Today’s Las Vegas is an amazing collection of elaborate resorts and casinos, luxury shopping malls, and fine restaurants. Before the Strip embraced mega-casinos and upscale accommodations, it was a place to find great deals, kitsch, and interesting characters. You’ll still find interesting characters (mostly in costume on Fremont Street or along the Strip), but you can also get the flavor of a prior time when tourists dressed up and mobsters roamed the casinos.
You can explore vintage Vegas in a day, but to get a thorough feeling for what the city was once like, stay a night a room at an old-style hotel casino. On Fremont Street, the historic El Cortez offers great deals along with hip, renovated rooms.
On the Strip, properties like the Flamingo and the Tropicana have renovated rooms and amenities, along with very reasonable rates. Either hotel casino has a great location. The Flamingo (known as the hotel mobster Ben “Bugsy” Siegel built) is centrally situated on the Strip, and the Tropicana (opened in 1957) is in a prime South Strip location.The historic El Cortez — Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of dbking
Your First Old Vegas Stop: The Casino
Old Vegas was all about the casino, so make your first stop at a gaming table, ideally at a vintage casino to get a feel for what casinos were once like. You could fudge a little and play video poker, but for a truly old-style experience, you'll want to hold the cards in your hands.
Look for low-limit tables if you're just getting the hand of things. Experts say that craps and blackjack (also known as 21) offer gamblers some of the best odds, but video poker is a favorite because it’s easy to play.
In Old Vegas, the whole idea behind cheap food and entertainment was to pull people into the casino. By contrast, in today's Vegas a growing percentage of Vegas visitors don’t gamble.[PHOTO_181845]
Soak Up Some History
Las Vegas is a young city, and when most people think about "Old Vegas," the eras when the Rat Pack and Elvis were hot, that's really only going back to the 1960s or 1970s. While the city has been around since 1905, its iconic history is rooted in the mobsters and neon of days just recently gone by. In Downtown Las Vegas, you can visit museums that give you background on both the bad guys and the big signs.
The Mob Museum opened in February 2012, and it's located in a historic Downtown Las Vegas building that was once a courthouse and post office. Organized crime played an important (if unsavory) role in the early years of the Las Vegas, so it's fitting that the museum is located here.
After a lesson about the Mob, head down to the Neon Museum. You can check out the displays along Fremont Street of the vintage Vegas signs, or call ahead to make an appointment at the Boneyard. The Boneyard is planning to open a new visitor center soon, which should make checking out the aging signs a bit easier.Signs at the Neon Museum's Boneyard — Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of angel.ite
Have A Steak Dinner
At the end of your day of Old Vegas, head to the Golden Steer. This steakhouse’s 54-year tenure is unusual for a city that rarely keeps anything around for too long. Note the red leather booths and deep-toned interior: in Old Vegas, this was the usual décor for most fine dining establishments. Expect to find thick steaks and an ambiance that was once the norm throughout the city.