Sunday, January 08, 2012

Las Vegas - Downtown Does It Right On NYE

by Julie Kasperson

I did New Year’s Eve on The Strip, when I first moved here in 2003. It was an experience, but not something I’d go out of my way to repeat. My neighbors kept saying how scary and out-of-control the crowds get there; what I experienced was just huge crowds of people, roaming freely up and down The Strip, unimpeded by auto traffic. I had a good time, but I froze out there in the cold! It wasn’t as weird and crazy as I thought it would be; coming from L.A., I’m used to weird and unusual.

This year, I booked a room at Fitzgeralds in the Downtown area in September. I got a great rate on the room, even though I had to book two nights. From my previous experience working at Fitzgeralds in Marketing over five years ago, I knew that being on the Fremont Street Experience for New Year’s Eve was going to be special. And it was!

They called it “Tribute Palooza 4” which meant all the bands playing under the canopy that covers Fremont Street were all tribute bands: those that pay tribute and emulate Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc. All the bands sounded great. Dennis, my companion for the evening, showed up from work after 9 p.m., and we strolled Fremont Street Experience for the remainder of the evening.

I prefer celebrating NYE at Fremont Street Experience over The Strip. My reasons? Easier access, friendlier people, better crowd control. You park at one of the hotels Downtown or in one of the lots. The FSE is fenced-in for the night, so you either pay $30 for a wristband and access, or in my case, I was a guest at one of the hotels and got wristbands. Everyone has to be 21-and-up. Loads of good music, fun people, and walk-up bars everywhere. What’s not to like?

Fremont Street East got into the party mode as well. I had to get another wristband for that area, but it was just for security purposes, and I didn’t have to pay a fee to roam. I watched a friend play keyboards in his band, Rhyme N Rhythm, featuring a talented female bassist Coco Jenkins, while The Vanguard, Insert Coin(s), Beauty Bar, and other venues hosted packed crowds. A lot of the food trucks came out for the occasion too.

Nearer to midnight, my friend and I came back down Fremont to the stage right next to the Fitz. Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her former-Mayor husband Oscar were officially ringing in the New Year with all of us. Oscar had his usual huge martini glass full of Bombay Sapphire gin in hand. There was a cool retrospective of 2011 playing across the huge canopy screen, and then the virtual fireworks started, along with real fireworks that exploded up and down the FSE in synch with the music.

Dennis and I enjoyed a free shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate, which is famous for their inexpensive shrimp cocktail. We talked to a couple that were there dancing their way down Fremont, celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary. We saw street performers dressed as the band KISS taking photos with happy tourists. We got our ears blown out by all the raucous music emanating from all the stages, including our favorite heavy metal/comedy band, Steel Panther.

I appreciated all the great customer service I received over the weekend. The Fitz was a great host; those people must have to put up with a lot to deal with NYE party revelers. But they did it all with smiles on their faces. And I had one on mine as I left on New Year’s Day. You see, I took a little cash from El Cortez and Fitzgeralds in the form of winnings from slots. A good time, a winning time, and I’ll be back next year!

Photos (click photos for larger image)

Rhyme N Rhythm band

Steel Panther band

Carolyn and Oscar Goodman

Virtual And Real Fireworks On Fremont Street Experience

(cell phone pic)

All photo credits: Julie Kasperson,

© 2012 Julie Kasperson - All rights reserved.

-VegasJules ( Julie Kasperson ) can be contacted through her facebook page.


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