Las Vegas’ economic and cultural heart revolves around its hundreds of casinos, hotels, restaurants, and attractions, all of which rely on the leisurely gathering of large numbers of people. As such, it’s not much of a surprise that they were all closed en masse in March for the first time ever, making The Strip and downtown mostly no-go zones.
Doors have been locked and boarded up, parking lots and popular pedestrian zones are closed to the public, and giant LED signs that normally advertise buffets and magic acts now broadcast messages about public health and solidarity. Unlike other city centers, where many people must continue to go about their daily lives—exercising, visiting grocery stores, or even going to work—the restricting of Las Vegas has made for a dystopian scene that would be unsettling to anyone who’s seen these iconic spaces in their usual state, swarming with people morning, noon, and night.
The following are scenes from downtown and The Strip the day after Governor Sisolak’s closure order took effect.
The east end of the Fremont Street Experience, a self-contained pedestrian street that forms the heart of downtown Las Vegas’ tourist area. The area under the lighted canopy is usually crawling with gamblers, tourists, performers, and grifters at all hours of the day and night. Currently, all shops, hotels, and casinos along the street are closed and the area is blocked off to everyone except for security and maintenance crews.
A vintage-style promo photo obscuring a construction site hangs on a fence at the Plaza Hotel at the west end of the Fremont Street Experience.
A rare glimpse of Circus Circus’ famous glittering porte-cochère and big top with no cars, as all entrances have been barricaded. According to a security guard on duty, the evening this was shot was the first time in decades the signs on the two taller hotel towers went unlit.
Circus Circus the following morning. It is one of only a few 1960s resorts remaining on the The Strip, along with Caesars Palace, the Tropicana, and the Flamingo, and it remains the least changed from its original design—truly a relic of another era.
Bonanza, the self-described “World’s Largest Gift Shop,” usually a popular last stop for tourists, is closed and empty. One liquor store in the corner of the strip mall remains open.
A COVID-19 advisory sign was just added to Las Vegas’ most enduring attraction, but as of the time this was shot, the monument at the south end of The Strip was still open to tourists. Visitors generally seemed cautious about social distancing, but many still didn’t seem worried about passing their phones and cameras to others to have their photos snapped.
Pictured under the new warning sign are Marie-Christine Wolfschlag and Carsten Kirchner, tourists from Germany whose first American road trip was disrupted by the closures around Nevada and California. They were visiting a few last sights around Las Vegas before heading to McCarran airport to search for an early flight home.
View of the Palazzo across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Fashion Square Mall, normally among the more popular tourist spots on The Strip. Construction is halted on an addition to the mall, and both the sidewalks and the street are completely empty.
An elderly woman pushing a car with a dog in it lingers in front of a sculpture of magic performers Siegfried and Roy with their signature white tiger in front of the Mirage. She stares into the larger-than-life faces, transfixed in silence, on a stretch of The Strip usually full of people at this time of day.
The fountains at Caesars Palace are one of the few architectural features that remain from the hotel’s original 1966 design. In 1967, Evel Kneivel attempted to jump over them in one of his most famous stunts, after which he spent 29 days in a coma. In their more than half-century history, the fountains have rarely been turned off and drained.
The Venetian, the world’s most famous homage to The Floating City, sits virtually empty, for the first time since it opened in 1999. Its facsimiles of the Rialto Bridge and the campanile at Piazza San Marco sit silent, in eerie solidarity with their real life counterparts in Venice, Italy.