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DOWNTOWN CONTAINER PARK

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7th and Fremont

Las Vegas, NV 89101

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AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A retail, office, and entertainment complex in Downtown Las Vegas that is made of recycled shipping containers and pre-fabricated metal cubes.

Where is it?

Downtown Las Vegas in the Fremont East District, near El Cortez hotel and casino.

Is it worth the cost?

Wandering through is free.

What else do I need to know?

There's a fire-breathing praying mantis out front. No, really.

What's the bottom line?

This could very well become a iconic Vegas destination.

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FULL REVIEW

What do you get when you mix a fire-breathing praying mantis, an "immersion dome," stores, restaurants, bars, and shipping containers? The Downtown Container Park, a retail and entertainment complex that has quickly become an indispensable part of the Downtown Las Vegas landscape and a must-visit for savvy shoppers, eaters, drinkers, and fun-seekers.

The facility takes up most of the block at Fremont and 7th Streets, diagonally across the street from El Cortez and just a couple of blocks east of the Fremont Street Experience. Most of it was built out of manufactured steel cubes and recycled shipping containers, which helps to give it a quirky, offbeat, and yet totally safe and friendly atmosphere. It often takes awhile for a place to find its identity, but they managed to do it almost immediately here and you feel the difference throughout the complex.

The offbeat starts in the front with a fire breathing praying mantis sculpture that was originally created for the Burning Man festival. It is 40 feet long and occasionally shoots 12-foot flames after dark, scaring the heck out of unsuspecting pedestrians as they walk by. It's fun all on its own.

There are about 30 businesses including shops and boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and a barber shop located in a converted train caboose. All of them are small businesses and I mean that in a couple of different ways. First, the shipping containers don't have much floor space, which is kind of cool in that it makes the stores here feel unique and special. Second, there are no "name brand" chain stores; instead they focus on local and independent businesses that can provide a unique atmosphere.

Art galleries take up a number of the storefronts, from independent artists and collectives all the way up to a Disney Fine Art gallery where you can get paintings and sculptures of beloved Magical Kingdom characters. There are a couple of apparel and accessories stores offering one-of-a-kind and hand-crafted items including clothes, jewelry, watches, fragrances, home decor, bath products, and more.

Other offerings include a jointly run shop for the Mob Museum and Neon Museum, where you can get logo merchandise and other souvenirs, plus a company that conducts tours of the Downtown Las Vegas on electric "trikkes" (sort of like a Segway with three wheels).

Food is a big part of the experience here. One of my favorites, the Sweet Spot Candy Shop, has a second location here and there are stores offering all manner of other treats like jerky, cupcakes, kettle corn, and frozen desserts.

Dining includes local favorite Big Ern's BBQ and their terrific, southern style 'cue; Bin 702 serving wine on tap and in bottles plus light sandwiches and salads; a branch of Los Angeles' popular Mexican joint Pinches Tacos; and more.

A park at the center of the complex features a big children's playground with a massive "treehouse" that kids can crawl through, on, and over plus a big lawn for activities and lounging and a stage for live entertainment. This plus the plethora of outdoor seating (much of it under shade canopies) makes this a great place for families.

And don't forget about the Dome Theater, a sister to the Vortex Dome in Los Angeles, which has ultra-HD, 360-degree movies you watch while sitting in recliners (more info at http://www.thedomelv.com">thedomelv.com.

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