Downtown Vegas - Fremont East

You're in downtown Las Vegas and either got really drunk and a taxi dropped you off there, or you opted to let your friend book a cheap vacation and ended up at one of the many seedy no-tell motels on East Fremont. Well do not fear, I have a couple of things you can do while you're slumming in Downtown Vegas…

Insert Coin(s)

Insert Coin(s)

Insert Coin(s), located at 512 Fremont Street, has become one of the most popular bars in Las Vegas. Every night both tourists and locals make the pilgrimage to downtown Las Vegas to converge on the only place in town where you can drink and play video games simultaneously. It's a festive atmosphere and a much more fun environment to hang out with friends instead of waiting in line for two hours to pay big bucks to go to crowded club with terrible music.

 

Insert Coin(s) is a glorified arcade with a kick-ass bar and nightclub in the back. If you're a child of the 1980s and a member of Generation X, and you spent a fair amount of time donking off quarters at your favorite arcade games, then Insert Coin(s) replica enhances that experience with liquor and cool music. Insert Coin(s) main attraction is classic arcade games like Pacman, Donkey King, Galaga and Gauntlet, but it will cost you 50 cents per game and not a quarter like the good old days

 

Insert Coin(s) epitomizes retro-chic while catering to the video game generation. They even have private booths (with booth service) featuring its own consoles and LCD screen. You can also use current gaming systems like PS3, X-Box, and Wii to play Madden football and Call of Duty. Or you can go old school with Nintendo and Sega systems.

 

The cocktails are slightly overpriced, but they have funky names derived from the ghosts in Pac-Man (Clyde, Blinky, Inky, and Pinky). The best time to visit Insert Coin(s) is on a weeknight because it's super crowded on the weekends (they also charge a cover on weekends). Insert Coins(s) is a fun spot to meet a large group of friends for a pre-party before you head out elsewhere. Follow them on Twitter @InsertCoinsLV.

The Griffin

The Griffin

Right across the street from Insert Coins(s) is The Griffin located at 511 Fremont Street. You might go to Insert Coin(s) with a rowdy group of friends from college, but the Griffin is a laid-back lounge emphasizing drinking and lounging, and the place to go to sip high-quality scotch but not get overcharged. The Griffin is one of my favorite bars in Vegas because it is the exact opposite of the club-like atmosphere on the Strip.

 

The Griffin appears like a total dive from the outside, which often keeps out hipsters and scensters who just want to be seen. On the inside, the Griffin is a cozy and warm cave-like environment with cathedral-like ceilings and wood floors. The red plush leather booths and brick wall give off the ambience of a basement bar in a random European city. It's the kind of place where you want to meet your mistress for a few cocktails while snuggling up at one of the fireplaces.

 

Sure, on the exterior the Griffin looks like a seedy joint where you'd go to do a cocaine deal, but it's really just a chill place to hang out and have a relaxing drink without suffering hearing loss from deafening music by a terrible DJ. Even when the bar is crowded, you don't feel overwhelmed by claustrophobia. There's no cover at the Griffin, but it gets crowded at peak hours on the weekends. The women's toilet is very small so expect to wait in line for a while and bring a cocktail with you.

Binion's

Binion's

A visit to Binion's poker room is worth the trip itself to Downtown Vegas. For poker players, stopping by the poker room is the equivalent of visiting Mecca. The World Series of Poker got its start when Benny Binion hosted a tournament and invited the world's best poker players to come down to his casino (then called The Horseshoe) and determine who was the best of the best. The newly remodeled poker room does a great job showing off its storied history and paying respects to the pioneers of the game.

There's not much in the way of big action at Binion's, but if you want to get super drunk and play low limits against surly locals, then this is the place for you. They also have low-buy in tournaments throughout the night, so it's a cool venue to play a tournament if you have friends/family who are novices and not looking to spend too much money on a buy-in.

 

The best kept secret in all of Downtown Las Vegas is Binion's steakhouse. You can get lost finding it and have to know where to find the secret bank of elevators to take you to the top of the casino where the steak house is located on the 24th floor. You also get to ride in a glass elevator that gives you a lovely view of Downtown. The views from atop Binion's are majestic, especially at nighttime.

The prices are moderate as far as Vegas restaurants go. Although the cuisine is not super fancy, it is still probably the best steak value you can find in Vegas. Even the wine prices are not overly inflated. Make sure you call for a reservation because this is one of the most popular joints Downtown. If you walk in off the street without a reservation during peak hours, get ready to grease the hostess a few bucks for a table.

 

Binion's is what it is… a dingy casino in Downtown Vegas that was once one of the biggest hot spots in town. Make sure you don't leave without getting your picture taken with $1 million in cash in a pyramid display of $100 dollar bills.

Fremont Experience

Fremont Experience

The Fremont Experience is everything that is wrong about American culture, which is why you can't miss it. The entire concept of a tantalizing audio/visual experience high above a pedestrian mall sounds cheesy in theory, but it's free so you really cannot complain about free entertainment. The Viva Vision Canopy (longer than almost 6 football fields) was originally constructed in an attempt to use visual images and loud music to attract tourists to spend more time Downtown.

 

Unfortunately, Fremont Street has lost its Vegas luster and made it look like any other mall in America except the roof is a massive TV screen and the omnipresent odor of urine. At least there are free concerts down on Fremont Street a couple of times of year.

 

The Fremont Experience's newest attraction is a trendy "zip line", so now you can get hammered then fly through the air several stories above Fremont Street. If you have a craving for deep-friend Twinkies, then you can get your fix down on Fremont Street. The infamous Heart Attack Grill is also located nearby.

Frankie's Tiki Room

Frankie's Tiki Room
Frankie's Tiki Room

This dive bar is a Las Vegas institution. It's a couple of blocks away from Las Vegas Blvd. If you like rum and dig Hawaii, then you'll be at home at this 24 hour bar than never closes. This is one of my favorite places to drink during the afternoons.

The inside décor is 100% tiki-themed and looks like something out of a 1960s surfer flick. The specialty drinks are all $9 but they are super strong and will get you blitzed out of your mind. Try the Thurston Howl (rum, brandy, and gin with papaya). If you're a seasoned alcoholic, try their Zombie. Three of them might make you blind. The ladies will enjoy their Bearded Clam mojito.

Bonus: Glitter Gulch and the 99 Cent Shrimp Cocktail

Glitter Gulch

Glitter Gulch has to be one of the nastiest strip clubs on the planet. It's where old strippers go to work while waiting to die. You're not going to find the cream of the crop at GG, yet it's still a popular hot spot. Freaks get turned on by the weirdest things, including over-the-hill strippers. Make sure you wash your hands after you leave and make sure you did not get pick pocketed by any of the exotic dancers.

Shrimp Cocktail Las Vegas

While you're Downtown, make a trip to the Golden Gate Hotel for their 99-cent shrimp cocktail. Now it costs $1.99, but that's still a sick deal. It's sort of a Las Vegas tradition to wait in line just for the opportunity to indulge in cheap shellfish. The shrimp are tiny but served in a chilled fancy glass.

Pro tip: go eat shrimp before Glitter Gulch, because if you wait until after a trip to the strip club, then you will definitely lose your appetite.

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