By Jason Heidemann for the Orbitz Travel Blog
We don't want to deny the world famous Las Vegas Strip its awesomeness--it totally rules. But downtown Sin City is working up some seriously major mojo these days. That's thanks in part to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who sold the retailer to Amazon in 2009 and two years later scooped up 60 acres of downtown land in hopes of turning it into a high-tech hub. Check out our guide to 24 perfect hours in the real Las Vegas (the Strip is actually in Paradise, NV). It's a guaranteed good time--we'll even bet money on it!
Noon: Check-in at the Golden Spike
Your Sin City crash pad is Oasis at Gold Spike, a former hotel and casino that gutted all its gaming and re-purposed itself as a hub for downtown thrill seekers. The hotel has restored its classic mid-century vibe, especially its gorgeous facade and pool area, while guestrooms are sleek and contemporary. Chill in the lobby where you can spin records and lounge on a king-sized bed, and save time later for nighttime chilling and antics in the wildly popular courtyard.
1pm: Sip at Inspire News
Let's get you fueled and caffeinated. Mingle with media types, entrepreneurs and downtown vultures at this corner "newsstand" where you can choose from more than 200 magazines while imbibing frothy cappuccinos and other espresso-inspired beverages. Got a novel you're dying to print? At Inspire News, you can plug your USB port into the Espresso Book Machine and watch it print, bind, and cut an affordable paperback book right before your very eyes.
3pm: Fly over Fremont at SlotZilla
Now that coffee is literally racing through your veins and the adrenaline is pumping, it's time to get wild. Scoot on over to revamped Fremont Street and climb inside its twelve-story slot machine for the thrill of a lifetime as you gear up and are shot zipline style over the entire Fremont Street Experience--a barrel vault canopy and pedestrian mall featuring gaming, shopping and entertainment including a spectacular nighttime light show that happens daily.
4pm: Be dazzled by the Neon Museum
The marquis attraction in all of Sin City--no matter what anybody else tells you--is the marvelous Neon Museum, a sprawling bone yard where giant neon signs rest in peace for all eternity but whose stories are resurrected by docents who use each piece to tell the turbulent and exciting history of Las Vegas--an unmissable attraction.
5pm: Test your credit limit at Downtown Container Park
If the 55-foot tall, fire-spitting steel praying mantis (a public art sculpture) doesn't lure you to this outdoor shopping playground then perhaps it will be the ever-shifting cornucopia of retail start ups, urban artisans and dreamers who set up specialty shops selling all kinds of cool merch including clothing, gifts, fine art and more. Perhaps no other structure in Las Vegas better epitomizes downtown's veracious and spectacular comeback than Container Park.
8pm: Dinner at Park on Fremont
We don't know which we like better about Park on Fremont, its gastropub ambience--featuring an eclectic mix of art and furnishings like weird taxidermy, cool wallpaper and ornate chandeliers--or the eclectic American menu with its smorgasbord of approachable, stick-to-your-ribs pub fare such as garbage french fries and a fried chicken and waffle sandwich. Oh wait, it's having a cocktail on the sublime outdoor patio we like best. Other radar-worthy eateries include Carson Kitchen and Itsy Bitsy: Ramen and Whiskey.
11pm: Enjoy a cocktail--without a tourist in site
Who doesn't come to this city to drink? Downtown Vegas offers a wildly eclectic mix of places for friendly imbibing including watering holes like the legit Sin City vintage live music joint the Bunkhouse Saloon (which first opened its doors in 1953), the 6,000-square foot throwback cocktail lounge Commonwealth or the semi-secret, bar-within-a-bar speakeasy the Laundry Room.
1am: Strike it rich (or not) at a vintage casino
This is Vegas, baby, and the night is young so let's get you gaming. You will lose money so be prepared to do so cheerfully and responsibly, but know that the table minimums are lower and the slot machines much looser here than on the Strip. Downtown is home to the city's oldest casinos so check out Sin City classics like the El Cortez (owned by mobster Bugsy Siegel), the Golden Nugget or the glitzy and brand new D Casino and Hotel.
9am: Strike a pose at Bikram Yoga Downtown
We can't remember, did last night even happen? Let's clear out the cobwebs by rising early--but not too early--and bending you into a pretzel at Bikram Yoga Downtown, a yoga and pilates studio housed in the rehabbed John E. Carson Hotel, which is also home to a number of trendy start up companies and retailers including florist Bud and Vine and doughnut shop O Face.
11am: Eat at Eat
Strap on the feedbag one last time at the best breakfast and brunch spot in all of downtown known simply as Eat. Chef Natalie Young serves up tasty victuals to hungry hipsters. Chow down on guaranteed hangover cures like chicken fried steak, a truffled egg sandwich and made to order beignets and consider your day of decadence in downtown Sin City officially complete.
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