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?n?e 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 jalape?os 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.
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.
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.
One of the best views of the bright lights and skyline of Las Vegas can be found from the vantage point of Top of Binion's Steakhouse, perched on the 24th floor of Binion’s Gambling Hall. This classic Vegas steakhouse is a step back in time, offering service and ambience that harkens to the good old days, when a romantic dinner was set in a quiet, dimly lit and intimate environment. Twenty-eight-day aged Creekstone Farms corn-fed Black Angus beef is the star here, and is offered in cuts of rib eye, NY strip, filet mignon, porterhouse and prime rib. Seafood lovers can feast on Australian lobster tail, Alaskan salmon, ahi tuna filet, Alaskan king crab legs and scallops. All entrées are served with a choice of potato and the vegetable of the day.
In downtown Las Vegas, an appreciation of both old and new greets visitors to the singular Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, anchoring the West end of the Fremont Street Experience. As the oldest continually operating hotel and casino in Las Vegas, the Golden Gate offers some fun history and the intimate casino floor is enlivened by sexy flapper-inspired dealer/dancers and servers. Guests can grab some fluffy pancakes or fresh cut pie at Du-Par's Restaurant and Bakery, or try the classic Vegas shrimp cocktail at the bar that made it famous, then wander out to check out the unpredictable diversions on Fremont: live bands, street artists, flair bartenders and a lot of who-knows-what. Standard rooms are neat and cozy while the recently added modern suites impress with huge televisions and sexy showers. A stay here will definitely leave you with something to talk about.