Beyond the Strip

A couple celebrates their engagement in Las Vegas

When my boyfriend, Marcus, decided to pop the big question (and I said “yes”), we knew just the place to go celebrate with a quick, affordable weekend getaway: Las Vegas! It had been a few years since either of us had been there and we’d never gone together, so celebrating our good news seemed like the perfect opportunity.

On past trips, we’d each focused quite a bit on activity surrounding the Las Vegas Strip; this time we both wanted something with all the Vegas fanfare but slightly more personal. That’s how we ended up on “Glitter Gulch,” Fremont Street, in the historic downtown area.

4 Queens

Even if you’ve never heard of Fremont Street by name, if you enjoy any pop culture, you’ve probably seen it onscreen. It was the site of the big car chase scene in the classic James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. More recently, it served as the backdrop for scenes from Con Air, The Hangover III, and Dodgeball. But dearest to my heart, as an avowed fan of the rock group U2, it’s the same street the group’s singer and guitar player walk down in the music video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Yep, my honey whisked me away to the very same street roamed by my favorite singer in the whole world. Swoon!

You can find everything you’re looking for in Las Vegas on Fremont Street and nearby, beginning with our stay at the quaint 4 Queens hotel and casino. Like most of the surrounding lodging options, 4 Queens has the standard casino/hotel amenities you can find on the Strip, but it’s a more intimate size and easier to navigate, with a distinctive “classic” Las Vegas feel to it. On check-in, we each received a free deck of 4 Queens playing cards and a little coupon book good for discounted breakfast at the main restaurant, a discount at the casino gift shop, and other freebies. Because Marcus had confirmed his reservation in advance, he also got a free 4 Queens T-shirt and keychain.

The Fremont Street Experience

After we unloaded our car and brought everything to our room, we headed out to see what Fremont Street had to offer.

The area is extremely walkable, both in ease and distance. In the mid-90s, the city built the Fremont Street Experience. A five-block portion was permanently closed off to car traffic, so people mill about at all hours of the day and night. A giant structure for shade was installed over this section, making it pleasant to walk around even in the summer heat.

Throughout the day and into the evening, you’ll see people riding SlotZilla, a giant zip line seven to 11 stories high. Frequently they’re superhero-style—on their stomachs with faces forward. We didn’t have the nerve to try that, as it runs the length of the Fremont Street Experience and someone—OK, me, that someone is me!—is afraid of heights.

It’s like a giant block party into the wee hours of the morning.

At night, the entire shade structure comes alive; lights, old music videos, and other danceable tunes put on a show. It’s like a giant block party into the wee hours of the morning—and yes, our hotel room did come with earplugs in addition to all the usual toiletries you’ll find in the bathroom!

As if that weren’t enough, live bands play on a plaza just in front of the hotel. Some are big names from the 90s, but it’s mostly smaller acts doing a great job of covering popular songs.

Marriage can be murder

On our first night, we went across the street from 4 Queens to The D, which is not only a casino/hotel but hosts a nightly interactive dinner theater show called Marriage Can Be Murder. The title seemed tongue-in-cheek appropriate for us, given the reason we were even in town. It was written by the two main actors, who are married in real life, although their characters are not. It’s a who-done-it with actors planted in the audience and tons of audience participation, including a full musical funeral procession each time an audience member “dies.” Social media interaction is encouraged throughout the evening, and the actors graciously spend lots of time posing for pictures and signing autographs with the audience afterward.

The food itself had something for everyone as well, from what the show bills as a “pre-killing course”—salad—to a main course with a choice of a chicken meal, red meat, or vegetarian pasta. I went with the pasta while Marcus had steak, and we both were almost too stuffed for the “death by sugar” ice cream treat at the end.

The next evening we spent more time outdoors, roaming the area on foot. A friend had told me about the Downtown Container Park, so we decided to check that out. Built entirely of shipping containers, it features eateries and boutique shopping. Out front, a giant metal praying mantis sculpture greets visitors; after dark the mantis comes to life with popular music, and its antennae blasts plumes of flame into the night sky. Talk about a hot destination!

From there, we meandered in and out of the numerous little shops along Fremont Street, searching for souvenirs to take home to our friends. We saw the legendary Vegas Vic neon statue, which looms above what was once The Pioneer Club but is now one of the many gift shops. We picked up a new Las Vegas-themed bottle opener magnet for our fridge at home and several sets of personalized dice for our friends.

Even though we’d just gotten engaged, and even though Las Vegas is famous for quickie marriages, that’s one thing we did NOT do while we were there. But on our drive home we reflected on all the excitement of the weekend and looked forward to what lay ahead in life, including another road trip to Vegas.

Experience all that Las Vegas has to offer.