Atmosphere. It can be hard to pin down. It means different things to different people and most of us are only aware of it when we step in for the first time. Then we get so used to breathing in the air we forget that it’s unique in the universe. Did we just get too meta for you? Well buckle up, babies, cuz we’re just getting started.
We’ve got some bars in this town that take atmosphere out of this world. Whether they’re intentionally expansive or just don’t lie down for gravity, these spots have gone above and beyond the usual painting on the wall and umbrella in the drink to create experiences that just might leave you gasping. So before we hype this to any more heights we can’t actually meet, let’s see the best atmospheric bars that are off the Strip and in Vegas.
Atmosphere: A speakeasy run by a group of Greek goddess you’ve never heard of
The Artisan Hotel is one of those places that we locals often tell tourists about when they want a unique and less touristy experience. It’s also the kind of place that we internally struggle with telling tourists about because we want to keep it all to ourselves. We’re kind of mean like that sometimes.
With art on the walls, the shelves, the ceiling and in the glasses, Artisan’s ultra lounge is an environment where your hipster suspenders and fedora will feel right at home. And it feels like every moment you spend not discussing the economic impact of postermodernism is a moment utterly wasted. For the more entertainment-oriented, they have amazing afterhours parties with DJs.
You should go here when: You bought an antique stock ticker and used it to conjure the ghosts of prohibition-era performance artists
Double Down Saloon
Atmosphere: The bandage left over after getting a Sid Vicious tattoo
Twenty, twenty, twenty-four hours ago we had one drink at Double Down and now we’re pretty sure hepatitis is afraid of us. To be perfectly honest, we find this place quaint and classy. But we’re probably way more hardcore than you. No offense. If you walk into Double Down and are shocked by anything inside then you’re probably not cool enough to be there. That’s the atmosphere we’re talking about here. This is the bar that has a drink called ass juice. Doesn’t that sound tasty?
When you look at the graffiti-covered walls and the sign that says, “SHUT UP and DRINK,” you get a slight sense of what this bar is about. When you see a local punk band or a raucous burlesque show there you really feel how this bar perfectly straddles the toilet between local dive and tourist magnet. We won’t try to guarantee what your experience will be like. That depends on you.
You should go here when: You know which Misfits song Texas is the Reason took their name from – or you at least understand what that sentence means
The Griffin on Fremont East
Atmosphere: The wine cellar of a vampire’s castle that got gentrified by Gen-Xers
With warm fireplaces and arched, brick ceilings, the Griffin would make total sense in a Bavarian ski lodge that doubles as a catacomb. But in the middle of Fremont East, surrounded by classic bars, where hipsters roam free and the scent of Le Thai teases all who traverse, the Griffin feels more like stepping through some strange portal left behind by some Charmed LARPers. And we mean that in the best way possible.
The vibe of this place isn’t what you’d expect from the imagery. No one is pretending to drink blood or insisting that the jukebox exclusively play Bauhaus. It’s just a fun, chill bar in a location that probably gets its chills from the 1,200 year old ghost that almost surely inhabits the walls and/or invades the souls of all mortals who dare transgress. But in all seriousness, this is an amazing spot for dates or just chill nights with friends who love talking about which Winchester brother is hottest – it’s Dean, BTW.
You should go here when: The spirits are calling you to mischief and mirth (and by spirits we mean alcohol)
Park on Fremont
Atmosphere: If you passed out listening to Lady Gaga and had a dream about the Old West being run by a witch who was really into taxidermy
We write about Park on Fremont a lot. We never get tired of writing about Park on Fremont. We just have to remind ourselves that we’re here to talk about the space and the atmosphere so we don’t get hung up on the delicious drinks and the MF mac ‘n’ cheese balls. BTW, eat some mac ‘n’ cheese balls while you’re there.
The allure of Park on Fremont is partially due to its location. Being at the corner of Fremont St. and Las Vegas Blvd. is a pretty sweet space to claim. And the openness of the bar, with its outdoor patio and ability to see inside from the street undoubtedly brings in a lot of foot traffic. But it’s what you see once you get in that makes this a place to talk about.
You could spend an entire evening trying to understand the artwork. We’ve given up. Just accept that the dear has machine gun antlers and the horses are showing their affection for one another and don’t question it. Then step outside to the back patio and remember that it’s all “F*cking Beautiful*.” You don’t have to let this place sweet you away. Its allure isn’t dependant on you falling out of Vegas or feeling like you’re somewhere else. That’s what makes the atmosphere at this bar so powerful. It holds its own no matter where you think you are. So all you have to do is sit back, have a wonderful time, some great conversation, a stiff drink and some GD mac ‘n’ cheese balls. Can you tell we’re writing this just before lunch?
You should go here when: You’re curious about how much you’ll have to drink before you’re certain that stuffed pheasant is staring at you
Velveteen Rabbit in the Arts District
Atmosphere: A furniture store that hadn’t sold a piece since 1947 so they just said screw it and became an awesome bar
We don’t have a lot of family-owned establishments in Vegas, unless you count the 8 billion things Steve Wynn owns, which we don’t. So when you have a bar that’s owned by two sisters who’ve each become experts at all things alcoholic you know it’s gonna be good. And when you put all that knowledge into a space that feels like they raided their grandma’s attic and threw away anything that wasn’t awesome enough, you see quickly why Velveteen Rabbit makes the cut.
It’s like a loft in a city that ate the chairs from a Victorian farmhouse and washed them down with art from a Eurasian cyberpunk. Did you follow that? It’s fine if you didn’t. Once you’re in Velveteen Rabbit you won’t really worry about trying to nail down exactly what they’re going for. It all melds so well that the temporal and aesthetic discrepancies are all realized for what they really are – talking points for people who don’t know enough to talk about the drinks.
Velveteen Rabbit is one of our favorite places to hit up on Main Street, and it fits the district perfectly. It’s unassuming, laid back and in no way insists upon itself. It’s just what a bar should be and feels like it was put together to get the job done — the job being getting you a great drink and a good time. This is where atmosphere goes to relax and it’s where we go when we want to chill and pretend every place has at least one purple velvet settee just for us.
You should go here when: You want to remember what life was like when you genuinely thought you could turn the world into a children’s book with nothing but a little effort and some whiskey