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Tales and tips from a Weekly writer’s Downtown birthday barhopping

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The Fremont East district is seen Thursday, August 4, 2011.
Photo: Sam Morris

Downtown Las Vegas is my favorite place to party. And although this might be the case, I recently realized that every one of my post-21st birthdays had been spent somewhere on the Strip, perched at some table at some club.

So with that in mind, my birthday partner-in-crime (aka my twin sister, Alyse) and I decided to switch it up for our 26th and planned a birthday barhopping extravaganza – to be held solely within the Downtown district.

After all was said and done, one night turned into two and I had spent the weekend visiting my favorite spots and experiencing the few watering holes that were left on my Downtown to-do list.

Thinking of commissioning a cocktail crusade Downtown soon? Read on for tales and tips from my debaucherous weekender.

El Cortez

I’ve long been a fan of Jackie Gaughan’s quaint yet charming hotel, and figured its close proximity to the Fremont East joints would be most conducive to the evening’s barhopping adventure.

I also figured the registration desk’s proximity to the hotel bar – just a walk across the lobby – was indication that the party starts at check-in. I ordered a beer from local brewery Tenaya Creek (props for supporting local brews, El Cortez!) and the night had begun.

Le Thai

Although it was their Drunken Noodles that put the Fremont East eatery on the list, that didn’t stop my group from commencing the cocktailing. And it’s all because of two words: dollar sake. It might not taste as good as the bottles for purchase at Le Thai, but it’s perfect for sake-bombing.

Tip: You might want to consider getting your grub on about halfway through your bar crawl, as many of my friends were growing hungry at the evening’s midpoint.

Tip: Big party? Dress warmly. You might have to sit outside, and Le Thai doesn’t have heaters in its patio space.

Insert Coin(s)

Entertainment accompanies the drinks at the videobar/gamelounge, making it a great place to stop during your crawl. Also, they offer Stone IPA in the bottle – need I say more? So order a drink, play some Pac-Man and bust a move on the dance floor!

Tip: It’s a well-known fact that the line to get in the bar grows quite long as the night goes on. I made this my first stop for a reason.

Tip: Have a schedule. I tried to “play it by ear” and my party lost a few stragglers more than a few times. Let your friends know where you’ll be on the hour, every hour, and no one needs to be rounded up like cocktailing cattle.

Drink & Drag

I ended up at the drag queen bowling alley twice throughout the weekend – not just because I love the place, but also because there’s a little something for everybody at Drink & Drag. With bowling, billiards, and board games and, of course, drag queens, the place rarely disappoints.

The second night we opted for two games of bowling – with each game going for $1, how could we say no? Catch that special, and another for $2 drafts, every Sunday at the Neonopolis hangout.

Tip: Entertainment options will really liven your experience and also will likely help to facilitate conversation. Inviting multiple friends who don’t know each other? Take note.

Under the Big Top

I’ve been a Krave frequenter since my 21st birthday, so I was definitely curious to see what they had going on in the Neonopolis courtyard prior to the opening of Krave Massive. I may have arrived too early, as the gay clubs in town tend to stay relatively empty until around 11:30 p.m. or so and it wasn’t even 10. The compromise? Krave offered all patrons with its promotional text an open bar until 11 p.m. Needless to say, my friends were A-OK spending some time sipping on free cocktails.

Tip: Remember that barhopping can get quite pricey. Having a few venues on your agenda that offer drink specials or an open bar will win you praises from your barhopping friends.

The Griffin

With its cozy couches, blazing fire pits and a great draft beer lineup, the Griffin is really what sold me on Fremont East – making it a must for my birthday bar crawl.

I unfortunately didn’t realize the size of my group though, which ultimately led to us moving the night along elsewhere. And although the place was packed and my favorite Deschutes wasn’t on tap, my party seemed okay with the close quarters and I happily settled for a Moose Drool.

Tip: Remember the size of your group. This really impacts where you’ll go and what you’ll do.

Tip: Don’t “happily settle” for anything during a bar crawl. A wise nightlifer once told me these important words: “nightlife is a marathon, not a sprint.” So imbibe carefully, crawlers. Moderation is key.

Hogs N Heifers

After hearing about the biker bar for years, I finally was able to experience it. You know all those movie scenes at biker bars, where the bartenders are scantily clad chicks who take shots – both at and with – their customers? Well, Hogs N Heifers might be the only place in Las Vegas like that. Be sure to stick around for the ladies’ bartop dance routine!

Mob Bar

I unfortunately arrived to the Mob Bar just as the staff was closing the place down. However, there was enough time to sneak a peak at the cocktail menu and score a complimentary Pick Your Poison cupcake from the staff (thanks, guys!).

And about that cocktail menu? Well, let’s just say I know where I’m starting next time ...

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Mark Adams joined the Las Vegas Weekly in 2010 and now serves as the magazine’s web editor. You can also ...

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