May 02, 2019

Photo Essay: Waking Up in Vegas (On Fremont Street)

Out of all the times I've traveled to Vegas, I've always stayed at one of the hotel casinos on the Strip (or, like the Palms, Rio, and Hooters casinos, just off of it).

For this most recent trip, I figured if I wanted an authentic Vegas experience, I'd have to stay in Old Vegas—Downtown Las Vegas—the "old" strip of Fremont Street.

Two nights at the El Cortex afforded me the opportunity to stay in a national landmark (circa 1941) once owned by Bugsy Siegel...

...and wake up on Fremont Street—an area I'd only previously explored after dark.

El Cortez is technically located in the recently-designated Fremont East district...

...just a short walk from Las Vegas Boulevard...

...and the official entrance to the Fremont Street Experience.

That's where the neon The Hacienda Horse and Rider (circa 1967) greets visitors and passers-by with a silent "Howdy!" and a glittering wave. The refurbished sign was first installed by zThe Neon Museum in 1996.

These days, Fremont Street isn't quite what it used to be... the now pedestrian mall (closed to motorized traffic) has been capped (with zipliners sailing above at a near-constant pace).

The "Crazy Ely" Western Village no longer sells "Indian jewelry" or moccasins, operating solely as a souvenir shop full of mostly the same crap you'll find at all the other local gift stores. But at least the statue of the gold-panning prospector still hovers over the sidewalk.

The facades of these casinos are still far more appealing to me than the Epcot-esque themed environments of, say, the Excalibur on the Strip.

I think the only casino on the strip to retain any semblance of a wraparound neon marquee is the Flamingo (also once owned by Bugsy Siegel). And that's probably an endangered species.

I loved walking around Fremont Street first thing in the morning on my way to and from breakfast...

...especially since it wasn't too early for the "showgirls" to come out.

We ended up strolling all the way down to the end—to the Golden Gate Casino (circa 1906) at One Fremont Street—and turning around and going back.

We'd hoped for pancakes at Dupar's, but the front desk told us it closed in 2013 (though in truth, it just moved to the Suncoast Hotel and Casino).

We asked the desk attendant where we could get breakfast and told him we were looking for something historic nearby.

"Uh... historic?"

He came up empty.

So we took a gamble on Magnolia's Veranda, the cafe in the Four Queens, which ended up being delightful.

By the time we headed back to the El Cortez to take our showers and get ready for the rest of the day, Fremont Street was already getting too crowded for my taste.

I can't be nostalgic for the old version of Las Vegas, because I never experienced it firsthand.

But I can try to make up for lost time by seeking out what's left of it and enjoying it while I still can.

There's already a big fat hole on Fremont Street where the Las Vegas Club and Golden Goose used to stand.

Seems like nothing can escape "progress."

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Fremont Street Experience, Vegas
Photo Essay: Neon Boneyard, Vegas


  1. I enjoy reading and looking at your travels and especially this one, Ahh Las Vegas. I worked at the Stardust for 4yrs and It was something else. Of course I had some of the original crew to keep me on track. Las Vegas was a great place, but some people would enjoy and some hate it. The down on their luck ones would lose their shirts and everything else and wanted just to leave. All in all, It had a certain, family feel as far as the working environment. Its not the same as it was though, $1.99 ham or steak and eggs.
    oh well you did a great job!!

  2. Good article. Fremont St has a totally different feel, though it's changed since my first trip in 1980. Had a meal in the 4 Queens in late 2018. Thai staff. Enjoyable and old school.