Courtesy Moyan Brenn (Elvises and car). Las Vegas news bureau (Neon Museum).
From its humble beginnings as a pioneer outpost, Las Vegas has exploded into a hub of neon synonymous with the word decadence. And today so much of the city's experience is wrapped up in suspending reality -- "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" -- and indulging in the endless kaleidoscope of A-list performers, world-class restaurants, and upscale retail. But away from the Strip's high rollers and sleek glass super-towers lives an alternative Vegas, one much closer to the ground. Downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street were where it all began a century ago, and now the areas are breathing creative youth into the ever-changing desert oasis and attracting an entirely new subset of travelers who would otherwise be repelled by the city's synthetic offerings. From underground clubs and microbreweries to throwback art and disco eateries, prepare yourself for a Vegas you didn't know existed.
Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge
There's a reason this '70s hot spot has made appearances in movies including Casino and Showgirls. Its throwback fabulousness is a living tribute to old-school Vegas. Cozy up by the indoor fire pit for 24-hour dining and drinking, and don't miss the opportunity to order something off the original menu, like French toast ambrosia. PepperMillLasVegas.com
Built from more than 40 repurposed shipping containers, Container Park offers open-air entertainment and shopping in the heart of downtown. Niche boutiques, one-of-a-kind bars, street food vendors, performance venues -- there's something unforget-table for the modern hipster in all of us. DowntownContainerPark.com
No trip to Vegas would be complete without playing the slots, and El Cortez offers the classic experience. The longest continuously operated hotel and casino in the city, it boasts a facade dating back more than 60 years and is an integral part of the downtown fabric. ElCortezHotelCasino.com
A microbrewery that blends signature Las Vegas hospitality with local craft beer, Banger is what happens when five passionate natives decide to give back to the city that made them. BangerBrewing.com
Time-travel through nearly a century of Vegas history via the city's hallmark: its tacky neon signs. The collection here, which features more than 150 pieces of glittering art, tells the unique story of Vegas's visual growth -- and the museum even hosts wedding shoots! NeonMuseum.org
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