Las Vegas, Nevada is the home to some of the world’s biggest casinos – and it is also home to some of the best restaurants, entertainment and hotels in the USA.
Millions of people from all over the world head to Las Vegas for the gambling, bars, food, to get married, watch music stars and great shows, see exhibitions, nightlife and just for the atmosphere and fun – with a slogan “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”.
Las Vegas is a fun city to visit, and amidst the glitz and glamor there are lots of interesting things to see, and just watching the people, seeing the hotels and walking along the ‘Strip’ provides entertainment in itself.
The Las Vegas area was populated around 10,000 years ago by Paleo Indians, and there are still rock carvings in the Valley that can be seen today that date back to that time.
In 1829-30 European traders passed through the area heading west, and in 1844 John Fremont came here, publishing stories that encouraged settlers to come to the Valley to set up ranches. A number of Mormon pioneers followed and in 1855 they built the Mormon Fort on what became known as the Mormon Corridor between Salt Lake City in Utah and San Bernardino in California. The fort was abandoned in 1859 but can still be seen today at the corner of Washington Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. It is now a museum and Visitor Center.
The State of Nevada became the 36th State of the Union in 1864, and by 1900 Las Vegas had a population of just 22 people. The building of a railway linking Las Vegas to Los Angeles in 1905 followed and slowly the town developed, the biggest boost to its population coming when the Hoover Dam was constructed between 1931 and 1935.
While ranches struggled to survive in the desert climate, Nevada became a state where you could get a quick divorce and also gamble, with gambling legalized in 1931. Small gambling hotels led on to the first casinos being built in the 1940’s on Fremont Street in what is today called old Las Vegas, and bigger and bigger casinos and hotels have followed right though to today.
The Second World War also led to a boom in the population of Las Vegas as military personnel and defense spending helped the local economy, and they even did the Atom Bomb testing outside Las Vegas too.
In the post war period leading into the 1950’s movie stars, big bands and performers like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin brought fame to Las Vegas, with more stars to follow including Elvis Presley and others. This was a time too when ‘the mob’ thrived in Las Vegas, adding to the Las Vegas reputation as “Sin City”.
As more casinos were built, competition between them also grew greater, and gambling subsidized free or token price food, drinks and entertainment. Las Vegas was the only place where a real US silver dollar coin not a note could still be found right up to the 1970’s.
Today, all the casinos are making money on their gambling tables, but they are also making money selling tickets to their entertainment shows, theaters, exhibition spaces and hotel rooms.
Accommodation packages and established restaurants with often big name chefs to cater for a diverse range of people from all walks of life have made Las Vegas into an all-round entertainment city.
Las Vegas now has a permanent resident population of around 600,000 with another 1.5 million people living in the Valley, and while gambling and tourism are by far the biggest industries, new technology, health services, shopping, law and other service industries are also helping to diversify the economy.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAS VEGAS –
Flights from all over the United States, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere are arriving every hour, and McCarran International Airport has good shops, restaurants, bars, coffee places and slot machines right there to get you in the mood to gamble. Taxis are just outside the main luggage pick up point and also you can hire a limo, car or catch one of the many Shuttle buses that will take you to your hotel either direct or dropping off passengers at different hotels along the way. You can buy a one way or return ticket from a booth located outside the luggage pick up point.
There are thousands of hotel rooms and places to stay both on the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) and off the Strip and many bargain room upgrades and packages too.
Lots of trade exhibitions and shows come to Las Vegas during the year, and there is always something happening. Weddings, divorces, honeymoon couples, retirees, conventions, sporting events, big name stars are all attracted to Las Vegas and this great mix of people add to the excitement of just being here.
Las Vegas can also get very hot in summer, and if the wind blows the desert sands can blow through the air and create grit in your eyes, so picking the right time of year to come to Vegas is important.
One of the things you will find is that you walk a lot! Even walking from one end of a casino to the other can take up to 5 minutes or more due to the size of the gaming halls, and if you walk from one end of the Strip to the other end it could up to an hour to walk the distance.
Every Hotel and Casino has their own point of difference, and you will no doubt visit a number of the casinos just to see them.
- By far the most sophisticated Five Star casinos are the newest ones and it is worth visiting them, even if you don’t stay. Casinos in this realm are ‘The Wynn’ and next door ‘Encore’ and ‘Bellagio’
- For Themed Casinos – look for ‘Treasure Island’; ‘The Venetian’ with its Grand Canal and shops; ‘Paris’ with its Eiffel Tower; ‘New York-New York’; and ‘Luxor’ with its glass pyramid.
- For its many big name shows – ‘MGM Grand’, ‘Signature at MGM Grand’ and ‘Caesars Palace’ have some of the biggest, but almost all of the hotels on the Strip have entertainment happening.
- For shopping experiences ‘Caesars Palace’, ‘The Palazzo’and ‘Planet Hollywood’ are all good choices.
- Almost all of the Hotel-Casinos have Gyms, pools, Spas, business and conference facilities
- To get the best views over Las Vegas head to ‘Stratosphere’ or take a ride on the ‘High Roller Ferris Wheel’.
- To be close to the middle of the Strip and good value rooms – look to stay at the ‘Monte Carlo’; ‘Mandarin Oriental’; ‘Aria’; ‘The Cosmopolitan’; ‘Bally’s; ‘Flamingo’; ‘Mirage’.
- There are many other hotel/casinos on the strip too – such as the Four Seasons, Mandalay Bay, Excalibur, Tropicana and Hooters on the south end of the Strip, and on the north end there is ‘Trump Casino’,’ Circus-Circus’, ‘Encore’ and ‘Riviera’.
- Off the Strip – there are many, many other hotels and smaller casinos too and wherever you stay, you’re just a taxi ride away. Almost wherever you look there are places to gamble.
- For something a bit different – South Point Casino in Henderson (about 30 minutes from the Strip) has its own in-door Equestrian Arena inside the hotel. They stage Barrel Racing here, and their carpark can at times be a sea of horse floats and horses.
- Also away from the Strip is Lake Las Vegas – a 320 acre artificial lake with condominiums and also Hotels built around it. Here you will find the Hilton Spa, Westin Lake and Anton Montelago Resort Hotels as well as the Lake Las Vegas Vacation Villas. You can hire boats from the Lake Las Vegas Marina. (See www.lakelasvegas.com Tel: (702) 568 8965).
- Fremont Street - This is the center of ‘Downtown’ Old Las Vegas, about 20 minutes from the Strip. Here you will also find older style Casinos, hotels to stay, theatre shows and bars, and the highlight is the Viva Vision canopy ‘light show’ over the street that projects music videos using 12 million LED lights and the 555,000 Watt sound system to create the best sound and light show you will ever see. Fremont Street is a really fun place to be, to enjoy the music, bars, shops, food, street theater, musicians and people that all come here. It is one of the best places to come to from early evening til late, and even in the day, and different events are staged here too. There is even a zipline that allows people to zip over the top of the people below. Everyone coming to Las Vegas should come here.
- Cirque de Soleil shows – there are many Cirque de Soleil shows that are running, and billboards, ticket sellers and others will highlight who and what are showing while you are in town. Musicians, Magic shows, big name stars, circus, tributes, bands, strip shows, plays, dance – they’re all happening in Las Vegas. You should book early for the big name shows, and last minute ticket deals are also available too.
- Stratosphere –located at 2000 Las Vegas Boulevard on the south end is both a hotel/casino and also a 1149 feet high tower that rises above the hotel. You can go to the top to get a great view over Las Vegas, or even do a skyjump from on top, or hang out over the side as a thrilling experience. The airbar is up here too.
- High Roller Ferris Wheel – is located between the ‘Flamingo Casino’ and ‘The Quad’ on the Strip. The High Roller Ferris Wheel is 550 feet high, the highest in the world and it takes you on a 30 minute journey. Ferris Wheels were invented by George Ferris in 1893, the first one being built for a world trade fair in Chicago held that year. That Ferris wheel was just 264 feet high, and was designed as a big attraction to compete at the time with the Eiffel Tower in Paris that had been built in 1889. Now, today both the Eiffel Tower and Ferris Wheel can both be seen in Las Vegas along with the Statue of Liberty, Egyptian Pyramids and other famous locations or landmarks from around the world.
- The Big Apple Arcade and Roller Coaster – head to New York-New York where you will find both, along with Hershey’s Chocolate World.
- Restaurants – here in Las Vegas can grab a burger, hot dog, a bowl of Chili, Shrimp Cocktail, noodles, enjoy a buffet, bar snack or go up-market to any number of trendy, high class restaurants and lobby bars. Every Hotel/Casino has its own special restaurants and bars both in the casino on the ground or first floor and often on the roof top too. There are also ‘celebrity chefs’ at a number of casinos so you are spoiled for choice. Also there is Chinatown on Spring Mountain Road where you will find a large number of Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and other Asian restaurants.
- Shopping – souvenirs of your stay in Las Vegas are all here up and down the Strip. There is also the Planet Hollywood, M&M and Coca-Cola stores, and really high end fashion stores too. Make sure you check out the Grand Canal shops at the Venetian and the Forum shops at Caesars Palace.
- Fashion Outlet stores – You can catch a Deuce bus and get a pass for a day or more. The Deuce buses can pick up and drop you at stops all along the strip and also take you north or south to the Fashion Outlet stores. The North Premium Fashion Outlet stores are at 875 Grand central Parkway , and the South Premium Outlet stores – 144 of them are at 7400 Las Vegas Boulevard – both easy to get to on the Deuce Bus.
- Monorail – It runs along the strip but is behind the casinos – running from behind the MGM Grand in the south to the Riviera Casino in the north. It can be quite a walk to just get to the monorail, so in most cases easier to catch the Deuce Bus on the Strip itself.
- Free shows – The Las Vegas lights and skyline along the Strip are famous and to get a great photo take one from the cross over pedestrian bridges that cross over the Strip. ALSO see the dancing fountains outside Bellagio, the Pirate ships in front of Treasure Island and go inside the Paris. Wherever you walk you will find things to see, and there’s no shortage of information available to help you.
- Art Galleries – see the Art of Richard Macdonald and the Gallery of Fine Art in the ‘Bellagio’ and P3 Studio at the ‘Cosmopolitan’ on the third floor. Also see the Peter Lik Gallery in the ‘Mandalay Bay’ and the Martin Lawrence Galleries in the Forum Shops of ‘Caesar’s Palace’. Also look for the Marjorie Barrick Museum/Art Gallery at 4505 S. Maryland Boulevard on the UNLV (University of Las Vegas) campus. This houses a magnificent collection of both contemporary and also Pre-Columbian Art.
- Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Tour – 2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson (about 30 minutes from the Strip. Tel: (702) 435 2655. Ethel Mars was the mother of Forrest Mars who built one the world’s biggest Chocolate companies in the world, the maker of Mars Bars, Bounty and many other brands of chocolates. This factory was named in honor of Forrest Mars’ mother, and you can see the chocolates being made and also see the Cactus garden that surrounds it.
- Dude Ranches and trail rides – If you ever watched cowboy movies and dreamed of blazing a trail in the ‘wild west’, there is no better place to experience that dream than outside Las Vegas. There are a number of ranches and trail riding operators and these are some of them, most around 30 to 45 minutes from the City – See: www.sandyvalleyranch.com www.sagebush-ranch.com www.wildhorsebackadventures.com www.cowboytrail.com
- Golf – there are over 50 golf courses in and around Las Vegas, and some resorts have golf courses as part of the resort complex. Two of the best courses are Cascata (See www.golfcascata.com Tel: (702) 294 2005 at 1 Cascata Drive, Boulder City and Paiute Golf Resort (www.lvpaiutegolf.com Tel: (702) 658 1400 located at 10325 Nu-Wav-Kaiu Boulevard. The locations are quite stunning being surrounded by the dry desert and mountains, with the greenery of the courses being in sharp contrast to the surrounds.
- Lost City Museum – 721 S. Moapa Valley Boulevard, Overton, on the way to the Valley of Fire. Tel: (702) 397 2193. Here you will see a number of artifacts from the Anasazi Indians that once inhabited the area.
- Springs Preserve – 333 S. Valley View Rd Tel: (702) 822 7700 is a large park area with 8 acres of Botanical Gardens, the Living Desert Center, Native American village buildings, railroad cottages, walking trails and more – making it a great place to learn about the Mojave Desert and the environment.
- Discovery Children’s Museum – 360 Promenade Place Tel: (702). This museum is designed for children to learn and discover science, the arts and humanities with interactive displays that are both fun and instructive too.
- Nevada State Museum – 309 S. Valley View Boulevard Tel: (702) 486 5205. Here you can see a 45 feet long Ichthyosaur that lived here in the Valley some 225 Million years ago. You will also see rattlesnakes, owls, cougars and fossils, and interesting memorabilia from Nevada’s rich history.
- National Atomic Testing Museum – 755 E. Flamingo Rd Tel:(702) 794 5161. Before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the Second World War, testing was carried out in the desert about 1 hour from Las Vegas. This museum contains films, displays and information about that time.
- Mob Museum – 300 Stewart Ave (Downtown) Tel: (702)229 2734. If you like reading about Gangsters and the Mob, and seeing some of the amazing stories and images, this is the place to go.
- Pinball Hall of Fame – 1610 E. Tropicana Avenue Tel: (702) 597 2627. Here you will find over 140 Pinball machines of all ages and all in perfect working condition. You can also play them too and if you love Pinballs, this is the place to go.
- Neon Boneyard Museum – 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North. (See www.neonmuseum.org/book-a-tour Tel: (702) 387 6366).This museum is mostly outdoor, and you need to take a tour in the day, but better at night to see with tour numbers limited. Here you enter the museum through the old La Concha Hotel lobby with its shell shaped space age architecture to see through the 2 acres of grounds that house some of Las Vegas signage from the 1930’s to the present. The tour takes around an hour and is very much as living history of the changes that have happened over the years in Las Vegas.
- Nevada State Railroad Museum – 600 Yucca St, Boulder City Tel: (702) 486 5933. Boulder City and the museum are about half an hour from Las Vegas, and here you can ride in a steam train open top or closed carriage to travel on a 45 minute journey through the desert. There is also a commentary about the building of the Hoover Dam and stories about Boulder City.
- Penske Wynn Ferrari Maserati showroom – see the collection of cars at the Wynn Casino. Also to see over 300 classic cars – head to the Quad Auto Collection located in the Imperial Palace Casino.
- Titanic Artifact Exhibition – is located in the Luxor Casino. The fascination with the unsinkable Titanic ship that sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York is brought to life in this amazing exhibition. Here you will see and read stories about the disaster that is brought to life here in the exhibition.
- The Bodies Exhibition – is also located in the Luxor Casino. This shows all the body parts that make up a human body – from the heart and lungs, brains, artery system, nerves and skeleton. It may sound a bit strange, but it really makes you understand how the human body functions.
- Madame Tussard’s – is located in the Venetian Casino, with more than 100 lifelike wax figures of both famous and infamous characters.