LAS VEGAS — There’s certainly no shortage of shopping opportunities in Las Vegas, but there’s not much the city seems to sell — from the kitschy souvenirs to the designer goods — that isn’t available with a few finger swipes and an internet connection. Unless you know where to look, that is.
Then a Las Vegas shopping jaunt feels less like a slog through the dusty desert of consumable sameness and more like discovering an oasis of unique goods and retail environments with over-the-top (and oh-so-Instagrammable) art installations. Memorable merchandise and museum-like moments are as safe a bet as you’re likely to find in Las Vegas.
A 1940s-era motel in downtown Las Vegas has become the unlikely crown jewel of a city block’s worth of retail and restaurants that officially opened in December.
The motel sign that for decades has beckoned passersby at Fremont and 11th streets has been joined by a serpentine tanker-truck sculpture (Mike Ross’ “Big Rig Jig”) in the courtyard. Eclectic shops, many new to bricks-and-mortar and mostly small and locally owned, showcase their wares in rooms that ring the former motel’s courtyard.
Look beyond the casinos to the new downtown complex that’s an inclusive mix of artists, makers and restaurants, a place where creativity and retail meet.
Among the mix of must-visit tenants is All for Our Country, whose name is a nod to Nevada’s state motto; it’s a multibrand store focusing on handmade home decor, jewelry and gift items with a Southwest flair. It’s heavy on molded plywood furniture and accessories (the wall-mounted guitar hooks are a bestseller) but also stocks handcrafted goods, including hand-dyed and -printed Jenni Earle bandannas and jewelry by Linen & Lace. (The Nevada-state-silhouette necklace would make a memorable memento.)
Across the courtyard, the secondhand clothes at Neon Cactus Vintage trend toward eye-catchingly bold colors and patterns. Tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirts jockey for attention with flower-festooned button-fronts and jangly geometric knit sweaters. A center table is stacked with colorful embroidered patches and baskets of bold-patterned neckties, and the walls and front counter are filled with handmade swirling stained-glass earrings, necklaces, business-card holders and suncatchers.
The Writer’s Block
Less than a mile away, the Writer’s Block is an independent bookstore and coffee shop that might well melt your heart. Besides a delicious juxtaposition of the printed word (Greta Thunberg’s “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference” sits not far from Peter Moruzzi’s “Greetings From Las Vegas” collection of vintage photos and postcards), you’ll find architectural building blocks, puppets, coffee mugs and games.
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The Writer’s Block also is home to one real-life rabbit named “the Baron” and an artificial bird sanctuary. That means you’ll find a flock of the faux feathered throughout the store: colorful cardinals alighting in an indoor tree, fluffy white owls queued up on wooden beams and a showy peacock roosting atop a shelf of fashion and photography books.
Most sport an attached “autobirdography” tag, detailing a backstory and indicating they’re available for adoption. For a small fee (and a recitation of the adoption pledge on display), a customer can take one home; proceeds support creative writing workshops for local children.
Vegas visitors prowling for vintage can up their odds of finding something stylish and unique at Patina, a 3,000-square-foot Arts District space filled to overflowing with a tightly edited collection of furniture, home decor, clothing and accessories with an eclectic 1960s vibe.
It’s the kind of place you’re likely to find a Liberace-worthy gold-sequined men’s I. Magnin jacket, a black suede Tony Alamo jacket with red flame embroidery at the shoulders, and a vintage purple shawl collar St. John jacket trimmed in gold braid living in harmony with raspberry red turbans, taxidermic and mounted Angora goat heads, Midcentury Modern bar carts and cowhide couches complete with steer horns.
The Shops at Crystals
The Shops at Crystals, the Daniel Libeskind-designed mall that opened more than a decade ago on the Strip , warrants a walk-through based on its luxe tenant mix alone: Gucci, Fendi, Tom Ford and Prada sit cheek by jowl with Celine, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana.
But it’s the art that elevates it to must-visit status. There are two pieces inside the shopping thoroughfare itself, both by artist James Turrell: “Akhob” (2013), inside the multilevel Louis Vuitton boutique (appointments need to be booked two months in advance) and “Shards of Color” (2013) installed near the third-floor tram stop.
You also can embrace the upscale-mall-meets-museum vibe at Wynn Las Vegas, which set the bar for the city’s super-luxe shopping experience when it opened in 2005 with a ground-floor retail row that included Chanel, Dior, Cartier and Louis Vuitton stores, and raised that bar again three years later with another handful of boutiques (including a second Chanel outpost) in the neighboring Encore.
The adventure in retail excess reached a whole new level in late 2018.
That’s when the Wynn Plaza shops opened in a two-story space previously occupied by a Ferrari dealership. The ground floor, which opens onto the Strip, unlike the two existing shopping esplanades, is home to two museum-worthy pieces of art: Jeff Koons’ gleaming floral balloon behemoth “Tulips” (1995-2004) and the 9-foot-tall rotating “Arrows and Flower Neon Sign” (2018), which pairs Takashi Murakami‘s signature smiling flower with Virgil Abloh‘s Off-White arrow logo. Bring your wallet; prices for both are “available upon request.”
Abloh’s efforts are well represented in the merchandise mix as well; the only U.S. Off-White retail store outside of New York is here (pop in for a $1,430 crystal-studded five-panel ball cap to accessorize your night on the town), and a stand-alone Louis Vuitton men’s store can be found barely a poker chip’s toss off the casino floor. (Abloh has been the artistic director for menswear at the French luxury house since 2018.)
Next door to Off-White is the westernmost outpost of luxury label Loewe, whose other U.S. stand-alone stores are in New York and Miami. Here, the bestselling item is the brand’s cuboid calfskin puzzle bag, and the sale rack yields such bargains as an ostrich-feather boa for $900 (down from $3,990).
A few doors closer to the casino is a Bottega Veneta boutique, worth a visit because it appears to have a substantial stock of one of the must-have handbags of the moment: the leather, dumpling-like clutch called the Pouch.
The upper-level retail offerings have a distinctly different vibe, favoring laid-back luxe showcased in a handful of smaller, more intimate independent boutiques.
Feature, the flagship store for a locally based sneaker- and streetwear-focused retailer, boasts a cave corridor full of covetable limited-edition kicks from Adidas, Converse, Nike, Jordan, Vans and more. Want Apothecary, a multibrand boutique from the folks behind the Montreal-based Want Les Essentiels accessories label, stocks a deep bench of the house brand’s leather bags, footwear and apparel. It also has a curated assortment of designer labels, including Acne Studios, Comme des Garçons and Cecilie Bahnsen, that you’d be hard-pressed to find in a single, non-department-store space elsewhere in Las Vegas.