Cultural Guide to Las Vegas
Culture in Las Vegas? Do my ears deceive me! It’s all whirring roulette wheels, the click of chips on blackjack tables and the chirruping tunes of fruit machines, isn’t it? Well listen up, because ‘Sin City’ is more than just a party destination. Escape the noise of strip by hiring a car from easyCar in Las Vegas and visiting the city’s cultural attractions.
It is not commonly known but Las Vegas has a thriving arts quarter. Located in the downtown area, 18b District is full of vintage stores, antique shops, craft stalls and art galleries. On the first Friday of every month the community hosts a festival style Art Walk were visitors are encouraged to spend the evening wandering around the shops, eating street food and watching the performers. At the centre of the arts district you can find its heart, The Arts Factory. Once a commercial warehouse, The Arts Factory building has been transformed into a contemporary gallery cum workshop/art class venue. On the day before each First Friday Art Walk (Preview Thursday) the studio doors are thrown open allowing art enthusiasts and collectors to view the factory artists’ new pieces.
Vegas has enjoyed a colourful history and one of the best places to learn its past of is The Mob Museum. The museum’s interactive, multi-media exhibits take you on a fascinating tour through America’s dark and violent underground culture. For those that like to indulge in a little horror, there are real murder weapons and photos of bloody crime scenes! The museum building itself was once a courthouse and the courtroom inside once held hearings on organised crime cases.
There are several great ways to enjoy Vegas’ gambling culture without entering the strip casinos and drastically lightening your wallet. The Fremont Street Experience is sure to captivate with its canopy colourful lights and music blasting show, but, if you drag your eyes away from the zip-wires and entertainers, there are vintage hotels and casinos to be discovered. Located at 1 Fremont Street, Golden Gate Casino (originally Hotel Nevada) was the first casino hotel in Las Vegas and is well worth taking a peak at. The oldest true casino in the metropolis is Golden Nugget, which is also on Fremont Street. The gambling house is named after the 27kg golden nugget (called the Hand of Faith) that is displayed in its lobby along with numerous smaller nuggets. The Nugget’s gaudy style, complete with kitsch neon lights in novelty shapes and an interior filled Sinatra and Elvis inspired detailing, is very different from the look of the new casinos on the strip. Nearby El Cortez, a 1940s Spanish ranch style casino hotel, still has its original sign and coin operated slot machines.
Whilst Vegas does boast a Frank Gehry building, it is not the city that you should head to to marvel at the work of famous architects. There are however some fascinating buildings and some architectural marvels! The Little Church of the West is built from redwood in the style of a pioneer mining town church. The oldest building and chapel on the strip, the church has been moved several times in its 70 year existence. The church featured in the film Viva Las Vegas and has hosted many celebrity weddings. A forty minute drive south-east from Vegas is the Hoover Dam. A wonder in engineering, the dam was constructed in just four years during The Great Depression. You can book onto a guided tour to learn about the structure or simply stop by to admire the architecture and the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. If you are into Art Deco and prefer something a little closer to town, you shouldn’t miss a trip to Las Vegas High School. The facade is decorated with concrete panelling with ornate plant, animal and medallion details in the Aztec Moderne style.
Music and Theatre
For the must-see musical shows and theatrical events the go-to destination in Las Vegas is the Smith Center for Performing Arts. Completed in 2012, the huge five-acre complex has three theatres along with many smaller venues. Built in the Art Deco style, inspired largely by the Hoover Dam, the centre has a stunning lobby. The acoustics in all of the venues are sublime and it is near to impossible to book a bad seat in the spacious auditoriums. Head to Cabaret Jazz for some great swinging sax, or one of the larger theatres for Broadway shows, ballet, plays or orchestral music.
What happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas when you take a cultural tour of the city!