We Can’t Contain Our Love for the Downtown Container Park

The Downtown Container Park has officially opened.

For several months now, as we heard all about this new Las Vegas offering, we sort of didn’t get it. Now, we’ve visited and we not only get it, we love it.

For many Las Vegas visitors, two questions spring to mind when it comes to the Downtown Container Park. One: What the hell is it? Two: Is it worth a visit?

Downtown Container Park
No, there’s no gambling, but the hooch almost makes up for it.

First, what’s the Downtown Container Park?

The Downtown Container Park, for one thing, doesn’t have a great name. It’s accurate, though, because the Container Park is a shopping center made up largely of re-purposed shipping containers (also known as “intermodal containers”). You know, the kind they fill with sneakers and blow-up dolls (just testing to see if you’re paying attention) and load onto trains and ships.

Shipping container
Useless trivia: It’s estimated there are 17 million intermodal containers in the world. Yes, we counted.

The shipping container aspect is sort of a distraction from the central question, “What is it?” Well, the Downtown Container Park is a shopping mall. Not too complicated, right?

And yet, to keep things interesting, it’s not merely a mall.

Downtown Container Park
It’s a little like Tetris, but with boutiques.

As for the other question, whether it’s worth a visit, we can assure you it is, and we aren’t even a mall person. Here are some reasons why.

The downtown Container Park has 34 outlets, and the folks behind it (the Downtown Project, led by gazillionaire Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh) have been very clever about the shopping center’s tenants.

The shops and bars and restaurants are quirky and diverse, but the thing they all seem to have in common is that they truly understand what the Container Park is all about. It’s a community, for the community.

Downtown Container Park
You’ll want to climb it. We did, and we don’t care who knows it.

Every person working in every store we visited seemed to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. It’s the kind of treatment you get at small businesses, and the Downtown Container Park, based upon store size alone, requires these businesses be small. (Most of the containers are in the neighborhood of eight feet wide by 20 feet long. There are also about 30 modular “cubes,” just 250-square-feet.)

Honestly, the shops at the Container Park are downright adorable.

Here’s a video of the Container Park that might set the stage for what it’s like to visit. The photos we’ve seen didn’t really give us a sense of what the place is like, or how it’s laid out. Hopefully, the video will help a little.

As you can see, the Container Park is sort of built in the round, with a playground in the middle.

The stores are broken down into groupings: Fashion, Food and Beverage, Small Eateries (there are no big ones!), Art Galleries, Home Decor and the catch-all, Specialty.

We ate at Big Ern’s BBQ and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Big Ern's BBQ
Big Ern’s BBQ isn’t very big. Nothing at the Downtown Container Park is. We dig that about it.

We also hit Winky Designs, Pork and Beans, JoJo’s Jerky, Las Vegas Kettle Corn, Cupkates and a handful of other shops.

Bacon wallet
Two words: Bacon wallet. Ask for them at the Sweet Spot Candy Shop.

We don’t really care for shopping all that much, so perhaps our enjoyment of the Downtown Container Park resulted from it not feeling like shopping. It was sort of just hanging out. Having a bite and a beverage. Chatting with the security guards. Note: We don’t tend to care for mall cops either, but again, they were pleasant and helpful, to a person.

It was mellow. It was relaxing. And each new shop held a new batch of interesting discoveries.

Downtown Container Park
Llamas. That, we still don’t get.

In many cases, the person you’re speaking to in a given store is the owner of the store, which means it’s personal to them whether you feel welcome and critical to them that the Container Park as a whole succeeds. We hope it does.

Downtown Container Park
We couldn’t wait to show you our Winky. Photo.

There are several non-mall diversions at the Downtown Container Park. There’s a stage for entertainment, the aforementioned playground (with interactive games for grown-ups, too) and the Catalyst Dome, a 360-degree video projection theater.

Catalyst Dome
Entertain us, glowy.

It’s a little off the beaten path, at the southeast corner of Fremont and 7th, but we think it’s worth a trip. The Container Park is in a somewhat sketchy part of downtown, but there’s ample security if you’re nervous about such things. There’s no dedicated parking lot or valet parking, but street parking nearby doesn’t cost more than a couple of bucks.

You can’t miss the Downtown Container Park. As you might have noticed, there’s a giant, fire-spewing praying mantis outside.

Praying mantis
Just go with it.

The retail outlets are open Sunday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The bars and restaurants open at 11:00 a.m. each day, closing at 11:00 p.m Sunday through Thursday, 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Learn more about the Downtown Container Park and let us know what you think.

We took a metric ass-ton of photos. Enjoy.

Container Park Las Vegas