I think you can see that a good bit of the discussion about downtown depends on where in the economic class structure you feel most comfortable. Search out the threads of debate on downtown versus the strip, you will see that it often can be reduced to which economic class level offers you the most comfort.
I go to the strip if I crave upscale and Cosmopoiitan.
I go to downtown if I crave regular folks.
You are right in thinking that the Golden Nugget is the best attempt so far to bring upscale to downtown, but other venues are moving in that direction.
Then too it seemed that you had a short trip, so some of the advantages I see in downtown, those that take you off the strip and out of the tourist community completely, would not perhaps appeal. I'm thinking of the Smith Center
You can walk
Or the nearby local baseball field.
Or the best Gambling equipment stores.
If you venture out of the Fremont tourist focused downtown, there are many interesting options including more and more in grass roots arts which is in Renaissance in downtown partly with the help of the infusion of Zappo cash.
That Pawn Shop you see on TV all the time is just a short bus ride away.
Downtown is the only place in Vegas where you can play vinyl records with breakfast. If you like the 60's coffee house experience, it is there
I'm an old guy so I don't really understand much of young people's night life, but I can see that East Fremont offers some downscale club like experiences for those who maybe don't want to arrive in a limo and get $300 bottle service place, but just a place to go late at night and dance.
Add into that anyone who likes video games.
It pains me to know that "back in the day" nostalgia can now mean the 1990's and Donkey Kong, but while I am approaching ancient, there are whole generations who are just aging and feeling electronic nostalgia for what is their equivalent of my nostalgia for malt shop, the video arcade.
If you happen on a Vegas Streats weekend, you can see a whole different sort of young people's music and art gathering.
I was at one and took some photos last year
And Hawaii is not far from downtown Las Vegas. Take one of my visits from my last trip, for example
http://vegasbirthdaybash.blogspot.co...-festival.htmlIf you like good odds gambling then downtown is a no brainer. The best gambling is there. You won't have to scramble around looking for 3/2 BJ or good craps odds, and the VP pay tables are in some cases the best in the world. (10/7 DB back of 4 Queens) JOB 9/6 is all over, and at the Boars Head bar where they comp good microbrew. There a scratchplay for every quad adds some EV to the game.
And it you want to play one of the oldest slot machines in Vegas, there are those real "slots" with pins and spinning drums located right near the elevators to Pavilion rooms in the El Cortez.
Or if you want to play one of the last Sigma Derby horse racing antiques it is on the second floor of the D along with an antique nickel coin dropping full pay Deuces Wild and the best 8/5 Bonus in Vegas with three progressive lines at theVue bar there.
Or if you'd like single zero roulette, how about a video roulette that takes nickel bets and still build up points on your card. There is one at the Four Queens. Similar quarter games with single zeros on the strip, if you can find them, often don't generate Player's points.
The one exception is live poker where there are fewer "It's only money" players tossing upscale dollars to build pots with loose play.
Golden Nugget gambling is more like the strip casinos than the downscale downtown places.
Buses are much better in downtown Vegas. You can get to Sam's Town and the other Boulder Highway places in just 16 minutes, faster than you can drive there from the strip and faster than the 45 minute ride on the 202 down Flamingo.
You can get to Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho very easily.
And you can better plan to avoid those terrible crowds still on the Deuce along strip areas.
While pools are much more basic (not the Nugget pool, that is upscale) they are open early in the morning and uncrowded if you just want a bit of a swim.
And prices are overall better in downtown.
If you use coupons, a coupon run downtown means walking short distances to play freeplay and matchplay.
Only the Plaza has a resort fee to boost up the cost of rooms. Rooms can be had easily with no play for $25 a night. They are more basic than some on the strip, but they are much better now than they were just a few years ago.
If you want to splash your home poker game pot with Vegas shot glasses, you can find them all over for a dollar along with plenty of other tacky souvenirs. I got 4 tee shirts for $10 last trip, two matching skeletons for my son and his wife who like such décor and matching colorful road runner tees in the Vegas Club store for my bird loving wife and me. So both couples can go out as twins.
And you can get two waters for a buck at the new jerkey store just down one of those streets off the Fremont canopy.
However, I see many of these advantages as requiring a longer stay and time to explore.
I'm thinking others may be following this thread and asking your question.
If you are uncomfortable with middle class folks, then you won't be comfortable in the crowds downtown or on the buses although you still may find the Nugget upscale enough to sift out the poorer folks.
In either venue, anywhere there are crowds, keep your wallet in a front pocket and your hand on the wallet. Pickpockets are out and about and I've met their victims on the strip and downtown.
Oh, did I mention the dancing girls at the D? Think 60's go go dancers down out of their cages with sexy costumes rather than body paint.