The CEO Of Zappos Has Created A Shopping And Dining Experience In Las Vegas That Makes The Strip Look Dumb

Jim Edwards / BIThis is the front gate of Container Park, Tony Hsieh’s new Downtown Vegas shopping and dining neighbourhood.
Tony hsieh zappos ceoGetty Images/Ethan MillerZappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

Las Vegas is a lot of fun.

But every part of the Vegas Strip is designed to confuse tourists into parting with their cash. The casinos have no windows or clocks, they’re designed like mazes so you can’t find the exits, and it’s difficult to get from one venue to the next without taking a taxi.

Even crossing the street sometimes requires a half-mile walk to and from a pedestrian bridge.

Go straight to the photo gallery >

In short, The Strip can make you feel stupid for being there, like you’re a sheep getting shorn by the casino resorts.

Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh has created an inspiring shopping and dining experience in Downtown Las Vegas — six miles from The Strip that most tourists stay on — and it’s the complete opposite of The Strip. It’s small-scale, walkable, neighbourhood-y and centered around small business and startups.

Called Downtown Container Park, all the businesses inside it occupy 30 reconstructed shipping containers and 41 modular metal cubes. The center courtyard is dominated by a giant treehouse playground.

We visited it recently and liked it a lot. Take a look.

This giant metal praying mantis greets visitors at the front gate of Container Park. It has a surprise in store ...

Flames shoot out of its antenna at unpredictable moments! Hsieh got it from the Burning Man festival. The BI team ducked and screamed in terror the first time it flamed -- you can feel the heat on your eyebrows.

The containers are arranged in a block-long pedestrian mall. It's lovely at night. Hsieh invested $US350 million of his own money into the Vegas Tech Fund to make it happen.

The fund looks for startups in the tech, fashion, photography, art, and music areas. This is the trendy VIP Bar.

Hsieh is looking for 100 - 200 entrepreneurs who need space and resources to build their new companies.

The project claims to have created 586 jobs so far. This is Bin 702, a cozy wine bar.

One end of Container Park is dominated by a stage for live events.

And yes, the space attracts hipsters.

The middle of the courtyard has this massive treehouse playground slide. It's for kids but we spotted some adults who couldn't resist.

Container Park is heaving on eating and drinking. Here's a barbecue restaurant.

Check out that menu. Not bad for the inside of a shipping container.

The Downtown project chose shipping containers because, 'most urban revitalization efforts are centered in cities with vacant, crumbling buildings. Our Downtown doesn't have those. To quickly create spaces for new businesses here requires innovative thinking, so we're using repurposed shipping containers.'

This container houses a cute candy store.

The park has a 'Catalyst Dome,' which is a party space you can rent for corporate events.

The project has a Jane Jacobs-style approach to development: 'Ground-level activity and gathering places such as cafes, interesting small businesses, and public spaces increases economic output and happiness.'

This store sells only gourmet beef jerky.

The Boozery is the park's neighbourhood pub.

It's really cute inside.

Perhaps the coolest part of the park is this old train engine at one end ...

On the inside, it's a traditional men's barber shop.

Joe Lewis is the master barber in charge. He has a lot to say about his ex-girlfriends, we discovered.

That's an antique barber chair.

The original fittings have been left inside the train's cab. It's really quite beautiful.

We'll definitely be back next time we're in Vegas!

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