Weekend Escape: Downtown Las Vegas is on a winning streak these days
The fortunes of downtown Sin City have waxed and waned, but now, thanks largely to a shoe salesman, Old Las Vegas is on a hot streak. Zappos Chief Executive Tony Hsieh is not only leading the Downtown Project to transform the area, he’s also moved his company’s headquarters here and is investing millions to build a district filled with “entrepreneurial and creative people.” For me, the best part is that the budding community mixes the old with the new, adding a fresh layer to downtown’s old-school vibe. (Zappos, for example, retooled the former city hall building for its offices.) The tab: Weekend room rates start at $89 at the Downtown Grand; my husband and I spent $210 for meals and drinks.
The Downtown Grand (206 N. 3rd St.;  719-5100, www.downtowngrand.com) took over the long-dormant Lady Luck casino and opened in 2013. The hotel renovation is attractive but lacks cohesion. The lobby has nice touches, and you can get a drink at the Art Bar with its framed artwork on the ceiling (don’t crick your neck). Our deluxe room was clean and pleasant; the bathroom was basic and had a walk-in shower with a partial glass enclosure. Premium rooms have more oomph. The rooftop pool was full of people schmoozing and drinking.
We went old-school for dinner at Hugo’s Cellar (Four Queens Hotel & Casino, 202 Fremont St.;  385-4011, hugoscellar.com), a throwback with red leather booths and a rose for the ladies. Choose the steaks, which come with extras such as salads made tableside and chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. For new-school, we hit Stewart + Ogden (Downtown Grand,  719-5100) for the smoked salmon, red velvet pancakes and great OMG burger. For new-new-school, we had terrific pancakes, eggs, artisan bread and thick bacon at the hipster haven Eat (707 Carson Ave.;  534-1515, eatdtlv.com).
Hobnob with the ghosts of Bugsy Siegel and other tough cookies at the Mob Museum (300 Stewart Ave.;  229-2734, themobmuseum.org), a treasure trove of cops and wiseguys lore. Take an evening tour of the Boneyard at the Neon Museum (770 Las Vegas Blvd. North;  387-6366, www.neonmuseum.org), a celebration of the glittery Vegas of yesteryear. All that glitters isn’t old; two new facilities caught our eye: The Downtown Container Park (707 Fremont St.; downtowncontainerpark.com) features unique shops and restaurants in a village built from colorful shipping containers, and the Emergency Arts collective (520 Fremont St.; www.emergencyartslv.com) has art studios and a funky coffeehouse selling vinyl records.
The lesson learned
1. Don’t bet everything on red. 2. Don’t bet everything on black. We did both and lost each time. Some children have to put their hand on the stove more than once to learn.
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