XPLOR.VEGAS focuses on the little-known hits and haunts of Downtown Las Vegas—the original Las Vegas.

When most people think of Las Vegas, they think of “The Strip,” or what some locals call “The Boulevard.” That’s Las Vegas Blvd itself, South of Sahara Ave, and it’s where all of our world-famous mega-resorts live. That area is technically in unincorporated Clark County, Paradise township—so if you’re staying there, feel free to tell your friends you “stayed in Paradise!”

But the City of Las Vegas started at Fremont St and Main St, where the Plaza casino-hotel stands today. That was the site of the original Union Plaza train station (hence the current hotel’s name), and it’s where the original land auction was held—the auction that kicked off Las Vegas in 1905. That land had originally been purchased by US Senator William Clark of Montana, who’d bought 2,000 acres of a former Mormon settlement for $55,000. The lots in the auction went for between $150 and $750, all east of the train tracks.

Today, that’s the Downtown Las Vegas we all know and love, although we’ve also expanded a bit west of those tracks—which are still in use today by the Union-Pacific line.

In movies, you’ve probably seen people cruising their cars down Fremont Street, past venerable hotels like the Golden Nugget, Binion’s, and more. Traffic stopped in 1994 when five blocks of Fremont were closed to make the covered pedestrian walkway now known as the Fremont Street Experience.

Downtown Firsts

Downtown hosts many Las Vegas firsts:

  • Our first hotel, the Hotel Nevada, which became the Golden Nugget (casino mogul Steve Wynn’s first casino)
  • The first telephone in Las Vegas
  • The first paved street in Las Vegas
  • The first Nevada gaming license (the Northern Club, now gone)
  • The first elevator in Las Vegas (Apache Hotel, now part of Binion’s)
  • The first high-rise in Las Vegas (the Fremont Hotel)
  • The first carpeted casino (the Horseshoe, now Binion’s)
  • The oldest casinos in Las Vegas: El Cortez and Golden Gate.

Lay of the Land

  • Fremont Street runs East-West. The “West Side” is the Fremont Street experience, west of Las Vegas Blvd. “Fremont East” is home to a number of local bars, restaurants, and other venues, and lies east of Las Vegas Blvd.
  • Las Vegas Blvd sits in place of 5th street, and runs North-South. It’s physically possibly to walk south to the Strip, but zero people recommend it.
  • Our “Culinary Corridor” runs on Carson, just east of Las Vegas Blvd.
  • The Arts District, part of the original Block 18b from Clark’s 1905 town site map, straddles Charleston on the south end of Downtown. It’s centered around Main Street, Commerce, and Casino Center.
  • Most tourists rarely venture west of Stewart (where the Mob Museum is at 3rd), and there’s little reason to do so. As far east as 10th-11th on Fremont as perfectly safe, offering a number of attractions, nightlife venues, bars, and restaurants. Head south on Casino Center to walk through the Arts District, particularly on the south side of Charleston.

Special Cautions

  • Jaywalking is not only a serious offense (fines of $250 are common), it’s literally taking your life in your hands. Drivers Downtown and on the Strip are incredibly distracted and we get well over 300 pedestrian injuries and fatalities each year. Pay attention to crossing lights, especially on the Fremont Street Experience. Saving 30 seconds isn’t worth a leg—or your life.