In Las Vegas, we don’t just have outdoor shopping malls. We have giant shipping containers designed as business incubators guarded by a 50-foot-high, fire-spewing, music-playing metal praying mantis rescued from Burning Man—all surrounding a giant treehouse with a 33-foot slide. Because, you know, Vegas.
Located on Fremont and 7th Streets, the Downtown Container Park is a 1.1-acre, open-air shopping center and entertainment venue whose current tenants include 39 shops, restaurants, and bars. Constructed of 43 repurposed shipping containers and 41 “Xtreme cubes” (locally made, modular constructions), you'll find all sorts of things to do here, including free concerts, movies under the stars, outdoor dining, wacky and fun shopping you won’t find elsewhere, and a place to safely park the kids.
History and Background
Downtown Las Vegas had been threatening to revitalize for years when the Downtown Container Park was conceived by the late Tony Hsieh (venture capitalist and then-CEO of Zappos) in 2012. He poured $350 million, mostly of his own money, into Downtown as part of his Downtown Project. Inspired by projects like Boxpark in London, he brought in a contractor to the site of the former Orbit Inn motel to construct the park, which was meant as an incubator for startup businesses funded by the Downtown Project. (The idea was that the businesses would reach success in the park before moving to more permanent locations.) A mixed-use destination containing shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment spaces for adults and kids, the Container Park has become a fixture since opening in October 2013—with plenty of businesses reaching success in the long haul and staying right where they are.
What to See and Do
Naturally, you’ll want to visit the praying mantis, which moves around and shoots liquid propane-ignited fire from its antennae, choreographed to music. Look for the first show around 4:30 p.m. and intermittently thereafter. For those who have gotten engaged (or spontaneously married) while here, you’ll want to bring your own love lock and attach it to the Love Locket, a heart-shaped sculpture originally created for the Life Is Beautiful festival. Next to the mantis, there’s an art piece called the Catalyst Dome, which changes color via an internal lighting system.
While you’ll find plenty of shopping on the Strip, the Container Park has some funkier, more unusual selections. Think tricks and treats at the Las Vegas Magic Shop; Third & Arrow, which sells locally produced jewelry and clothing; the very fun DTLV Merch, which sells shirts, hats, and hoodies from Downtown venues; and handmade art and jewelry at Art Box.
The main attraction here is the atmosphere, which you’ll want to take advantage of by settling into one of the many patios in great weather, grabbing a drink and some food, and catching the entertainment on the main stage. The family-owned Pinches Tacos has a location here (don’t miss the al pastor); Downtown Terrace serves a solid brunch with a great view of the music stage; Bin 702 is an original tenant, serving beer and wine on tap and charcuterie and cheese from two shipping containers; and Oak & Ivy, a whiskey cocktail bar dedicated to barrel-aged cocktails, has become one of the city’s cult whiskey bars. The entertainment varies throughout the spring, summer, and fall months, so you’ll want to check the Container Park’s calendar for coming events.
The park is one of the kid-friendliest places in town, and your kids will want to head straight for the treehouse, which contains a 33-foot-tall slide. Surrounding the safely gated kids park are large foam blocks and a NEOS playground, which will tire out your minis as they chase after flashing lights. You can join your kids in the interactive part of the playground. Chase the fun with some gelato in a Hong Kong-style waffle (read: fluffy, covered with bubbles) from Waffelato or vintage candy at Sugar Shop.
How to Visit
The shops are open on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check the restaurant and bar websites for their own hours.
Entering the park is free, though there are a few rules to abide by. For instance, you may not bring in outside food or drinks, no pets are allowed (except service animals and llamas—a holdover from Tony Hsieh days), and the park is adults-only after 9 p.m. (Kids under 18 can come in until 9 p.m. with a high school ID.)
The Container Park is right in the heart of DTLV at the corner of Fremont Street and S. 7th Street, right off the I-15 and the 93/95 freeway. If you’re staying Downtown, the Container Park is an easy walk from nearly every hotel (it’s just a few blocks away from the Fremont Street Experience). You can hop on the double-decker Deuce bus, which operates 24/7 from the Strip to stops around Fremont Street.
Tips for Visiting
- Visit during happy hour. Some bars in the Container Park have great happy hour specials, so check their sites before you arrive.
- Make sure to bring a lock from home to add to the love lock heart in the front (if there’s not enough space, there’s actually an overflow lock wall near the live event stage).
- There’s often karaoke on Tuesday evenings, so whether you’re staging your own America’s Got Talent moment or just got overserved, watching (or participating) is some of the best silly entertainment on a warm spring evening.