Welcome to Old Vegas on Fremont Street, where the truly quirky and bizarre come to play.
The glitz and glamour of the ever-famous Vegas Strip is not present here. Instead, a kitschy, retro vibe takes charge of what used to be the heart of this neon city that exploded out of the Mojave Desert.
A stop at the Neon Boneyard, about 15mins walk from Fremont St, is an incredible look into the history of Las Vegas. In a place that is infamous for being rather soulless, this fascinating walk through the neon signs of old and the stories behind them will amaze. The Neon Boneyard is in possession of the entire Stardust sign, which remains intact and the Sahara sign as well as portions of the impressive Aladdin Casino including the giant lamps.
More significantly, here is the large neon sign for the Moulin Rouge, broken up, but here. This sign is particularly symbolic for the venue’s part in de-segregating Las Vegas. When Frank Sinatra famously declared he would not perform in venues where Sammy Davis Jr was not permitted or had to go through a back door, the Moulin Rouge was the venue that opened its doors and allowed people of all races to mingle, perform and enjoy the casino together.
The Neon Boneyard is only accessible via a booked tour that lasts for around an hour. There is the option for a day or a night tour (I did the day because there are more signs to see), but the night tour involves some restored signs that are lit up to shine through the night so its dealers’ choice really.
Fremont Street is an incredible, colour infused insight into the weird and wonderful parts of Las Vegas that lie spirited away from the glitter of the Strip. Overhead a 35m (114ft) high zoomline looms; the Slotzilla provides the opportunity for willing participants to lie on their stomach and glide across the length of the street at high speeds. Needless to say, this activity sits pretty high up on my equal parts “I really want to experience it” and “I’m flipping terrified” lists, so of course it’s the first thing I do when I get to Old Las Vegas.
It’s an exhilarating feeling, being pushed off a building that high up. The ride itself is pretty smooth with the exception of a rather alarmingly sudden brake system right at the end and it’s a pretty special feeling flying along the canopy of such an iconic area.
Don’t be concerned if you’re not a thrillseeker and the whole sound of this is horrific – Fremont Street and Old Vegas have plenty of other delights from retro themed casinos and bizarre restaurants like the Heart Attack Grill where patrons have to put on a hospital gown and be weighed before they enter (people over 350lbs or 158kgs get to eat free).
It’s a super weird area, but there’s an amazing amount of fun to be had.
Maybe if you get lucky, you’ll get to stand shoulder to shoulder with one or two Elvis impersonators while you’re down there.
Just watch out for the guy in the mankini!