As a frequent visitor to Tahiti Village, Las Vegas’ family-friendly, tropical resort retreat, you are well acquainted with the fabulous Strip, the Fremont Street Experience, five-star restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs, world class shopping and nonstop entertainment.
While these enticing attractions understandably keep you coming back year after year, there is another side to Las Vegas worth getting to know – a side where indie galleries, bars, restaurants, performance spaces and shops (both boutique and antique) coexist in clusters, strewn over an 18-block landscape nestled between the Strip and downtown.
Called the Las Vegas Arts District (and alternately 18b in reference to its 18 blocks), it is bordered on four sides by Casino Center, Main Street, Western Avenue and Bonneville. Outlined on a map the road contours form a misshapen square, as if pulled in different directions by a hyperactive kiddo on a Ritalin lapse. Charleston bisects the district nearly in half, creating split entities that are in fact blood kin, born of a desire to create immersive, personalized experiences that reject the sterile, big box-fast food culture endemic to the suburbs.
The best way to inhabit the Las Vegas Arts District is on foot. Walking allows you to soak in the urban vibe (and inhale the exhaust fumes from passing vehicles), browse the inviting shops at your leisure, and sate your thirst or appetite at one of the bars, brewpubs and restaurants dotting the redeveloped Main Street and the surrounding area.
Art galleries are everywhere in the Las Vegas Arts District. Odd, quirky and classical works in all mediums are available for purchase and will help their creators, many of them living on the margins, make more.
You can’t stroll down Main Street in the Arts District without encountering an antiques store. You never know what mid-century treasure or Vegas casino artifact you’ll find among the rows and rows of ephemera once belonging to now-wrinkled antiques themselves.
Cooking is an art. Eating is a pleasure. In the Las Vegas Arts District, you’ll enjoy a variety of ethnic cuisines and creative culinary creations befitting the sensibilities of the area.
In the Las Vegas Arts District, it’s all about the accoutrements of alcohol consumption. Best exemplifying this ethos is ReBar, a combination cocktail lounge-antiques shop where everything in the place is for sale. Leave the soulless gaming bars to the hypnotized button pushers on the outskirts. Here, it’s all about creative cocktailing and communing with likeminded imbibers.
Visitors with sophisticated beer palates can rejoice in the knowledge that there is not one, not two, but three craft beer establishments in the Arts District (with a fourth on the way!).
The cultural hub of the Las Vegas Arts District, consisting of the Arts Factory, Art Square, Union House and 1st & Main, Downtown Las Vegas Arts describes itself as “the geographic and creative center of the 18b Las Vegas Arts District where artists represent a broad range of contemporary and traditional styles, media, and interests. In addition to our commercial activities, our creative community provides an artistic lifeline and facility for many educational functions, events, and community group meetings. We also provide a unique cultural venue for musical concerts, poetry readings, and live theatrical performances. Our portion of the Arts District also includes new developments on 1st & Main Street and the old Mission Linen Building.”
It isn’t hyperbole to say the Las Vegas Arts District owes its existence, in part, to First Friday. Founded in 2002 by Cindy Funkhouser, First Friday began as an informal collective of artists selling their wares outside The Funk House, Cindy’s antiques and collectibles store at the intersection of Casino Center and Colorado Avenue, a hard-scrabble area near Charleston and Main Street.
Musicians and food vendors were also part of the equation that began attracting locals to a part of town that, for most, was an area better driven through on the way to somewhere else. The event quickly achieved must-attend status and, in the ensuing years, has fanned out from its little corner and seeped into the entire district.
As you may imagine, First Friday is the most lucrative night of the month for the area’s restaurants, shops and galleries, many of which take in more profit on this one night than they do the rest of the month. If a portion of your Vegas visit in the coming year lands on a first Friday of the month, it is worth your time to attend and see another side of the city that goes mostly unnoticed by tourists.
The Burlesque Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit museum with a mission to preserve, celebrate, and inspire the art of burlesque.
Six thousand square feet devoted to private karaoke rooms, bar and lounge space, and an outdoor patio.
When it opens in its nearly 12,000-square foot space on Main Street, the two-story Treehouse Las Vegas will have a small speakeasy near the front entrance, a main 300-seat dining room with a DJ booth, another bar to the rear of the first floor and a separate video poker lounge.
Upstairs will be open to the floor below and include more dining space and another small lounge and bar area. The ground floor pool will also act as a day club, surrounded by cabanas and trees.
The entire area puts to rest the notion of Las Vegas as a cultural wasteland. You just have to know where to find the goods.