Golden Nugget is one of the few downtown hotels that still fits in with Fremont Street's retro Vegas history. Its so famous, it’s been a character in its own right in films like Diamonds are Forever
, Smokin’ Aces
, and the reality TV series The Casino
. Its purchase in 2005 by Landry’s (of steakhouse fame) has made the Golden Nugget a culinary hit as well with restaurants like Vic & Anthony’s steakhouse (just like the Houston original), the Amalfi-inspired Grotto and Chart House, which surrounds a 75,000 gallon tropical aquarium packed with more than 1,000 fish. In the last decade, more than $315 million in renovations have made the traditionally good value rooms one of the greatest around; the Gold rooms are modern and neutral-hued, with LED lighting, backlit bathroom mirrors and 42-inch flatscreen TVs, as well as comfy new Serta mattresses. The casino itself has been revamped, with clubby wood walls and gorgeous blown-glass lighting; and you can walk right into it from the Fremont Street Experience, past convivial outdoor lounge areas with firepits. Although it has traditionally drawn an older, value-seeking crowd of serious gamers, the fun, 200,000-gallon shark-filled tank-side pool is getting packed with a younger crowd eager to check out the hip restaurant and bar scene in gentrifying Downtown.
In the Area
Golden Nugget is right inside the juggernaut lightshow that is the Fremont Street Experience
(look up! The SlotZilla Zip Line
is spitting riders out of the largest slot machine in the world just overhead). Walk a couple of blocks east, though, and you’ll reach the Fremont East district
, a walkable stretch of hip lounges and great restaurants. Some of the best include Le Thai
, a tiny joint packed with Downtown’s power brokers and hipsters alike, and Park on Fremont
with its chicken and waffle sandwiches and its antique-filled backyard (don’t miss the secret outdoor room with the seesaw). Nearby, Carson Kitchen
, by the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Chef” Kerry Simon, serves elevated comfort food in a renovated flophouse. Vegas history devotees will love that they can walk just a few blocks to the Mob Museum
, the Neon Museum
(go for a night tour); and Atomic Liquors Lounge
, the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas, whose roof once served as a viewing platform for the nuclear blasts from the Atomic Test Site, 65 miles away. It still serves a mean cocktail.