First Friday Las Vegas
Casino Center & Colorado
Henderson, NV 89104
First Friday of Every Month
Vegas4Visitors Grade: A
At a Glance
What is it?
A street fair featuring arts and other vendors, live bands and other entertainment, food, food, more food, and lots of of other fun stuff.
Where is it?
The bulk of the action takes place in the Arts District at the intersection of Casino Center and Colorado Avenue.
Is it worth the cost?
It’s free to visit but of course the vendors (food and otherwise) charge for their wares. Bring cash – most do not accept credit cards.
What else do I need to know?
Parking is available at satellite lots with free shuttle service available. Check the website for details.
What’s the bottom line?
A fun community event that visitors should check out if they happen to be in town on the first friday of the month.
With tourism as the number one industry, Las Vegas is a city that focuses on visitors and for good reason. Consider these statistics: Las Vegas has about 600,000 residents inside its borders and less than 2 million in the metropolitan area. Meanwhile on New Year’s Eve weekend there were an estimated 300,000 out-of-towners ringing in 2012. That means that about 1 in every 8 people in the Las Vegas area on December 31, 2011 was not from Las Vegas.
The downside of this is that Vegas has often struggled to provide a sense of community for the people who live there. With so much of the city geared toward those who are only passing through, opportunities for residents to come together have not been as much of a focus.
The First Friday festival is aiming to change all that. It has been around for years in Las Vegas and like similar events in other cities and towns, it is a collection of food, vendors, and entertainment held on the first Friday of every month in the Arts District near Downtown Las Vegas. Although it was a relatively popular destination for locals, the event struggled financially and was going to shut down all together until a local business stepped in and saved the day.
Online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsiesh and other investors bought the First Friday trademark and have pumped new life (and new money) into the event, which is now poised to become a destination for both locals and tourists alike.
The epicenter of First Friday in Las Vegas is around the intersection of Casino Center Drive and Colorado Avenue in the Arts District, just west of Las Vegas Boulevard and just south of Charleston Avenue. This is a few blocks north of The Stratosphere and about a mile south of Fremont Street. The streets are blocked off and booths for vendors, stages for entertainment, and parking areas for food trucks are set up.
Art is a big part of the event, with the bulk of the vendor booths reserved for local artists and their wares. Paintings, sculpture, photography, jewelry, clothing, and more is all on display and so those looking for a special souvenir may find it here.
Be sure to come hungry because like any great street festival, food is everywhere with vendors operating out of tents, trailers, and a food-court of food trucks. I saw everything from BBQ (one outlet had a gigantic portable smoker) to hot dogs to wings to pizza to cotton candy to deep fried cookie dough. Although the vast majority of it has, at best, questionable nutritional value, there is a little something here for every taste.
And yes, I tried the deep fried cookie dough. It was as heavenly as you’d expect it to be.
Multiple stages offer both live bands and DJ entertainment with plenty of room for dancing in the streets.
There’s also a big children’s play area including games, rides, art making opportunities, and even a video game trailer.
Most of the local businesses, which include art galleries and antique stores, stay open late on First Fridays so there is more to see and explore beyond the stuff in the street.
One really cool thing I saw were the porta-potties, which were painted pink with attendants keeping them clean and asking for a $1 donation to go to breast cancer charities. Nice touch!
First Friday is held from 5pm to 11pm on the first Friday of every month. Admission is free but of course the vendors charge varying amounts for food and merchandise. Most only accept cash so bring some with you. If you go early you can usually find parking on the streets near the event but note that some of the surrounding neighborhoods can be a bit dicey, especially late at night. A better idea might be to park (for free) at the Government Center in Downtown or at The Stratosphere and take one of the free shuttles to the event.