Las Vegas is known for its luxurious hotels, world-class entertainment, iconic casinos, and endless opportunities for fun and excitement. It’s a city that never sleeps and visitors can always find something to do, no matter the time of day. Two of the most popular areas in Las Vegas are the Strip and Downtown (also known as Old or Vintage Vegas).
Las Vegas Strip Versus Downtown – Which is Best? Well, while the Strip may be the most recognizable, Downtown has undergone a significant transformation in recent years and now offers a vibrant, eclectic, and authentic experience that is quite different from the glitz and glamour of the Strip. Both offer a unique experience and are quite different in terms of atmosphere, entertainment, and overall vibe so choosing which one is Best essentially comes down to personal choice. But, to help you decide here’s some of the pros of both the Strip and Downtown.
Let’s start with some statistics. According to the 2022 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study conducted and produced by the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority, more visitors are exploring Downtown. About six in ten (58%) visited Downtown during their stay with one-half (50%) of visitors saying the Freemont Street Experience was the main reason for visiting Downtown. Six in ten visitors who did not visit Downtown said it was because they did not have enough time or interest (30% each). More visitors than last year said it was because Downtown was inconvenient or out of the way (14%) or that they prefer the Strip (11%). In terms of the most popular place to stay, the Strip still rules with 2 out of 3 visitors (69%) staying on the Strip.
Based on these statistics, it appears that visitors think the Strip is Best but let’s explore a little further.
Luxurious Accommodations: The hotels on the Strip are some of the most luxurious in the world, offering visitors a truly opulent experience. The Strip also has more newer or recently remodeled casinos (Resorts World being the most recent having opened in 2021) which often means that there are more high-tech amenities in the casino, and the rooms in the resort are newer with more modern furnishings. Having said that, Downtown also has luxurious accommodations – Circa comes to mind with its top-tier dining options, an amphitheater rooftop pool deck and a large sportsbook.
Entertainment Options: The Strip is known for its vast array of entertainment options, including high-end shows, sporting events, nightclubs and shopping. And while Downtown lacks the spectacular shows found on the Strip, such as Cirque du Soleil, you can still enjoy a number of quality entertainment options that are reasonably priced. Both the Strip and Downtown have a lot of free entertainment too. Downtown has the Viva Vision and free mini concerts on the Fremont Street Experience while the Strip has the Bellagio fountains & conservatory.
Dining Options: Las Vegas is a major foodie destination and the Strip now has a number of Michelin-starred restaurants and dozens of eateries overseen by celebrity chefs, such as Hell’s Kitchen by Gordon Ramsey. There is nearly every type of cuisine on the Strip, from high-end Japanese at Nobu to a Bacon Mac “N” Cheeseburger at Guy Fieri’s and everything in between. That’s not to say that Downtown doesn’t have a variety of dining options too. Downtown offers affordable options such as Tony Roma’s, Evel Pie or Pizza Rock and also offers high-end eats, such as great steak and/or seafood, at places like Top of Binion’s Steakhouse and Oscar’s at Plaza.
Kid-Friendly Options: Although you could argue that nowhere in Vegas is truly kid-friendly, the Strip does offer a number of family-friendly attractions and shows. Although Downtown is undergoing a revitalization effort, it may not be suitable for children – there is a visible homeless population, the crowd tends to be a bit seedier, and some of the performers on the Freemont Street Experience wear very explicit costumes or hold obscene signs. The Strip isn’t perfect either but the presence of police and security helps keep the city’s “sin” mostly hidden from sight.
Quiet: The Strip does tend to be quieter than Downtown. Once you get into your hotel room on the Strip, you may hear noises from the hallway and maybe your extra rowdy next door neighbor but you definitely won’t hear the majority of the festivities going on the Strip below. Hotel guests Downtown often complain about the noise from the live entertainment on the Freemont Street Experience that prevents sleep until early in the morning.
Less Restrictive Open Container Laws: On the Strip you are able to purchase canned or bottled drinks at a convenience store and crack them open. Downtown has different alcohol and open container laws – you can drink out in the open on Fremont Street but your drink has to be in a plastic cup and be purchased from a casino bar.
Better Transportation Options: The Strip is well-served by public transportation but visitors to Downtown may find it more challenging to get around. That being said, there is a free shuttle service – the Downtown Loop – that offers transportation to various locations Downtown, including the Arts District, Freemont Street Experience, Mob Museum, and the North Premium Outlets.
Atmosphere: Downtown offers a more relaxed and intimate experience. While not as flashy and glamorous as the Strip, it does have its own unique charm with its historical buildings, vintage signs and neon lights. Downtown has a distinct neighborhood vibe and visitors can immerse themselves in the culture of the area while enjoying free-standing bars, restaurants, shops, local businesses, and the beautiful murals and art exhibits found in the Arts District.
Vintage Vegas History & Landmarks: Downtown is home to several iconic landmarks, including the Fremont Street Experience, Mob Museum, and Neon Museum. There’s also a lot of history Downtown – many of the hotels have been around for a long time and have interesting stories. For example, Golden Gate opened in 1906 and had the first working phone in Nevada. Binion’s Hotel Apache originally opened in 1932 and is said to be haunted. El Cortez was owned at one point by mobster Bugsy Siegel. Meanwhile on the Strip many of the historic hotels & casinos have been demolished and replaced with new, shiny and elegant mega-resorts.
Affordability: Downtown is generally more affordable than the Strip. Room rates and resort fees at the hotels are often cheaper than anything you can book on the Strip, and a night out on the town is likely to cost less as well – drink prices are cheaper and Downtown bars have Happy Hours and drink specials to further offset the costs. Although there are certainly deals to be had on the Strip, generally speaking, a stay on the Strip doesn’t come cheap unless your room is comped.
Walkability: Downtown is extremely pedestrian-friendly. Fremont Street is closed to vehicle traffic and the casinos are situated close together making it easy to walk from casino to casino. Also, the bar and restaurant district is just a few blocks in either direction so you can easily explore the entire area in a single afternoon. The Strip is walkable too but walking on the Strip can be quite the trek – many of the Strip casinos are huge and walking to the casino next door can often mean walking the equivalent of several city blocks.
Lower Table Minimums: Casinos Downtown generally allow you to stretch your dollar a bit further. While you’ll commonly encounter minimum bets of $15 – $25 on Strip table games, Downtown frequently features $10 minimums daily with some as low as $5 during non-peak times. The Downtown Grand also offers $1 Blackjack. If slots are your jam, Downtown slots are usually slightly looser than slots on the Strip. You can even still find coin-operated slot machines at the El Cortez and California Casinos Downtown.
So, Las Vegas Strip Versus Downtown – Which is Best? Both offer unique and exciting experiences for Las Vegas visitors. If this is your first or second time visiting Las Vegas, you might want to consider staying on the Strip because there’s so much to see and do that you’ll want to stay in the heart of the action. However, if you’ve visited Las Vegas many times and want to experience a different side of the city, Downtown might be the way to go. Ultimately, the choice is yours and comes down to personal preference – you should take the time to explore both areas and decide which one suits your style and budget.