Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Exploring Vegas - Fremont St.

Fremont St at night
During our recent trip to Vegas, we stayed in the Fremont St area, against the advice of friends who rarely ventured off the strip during their vacations.

Fremont Street is the old downtown area, before the development of what is now the Strip. This is where the first casinos and hotels were all built. For a while, it became the seedy side of town, but it has recently undergone something of a facelift and is now a bustling hive of activity encased in a video screen ceiling which broadcasts concert footage.

In truth it was very much a mix of the good and bad that Las Vegas has to offer. There are still plenty of casinos and restaurants, as well as street entertainment, live bands, and so on. If you're visiting with children, my advice would be to browse during the weekdays or the week evenings. Friday through Sunday is awash with panhandlers, topless women, mankinis, church groups praying for your soul, and people drinking.

Better yet, take the kids to the Container Park. We only discovered this on the last day of our trip and it was all of a block from our hotel.

The Container Park is a block or two away from the main Fremont St craziness and is filled with boutiques, restaurants, and entertainment for the whole family. How we missed it, I'm not quite sure; there is a huge praying mantis sculpture at the entrance.

The atmosphere is laid-back and peaceful, a stark difference to the neighboring blocks. Even better for families: there is a large play area for kids. Looking at a posted schedule, it is clear that lots of entertainment is available throughout the summer, from open-air concerts to family movie nights.

Had we discovered this sooner, we would have tried one of the restaurants. Next time....

Another place to make sure you visit in the area is the Mob Museum. You can book tickets online (and save $2 per person by doing so). Housed in the former Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse, the Mob Museum is three floors of everything you could ever want to know about organized crime and law enforcement attempts to combat it, not just in Sin City but nationwide.

Tours begin on the third floor with the chance to participate in your own police lineup. Learn about the birth of the mob, the origins of Las Vegas, and much more. You can also see the original wall from the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Work your way through the exhibits, learning about possible mob connections to the assassination of JFK, trying a Tommy Gun, and seeing some of the more gruesome tools used in a number of murders. Near the end of the tour you get to sit in the courtroom where the Vegas hearings for the Kefauver Committee took place. Watch footage from the hearings before making your way back to the first floor where you'll see exhibits of, among other things, movies and the mob.

In all, be sure to allow 3 hours or so to tour the museum; there truly is that much to see.

All this reading built up an appetite, but where to eat in Fremont Street? Check back tomorrow to find out.

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