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Las Vegas, known world-wide as the most exciting entertainment destination on the planet, also has a fascinating and varied history. While much of the city has been renovated into contemporary resorts and progressive architecture, culture and history travelers to southern Nevada can still experience Vintage Vegas… a time when the Rat Pack and big bands ruled the stages, neon was new and Las Vegas was the center of glamour and intrigue.
Lorraine Hunt-Bono, entertainer, politician and entrepreneur has seen Las Vegas grow from a small desert community into the business and entertainment powerhouse it is today. Mrs. Hunt-Bono served two terms as Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor, from 1999-2007. In 2004, as the chairwoman of the NCOT, she opened the Nevada Tourism Office in Beijing, China and was the first Nevada elected official to formally visit the People’s Republic of China. She also served as the first woman chair of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Mrs. Hunt-Bono has a lengthy leadership record in the public and private sector and has received numerous honors, including the first lifetime achievement award at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
Arrive on a Thursday night and make your first stop The Bootlegger Bistro. This is Lorraine’s family-owned Italian restaurant and it features the best Italian fare in Las Vegas (the kitchen is still run by the family’s 97-year old matriarch) and fantastic live cabaret-style music every night. The restaurant also has an extraordinary collection of photos of legendary Las Vegas entertainers. The restaurant is on the southern end of the Las Vegas strip so easily accessible to the airport or via any of the freeways. The restaurant was highlighted on Anthony Bourdain’s, Parts Unknown – Las Vegas – “Jazz and Nostalgia” Watch the segment – click here.
Drive north along the Las Vegas strip to reach your hotel. For the true classic Las Vegas experience, check into one of the downtown hotels such as the El Cortez (the longest continuously running hotel and casino in Las Vegas), the Golden Gate (Las Vegas’ very first hotel), or the any of the hotels on Fremont Street.
Morning – Start the day at the Neon Museum. Here you’ll find an incredible collection of fabulous neon signs. The visitors’ center is housed in the historic La Concha Motel lobby that jettisons visitors back in time with a mid-century vibe. During the summer months, the museum gives guided tours in the morning and early evenings only. Plan to spend at least an hour taking the tour and exploring the Boneyard.
Make your next stop the Mob Museum. Located in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, the Mob Museum showcases both sides of the notorious battle between organized crime and law enforcement. See and hear the stories of infamous mob bosses including Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Whitey Bulger, and the man whose name is synonymous with Las Vegas, Bugsy Siegel. Mob busters include J. Edgar Hoover and Joe Pistone. You’ll also get a glimpse into the background of the former mayor himself, Oscar Goodman.
Afternoon – Begin your afternoon with a stop at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas. The museum provides a comprehensive and interactive look at the history of Las Vegas, including information and artifacts that illustrate the rise of the casino industry, Native American artifacts and many other natural and cultural resources that shaped Southern Nevada.
Next, head down Flamingo Road to the National Atomic Testing Museum. Back in the 50’s, Las Vegans used to take a long lunch – first to eat a sandwich then to watch a bomb blast. Surreal, yes… fascinating… absolutely. With more than 12,000 interactive displays, stories and videos, the Museum educates visitors about the truly unique nuclear atomic age history found in Las Vegas.
Evening – Venture back downtown to enjoy dinner at one of the classic old Las Vegas steakhouses on Fremont Street. Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens Hotel or The Flame steakhouse at the El Cortez take diners back to the days of martinis, cigars and great steaks. You just don’t find places like this anymore.
Enjoy an evening stroll along Fremont Street, with the canopy of lights and several fun vintage shops, bars and casinos. You might also want to take in a performance at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. This spectacular art deco venue hosts world-renowned musical performances, Broadway shows and is home of the Nevada Ballet Theater and the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
Morning – Start the day with one of Las Vegas’ iconic buffet breakfasts. Take the rest of the morning to explore the newly renovated downtown Las Vegas and immerse yourself in the cultural renaissance that’s happening throughout the vibrant, growing area.
Visit the Container Park on Fremont Street for shopping, dining and unique use of architectural design. The Container Park opens at 11 a.m.
Afternoon - Once you’ve done some shopping, head to the Las Vegas Arts District “18b” centered along Charleston and Main Streets to meet working artists and visit the nearby art galleries and museums. Many of the galleries are open Sunday afternoon. Several area restaurants provide the perfect place for a late lunch.
Architecture enthusiasts will want to see the Ruvo Center for Brain Health on Bonneville Ave. and the Frank Gehry designed Keep Memory Alive event center. It’s not vintage, but incredibly cool. It’s right next door to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets in case a little shopping is on the schedule.
Before the sun sets, drive through the mid-century modern (MCM) architecture of the homes in Paradise Palms. This neighborhood, off of East Desert Inn, epitomizes the iconic style of the 1960s.
Two Wheels and the Open Road
Swing and Slice
Arc Dome Adventure
King of the Crests
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