Fremont Street is the “heart” of downtown Las Vegas. It’s actually in the city of Las Vegas; almost all of The Strip is south of the city line in the unincorporated community of Paradise. It’s where you’ll find a lot of the older, classic casinos like the Golden Nugget and El Cortez.
Some years ago, the city fathers saw that everyone was hanging out on The Strip, making the downtown area pretty much a ghost town. Something was needed to revive the area.
They closed off several blocks of Fremont Street in front of the casinos, turning it into a pedestrian mall. They covered it with a HUGE light display for hourly light and music shows, and set up three quasi-permanent performance stages (they look like they could be easily disassembled if the need arose). Street performers were allowed, within reasonable limits.
In effect, they turned it into the world’s largest open air nightclub.
So it’s the perfect place for public parties and festivities. Like Halloween.
So I found myself with some vacation time that I couldn’t carry over to next year. “Self,” I say. “You don’t want to be a schmuck and use it up in November when we’ve got lots of days off anyway, or in December when everyone else will be using up theirs. You need to pick some time in October.” Then I notice that Halloween would be on a Thursday this year. “You can take that week off! Travel out on Monday, do tourist things on Tuesday and Wednesday, party with the spooks on Thursday, recover on Friday, and return home on Saturday! That’s a cunning plan!”
But where to go? The last time I traveled for Halloween, it didn’t work out too well. And there wasn’t anything there that I particularly wanted to see….again. What about Las Vegas? I’d been there before – several times, actually. And it would be rocking for Halloween, right?
I booked a hotel right on Fremont Street, so the party would be outside my front door. Can’t go wrong there! And a day trip to the Grand Canyon – why not?
The other place for strolling and shopping and people watching is the “Old Port” area. It’s the oldest part of the city – short and narrow streets, architecture in the Second Empire style… The place is loaded with souvenir shops and boutiques and assorted food shops. With all the French signage, you can almost imagine yourself to strolling around some arrondissement during “La Belle Epoque”.
Except, naturally, when you get to the actual shoreline with its repurposed docks and the one single train track (which may or may not still be active) separating the “main drag” from the riverside park.
There are a few items of interest to check out in this part of town; I visited two of them this time.
It’s been a pretty stressful summer at work for me so far. It came to pass that I needed to get away from everything for a few days – and staying at home for a long weekend wasn’t going to cut it. I was going stir crazy, and just had to get out and go somewhere.
But where? Where was far enough to make traveling there a worthwhile break, but close enough so I could do it in a few days?
Why not drive up to Montreal? I’d been there before (a couple of years ago), so I knew what it took. A seven hour drive (with rest stops and the border crossing), so it could be done in one day, and you don’t need much in the way of special preparations….
Since I was just there for two days and three nights, I’m not going to have that much to say about the place. But I did hit a few museums, and get in a pair of walking tours.
I think I’m going to make it a habit now that whenever I visit a large enough city, and I have some time to kill during my stay, to sign up for a specialty walking tour or two. They’re good ways to learn a little about the history and culture of an area while getting a feel for the place.
And maybe sample some local food and drink.
Thanks to my friend, I didn’t have to book any special tours to visit the sights in the area around Denver. There are more than a few places to visit that are within an easy day trip away.
One thing that was made clear to me as we headed west was that we’d be going nowhere near the actual Rocky Mountains – just the foothills, as it were. You could easily tell which mountains were part of the Rockies – they had snow on them. No snow; not the Rockies.
Of course, there’s plenty to see and do in Denver aside from baseball. And football. And hockey. And basketball. Denver’s home to a team in each of the “Big 4” professional sports leagues – And happily enough for sports fans, all four (well, three actually – the Avalanche and Nuggets both play in the Pepsi Center) home fields are all within easy reach of downtown.
Within that roughly two-mile radius are all of Denver’s major cultural and recreational centers.
Naturally, if I’m going to a city that has a major league baseball team, I’m going to plan my visit so that I can take in a game or two. I specifically chose the week of my visit because the Rockies would be at home.
Coors Field is located at the intersection of Blake St. and 20th St. in downtown Denver. This places it in the neighborhood known as “LoDo” (i.e. “Lower Downtown”). Or “The Ballpark”, which had that name before ground was ever broken for the stadium. Or “Union Station North”, since it is a few blocks north of Union Station. Or possibly even “RiNo”, which is short for “River North”.
Let’s just call it “downtown” and let it go at that.
Denver International Airport is an interesting place.
Not for any of the facilities or amenities or stuff like that. Rather, it seems that during construction, there were so many delays and problems and cost overruns that people started looking at the project with a gimlet eye. And as they squinted to see the details, they distorted the appearance of other things. Suddenly, all those underground tunnels took on a sinister appearance. The public art and murals decorating the place contained secret symbolism. And the layout of the runways? Don’t get me started (because if I told you, I’d have to kill you).
Yeah, the place became a hive of conspiracy theories.
I finally went and did it. A friend of mine moved out to Denver over a decade ago, and I’d been saying many times I was going to head out there for a visit.
Well, a nice window opened up in the calendar – early May, right around when there aren’t any holiday weekends where the office is closed anyway, but not when it’s still Winter. And, with me being a baseball fan, the Rockies were at home.
So I booked a flight and a room at a decent downtown hotel, and off I went.
And since I always get a couple of blog posts out of my vacations, you’re going to get to read all about it. Well, almost all about it.