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Top 10 reasons to visit Plaza Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas

4 December 2023

By Gary Trask
I’ve always been a big fan of Downtown Las Vegas.

Go ahead, call me “old school” (you won’t be the first), but the combination of its rich history, unique activities and sheer value, makes the downtown area a must-visit nearly every time I make a venture to Sin City.

Sitting mere steps away from the Fremont Street Experience, Plaza Hotel and Casino exudes an abundance of all three of the above qualities.

Although it marked the 52nd anniversary of its grand opening this past July, the property is anything but dated. Its landmark entrance, adorned with the iconic glass dome, is as vibrant as ever, thanks to recent renovations and added amenities. After a recent stay at the Plaza, which has been a backdrop for numerous motion pictures, TV shows, and a recent surprise concert that garnered worldwide attention, here are 10 reasons why you should plan a visit to the Plaza the next time you find yourself in Las Vegas.

10. History
When the Plaza officially opened in July 1971 as Union Plaza, it stood as the largest downtown property at 22 stories high. Its original name was in honor of the Union Pacific Railroad Depot, where the first Las Vegas settlers arrived in 1905.


The Plaza has graced the silver screen in some notable movies, most famously in the Martin Scorese masterpiece, Casino when Ginger (Sharon Stone) and Sam (Robert DiNero) argue in the Center Stage restaurant, which is now Oscar’s (much more on this venue later in the column).

Music videos from Flo Rida, Lil Wayne, Pink Floyd and The Killers have been shot here, but the most recent high-profile appearance in front of the Plaza came in September when the legendary U2 surprised fans with a live performance to help set the stage for its residency at the new Sphere behind the Las Vegas Strip, which opened days later.

Bono and Company were filming a music video for their newest track "Atomic City” – which works in a slew of Las Vegas references – and also treated the stunned audience to a rendition of their classic hit, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which was shot in the backdrop of the Fremont Street Experience back in 1987.

9. Location
“On the Corner of Main Street” is the cleverly named and entertaining podcast recorded each week at the Plaza, featuring CEO Jonathan Jossel. The name is a double entendre as is it fitting not only because of the Plaza’s actual address (1 Main Street), but it’s also the exact opening lyrics of the smash hit song “Read My Mind” by the aforementioned Las Vegas-bred band, The Killers.

Directly across the main entrance is the far northwest end of the Fremont Street Experience, which is always pulsating with an energetic vibe and, shall we say, “diverse” crowd, so any stay at the Plaza means you sitting on the edge of one of the best people watching scenes in the world, live music and entertainers, and dozens of classic casinos and restaurants.

8. Brian Christopher Slots at Plaza
Like most casinos downtown, the Plaza’s 80,000-square-foot gaming floor offers more player-friendly odds than what you’ll find on the Strip, including $10 minimum blackjack and craps, penny slots and “100% paybacks.”

One of the most recent additions at the property is Brian Christopher Slots at Plaza, downtown’s first smoke-free and “social media friendly gaming space.”



Christopher is the wildly popular casino content creator on YouTube known for his videos featuring slot machines and his namesake 2,500 square-foot space features 75 of the newest slots on the market and electronic table games, complete with clever back drops perfect for selfies and social media posts.

7. Special events
From bingo to fireworks to horses, the Plaza consistently hosts a regular calendar of special events.

It is home to the only bingo room in downtown Las Vegas, recently revamped and featuring six daily sessions.

Additionally, the Plaza's CORE Arena stands as the sole permanent outdoor equestrian center in Downtown Las Vegas, accommodating 3,000 spectators. It annually hosts the National Finals Rodeo, a premier championship event highlighting the talents of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's top earners.

On New Year’s Eve, the Plaza is the go-to venue for live fireworks, and it hosts one of the best Super Bowl parties each year.

6. Pool and pickleball
The Pool at the Plaza is marketed as a “retro Palm Springs meets classic Downtown Las Vegas” and that description is dead-on perfect.

Spanning 70,000 square feet, it includes a wet deck, hot tub, private cabanas, a bar, and even a food truck. The newly renovated hotel suites boast direct balcony access to the pool, a unique attribute that is difficult to find anywhere else in the city.

Joining a burgeoning nationwide trend, the Plaza introduced 12 permanent pickleball courts, the most of any casino resort in Las Vegas, directly adjacent to the pool area. Free weekly lessons, clinics for all levels, and equipment rentals are available, and the Plaza has also been the title sponsor of the Las Vegas Pickleball Open.

5. Towering murals
When visiting the Plaza’s pool area or playing pickleball, you can’t escape one of the three monumental 21-story murals that adorn the resort. Created by the English multimedia street artist "D*Face," the captivating mural depicts a frightened young blonde woman with wide blue eyes, threatened by a skeletal hand and a slowly creaking door.

The murals, unveiled in 2017, represent the largest ever installed on a single building. The other two staggering works of art showcase the talents of Patrick McNeil and Patrick Mille, who jointly created a tribute to the famous painting of “Dogs Playing Poker” that can be seen by hundreds of thousands of cars driving by on I-15 each day; and Shepard Fairey’s spectacle titled “Cultivate Harmony” that is meant to have a “decorative appeal” and “remind people that peace and harmony with each other and the planet itself are the only way to maintain what sustains us.”

4. Pinkbox Doughnuts
When in Las Vegas, you should treat yourself to items you don’t typically splurge on back at home. For me, this meant hitting up the new Pinkbox Doughnuts, which is conveniently accessible from the Main Street near the Plaza’s front entrance through a giant 3-D doughnut.

This is a must-visit for any dessert connoisseur, with over 70 specialty doughnuts to choose from, including the classics (glazed, sprinkles and chocolate frosted) to the not-so-classic (Java Mama, The Loopy Captain and Purple Rain). There are also vegan options and an array of choices that commemorate the hometown Las Vegas Raiders and Vegas Golden Knights.

After much debate, I landed on the Banana Puddin’ (glazed vanilla cake filled with banana buttercream, topped with whip, banana pudding, a Nila wafer and sprinkled with graham cracker) and I left with zero regrets.

3. The Sand Dollar Lounge
Live music of any form or fashion is always a draw for me and I’m always on the lookout for new and different options.

A few years ago, I discovered The Sand Dollar Lounge, a legendary spot located just off the Strip on Spring Mountain Road. It opened in 1976, and while known as “The Home of the Blues” the stage has been graced by the likes of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Mick Jagger, and in addition to captivating live music and amazing energy, The Sand Dollar also has great pizza and stiff cocktails.

Capitalizing on its vintage Vegas vibe, the Plaza unveiled a second location for The Sand Dollar Lounge last year, found just off the casino floor. This intimate 4,000 square-foot haven mirrors the allure of the original, encompassing not only its cool décor but its extraordinary acoustics.

It was a bold move by the folks at the Plaza to try and duplicate such a storied and beloved venue like The Sand Dollar, but they pulled it off and it has been a welcome and much-needed addition to the downtown area.

2. Carousel Bar
At the epicenter of the Plaza's Main Street Reimagination project, introduced in June to completely transform its Main Street façade and porte-cochère, lies the new Carousel Bar, which got some serious screen time in the new U2 music video.
The circular spectacle is surrounded by graceful carousel horses, a martini glass with a twirling olive, an oversized deck of cards, and a swirling ribbon of lights above the bar. Along for the ride in the carousel's heart is a 14-foot showgirl affectionately named "Ginger," a homage to Stone’s character from Casino. Her name plaque reads: ”Based on the movie Casino's Las Vegas socialite, Ginger dazzles you with her beauty and boisterous personality. Like her namesake, Ginger welcomes you with open arms to The Carousel Bar!”

Thanks to a cooling system, Carousel Bar, which is complete with gaming machines and video poker, is a perfect spot to grab a seat and settle in, even during the hot summer months, and no matter what time of year it is, there’s always plenty of action to gaze at across the way, just inside the Fremont Street Experience entrance.

1. Oscar’s
Long before the recent added amenities and total refresh of the main entrance at the Plaza, Oscar’s Steakhouse has been the main attraction.

The welcoming signature restaurant, perched inside a huge glass dome on the second floor of the property, opened in 2011 and is named after Oscar Goodman, the former Las Vegas mayor who was made his name as a mob attorney, representing the likes of Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro, whose short-tempered antics were portrayed in Casino by the great Joe Pesci.
Oscar’s gleams with nostalgia from the moment you walk in, featuring age-old memorabilia and photographs capturing Goodman’s rubbing shoulders with fellow celebrities, usually with his trademark martini in hand. Aside from the classic look and feel, Oscar’s never fails to deliver first-class service, food and cocktails.

The restaurant, boasting a circular glass wine cellar doubling as Goodman’s private dining room, is celebrated for its diverse choice of beef cuts and seafood selections, as well as its scrumptious made-from-scratch side dishes, all at a much more reasonable price tag than what you’ll pay at other high-end steakhouses across the city. There’s also a legendary Happy Hour, which is unique in that it is offered seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

If you happen to hit the Happy Hour, don’t miss No Nose’s Mob Meatballs. Served on a hot skillet with house-made ricotta, the meatballs, according to bartender extraordinaire Chelsea, feature a hint of veal, which gives them a delicious rich flavor. Don’t tell my mother, but these are the best meatballs I’ve ever had and the perfect complement is Cardini’s Caesar Salad, served with lettuce boats and homemade dressing.

Earlier this year, Oscar’s added a classy new lounge and rooftop patio that overlooks Fremont Street and doubled its capacity. Accommodating 225 people, the patio is a prime spot for private parties and functions and serves as the only al fresco option for fine dining in the downtown area.
 

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Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has more than 25 years of experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has more than 25 years of experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT