Ditch las vegas boulevard and go old school or new cool in sin city. We love a glamorous, brand-new casino packed with high-end boutiques, celebrity-chef restaurants and EDM-thumping nightclubs as much as the next player. But sometimes it seems as though strollers outnumber high rollers on the Strip and we yearn for more sin in Sin City. Fortunately, plenty of pleasure of a less theme-park sort can be found just off the Strip.
One of the pitfalls of even a short stay in Vegas is the fatigue that comes from the unrelenting stimulation of packed streets, the flashing cacophony of the casino floor and the parade of revelers toting cocktails in yard-long plastic Day-Glo cups. Even a player needs to pace himself with a restorative disco nap. Take advantage of the desert air—and more affordable rates—at Red Rock resort on the far western edge of the city or, to the south, at the M Resort, where you can book a room with a view of the Strip glittering in the distance and plan your attack.
Get the party started with a visit to downtown Las Vegas, now dubbed the Fremont Street Experience. Despite the kitschy video light show and zip lines that hover overhead, the ground level of the original Vegas Strip is relatively unchanged and home to old-school casinos such as the Golden Nugget and the 4 Queens—time capsules of an era free from such distractions as Cirque du Soleil and culinary careers built on Food Network fame. Binion’s, the birthplace of the World Series of Poker, is the hard-core gambler’s casino of choice (and with the slogan “Good whiskey. Good food. Good gamble,” it better be).
Head east to witness firsthand the evolution of modern downtown Las Vegas. Hit Commonwealth, a multilevel bar and lounge with a rooftop patio, a Portland-worthy 20-slot bike rack out front and such hipsterati events as a pop-up tattoo parlor. Nearby Downtown Cocktail Room is a sultry, dimly lit speakeasy, the perfect place to sip textbook renditions of classic cocktails, including the Between the Sheets, first served at Harry’s Bar in Paris in the 1930s.
If you’re an enlightened food dude, eat like a chef at Raku in the city’s Chinatown. Here you’ll find casino chefs on their nights off eating exquisite charcoal-grilled Kobe beef and soy-glazed foie gras until three in the morning.
Man cannot live on booze, food and gambling alone, so break it up with some culture, Vegas style. Tour the Mob Museum, where you can fire a tommy-gun simulator and see a bullet-bitten wall shot up during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.