Downtown Las Vegas (commonly abbreviated as DTLV) is the central business district and historic center of Las Vegas. It’s the original town site and was the gambling district of Las Vegas prior to the Strip and the area still incorporates downtown gaming. As the urban core of the Las Vegas Valley, it features a variety of hotel and business highrises, cultural centers, historical buildings and government institutions, as well as residential and retail developments. Downtown is located in the center of the Las Vegas Valley and just north of the Las Vegas Strip, centered on Fremont Street, theFremont Street Experience and Fremont East. The city defines the area as bounded by I-15 on the west, Washington Avenue on the north, Maryland Parkway on the east and Sahara Avenue on the south.
I defer to the Wikipedia entry for more detail of and how Downtown Las Vegas came about. Here is the obligatory map:
As you can see there are far fewer hotels and casinos than on The Strip. They’re generally also far less grand than their Strip counterparts which is perhaps why most visitors from the UK tend to stay on The Strip and never venture Downtown.
One of the upsides of Downtown is that you can access the various properties easily from one another. Freemont Street is mainly pedestrianised and you can safely pass from one casino to another with ease. Another benefit is that gaming limits tend to be much lower Downtown. You can play Blackjack for a stake of $5 in many properties which is a very rare occurrence indeed on The Strip. Hotel rates, with a few exceptions, also tend to be cheaper Downtown.
It also has some unique features. Freemont Street is covered and the roof turns into a fantastic light show when it gets dark. There is now (January 2016) a massive zip wire that runs just below the roof from one end to the other if you’re brave enough! There’s open air music and performances along Freemont Street.
If you don’t have a car you can get a cab Downtown from The Strip (and obviously vice versa) for about $25 to $30. An alternative is The Deuce.
The Deuce is something of a local success story. It’s a two story bus that wends its way from just South of Mandalay Bay all the way along The Strip and on to the far end of Downtown by City Hall. It runs 24/7 and comes along frequently. It’s remarkably cheap by Vegas standards at $5 for two hours or $7 for 24 hours (as at January 2016).
I recommend that every visitor takes the Deuce Downtown once in their lifetime. You can buy your ticket on the bus. It’s another great way of seeing The Strip and Downtown at modest cost and without suffering the rigours of walking! Of course, there are downsides. Being cheap the bus is unbelievably popular and thus crowded. There can be long queues just to get on it. It stops very frequently and it takes an eternity to complete the whole journey. It is also used extensively by locals and you never know quite who you might be sitting next to!
Try it. See if you choose to come back in the other direction by taxi! There’s one other alternative – the Strip and Downtown Express (SDX). I tell you more about this at Outlet Malls. The advantage of this service over the Deuce is that it’s quicker between Downtown and Mandalay Bay. It achieves this by bypassing most of The Strip. The only centre-Strip stop is near Bellagio. This bus may therefore work for you if you’re staying there or at the Stratosphere or Mandalay Bay.
Overall Downtown presents an experience that’s very different to The Strip. I make a point of going Downtown once during every trip I make. Some people say it’s a bit shabby and low rent (try telling that to the folks at the Golden Nugget) and they may be right but brash and expensive is not always best. Downtown is safe (but obviously stick to the main areas and streets) but a common perception is that its not quite as safe as The Strip.
Fore more information on things to do Downtown see Excursions within Vegas.