In the early 1950s, at the start of the Cold War, crowds would gather on the roof of Atomic Liquors, cocktails in hand, waiting for the show to begin. However, this particular brand of Vegas entertainment didn't feature singing, dancing, or strongmen wrestling slot machines. In fact, the stage was nearly 50 miles away, where the massive blasts from nuclear-bomb tests sent mushroom clouds billowing into the desert sky. Atomic Liquors—née Virginia's Cafe—changed its name in 1952 to jibe with its free entertainment. That same year, the bar's original owners, Joe and Stella Sobchik, outfitted it with a new sign, which the Huffington Post recently lauded as a classic piece of Americana.
When it first went up, that now-iconic sign was a beacon for Las Vegas' stable of stars. The Rat Pack and the Smothers Brothers used to drink here after their shows, and Barbara Streisand even had her own seat, which has since been restored and put on display. Indeed, as Atomic Liquors' list of famous patrons grew, so did its acting resume—movies such as Casino and The Hangover and TV shows such as The Twilight Zone have all filmed scenes at the bar. Yet despite the history of glitz and glamor, Sin City's oldest freestanding bar doesn't rest on its pedigree; its updated list of libations includes 60 different kinds of beer, including 20 on tap, as well as a plethora of whiskeys and other spirits.
Free parking is located on Fremont Street.
Vanguard Lounge opened in 2010 with a bang, winning the awards for Best Lounge and Sexiest Wine List from Vegas Seven magazine. Since then, the hangout hasn't lost touch with what brought it to the party. The bartenders mix classic cocktails such as negronis (seven different kinds, in fact) as well as more ambitious concoctions such as the gin- and vodka-based Fuego Pepino, which is livened up with jalapeños and a few dashes of habanero bitters. A selection of wines and craft beers round out the all-liquid menu. Once guests receive their drink, they can find a seat inside the desert-toned lounge, migrate outside to the patio, or navigate to the dance floor where DJs spin four nights a week or until they get dizzy.
Located on Fremont Street, right at the gateway to the Fremont East Entertainment District, Don’t Tell Mama is well situated to attract downtowners looking for live entertainment. A black and white checkerboard floor sets the tone, with ample tables and half-booths lining the walls, plus red velour drapes that hang around the large space. But the bar’s real draw is the grand piano, elevated on a small stage, from which singing bartenders and accompanists perform nightly. Patrons can make song requests and sing along with the waitstaff if they so choose. Or, better yet, get onstage themselves to perform renditions of Broadway show tunes, pop, rock, country, cabaret or any other song that comes to mind (and can be cued up from Don’t Tell Mama’s voluminous music files). There’s no cover but an enforced one drink minimum, so be prepared to spend some cash.
Home of Las Vegas’ first traffic light and high-rise building, Fremont Street keeps fans of vintage Vegas consistently starstruck, with lavish celebrations thrown by the landmark's eponymous party-planning committee. As 2011 wanes, the TributePalooza celebration shreds resolutions into neon ticker tape with eight hours of crowd-pleasing rock strewn across three stages. Headlining the event, raucous hair-metal heroes Steel Panther glam it up with unabashedly goofy stage moves and unapologetic spandex. Following suit with headbanging levity, fellow silly-string strummers Rock Sugar mash up sound-pies of ‘80s pop and mascara metal, creating laughter you can dance to.
Adding an element of whimsy to downtown pub crawls, Cycle Pub Vegas takes parties to the city's top bars on a group-peddled bike. Facing each other across two bars, groups power their movement through the peddles at their feet as a trained driver captains them to a custom itinerary of bars, each offering their own drink and food specials. An onboard sound system allows riders to pump their own tunes or create eerie zones of silence with the opposite waveform of a noisy crowd. Peddlers are welcome to tote along snacks and non-alcoholic beverages to keep bodies fueled while powered their nightly transport.
In the heart of Fremont Street, The D Las Vegas Hotel & Casino sits surrounded by the bright lights of Sin City's most famous boulevard. The newly-renovated property is easily at home among its stylish neighbors, with a two-level casino and several entertainment venues on the premises. Of those, the always popular Longbar is billed by the hotel as living up to its name with the longest bar in all of Nevada. A few of the hotel's plethora of amenities include 638 newly remodeled rooms, a range of restaurants, a newly remodeled showroom with four shows a night, dancing dealers, and a vintage-style second casino level complete with coin-operated slots and a sigma derby simulated horse-racing game.