Downtown Las Vegas is one of the most culturally and historically rich areas in the entire city. One of the many reasons both tourists and locals alike love this area of the city is the Downtown Arts District. This eclectic area, officially known as 18b Arts District is well known as the hub of the art scene in Las Vegas. The area is full of art and working galleries, antique and other unique shops and restaurants and unique lounges. Only a short walk from Fremont Street, the 18b Arts District is the perfect place to go for a different side of Vegas.
The area originally gained its reputation as an art location when a family owned and operated business, Desert Art Supplies was established. Several more art based businesses and museums opened in the area throughout the years, including The Arts Factory, Enigma Garden Café and The Contemporary Arts Center. The area was officially created in 1998 and was named for the 18 block zone set aside for the district. Although the area is larger today, it was initially bounded by Hoover Avenue, Colorado Avenue, Las Vegas Boulevard, Commerce Street and 4th Street.
The initial goal of the area was to provide the otherwise dull area with a unique identity apart from what you would find on the Strip and Fremont Street. The ideal mission was to inspire creativity in everyone who visited and lived in the area. Today the area is managed by the 18b Las Vegas Arts District Neighborhood Association and strives to encourage art in general. They also make large efforts to enhance current and new businesses in the district by creating growth and promoting enhanced pedestrian traffic.
Now well known as the premier art event in the city, First Friday was first established in October 2002 and was attended by around 300 people. First Friday is the largest arts and culture event in the city, held on the first Friday of every month and hosting up to 20,000 visitors.
The uniquely fun event brings in a substantial amount of foot traffic, allowing visitors to mingle the galleries, shops, restaurants and food trucks in the area. This is great for many local and upcoming artists and other vendors to gain recognition and sell some of their original artwork.
Held the first Thursday of every month, Preview Thursday was established as a scaled down version of First Friday. The reasoning behind this, is to allow more serious art buyers with the chance to beat the large crowds and potentially buy anything they are interested in. Preview Thursday is a great, more upscale way to enjoy the offerings of the Art District.
Must Visit Places
If you find yourself in need of a great meal while exploring the Art District, stroll over to Casa Don Juan for the best authentic Mexican food you will find anywhere. This family owned restaurant offers all of your favorites including carnitas, tortas, tacos, fajitas and much more.
For anyone in need of an afternoon pick me up, or smaller food offerings will love everything at Makers & Finders Coffee. This coffee house serves up one-of-a-kind hand brewed favorites such as lavender infused lattes and small tapa like dishes including arepas, empanadas and shrimp ceviche. Head over to the Velveteen Rabbit for unique handcrafted cocktails in an atmosphere that perfectly embodies the spirit of the Art District.
One of the best places to visit if you find yourself in the Arts District is the Arts Factory. Started in 1997, it is a warehouse full of a wide variety of different kinds of art including contemporary and traditional.
Also make sure to find some of the many different street art murals in the area for a unique look at some of the ever-changing community art pieces. Finally, be sure to take a stroll down the First Street Art Trail as a way experience a unique variety of public art.