A Local’s Guide to Las Vegas: The Best Public Art, Bar On Fremont Street and Museum

Brian Paco Alvarez, art curator for Zappos.com Inc., shares his favourite spots in Sin City.

Photo by Lucky Wenzel

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Brian Paco Alvarez has had a front-row seat to the evolution of the desert city’s arts scene. Art curator for Zappos.com Inc. and a City of Las Vegas arts commissioner, his nearly two decades as an urban historian and curator have given him a feel for the city’s best attractions.

Watering hole

“My favourite bar is the Downtown Cocktail Room. It’s a little hidden gem on Las Vegas Boulevard, at the entrance to Fremont Street. And it’s funny, because it doesn’t have a traditional door; it has a wall that you push. When you’re inside, you can watch the public trying to get into the bar, and a lot of people just get frustrated and walk away. It’s hilarious to see that.”

Best public art

“Flashlight at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It’s by two artists, Claes Oldenburg and his wife, Coosje van Bruggen. It’s supposed to represent the flashlights that are used by ushers in theatres. Flashlight is 38 feet tall, and it’s right between the Judy Bayley Theatre and the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall, two major performing arts centres on campus.”

Neighbourhood walk

“The John S. Park [Historic District] is definitely a gem of downtown Las Vegas. It’s on the city registry for historic neighbourhoods. A lot of people who live in the suburbs or visit Las Vegas can’t believe that there are homes that date back to the ’30s and ’40s in downtown. It’s one of the cherished neighbourhoods in downtown that’s being preserved quite beautifully.”

Favourite museum

“I would have to say The Neon Museum. It’s a celebration of the city’s architectural vernacular. The Neon Museum [opened to the public in 2012] is a major institution in downtown Las Vegas. When you’re a child growing up in Las Vegas with this spectacle of the Las Vegas Strip and these enormous signs, and then to see them in the [museum’s] Boneyard, there’s a reverence to these things.”

Downtown dining

“One of my favourites is definitely the Triple George Grill in downtown Las Vegas. It’s a steakhouse; it’s not overly priced. I’ve never had a bad meal there.”

Art gallery

Sin City Gallery stands out. It’s a naughtier type of art, but it’s a very important gallery, because it really does push the boundaries of human sexuality, expression and art.”

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