Sin City is much more than the Strip, from underground theaters to fusion restaurants, and dive bars to curiosity shops.
Many Las Vegas visitors find themselves trapped along Las Vegas Boulevard, lost in giant casinos and blinding signage.
But for those who prefer to take the occasional step off the beaten path, there are all manner of underground movie theaters, graffiti-adorned bars, multi-cuisine fusion restaurants and even a place to buy a human skull. Here’s a dozen spots that are definitely not Vegas as usual.
Located on the far west side of Las Vegas, Americana offers creative dishes in a scenic location. The restaurant sits on the side of a man-made lake, where swans, ducks, and canopied boats drift past. Americana’s menu frequently changes with the seasons and unique takes on traditional dishes are a specialty—calamari is poached and grilled, served with hints of sausage and pepper, while fettuccine is topped with a poached egg dusted with edible gold. A half-price happy hour and all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch offer more opportunities for delicious.
One of Las Vegas’ oldest gay bars, Badlands Saloon always stayed true to its creed of a warm welcome and a strong pour. The western-themed watering hole is located in the Commercial Center, near a number of restaurants and other nightspots. Badlands hosts drag shows, bingo and trivia nights, but it’s also a fine place to have a relaxed cocktail in the late afternoon or early evening.
Las Vegas is a place where all track of time can be lost, and perhaps the most hours have been frittered away at the Double Down Saloon. The beloved punk-rock watering hole turned 25 last year and has gone from questionable hangout to Travel Channel-featured institution. The walls are covered in graffiti-ed murals, the bar serves Ass Juice and Bacon Martini’s alongside the usual beers and shots, and the entertainment ranges from hardcore bands to blues guitarists to burlesque acts to live radio shows. But perhaps the best entertainment comes from the stories swapped by an ‘only-in-Vegas’ cast of regulars.
One of Vegas’ most beloved dive bars, the Huntridge Tavern has been pouring 24 hours a day for over five decades. The red velvet wallpaper, beer signage and vinyl booths with clunky video poker machines remain largely unchanged. A steady stream of regulars come in at all hours for conversation and a cold one.
Most gift shops tend towards the sweet or at least the silly: Las Vegas Oddities goes straight for the strange. The store specializes in items like a pendant made from a cross-section of a human femur, or an intricate shadowbox of a miniature murder scene. If you need goth woodcuts or vintage pinup photos, Soviet-era children’s toys or steampunk jewelry, they can help you out here.
Las Vegas’ nerd clubhouse, the Sci-Fi Center is where you can buy a comic, see a movie, watch a burlesque show and mingle with like-minded folk. It hosts screenings of cult and grindhouse films, as well as binge-watch TV shows. The Cinemondays program stresses classic and foreign films; there is also a monthly B-movie-themed burlesque show and occasional music performances.
For lovers of vinyl, 11th Street Records is mecca indeed. Located at the far end of Fremont Street, the store stocks both new and vintage albums and singles—whether you seek the latest from local hero Shamir, a replacement for your worn-out disc of the Stones’ Let It Bleed or a signed copy of Television’s Marquee Moon. National Southwest Recording is an in-house studio where acts including the Killers and Anti-Flag have recorded.