When people think of Las Vegas, they almost invariably think of the Strip, even though the famous four-mile (6.5-kilometer) stretch of hotel-casinos along Las Vegas Boulevard isn’t actually in the city of Las Vegas. Like much of the metropolitan area, it’s actually in an unincorporated area of Clark County. Generally bound by the Stratosphere to the north and Mandalay Bay to the south, the Strip features tens of thousands of hotel rooms and gambling of every type to suit every guest.
It’s also home to dozens of world-class restaurants and gorgeous showrooms that host resident performances from artists such as Celine Dion, Cirque du Soleil and Terry Fator. Host to the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team and the Las Vegas Aces WNBA team, the neighborhood is also home to the High Roller observation wheel, endless shopping – from high-end couture to kitschy gifts – and much more.
Las Vegas began downtown, which for years was the hub of both civic life and the tourist trade. These days, downtown is the place where tourists and residents mingle at classic hotel-casinos such as El Cortez, the Golden Nugget, the Plaza and the Golden Gate, which is the oldest hotel in Las Vegas (it opened in 1905). Most of downtown’s hotel-casinos sit along Fremont Street, part of which is covered by the cheesy but endearing Fremont Street Experience canopy, which displays light shows every night. East of Las Vegas Boulevard, Fremont is the place to visit if you’re in the hunt for trendy bars such as The Griffin and Commonwealth. Here, you’ll also find hip restaurants, including Le Thai and La Comida, and cultural outposts like The Bunkhouse Saloon and record store 11th Street Records.
However, downtown is far more than just Fremont Street; it’s also a residential area with a mix of luxury high-rises and vintage Vegas homes. Also, it’s still the center of local government, which means that anyone getting married in Vegas has to come downtown for a license, leading to the proliferation of quickie downtown wedding chapels.
The 18-block area of downtown Las Vegas known as the Arts District first earned that designation thanks to the Arts Factory, a converted industrial building now home to various art galleries and shops. The Arts District grew from there, with other galleries and artists’ collectives sprouting up nearby and artists moving into the affordable housing close to their showrooms. The monthly First Friday helped popularize the Arts District as the center of Vegas’s alternative culture.
It now encompasses the funky stretch of Main Street that mixes antique shops with bars, such as Velveteen Rabbit and ReBAR (itself a combination of a bar and an antique shop), plus up-and-coming culinary destinations like Esther’s Kitchen. While East Fremont is downtown’s loud, boisterous entertainment center, the Arts District is the more laid-back gem.
When people move to Vegas with their families and want to replicate familiar suburban life, they often head to this master-planned community. Founded by the Howard Hughes Corporation (and named after Hughes’s grandmother) in 1988, the area has been steadily growing ever since. Summerlin is the place many of the city’s biggest names call home, and it’s also where average families send their kids to school, do their shopping and spend time at the park on the weekends.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for tourists to explore; Red Rock Resort and JW Marriott (with the attached Rampart Casino) are both top-notch hotel-casinos worth visiting. Downtown Summerlin is a massive shopping and dining complex that also houses the Las Vegas Ballpark (home of the minor-league Las Vegas Aviators) and the practice facility for the Vegas Golden Knights. Also, if you’re in the mood for outdoor activities, the natural beauty of Red Rock Canyon is just a short drive from the edge of Summerlin.
The first Las Vegas suburb initially sprouted during World War II around the Basic Magnesium Plant, and it was mainly an industrial center until development shifted in the 1980s. These days, Henderson is a mix of quiet residential enclaves and more commercial areas, including the Fiesta, Green Valley Ranch and Sunset Station hotel-casinos. It also has a slowly revitalizing downtown area, home to the so-called “booze district” of local breweries and distilleries, and a restaurant scene that mixes suburban staples with adventurous gourmet outposts, such as Kitchen Table and The Stove.
Unlike similar neighborhoods in other cities, Las Vegas’s Chinatown is a strictly commercial district, but it’s a strong reflection of the city’s substantial Asian community. Along just a few miles of Spring Mountain Road west of the Strip, there are more than 150 restaurants that provide a culinary trip around Asia and the entire world. Some of the highest-profile chefs in Vegas run small outposts in Chinatown, where lines for tables spill out onto the street even late at night.
In addition to top Asian restaurants like Raku, China Mama and Monta Ramen, Chinatown has everything from the city’s premier tiki bar (The Golden Tiki) to one of its longest-running community theaters (the Las Vegas Little Theatre). Many places are open until the wee hours, making Chinatown perfect for late-night eats or just grabbing a cup of tea with friends. It’s still a bit off the beaten path for many tourists, but its reputation is increasingly pulling travelers off the Strip.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Lauryn Wilder.