While Downtown Las Vegas doesn’t get nearly the attention that the Las Vegas Strip does these days, there is at least one reason why nearly every visitor to the city should go out of their way to get to Downtown at least once during their stay. The Fremont Street Experience is one of the most amazing spectacles you’ll ever see, and it’s absolutely free and no tickets are need.
What is the Fremont Street Experience?
In 1994 the city took a major step in trying to revitalize the downtrodden Downtown area, by completely closing it to traffic and covering it with a giant roof. The first version of the multi-media Fremont Street Experience debuted soon after that, and as impressive as it was, in 2004 there was a major overhaul that put the thing into a new category of amazing.
Now the system is called Viva Vision and it’s made up of over 12.5 million synchronized LED lights that accompany a 550,000-watt sound system. The domed roof, which runs for 5 full blocks over Fremont Street, becomes the screen for various mind-blowing displays of animation every hour or so each evening. There are many different pre-programmed shows, each with different animation and music, and no two are repeated on any evening so you’ll see a different show every time.
Here’s a one-minute video that I recently shot at the Fremont Street Experience:
The schedule of shows
You can check out a full show schedule on the official Fremont Street Experience site, which is kind of confusing and sometimes a bit out of date, but really all you need to know that the first show usually starts a bit after sundown (so as early as 6:30pm in winter and as late as 8:30pm in summer) and then goes at the top of each hour, with midnight being the final show of the night. There are between 4 and 7 shows per night.
The shows only last about 5 minutes or so, but the combination of the amazing lights and animation and a pumping sound system really do make this very much worth seeing, as there is really nothing like it anywhere.
Other reasons to check out Downtown
The revitalization plan hasn’t really worked as well as the city has hoped, so the area doesn’t get terribly crowded except for peak weekend hours. This fact is one reason why competition for visitors in this area is fierce. If you want to get really cheap drinks in giant novelty containers, you’ve got plenty of choices here. There is no place in Las Vegas where you can get drunk so cheaply without actually having to even pretend to gamble and wait for slow-moving servers.
Also, the table minimums at the casinos here tend to be much lower than at most of the newer and more fancy Strip casinos. If you want to play $2 craps or $5 blackjack you’ve got plenty of choices here, while you are nearly out of luck on the Strip itself. Combine cheap drinks, cheap gambling, and a few shows of the Fremont Street Experience, and you’ve got an unforgettable evening that will be quite a contrast to the places on the Strip that most people lock themselves in at.