Downtown Las Vegas is a very different place than the Strip.  The ten hotel-casinos located in and around Fremont Street do not typically provide the amenities you might expect elsewhere, but most everything costs less.  Room rates and resort fees are lower, food and beverage prices are more reasonable and the gambling odds are more favorable.  That being said, there are only a few decent pools, only a couple of buffets and no major shows or nightclubs.  This is a working class part of town, one even locals will frequent from time to time.  Increasingly, it also draws young people interested in the bars and restaurants around the Fremont East district.  It features a nightly street party of drinking, dancing and music.  Some people will hate it.  Others will feel right at home.  If you decide to make it your home for a few nights, here are some things you should know.

  • While all the hotels are within walking distance of one another, some locations are better than others.  For now, the west end of Fremont Street can feel a bit isolated, with only the Plaza and Golden Gate on that end.  The cluster of casinos around Casino Center Boulevard, the Golden Nugget, Binions, Four Queens, Fremont and the D are more convenient for casino hopping.
  • It might seem like a great idea to have a room overlooking Fremont Street.  It probably won’t be.  Unless you are on a very low floor, all you will see is the top of the canopy.  Sadly, that won’t be all you hear.  Unless you plan to party all night, the noise can be a bit much.  Consider requesting a room facing the rear of the hotel if you’d like to sleep.
  • Rooms here are typically going to be pretty small and some could almost be described as tiny.  If you are looking for a more Strip-like experience, your best bet is to stay at the Golden Nugget or perhaps the Downtown Grand.
  • Main Street Station, the California and the Downtown Grand are all located on Ogden street, one block north of Fremont.  This area is not as lively but is generally safe and there are some fun bars and restaurants located around here.  It is not quite as overwhelming as being right on Glitter Gulch, so that could be a positive for some visitors.
  • East of the canopy lies the Fremont East district and the Container Park.  The only hotel located here is the El Cortez and the adjoining Cabana Suites.  This area is a good one if you are looking for a slightly different Las Vegas experience.  It may not be good if you have a low tolerance for hipsters.
  • If a pool is important to you, your only good choices will be Golden Nugget, Downtown Grand and the Plaza.  If you must have a buffet on site, only Main Street Station, Fremont and Golden Nugget will do.  Two locations, Main Street Station and the Four Queens do have an on site brewery so they may be best for beer drinkers.

Let’s quickly review the Downtown Hotels:

  • The Golden Nugget is the premiere Downtown property and the largest.  It almost feels like a Strip hotel.  It has the best pool and the widest variety of food and entertainment options.  It is also expensive and not a particularly good value.  The Carson tower has the cheapest and most basic accommodations and is quite a hike from the street, but is at least pretty quiet.
  • The Plaza is one of the most recognizable hotels in Las Vegas, particularly the north tower with its dazzling portico.  The rooms don’t quite match that dazzle but are actually very nice and the casino is much fresher and cleaner than some of you may remember.  There is also a decent pool area and tennis courts and bingo!
  • The Golden Gate has been a hotel since 1906. Some of the small queen rooms look like they might be that old.  The suites (really just large rooms) are some of the most stylish rooms on Fremont Street and are a terrific value.  The casino is pretty small and there is no food available on site.
  • Main Street Station is one of the most unique casinos in town with a 19th century feel to it.  There is a genuine charm here in addition to a good buffet and a tasty brewpub.  They also have the best craps game Downtown.  The rooms are fine but in need of renovation.
  • Linked by an interior walkway to Main Street Station is the California, a fun and friendly little place with a Hawaiian feel.  The casino is under renovation so there are a few inconveniences but the room remodels are complete and, though small, some of the most comfortable and modern in the area.
  • The Fremont hotel is the next Downtown property preparing for major renovations and they should be a welcome change from the current, rather cramped conditions.  The rooms here are very small, though comfortable and the most exciting attraction here might be the Dunkin Donuts.  Still, it is a great location and worth considering if the price is right.
  • The price is usually right at the nearby Four Queens and there is no resort fee.  There’s some good eats on site and good video poker, even at the bar.  If you decide to stay, book one of the remodeled rooms in the south tower.
  • The D is certainly one of the loudest places in Las Vegas, particularly downstairs near the aptly named Long Bar.  There is an excellent steak house, plenty of dancing girls and one of the last of those Sigma Derby horse racing machines here.  The rooms are good but, if you can swing it, consider splurging on one of their suites.  They are very cool!
  • Downtown Grand, located a block off Fremont Street, often feels a world away.  The rooms are very nice and the casino is clean and stylish.  Sadly, it is also empty much of the time.  The gambling and party crowd just never seem to find their way here.  That’s a shame, because it also has a very nice pool and some good value food on site and nearby.
  • El Cortez is the oldest continuously operated casino in Las Vegas and parts of it look very much like they did some 75 years ago.  You can even book one of their Vintage rooms, located up the stairs from the casino, for a real nostalgia trip.  Better yet, try the Cabana Suites just across the street and live it up modern style.  Located in the Fremont East district, a few blocks from the canopy, it attracts a diverse clientele and is a fun place to stay and play.