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Vintage Vegas: A Retro Travel Guide to Sin City

Here’s your guide to finding authentic spots—some untouched, some reimagined—that evoke an old-school hipness in today’s Las Vegas.

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Golden Steer Steakhouse 

With its wood-paneled walls, deep banquettes, and tuxedoed waitstaff—some of whom have been working the floor for more than 40 years—stepping into this Sahara Avenue steakhouse is a bit like visiting the Las Vegas people reminisce about, when women wore gowns to the blackjack tables and Frank Sinatra crooned nightly. At the Golden Steer, which opened in 1958, much of that era remains. There’s still Caesar salad made table-side, juicy cuts of prime beef, flaming sweets like bananas foster, and the priceless knowledge that you’re digging in where gangsters like Tony Spilotro, superstars like Elvis, and greats like Muhammad Ali have dined.

The Neon Museum 

the neon museum in las vegas

While Las Vegas is famous for its implosions, the revered signs from many iconic casinos and businesses have been saved thanks to this nonprofit and its landmark Neon Boneyard. Guides trace the story of Las Vegas through the Boneyard’s collection of hulking glass-and-metal marquees from properties like the Stardust, Sassy Sally’s, and the Sahara, offering an entertaining history lesson full of local lore. For a truly illuminating experience, book a nighttime tour and bask in the glow of the Boneyard’s restored signs.

Carson Kitchen 

Sure, this hip gastropub from famed chef Kerry Simon isn’t an old-school haunt. But the two-level neighborhood eatery is representative of Downtown Las Vegas’ rejuvenation, funded largely by the late Tony Hsieh, former Zappos CEO, and his investment group, the Downtown Project. Housed in the former John E. Carson Hotel, a vintage Vegas venue that opened in 1955, the restaurant draws a schmoozy local crowd with creative comfort food and potent cocktails. Grab a seat at the chef’s counter and an order of bacon jam with baked brie, and take in this delicious example of Downtown development.

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino

golden gate historic casino

This historic casino hotel bookending the Fremont Street Experience dates to 1906, just after the city of Las Vegas was established with a population of around 800 people. While the property has been renovated in the intervening years, it’s still a glimpse of the city’s past with low ceilings and packed rows of slots.

El Cortez Hotel & Casino

This is vintage Vegas at its most authentic. El Cortez is the longest continually operating hotel and casino in the city, opened in 1941, and formerly owned by legendary gangsters Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum, and Moe Sedway. These days, it’s a family-run joint with updated rooms and plenty of old-school charm. Sidle up to the Parlour Bar to take down cocktails like the Bada Bing or the Berry Bugsy, then hit the casino floor for an elusive game of single-deck 3-2 blackjack. Just like in the good old days.

Gold Spike 

Another Downtown Project development, this 1976 hotel casino has been transformed into a neighborhood clubhouse complete with 24-hour bar and restaurant, living-room-style seating, games, and a backyard where local bands play. The upstairs rooms have been converted into micro apartments, while the neighboring Oasis at Gold Spike is a boutique hotel with amenities like bike rentals, turntables, and a library.

The Mob Museum 

mob museum in las vegas

Housed inside the former federal courthouse where Senator Estes Kefauver held one of his hearings on organized crime in 1950, this museum takes visitors into the inner workings of the Mob in the U.S. and the law enforcement figures tasked with bringing it down. The Mob Museum spares no graphic detail: Along with weapons, photos, and countless other artifacts, the collection includes the wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago and a replica of the electric chair from Sing Sing Prison where guests can take a cautious seat and pose for a picture. The museum also chronicles the Mob’s impact on Las Vegas, from famed gangsters like Bugsy Siegel to former Mob lawyer and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Hugo’s Cellar 

Fine dining may be out of fashion, but you’d never know it inside Hugo’s Cellar, the Four Queens institution where the old-fashioned way is the only way. The menu here is Continental cuisine—hefty steaks and lobster tails served with all the accouterments, from table-side salad to a sorbet intermezzo to chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert. A local favorite for a romantic date night, every lady leaves with a long-stemmed rose—proof that chivalry lives on in Las Vegas (at least inside Hugo’s).

Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge

peppermill restaurant and fireside lounge

It may be 2024, but inside the classic Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge on Las Vegas Boulevard, it’s still 1972. That means mirrored ceilings, mood lighting, oversized cocktails, fire pits (surrounded by aquamarine moats), cocktail servers in full-length gowns, and the kind of self-assuredly swanky atmosphere that makes any night feel like one to remember. Here’s hoping the Peppermill keeps doing its thing for another 50 years.