You might think of Las Vegas as the slick theme park of The Strip, with its dancing fountains, giant laser beam-topped pyramid, erupting volcano, super-high production shows, and celebrity chefs, but long before Las Vegas Boulevard was a thing, there was Fremont Street.
The six blocks that run east between Las Vegas Boulevard and 8th Street north of the Las Vegas Strip have become a wild, pedestrian-friendly zone with flair bartenders, live music, and wacky street performers, but in 1925, it was in fact the first paved road in Las Vegas—and the location for the city’s first traffic light. As the city’s first casinos sprang up all along Fremont Street, it became known as “Glitter Gulch”—a zone of neon signs, gambling halls, shady deals, and even shadier characters. When the Strip sprang up south of Downtown, with its billion-dollar casino resorts, Fremont Street turned into a derelict zone. In the 1990s, Las Vegas closed the street to vehicle traffic to transform it into the walkable entertainment zone it became in the early 2000s. Now, the Fremont Street Experience is nearly as popular as the Strip itself, luring more than 20 million oglers a year to its canopied light show, wild zip lines, and historic casinos.
The Fremont Street Experience happens along a single passage, so it’s plenty easy to navigate. But it’s surrounded by famous casinos such as Binion's, Fremont Hotel and Casino, Four Queens, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, The D Las Vegas, Golden Nugget, and the city’s newest casino, Circa Las Vegas. With plenty to do on and around Fremont Street, you won’t want to miss its high points.
Things to Do
The first thing you’ll notice (well, maybe after the partially clad buskers and street performers) is that the Fremont Street Experience sits under a giant canopy. Viva Vision, as the overhead screen is called, is the largest video screen in the world, at 1,375 feet long, 90 feet wide, and hanging 90 feet above this section of Fremont Street. It even got a $32 million upgrade in 2019, and its overhead music and light show now dazzles with 16.4 million pixels on a screen made of nearly 50 million LED lamps, which start lighting up around 6 pm each evening. The wild visuals in the free light show include shows devoted to Vegas favorites like The Killers, Shakira, the Chainsmokers, Steve Aoki, and Tiesto. It’s one of the best free features of Las Vegas.
Don’t miss Vegas Vic, the 40-foot-high neon cowboy who has been presiding over this section of Fremont Street since 1951 when he belonged to The Pioneer Club (now a souvenir shop). You’ll want to take a picture with the city’s most famous greeter.
Adventure lovers will adore one of the entertainment district’s wackiest features—an 11-story slot machine that spits out ziplining passengers and shoots them down Fremont Street at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. SlotZilla is, in fact, the world’s largest slot machine, and is festooned with all the usual suspects, including dice, a martini glass, pink flamingo, coins, and showgirls. There are two ways to experience it. For mild adventure-seekers, there’s Zip-Zilla, which puts flyers in a seat and starts them at 77 feet up, landing halfway down the pedestrian promenade, by Four Queens. If that’s not enough for you, you can take off at 10 stories up (114 feet) on the Zoomline and fly superhero-style all the way down the promenade to a landing platform at Golden Gate.
Along with the orchestrated music and light show overhead, Fremont Street has a number of “outdoor” stages beneath its canopy, and especially during the milder spring and fall months, is one of the best places to see live music in the Downtown Las Vegas area. Check out its live entertainment calendar to plan your visit in conjunction with some of the free concerts.
Where to Eat
There’s a big variety of dining options on and around Fremont Street, from the aptly-named Heart Attack Grill (home of the “Octuple Bypass Burger) in adjoining Neonopolis, to some of the rather elegant and upscale steakhouses in the historic casinos that flank the street.
If you’re sticking around the area for dinner, make a reservation at Barry’s Downtown Prime in Circa Las Vegas, the newest of the steakhouses Downtown, whose steaks rival those anywhere on the strip (in quality and price). Look for one of chef Barry Dakake’s signatures, a theatrically large 40-ounce tomahawk ribeye. Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse in the Golden Nugget is a perennially popular choice, serving USDA Prime Midwest grain-fed beef, as well as sophisticated starters like a fabulous seafood tower, A5 wagyu carpaccio, and fried lobster mac and cheese. Andiamo Italian Steakhouse in The D is popular with local athletes and celebs for its discreet seating and partnerships with top butchers.
For those who aren’t ready to commit to the full steakhouse experience, there are tons of great nearby restaurants, such as Park on Fremont (right at the entrance of the Fremont East district), where there’s a funky backyard patio filled with art where you can snack on an inventive menu (although it’s famous for its delicious-but-badly-named “garbage fries” topped with smoked pulled pork, cheese, jalapenos, and a sunny side up egg, among other things). Pizza lovers should go immediately to Evel Pie, the Evel Knievel-themed NYC-style pizza place on Fremont whose pies are named things like “Goblin Sausage” and “Cheezy Rider.” The pizza is great and the Knievel memorabilia is fun. There’s also a local brewery, Banger Brewery, which you can visit for a tour.
Near the entertainment district, you’ll find downtown mainstay, Carson Kitchen, with excellent American gastropub food and a hip rooftop. Visit PublicUs for very legit coffee, great fast-casual food, and good people-watching. If you love tequila, head directly to La Comida, the funky Mexican joint with one of the best tequila selections in Las Vegas. (Plus, you never know who you’ll run into here. Lady Gaga celebrated her birthday here with her cast after a show one night.)
Where to Shop
Need “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign-emblazoned shot glasses/license plates/earrings/anything else? The Fremont Street Experience is your place, which tells you essentially what kind of merch you’ll find here. It’s mostly souvenirs here: stick to the Strip for upscale shopping. Neonopolis, the huge, mixed-use mall right in the heart of the entertainment district, has everything from sports cards and memorabilia at Ultimate Sports Cards to toys you won’t find anywhere else (and plenty you will) at The Toy Shack. If you’re feeling spendy, Harley Davidson has a location right on Fremont, and you can pick up that hog you’ve always wanted—or just some Las Vegas Harley souvenirs, of which there are plenty. If you’re an outlet shopper, you might want to venture just a couple of miles west of the entertainment district to Las Vegas North Premium Outlets, where you’ll find luxe brands—think Burberry, Hugo Boss, and Jimmy Choo—for a discount.
How to Get There
If you’ve got a little extra time and want to do some cheap sight-seeing, take the Deuce, the double-decker bus that runs between the Fremont Street Experience and Mandalay Bay (on the south end of the Strip), making stops at nearly every hotel and casino along the Strip.
If you take a taxi (the expensive option) or rideshare (the less expensive option), ask for a drop off at one of the casinos that flank the Fremont Street Experience, such as the Golden Nugget, Binion’s, or Golden Gate.
You can drive from the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) two miles north of the STRAT Hotel Casino, or take I-15 north and follow Downtown Las Vegas exits to 95 South. You can park at one of the casinos or use the Fremont Street Experience parking garage located at 111 S. 4th Street (which charges around $20 per day).
Tips for Visitors
- While Las Vegas may seem like a lawless free-for-all, there are in fact some strict rules enforced by Metro. Downtown enforces a 9 p.m. curfew for those under 18 years old on Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays (after 9, minors must be accompanied by an adult).
- It’s illegal to drink from cans or glass bottles while you’re in the Fremont Street Experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drink. Most casinos and bars serve alcohol in plastic containers so you can take your roadie out into the pedestrian zone. Some even stack plastic cups by exits so you can transfer it yourself before you leave.
- You’ll want to take advantage of the proximity of all the casinos within easy walking distance of each other to get a little playing in (and a few comped cocktails). As always in Las Vegas, tip your server. Fremont may seem like a free fun zone, but its dealers, bartenders, and cocktail servers work hard to maintain the ruse of free fun. Make it worth their while, and they’ll make it worth yours.