The Insider’s Guide to Exploring Sin City’s Downtown Arts District

Here’s where to eat, drink, and have fun in the fastest growing neighborhood in Las Vegas

Downtown Arts District
Downtown Arts District | Photo by s.savanapridi

The most happening neighborhood in Las Vegas is nothing like the Strip. There's little in the way of bright lights and gambling, but it's fast becoming a must-visit Sin City destination. Las Vegas’ Downtown Arts District dates back to the 1940s, when it was a modest mix of residential and commercial spaces. Over the years, it became more industrial and quietly developed a reputation as a cultural hub between the tourist corridors of the Strip and Downtown's Fremont Street.

"We were just a group of people—business owners, property owners, and artists—who wanted something to do with the arts and this area just naturally started to grow," says Becky Miller, a property manager who oversees a full block of the Arts District.

Eventually, the City of Las Vegas caught on and is now making investments of its own: string lights, tree-lined sidewalks, and alleyway improvements to complement the artistic sights.

"The public sculptures, murals, and other whimsical pieces have personality and are appreciated by folks who don't think of themselves as art connoisseurs," says Donald Contursi of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, who introduced an Arts District food crawl in response to the area's growth.

The District is in a constant state of evolution, but hasn't lost its locals-oriented charm. One of the neighborhood’s most anticipated recurring events is First Fridays, held on the first Friday of each month. The series highlights local musicians, artists, and makers, and works alongside nonprofits like Girl Scouts of America and Nevada Homeless Alliance to give back to local arts, culture, and education. Each month’s event is programmed around a theme, with past themes like “No Judgment” and “On Purpose.”

So feed the meter and see what this unique piece of Sin City is all about. The following suggestions are just a starting point for where to go and what to do in Las Vegas' most happening neighborhood.

Where to eat

Photo courtesy of Esther's Kitchen

Esther's Kitchen
1130 S. Casino Center Blvd.
The Arts District is equally (and perhaps even more so) a dining district—and you can thank Esther's Kitchen for that. James Trees' Italian-based concept wasn't the first restaurant in the neighborhood, but it's the one most responsible for kicking off the area's culinary reputation. Fresh house-made pastas, bread (with anchovy butter, please), and pizzas prepared with produce bought directly from local farmers markets added up to a winning formula during a time when an Arts District restaurant was far from a sure thing. Trees bought the Retro Vegas shop next door when the owners retired and is moving Esther's into the larger space in 2023. The original Esther's space will be reimagined as L'Aristocrat with French-inspired tasting menus in an intimate 30-seat setting.

Main St. Provisions | Photo by s.savanapridi

Main St. Provisions
1214 S. Main St.
One of the Art District's best restaurants is in a state of transition—with eyes eager to see what comes next. Founding chef Justin Kingsley Hall is stepping away from Main St. Provisions, opening the door for Patrick Munster to take over as executive chef after making ONE Steakhouse a top destination for red meat in Vegas. The smell of the Fogarty charcoal oven will no longer fill the dining room, but the aroma of steaks executed to perfection on a double-broiler will only reinforce the restaurant's vision for New American comfort food. Expect to see a heavy focus on seafood and the introduction of an inspired happy hour with cool stuff like oysters and steak sliders at tempting price points.

Good Pie | Photo by Sam Morris

Good Pie
1212 S. Main St.
Good Pie's Vincent Rotolo is obsessive about making the perfect pizza, taking time, temperature, and even humidity into account when preparing his dough in a process that includes three days of fermentation. The final product produces a chewy crust that's equally suited for hand-stretched New York style, square-shaped Sicilian or Detroit variations, and the restaurants' signature Grandma pizza: rectangular with a thin crust and tomato sauce drizzled above the cheese. Any option pairs well with an on-tap Negroni, even if you just grab a slice for a quick-and-easy lunch break. Good Pie also has a to-go window for those on the run or dining on the outdoor patio.

SoulBelly BBQ | Photo by Sam Morris

SoulBelly BBQ
1327 S Main St.
SoulBelly BBQ, sandwiched between two great breweries (HUDL and Nevada Brew Works), is easy to notice, thanks to the smell of Texas post oak in the air. The aroma is from two giant smokers in the front courtyard that produce incredibly tender, flavorful meats, making SoulBelly one of the best places for barbecue in Vegas. The operation is led by Top Chef veteran Bruce Kalman who goes beyond the core menu of barbecue platters and sides with a few fun modifications. The signature brisket, for example, is used in a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and barbacoa tacos. The sides are just as indulgent (try the mac n' cheese balls) and go well with a serving of Jiggle Juice (spicy vodka lemonade in a plastic bag). Yet SoulBelly is about more than food. The restaurant has a live concert stage for hosting both local and national acts. You may even see Kalman himself hop on stage to belt out a few numbers.

For even more dining ideas, check out Yu-Or-Mi for inventive sushi, Tacotarian for plant-based Mexican cuisine, Braeswood BBQ for Houston-bred Tex-Mex barbecue, Cornish Pasty Co. for British-style pastry pockets, Jammyland for Jamaican food alongside cocktails and reggae hits, and Cream Me for Latin-inspired ice cream and baked treats.

Where to find art and entertainment

Arts Factory | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Arts Factory
107 E. Charleston Blvd.
If you want to see as much art as possible in one place, head to the Arts Factory, a collection of more than 30 galleries, studios, and performance spaces on two levels. Guests are welcome to browse, but be respectful as some artists may be busy at work. Follow the winding, labyrinth-like hallways and you'll see some of the most compelling paintings, photography, and drawings—plus other forms of multimedia. The Arts Factory is next to Art Square (which houses additional artists as well as the Vegas Theatre Company), and the two spaces feed off each other with a synergy that's especially strong during the monthly First Friday art walk and block party. Checking out the art is one of the best free things you can do in Vegas, but don't hesitate to shell out a few bucks and support the local scene.

Particle Ink: Speed of Dark
918 S. Main St.
"Particle Ink: Speed of Dark'' is what it would feel like if a Vegas show skipped the Strip, entered a “portal into the 2.5th dimension" and went underground—or in this case, a warehouse-like theater called the LightHouse. The production runs five nights a week, presented by Kaleidoco, featuring a team with history at Cirque du Soleil, Disney, and other entertainment companies. It's not a conventional show. Guests are invited to roam the space and let the events unfold around them at their own pace. The mood is dark and mysterious, almost like a graphic novel come to life. Along the way, you'll see interactive animation, acrobatic dance routines, and an imaginative use of characters and stage design. Pick up an iPad or flashlight and see what happens.

Majestic Repertory Theatre
1217 S. Main St.
The Majestic Repertory Theatre has developed a reputation for pushing the boundaries of what's possible in an intimate space ever since it debuted with Little Shop of Horrors back in 2016. Named after an old cinema and vaudeville house on Fremont Street, the 99-seat black box theater is thriving with an eclectic run of shows, from familiar favorites like Sweeney Todd and Cabaret to world premieres of imaginative, quirky productions like the holiday-themed Krampus and Bigfoot the Musical, co-written by late-night talk show host Amber Ruffin. Even the lobby has its share of cool factor with deep red drapes and local artwork on display. Order a drink and hang out early before the next show begins.

If you’re still looking for artsy fun, check out Priscilla Fowler Fine Art, which has monthly exhibits with local artists, the Wednesday open mic night at Wiseguys comedy club, politically charged artwork at Recycled Propaganda, and the risque Burlesque Hall of Fame museum.

Where to drink

Velveteen Rabbit | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Velveteen Rabbit
1218 S. Main St.
The Velveteen Rabbit is your top spot for cocktails in the Arts District. It's a funky lounge with mismatched vintage chairs, couches, and chandeliers with heavy drapes that would block out the outside world if the windows weren't already boarded up. Scan a QR code and pull up the drink options, prepared with house-made syrups and infusions. It's easy to assume the "Nostalgia Menu" might be classic cocktails or a throwback to old recipes, but it's actually a license for bartenders to get creative with inventive cocktails based on their own memories and experiences. East of Eden is especially memorable, with pork-washed mezcal, corn chip-infused vermouth, and a cinnamon sugar rim to balance it all out. And yes, the recipe totally works.

Able Baker Brewing

Able Baker Brewing
1510 S. Main St.
There are so many breweries in the Arts District, the neighborhood is often nicknamed the Beer District or Brewery Row. If you can only pick one, give Able Baker a shot. The brewery seems especially in tune with local culture and history. "Able" and "Baker" were the first two atomic bombs detonated in the Southern Nevada desert and the signature brew, Atomic Duck, has the right combination of citrus and hops to make it a favorite throughout the Las Vegas Valley. The taproom is a fun, high-energy spot with loud music, long picnic tables, and rollup garage doors that face an outdoor patio to take advantage of those occasional moments when the weather is actually nice in Vegas. All service is walk up, whether choosing from more than 30 brews on tap (and a house root beer) or food from the Arts District Kitchen, which goes all-in on indulgent snacks like loaded nachos, burgers, and hotdogs.

197 E. California Ave.
Garagiste is absolutely one of the best wine bars in Las Vegas, following the vision of Eric Prato, who formerly ran the vino program at Bouchon on the Strip. The joint specializes in small production wines with ample natural and low-intervention options. The list changes frequently, with a knowledgeable bartending team ready to guide visitors through the latest additions, especially if you need something to pair with a charcuterie plate. Wine (and beer) on tap are just $5 a glass Monday-Friday 3-6 pm. Garagiste is also a wine shop (with bottles 50% off for retail) and just launched an online store, making it easy to order bottles for pickup.

Vesta Coffee Roasters

Vesta Coffee Roasters
1114 S. Casino Center Blvd.
Even with the recent, unfortunate closing of Golden Fog, the Arts District may have more independent coffee joints per capita than any other Vegas neighborhood. Not as many as breweries, but still a lot. And you can't go wrong with Vesta, a bright, open, minimalist space, where the coffee roasting is done in full view of customers. Beans are sourced from destinations like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Costa Rica, with flavors so pure, you'll enjoy them as simple pour overs. Vesta makes their own specialty mixes and syrups too—and the Hazelnut-Maple latte is a nice option for those with a sweet tooth. Much of the food is either made in house or locally sourced. Dip your croissant in the soup of the day.

For additional ideas, check out our guide for conquering the Downtown drinking scene like a local.

Where to shop

Antique Alley Mall | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Antique Alley Mall
1126 S. Main St.
Before it had brunch and booze, the Arts District was a hotspot of second-hand antique shops. Main Street Mercantile has an intriguing selection of clothes and home decorations without going overboard, while Vintage Vegas Antiques is a trip back in time with vintage furniture and stereo equipment with design-your-own custom neon signs. Yet you may find the best bang for your junk at Antique Alley Mall—a collection of 65 individual stalls for a true flea market shopping experience. The place has a little bit of everything: old Playboy magazines, funky typewriters and photography equipment, movie posters, toys, and pretty much anything else you can think of. You may even find casino coffee mugs and other lost pieces of Vegas history between all those recyclables.

Analog Dope | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Analog Dope
205 E. Colorado Ave.
One of the newest places to shop in the Arts District is driven by a sense of purpose. Rachelle and Charlie Luster own and operate Analog Dope, a shop for books and records with a culturally diverse selection to amplify Black culture. Even for such a small retail space, the book selection covers a lot of ground with socio-political, self-help, art, young adult, and even children's titles on the shelves alongside biographies of change makers. Anything by bell hooks is a top seller. The vinyl collection reflects the owners' own passion as musicians, noting the appeal of records isn't just a retro fad, but now attracting teens and other young buyers. Feel free to ask about special orders.

Artistic Iron Works | Photo by Rob Kachelriess

Artistic Iron Works
105 W. Charleston Blvd.
This expansive 33,000-square-foot space deals in all things wrought iron, from gates and staircase railings to fascinating and often bizarre art pieces. If you're looking for a large dinosaur or alien spacecraft to decorate your backyard, this is the place. Walking through the showroom is almost like exploring exhibits at an art museum with the largest items spilling out onto the parking lot and sidewalks. The pieces range from quaint garden decorations to elaborate custom pieces with rocks, glass, and enamel features. Even if you just want to browse and enjoy the air conditioning, you'll have a great time.

Where to spend the night

Photo courtesy of The English Hotel

The English Hotel
921 S. Main St.
Unless you know a good friend with a couch, there's really only one place to spend the night in the Arts District. The English Hotel opened in 2022 as a 74-room boutique resort with a swimming pool, courtyard lounge, and the Pepper Club, featuring Japanese-influenced cuisine by hotel namesake Todd English, one of the busiest celebrity chefs in Vegas right now. No gaming. No kids. Pets are welcome. The rooms are cozy yet stylish, with patios and cocktail carts with recipes approved by English himself. The team behind the hotel is also gearing up to break ground on Selina in January, an upscale take on a European-style hostel, blending co-living culture with mixed-use spaces while further developing the presence of the Arts District north of Charleston.

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Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than eight years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. He wrote most of this story while eating pizza and drinking cocktails in the Arts District. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.
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