the birth of neon – early Las Vegas

The rat pack, the 1950’s and 60’s, the old classic movies, the original Ocean’s 11. When I visit Las Vegas now I can find it hard to find any trace of the old Vegas I absorbed as the backdrop to so many old movies and TV shows as I grew up. I first visited Vegas in 1989, on a long Greyhound trip from the Grand Canyon to LA. Arriving late at night at the bus terminal, we headed to  Circus Circus, the flashest place in town, ate cheap buffet, blagged free drinks and soaked up the entertainment until we jumped on another Greyhound in the morning and headed out of town. A fleeting and slightly dazed visit!
Old vegas - Fremont St Golden Gulch

So on a more recent trip to Vegas, I am lucky to have a local friend who re-introduces me to the old Vegas. To get in the mood, we start at the Peppermill Cafe & Fireside lounge, at the very northern end of the strip. The Peppermill is a classic 60’s diner, and the fireside lounge is a lush pink and purple neon classic cocktail bar – I think it is the brightest most colourful room i have ever been in. It’s all 60’s cool,  there is even a sunken circular lounge around a fire pool – hence the name. The perfect place to channel my inner Austin Powers and have a few classic martini’s. 
Old vegas - Fremont St Peppermill Cafe & Fireside Lounge

Then it’s on to Fremont Street, where the strip began!  This is old-school Vegas – definitely best visited at night. New Vegas, on the strip, is all LED these days – old Vegas is the original Neon Vegas. I feel like I am in a movie set, and of course I am because some of these casinos and signs have featured in many movies and TV shows over the decades.

There’s the Golden Nugget casino and the Glitter Gulch girlie bar, the Plaza hotel and the big neon Malborough Man.There’s the $1 shrimp cocktails at the Golden Gate casino. There are old school steakhouses and slot machines and roulette wheels and cheap souvenir kiosks – in fact everything is a whole lot cheaper than down on the Strip. It’s busy and bustling and visited by an average 25,000 people a day, (so they tell me). 
Old vegas - Fremont St The Fremont St Experience

And from sunset onwards, every hour on the hour, there’s the Fremont Street experience. This is a ‘sound and light show’ like no other I have seen. It’s massive. It’s projected onto the huge curved roof over my head, 1500 feet in length – that’s about 500 metres people, half a kilometre of sight and 555,000 watts of sound! It goes for six minutes each time which is just about long enough for me to not get a crick in my neck and to not get dizzy and fall over (just). It’s bright and loud and very Vegas – lots of hot girls and even a few hot boys. Ahhh… the nostalgia of it all! Go there and party like it’s 1959.
Old vegas - Fremont St The Fremont St Experience


Old vegas - Fremont St the old strip