We spent a week in Las Vegas this past May. Some people feel like a week in Vegas is too long, but I actually feel like it’s not long enough. There is literally so much to do! I’ve probably been about 20 times (this was our 3rd trip together) and every time I go I try to do new and different things that I haven’t done there before. My husband has never really gotten the chance to experience downtown Las Vegas so for this trip we decided to check it out. When people think of downtown, they think of the Fremont Street Experience and old hotels, but there is SO much more!! So on Mother’s Day while everyone else was brunching, we constructed this DIY downtown Las Vegas bar crawl.
The easiest, cheapest way to get downtown is by bus. We stayed at the MGM Grand so it was definitely not walkable and I can’t even imagine how much a cab ride would cost. There are 2 buses to choose from, The Deuce or the SDX. They’re easy to tell apart because the Deuce is a double decker bus and the SDX is just a single. We rode both throughout the week, but opted to take the Deuce downtown. You can purchase a 2 hour bus pass for $6, a 24 hour pass for $8, or a 3 day pass for $20. You can purchase passes from a ticket vending machine found at most bus stops and it’s good for both the Deuce or the SDX. Be sure to hang on to your pass and keep it in a safe, easily accessible place. The Deuce offers 4 stops in downtown Las Vegas. We got off at the second stop the Fremont Street Experience (on 4th St), located at Carson and 4th.
I had a list of places that I wanted to visit in mind ahead of time so I had all of the addresses on hand and ready to go. Then I would just enter the address in my Google Maps app on my cell phone and switch over to walking directions. Easy as pie…or in this case…DONUTS!!
Our first stop was Donut Bar just two short blocks away! This place is a downtown Las Vegas MUST!!! On Sundays they are open from 8AM until Noon and they DO sell out so you’ll want to get there early!! The menu changes daily so even if you’ve been here already, it’s worth a second trip. This is their second location, the original one can be found in San Diego, CA. They are the most award winning donut shop in the USA, and have also been named Top 10 Donut Shops by USA Today and Thrillist. How’s that for credentials? My sweet tooth is my Achilles heal so I was beyond excited to start my day here! The entrance leads you straight into the line and places you in front of a glass showcase featuring all of the donuts available for the day. They also have a menu overhead with all of the flavors written on a chalkboard. I found out that I am more of a look and drool type of person when it comes to picking my own donut. The quick moving line is almost a bad thing! I need more time! Let me look a little bit longer. But…I want them ALL!!! Finally we opted to go with these two gems…The Big Poppa Tart and a Creme Brûlée donut. Straight through the back door will lead you to the cutest little outdoor patio. Oh and did I mention the staff was super friendly too! I guess I would be more cheery if I was surrounded by that many donuts every morning. Future career goals???
The Big Poppa Tart donut is a must! This thing was HUGE!!! And…I got the last strawberry one that day!!! Look at all that jelly filling deliciousness oozing out. You definitely need to put this one on your donut bucket list!
The creme brûlée was equally impressive! The top was caramelized to perfection. It was pretty special when we broke into this one! The top was the perfect thickness and easy enough to crack into, revealing the most satisfying custard filling inside. The prices are pretty magical as well, The Big Poppa Tart will set you back $4 and only $2 for the Creme Brûlée. You really can’t go wrong with either one, but I’m guessing that every donut at Donut Bar will leave you just as happy. And next time I’m in Vegas I will definitely be visiting again to find out!!
From there we headed to Container Park. The entrance is about a 5 minute walk from Donut Bar. This place is pretty neat and definitely unlike anything I’ve ever been to. It’s an open-air shopping center filled with boutique retail shops, unique restaurants, and live entertainment that can only be found in downtown Las Vegas. All of the shops or restaurants are situated inside shipping containers, hence it’s name Container Park. The containers are stacked up 3 levels high in some parts and a gigantic Swiss Family Robinson inspired treehouse play area can be found smack dab in the middle of everything.
Look for the oversized preying mantis sculpture! This guy moves and blows fire out of his mouth at night!
Our first stop was Bin 702. We were just going to grab a few drinks, but after hearing the owner describe one of the sandwiches to another customer, we couldn’t resist grabbing a snack! We split the Brie grilled cheese. It was loaded with apples, thyme, toasted almonds, wildflower honey, and tons of brie all melted together to form the perfect sandwich! My hubby chose his standard cold Bud Light and I went with a crisp and delicious Seattle Cider. The atmosphere was so chill and laid back here and the owner and head cook even offered recommendations for our bar crawl. This place is awesome! You can eat inside or relax on the outdoor patio. Just go there!!
Next we found Oak & Ivy right across the park. This place is a craft whiskey cocktail bar that offers unique hand crafted drinks with high quality ingredients, and homemade garnishes. The whiskey selection is expansive and top notch! I went with the Bare Necessities, a bananas foster inspired cocktail. It was to die for! We sat outside on the patio, sipped our drinks, and enjoyed the nice breeze. Isn’t that how all vacations should be spent?
Downtown Las Vegas has such a different vibe from the strip! It’s artsy, it’s hip, it’s unusual. You’ll find all sorts of sculptures and art exhibits scattered throughout the side streets. There are also lots of unique businesses and signs and just so much to look at. This sign really spoke to me!
Our next stop landed us at Atomic Liquors, less than a 5 minute walk from Container Park. According to local lore this place is the oldest surviving freestanding bar in Las Vegas and a viewing point for the bomb tests conducted in the desert in the 1950s.
Our bartender, Katie was super sweet and pointed out some of the original pieces in the bar. Regulars included Barbara Streisand (she has an honorary stool there today), the Smothers Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin (The Rat Pack). It’s even rumored that Jimmy Hoffa was known to drop in from time to time. The bar stools are super plush and overstuffed. You’ll want to stay here all day!
If the dive bar atmosphere isn’t enough to get you excited, the affordable drinks definitely will, especially if you’ve spent time drinking on Las Vegas Blvd! I went with the Strawberry Fields a mix of gin, campari, ginger, basil, and strawberry. Or try the F-bomb! It’s the official shot of the National Atomic Testing Museum.
Next on our list was Therapy. Just 4 and a half short blocks away, this place was the complete opposite of Atomic Liquors and the furthest thing from a dive bar. It’s not what you would expect to find at all in downtown Las Vegas. They have upper and lower level seating available as well as a 32 foot bar.
This place was fabulous on the inside with lots of light coming in from the front windows. The perfect place to grab drinks, a great meal, or even just a few small plates to share!
We split the Life’s a Peach cocktail, a mix of Bourbon, Peach Vodka, Mint, Peach Shrub, and Lemonade. So refreshing on a 90 degree Vegas day!
The menu ranges from items like Oxtail Empanadas to Chicken and Red Velvet Waffle Sliders. We couldn’t resist the Fried Mac and Cheese Croquettes served with bacon tomato jam and Sriracha aioli. It’s such a fancy adult version of fried mac and cheese. Mmm! Out of this world!!
Just two storefronts down, you’ll find Evel Pie. OMG! The smell of the pizza in this place was amazing!! We did’t eat here but it’s definitely on my radar for next time. This place is chock full of Evel Knievel themed memorabilia. It feels like a wild and exciting slice of American history so it’s only fitting that you can order pizza by the slice with awesome names like Cheesy Rider and Balls to the Wall. We snagged 2 rounds of super cheap Bud Lights, sat at the bar and people watched out the front window.
Just around the corner we wandered into Carson Kitchen, an urban casual eatery, inside the re-purposed mid-century John E. Carson Motel. They only accept walk ins here, no reservations. We were lucky enough to get sat at the butcher block bar, an open counter facing the kitchen. It’s like having front row seats to all the action! This place also boasts an outdoor rooftop patio and bar, as well as a courtyard with a fire pit. Oh and did I mention it’s right next door to Donut Bar!! Is it too soon to go back???
The menu is Iron Chef alum Kerry Simon’s take on American comfort food. Nothing comforts me more than a fruity glass of Sangria. I love it when my Sangria has blackberries!! This one had raspberries too! SOOOO good!!
We ordered two of their most popular social plates, Crispy Chicken Skins with smoked honey and the Bacon Jam with baked brie and smoked baguette. The Chicken Skins came out first and boy were they fantastic!! The breading on these bad boys was just so flavorful. And the honey dipping sauce added just the right amount of sweetness to balance it all. My husband was so funny! About half way through he realized what we were actually eating. Yes, we are those people that try to be healthy (but not on vacation) and normally peel the skin off our chicken. So this was a deep fried version of that part that we normally skip! Did I mention he has high cholesterol? No, I’m not trying to kill ya babe! Just a little vacation indulgence!! It really was a priceless moment though. I wish you could have seen his face when he connected the dots!! And then there was the bacon jam….ohh…bacon jam…how I love you so! This little show stopper is a bacon relish that you can pretty much spread on just about anything. It was the perfect mix of sweet, a touch of tart, and lots of bacon flavor to round out the rest. And it comes out piping hot!! It’s pretty much sacrilege to go to Carson Kitchen and NOT try one of these two dishes. I hear the Veal Meatballs are amazing as well.
Carson Kitchen had us stuffed so we took a sloooooww walk back towards the Fremont Street Experience. They had live music playing under the LED canopy so we stopped and listened to a song or two before making our way to Hogs and Heifers Saloon. This place originated in the meatpacking district in the NY and rose to fame in the early 1990s and opened in Vegas in 2005. H&H is the quintessential all American dive bar. Southern rock is blasting on the stereo, hundreds of bras line the bar ceiling, and the all female bartending crew yell at customers through megaphones and dance on the bar. As we jammed to the music and enjoyed a nice cold one, we realized we recognized two of our fellow bar patrons. They were the girls that were sitting in front of us on the plane ride to Vegas! What are the odds??? Get me to a Roulette table ASAP!! They remembered us too and we enjoyed a little reunion over beers.
We had time for one more stop so we scooted on over to Pizza Rock, just a few steps away from Hogs & Heifers. Pizza Rock features gourmet pizzas in a variety of styles from Tony Gemignani, 12 Time World Pizza Champion. We devoured the Napoletana-style Margherita Pizza a blend of San Marzano tomatoes, Mozzarella Fior de Latte, basil, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, which won the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy. The 12 inch charred crust is cooked in a 900 degree wood fired brick oven. Get there early because they only make 73 of these per day! Other contest winning pizzas include the the Sicilian-style Burratina Di Margherita (Burrata cheese, cherry tomatoes tossed with basil, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction), which won the Gold Cup Pizza Championships in Leece, Italy and the Cal Italia (Asiago, Mozzarella, imported Gorgonzola, sweet fig preserve, Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic reduction), which won the Gold Medal in Food Network Pizza Champions Challenge. These guys really know their pizza!! You can’t get more authentic than that unless you travel TO Italy!!
And then sadly, our time was up! There are lots of other great spots to hit up downtown like The Griffin, Beauty Bar, Commonwealth, Heart Attack Grill, the Mob Museum, Frozen Drink Alley, and many more! We definitely have plenty of reasons to go back!!
We had tickets to see Carrot Top at the Luxor at 8PM so we had to catch the Deuce back to our hotel to freshen up before the show. We caught the bus at the bus stop next to the Golden Nugget and rode it all the way back. Speaking of Carrot Top….O.M.G.HILARIOUS!!! He is definitely a must see in Vegas!! Tickets start at $55 plus service charge making it a steal as far as Vegas shows go. We literally laughed the entire time. It’s not a large venue, we sat in row K which is 11 rows up (there are 13 rows in total) and we had no problems viewing the stage. Of course, Carrot Top did come around mid show to pass out shots to some of the viewers in the first few rows, which adds some excitement for those sitting closer. If you want to laugh until it hurts, Carrot Top is the definitely the guy that can make that happen!!! By far, the funniest show I’ve seen in Vegas….ever!
If you’re looking for more Vegas fun check out our Why Absinthe Really is the Best Show in Vegas and Eggslut, Beerpark and All Things New York, NY Las Vegas posts!
Don’t forget those Vegas trip essentials!