Where to Shop Small in Vegas’ Arts District
Support local retailers this Small Business Saturday.
Planning to shop small this holiday season? Head to the 18b Arts District, the official name for the 18-block neighborhood in Downtown Las Vegas that acts as the city’s hub of arts and culture. One of Las Vegas’ many best-kept secrets is that it is an incredible place for antiquing, thrifting, and any other words you want to use to describe vintage shopping. There are a ton of vintage stores—as well as art galleries, boutiques, home goods stores, and more—packed into this district, with more opening every week as word spreads that the DTLV Arts District is the place to be in LV. For your gift-giving needs, and maybe even a little treat yo’self, spend some time exploring the Arts District to support local small business owners and artists. Here you’ll find the most unique, original, and one-of-a-kind gifts, and there is truly something for everyone.
This place is an absolute treasure trove of exceptionally well-curated items that all work together to tell a story, with a deep inventory of items like exotic taxidermy and furniture made out of steer horns and cowhide; replica Rococo gilt bronze clocks and 16th century burgonets; mid-century modern furniture and vintage cigars; signed sports memorabilia and vintage gaming tables; 1980s Vegas casino bomber jackets and classic neon beer signs; old-school boomboxes and autographed records; generations of American militaria; Stetson cowboy hats; and vintage porn. There’s even a full-scale “Golden Knight” (as in, the Vegas Golden Knights) suit of armor and a giant Slimer statue from Ghostbusters. This place is wild and always has killer window displays.
There are many galleries in the Downtown Las Vegas Arts District, as you might expect, but the Arts Factory is something all its own: a decades-old commercial warehouse building that is now home to over 30 artist studios and galleries, boutiques, creative businesses, and a bar and restaurant with a lively patio. The Arts Factory, with its iconic “Love Las Vegas” mural spanning the entire Charleston-facing front of the building, is the de facto epicenter of the 18b Arts District. There are so many different unique spaces to explore, some of which are only open to the public during First Friday, but many of the galleries and stores are open for shoppers regularly throughout the rest of the month. The artist roster is ever-changing but there is always a good mix of painters, multimedia artists, photographers, crafters, and more. For a gift that’s truly one-of-a-kind, you can’t go wrong here. And if you’re short on time and/or cash, there are some great grab-and-go gifts available in the Gallery to Go art vending machine on the first floor, which is stuffed full of locally made original artworks, jewelry, and other gift items. There is an even larger Gallery to Go machine located in Art Square, the building immediately behind the Arts Factory.
Horror film fans (and friends and family of horror film fans who have no idea what to buy them), look no further: you have found your brick-and-mortar mecca. Nightmare Toys is stuffed to the gills with every imaginable kind of horror film collectible—cutesy plush toys of Alien embryos and evil Gremlins, horror movie Christmas ornaments, life-sized Chucky dolls, B- (and C- and D-) movie board games and puzzles, ghoulish rock action figures (Papa Emeritus I, II, and III from Ghost, Rancid’s Skeletim), Purge and Pooka masks, and every other kind of cult horror mask imaginable, an esoteric collection of horror VHS tapes and DVDs, t-shirts and Trick ‘r Treat purses, and Jason backpacks, plus literally every horror Funko Pop ever made (including mini and oversized). This place has a cult following of collectors, and they even bring in iconic horror film stars for signings (Linda Blair from The Exorcist recently visited). Also, keep an eye out for the Nightmare Café opening next door in 2022.
Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to make a day out of it: no matter how big you think Antique Alley looks on the outside, it’s even bigger inside. Once you step through the front door, get ready for room after room after room after room of more vintage and antique items than your imagination could ever fathom, sprawling out across 12,000-square-feet of retail space and with over 65 vendors featured inside. While this place easily overwhelms, its best to take your time exploring it to really take in everything it has to offer. It would be impossible to accurately describe everything there is to find here, so here’s just a few things: a life-sized bronze ballerina sculpture; a full window-sized stained-glass panel of Ariel and Flounder from The Little Mermaid; a Beatles Yellow Submarine art guitar; a vintage Flintstones Dino the Dinosaur children’s ride (like the kind you used to see outside of grocery stores and Kmart as a kid in the ‘80s and ‘90s). And innumerable different kinds of sterling silver, gold, precious gemstone, and costume jewelry; porcelain figurines; records; Pokémon plush toys; tiki mugs; vintage ties; concert posters; 1950s dresses…If you can’t find a suitable gift here, just give cash.
If the person(s) you have to shop for is just so incredibly difficult and/or you just don’t know them that well and/or you’re short on time and/or the mental energy required for shopping and/or you are observing proper holiday party etiquette and bringing a host gift, the answer is wine. Pay a visit to the fine folks at Garagiste, a wine bar and retailer that specializes in the kind of juice you can’t just go grab at Target or Smith’s. (Or even Lee’s Liquor or Total Wine, tbh.) Their inventory is stuffed with interesting wines from lesser-known, smaller producers from all over the world, and they roll deep with low-intervention labels. But you don’t have to be super into wine to find something fun. The staff here is incredibly approachable and accommodating; let them help you find something special for a gift or for yourself (maybe have a glass or two with some cheese and charcuterie while you’re there). The best part: every bottle on their list is for sale to-go at half off the list price.
Most of this list leans towards vintage/antique stores and art galleries, simply because of the abundance of such stores in the DTLV Arts District. But new stores are opening damn near daily, and there’s a whole crop of recently opened boutiques that feature a mix of lifestyle and home goods along with new, and maybe a small smattering of vintage clothing. The Good Wolf is one those stores, albeit two years old now (pandemic time counts differently). Inside, the store is full of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories—mostly new, some vintage, some stuff for babies. There is unique furniture and clever throw pillows, high-end soaps and shaving kits, cocktail kits, cozy candles, statement sunglasses, vintage Stetsons, and all manner of unique home goods and gift items for sale. The design of the space is also impeccable: every clothing rack, tabletop, cabinet, and corner is carefully and thoughtfully laid out, with each display offering its own Instagrammable moment.
While the Honeypot is definitely vibrating on a New Age wavelength, you (and your intended giftee) do not need to believe in the healing power of crystals to fall in love with all of the gems in this store. When you first walk inside, your field of vision is filled with large glittering geodes worth thousands of dollars, and tables and shelf-lined walls filled with all manner of crystals, quartz, raw gemstones, and other kinds of stones and minerals like shiny black shungite and black rainbow-hued fluorite. Many pieces are cut into beautiful display pieces (even the palm-sized hunks of quartz would make a great desk or display shelf item), and then there are small bowl-shaped vessels that can hold small items like earrings. There are also soapstone animals and lapis lazuli skulls, agate dragon’s heads, quartz globes, troilite crescent moons, hefty salt lamps, driftwood pieces with glass vases hand-blown to perfectly fit on top, mosaic keepsake boxes, sterling silver and steel rings, gorgeous hand-made leather journals and purses, intricately beaded Huichol (indigenous Mexican) art pieces, and so much more, including everyday items like sage sticks and candles for the holistic healers in your life. Take your time perusing here because it’s easy to miss a lot at first glance.
If you’ve driven down Main St. in Downtown Las Vegas in the last decade, you’ve seen Retro Vegas: the building with the flamingo-pink aluminum siding that runs up to the pitched roof, the flamingo murals on the side, and the human-sized flamingo statues out front during business hours. Retro Vegas is Palm Springs mid-century modern (MCM) vintage done DTLV-style. There’s a healthy dose of kitsch and camp that will appeal to folks with mid-century sensibilities who don’t take themselves too seriously. Much like Palm Springs, the city of Las Vegas had a housing boom in the ‘50s-70s and boasts some impressive MCM housing stock (in the historic neighborhoods downtown especially). Retro Vegas pays homage to that history and is all about vintage Las Vegas. Inside you’ll find some real MCM treasures: furniture, lighting, home goods, artwork, and tons of fun drinking accessories and glassware. You want tiki mugs? Crystal decanters? A set of rocks glasses? Cordial glasses? Glass bottles and vases and jars and serving dishes and bowls in a rainbow of colors? They have all of that and more, as well as a store-within-the-store called Red Kat, where they sell vintage clothing and accessories.
We’ve already established that there are a lot of artists’ studios and art galleries in the Downtown Las Vegas Arts District, but Recycled Propaganda is certainly a highlight. The socio-political artist known as Recycled Propaganda (Izaac Zevalking) has been especially prolific during the pandemic, with temporary and permanent murals popping up all over DTLV. His Savage Journey (better known as “Fear of COVID in Las Vegas”) mural is especially prominent, and if you haven’t seen the real thing on the corner of S Main and W Imperial, you’ve definitely seen the prints, T-shirts, facemasks, pins, stickers, and/or shares on social media. He’s got a sizable storefront on Main St. where you can buy his original paintings and mixed media works (which are still super affordable by original artwork standards) as well as a wide variety of prints, apparel, and other merchandise emblazoned with images of his work. He also uses his space to exhibit the works of other Las Vegas artists in quarterly exhibitions, so you can also shop for originals by other local artists, too.
This adorable store opened during the pandemic and the name is not a misnomer: this place is truly a local oasis for gift-giving and self-pampering, with Las Vegas flair. They have unique jewelry, fun graphic t-shirts and socks, journals, self-care items, terrariums (including a build-your-own terrarium bar), incense and essential oils, fun mugs and glassware, cute greeting cards for all occasions, embroidery kits, candies, card games for parties (appropriate for all ages and company), a children’s section, and an absolutely charming assortment of seasonal items for the holidays (including but not limited to Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s and Father’s Days). There is an emphasis on Vegas- and Nevada-themed items like necklaces, pins, totes, ornaments, candles, postcards, dog toys, even hot sauce, and a nice selection of gift items, souvenirs, postcards, jewelry, and more by local Las Vegas artists, including the shop owner herself, Abbie Renzema.
The tagline of Vintage Vegas is “Dead people’s junk and cool crap,” and there has probably never been a more honest and accurate description of what a vintage/antique shop really is than that. If Retro Vegas is DTLV’s answer to Palm Springs mid-century modern antiquing, then Vintage Vegas is its heavily tattooed rockabilly cousin (there’s also a big rockabilly scene here in Vegas, FWIW). This store has all the same kind of dead people’s junk and cool crap you’ll find in a lot of other vintage and antique stores, but with a little more of an edge. Think 1980s arcade games, a wide assortment of vintage Star Wars memorabilia, MCM furniture and glassware, vintage board games from ‘60s & ‘70s TV shows, vintage electronics from the ‘50s through the ‘80s (they’re kind of known for this), tiki mugs and other tiki paraphernalia, vintage Vegas casino items, and so much more. They’ve also got the best window displays on Main St., especially during Halloween season and the holidays. (Modern Mantiques is a close second, though!)