuisine. Detroit restaurateur Joe Vicari has opened Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse. Good to know: The hotel has already earned some notable awards since its reopening, including “Top 10 Hotel Renovations” worldwide by Forbes; “Best Downtown Hotel” in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s 2013 Best of Las Vegas awards.
Restaurants and Nightlife
While renowned chefs are opening restaurants at casinos on the Strip, Downtown is growing its own cafe culture. One of the more notable recent openings is La Comida, headed by Executive Chef Pablo Sanchez-Ortiz and restaurateurs Jenna and Michael Morton. The menu serves traditional Mexican cuisine using traditional ingredients and cooking styles from various regions in Mexico. And if that’s too much tradition, we hear there’s some upscale sophisticated Mexico City flair as well: The margaritas have fresh fruit purees (including prickly pear, which we are rather eager to try).
Park on Fremont, meanwhile, opened in April as a gastropub with what they call “innovative bar fare” that can be brought out to picnic benches in an outdoor garden. And in June, Krave Massivewill open its doors as the largest gay nightclub in the world.
In June, Slotzilla, reportedly the world’s largest slot machine (at 11 stories high), will open as part of the Fremont Street Experience. Notably, the structure will be the launching tower for the Zipline extension through Fremont Street. Riders on the upper “Zoomline” level will take off at about 100 feet above ground and fly up for 1,700 feet beneath the Viva Vision display. The lower “Zipline” level is a mere 70 feet off the ground, and riders zip 850 feet to the attraction’s mid-point landing platform. We hear that ticket prices will be $20 for the Zipline, $30 for the Zoomline and $40 for both. Advance ticket sales and reservations will be available.
The two-acre, indoor-and-outdoor Neon Museum reopened in the fall after a major $3 million renovation. Fans of Vegas history will want to walk through the Neon Boneyard, a collection of more than 150 neon signs from the Nevada area. (Fifteen restored signs have also been installed as public art throughout Downtown Las Vegas.)
And this spring, the Discovery Children’s Museum opened adjacent to the Smith Center. The three-story museum has lots of interactive exhibits on science, art and culture across nine themed halls. Perhaps coolest of all, the Featured Exhibitions Gallery will be large enough to present major traveling exhibits from other museums around the country.