If your image of Las Vegas is of strip clubs and slot machines, then you’ve missed a trick. Behind the tawdry glamour is a laidback city where people make art as well as make out.
Built in the middle of the Mojave desert Las Vegas is a city that’s always played against the odds. Originally a stopping-off point for pioneers, it really came of age in the 1940s, when scientists from the nearby Manhattan Project came into town to let off steam. Its first big casinos were funded by mobsters, and Sin City still banks on its shady side to lure in hedonists from all over the world.
This is why any trip has to start with The Strip. If you want to make it like an A-lister, but have a limited budget, you can do worse than to start your night at the Wynn. Here you can load up on free mojitos, no matter if you’re playing for quarters or Benjamins. The hottest place to people-watch is the Cosmopolitan, but don’t miss the kitschier casinos, which are trashy entertainment in themselves: Caeser’s Palace, with its fake Roman mall, Circus Circus, for performing cats in an indoor theme park, and of course the ‘pirate battle’ that’s performed nightly outside Treasure Island.
But when you want to escape from these pleasure palaces, the good news is that there’s a more authentic Sin City experience just a quick cab ride away. A great place to start is the Arts District. Amongst the vintage shops and old-school diners you’ll find Emergency Arts – a former hospital where you can drink great coffee and leaf through the zine library. If you’re lucky enough to be in the city for the monthly First Friday Festival, you’ll also get to check out new bands, as well as hang out with local artists.
The downtown Fremont East district is where locals go to gamble – and to party. Don’t miss the legendary piano bar, Don’t Tell Mama, or the vintage arcade games at Insert Coin(s), where a stack of quarters will come in handy.
After all, why should the high-rollers have all the fun?