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The best part of our stay in Las Vegas
Fremont Street Experience (Las Vegas, USA)
Member Name: redhead78
Fremont Street Experience (Las Vegas, USA)
Date: 25/07/12, updated on 25/07/12 (49 review reads)
Advantages: More relaxed and old-fashioned than the new strip, amazing atmosphere, light show is fabulous
Disadvantages: Very crowded but this only really adds to the atmosphere
On our recent trip around Arizona, Utah and Nevada we, unfortunately, had to make a stopover of several nights in Las Vegas. Being proper "country" people and generally avoiding cities wherever possible, Las Vegas is our idea of a nightmare, but to coincide with surprising my mum there for her 60th birthday we had no choice in the destination and so resigned ourselves to 4 nights and days of intense heat, crowds, noise and oppulence. I won't go into our general Las Vegas experience as this is a review of the Fremont Street Experience rather than the city itself. I know many people love the city and could return time after time and to be honest I can see why, but it's not for us. Two days would have been more than enough for us and after 4 whole days of it suffice it to say all of our expectations of the city had been met and we were chomping at the bit to get out of the place and back onto our road trip!
There were a few things we enjoyed about Las Vegas; The Bellagio, both inside and out, the attractions at various hotels including the Venetian and the Flamingo (biggest koi carps I've EVER seen!) and dinner at Roy's, a Hawaian Fusion restaurant, being the most memorable. But by far and away the best part of our stay there was our final night trip to Fremont Street in the "old strip".
THE REAL LAS VEGAS
Generally regarded as the Real Las Vegas, this is how the city used to be. The oldest casinos and hotels are based here and when you think of the old-fashioned gangster movies and films such as Casino, this is where they were all filmed. It is not a place you find by accident when staying in Las Vegas as it's about a 10 minute taxi ride from the new strip, but it is most definitely worth a visit. Rather than the oppulence, elegance and over-the-top-ness of the new strip it is much more characterful, relaxed and down to earth, with bright lights everywhere and way too much to look at.
We were there on a Saturday night for dinner at an amazing restaurant called Hugo's Cellar, in the basement of The Four Queens casino. According to our friendly taxi driver, in the past it was a favourite haunt of the mafia and nowadays consistently comes in the top 3 of best restaurants in the city. The meal was one of the best I've ever had (and it should be for the prices they charge!) and really put us in the holiday spirit and wanting more. Luckily for us, our exiting the restaurant timed with the main attraction of night time Fremont Street, the light show.
As I said, we got a taxi from our hotel to Fremont Street (well, just off Fremont Street, as it's totally pedestrianised) and it cost around $30 including a tip. I think there are also buses that go there but as were staying right at the far end of the new strip at the MGM Grand we decided a bus would take too long so opted for a taxi. On the return ride, however, because there were six of us and we needed two taxis, we ended up being caught by a taxi tout who herded us into an American style school bus limousine, absolutely pimped out to the max with leather seating all around the edges, drinks in the fridges, neon lights and a pole for dancing in the middle! At a cost of just $45 it was much cheaper than getting two taxis and ended our night, and stay in Las Vegas, off in a fantastic fashion, but I have to say that I have never felt so "chav" as when I got out of it in front of our hotel!!
THE FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE
The entire street is covered with a canopy which, every hour on the hour after dark, comes alive and turns into one great big massive tv screen. Apparently it is the biggest screen in the world and contains more than 12 million LED lamps. Imagine Your local high street being covered with a canopy, Queen music blasting out from speakers all around you and a light show going on above your head. Imagine thousands of people out on a Saturday night, most with a drink or two inside them, trying to dance and singalong with the music but look up and watch the show all at the same time. Are you picturing it? Well you're still not even close to how the real thing was! It was absolutely phenomenal. The atmosphere was brilliant, almost carnival like with everyone enjoying themselves, singing and dancing in the middle of the street. And the best part? All of this was absolutely free of charge, anybody could wander into the street and watch the show and become a part of a huge street party!
When the show finished you could almost feel the disappointment in the air, but it comes on again regularly throughout the night so many people hung around for the next show. We decided to wander up the street to see more of the old fashioned style casinos and really experience downtown Las Vegas, a much more relaxed and laid back place than the newer part of the city.
Whilst the main attraction of the area is the light show and this - again according to our friendly taxi driver - brings in over 100,000 visitors a week, there is plenty of other things to see and do whilst visiting Fremont Street and it really is a people watching paradise. There are various shops, bars and cafes etc, as you'd expect on a busy tourist street. There are also free, live concerts, a zip wire which you can ride down the length of the street. None of us partook of that particular pleasure, although my mum was tempted to maker her 60th birthday truly memorable but wimped out in the end! From memory, to go on the zipwire cost around $20, but for $50 you could go unlimited all day long. It looked like everyone that went down it enjoyed it, but a word of advice girls, don't go on it if you're wearing a skirt...you're suspended about 50 feet above the heads of thousands of people!
Another place that got a lot of attention was The Heart Attack Grill, unsurprisingly. Words really can't describe this place! It's a huge diner type restaurant sited on a corner plot with big signs all over its frontage stating things like "our hamburgers contain 9500 calories", "we only accept cash because you might die before your cheque clears" and "fighting anorexia since 1996". Personally we were a bizarre mix of enthralled by the place and disgusted in equal amounts! It's biggest draw is that people weighing over 350lbs eat for free and it has a big weighing platform by the front door so you can weigh yourself before you go in. The worst part was that whilst we were sitting in the bar opposite having a pre-dinner drink, at least half a dozen people actually weighed themselves, qualified for the free meal and went inside. The scales themselves attracted dozens of people from kids, to muscle-men to tiny ldies who just wanted to be smug and show everyone watching that they only weighed 100lbs! It was a real eye-opener and it disturbed me considerably that it was encouraging people to stay weighing more than 350lbs so that they could eat free every night.
Everywhere you go in Fremont Street is crowded and the later you go the bigger the crowds. I never felt threatened there at all and the atmosphere was a really friendly upbeat one, but if you're visiting with children I would advise much caution. It would be very easy for them to get lost if they're of walking age and it really was way too crowded to be able to manage pushchairs very easily. Having said that, if you are in Las Vegas with children it really would be a highlight for them to visit this downtown area and I can guarantee their eyes would be on stalks!
Disturbing restaurant aside, the Fremont Street experience really was the highlight of our stay in Las Vegas. The new part of town is very much more showy and all about being seen and - more importantly - being seen in the right clothes and it really was far too materialistic and bling for myself and my husband. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed ourselves and are glad we saw it but definitely wouldn't go back a second time. Fremont Street, however, was another story. Old-fashioned glitz, bright lights, loud rock music, happy, friendly people all having a good time rather than worrying about what the person next to them thought of their sandals! When people refer to it as the "real" Las Vegas you can really understand why, it's like taking a step back in time when you look at the casinos and surroundings, but being thrown well and truly into the here and now when the overhead light show starts. Words really can't even begin to describe the atmostphere of Fremont Street and the whole experience of being there and I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit here if you're in Las Vegas.
Summary: Definitely visit if you're in Las Vegas and a good getaway from all the elegant, showy new strip