In the heart of the Mojave Desert, Nevada resides a city that sheds its lassitude and wakes up at night. It is a city that never sleeps and yet always finds enough time to revive and rejuvenate. This is the Sin City – Las Vegas. A city known for glittering lights, flowing liquor, cabaret and casinos, spectacular shows, quick marriage and easy divorce, over-the-top hotels and never-ending parties. Las Vegas has many attractions and offers a unique experience for all.
An Oasis in The Desert
In 1821, Rafael Rivera was a part of the expedition that aimed to open the trade route between New Mexico and California called the Old Spanish Trail. On the way, they stopped for water in a valley that contained artesian wells. These wells were surrounded by large green areas. Seeing this rare spectacle, he named the area Las Vegas which means “The Meadows” in Spanish.
A Glimpse Into The Past
Las Vegas was not always a part of America. Earlier it was a part of Mexico. In 1844, John C. Frémont led a group of scouts, scientists, and spies on behalf of the United States Army to prepare for a likely war with Mexico. On arrival, they set up a clandestine fort at the Las Vegas Springs. After the war between America and Mexico Las Vegas became an integral part of the United States of America.
In 1905 the city of Las Vegas was established. This was marked with the arrival of the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake railroad. 1909 saw the creation of Clark County, Nevada. Las Vegas was the main impetus behind it. Finally, in 1911, the city was incorporated as a part of the Clark County.
In 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed the bill sanctioning the building of the historic Hoover Dam. The work on it started in 1931. To house the workers who were involved in the building of the Hoover Dam, Boulder City was formed in 1931.
In 1931, the first casino was built on Highway 91. It was called the Pair-o-Dice Club. The first hotel and casino to open on the Strip was the El Rancho Vegas. It opened in 1941.
The Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip or “The Strip”, is the area known for its resort hotels and casinos. It is approximately 4.2 miles or 6.8 km in length. The Strip is located immediately south of the Las Vegas city bounds. It lies in the unincorporated towns of Winchester and Paradise. Yet the Strip is referred to as being in Las Vegas. The true beauty of the Strip is best realized at night when the skyline is lit up with lights, displays, and signboards. Each more dazzling than the other. Every resort hotel on the Strip today is inspired by a popular tourist city like Venice, Paris, New York etc.
The Mob Connection
The Mob Connection to the Strip was acknowledged with the arrival of Benjamin Siegel. He was more popularly known as Bugsy Siegel. With Bugsy Siegel’s imagination and organizational skills and Meyer Lansky’s money, the money-making potential of Las Vegas was realized. Lansky did not want to be blamed if anything went wrong in Vegas, so he backed Bugsy to do the dirty job. This resulted in the opening of “The Flamingo”. The stage was now set for others to follow suit.
Sometime during 1950 the Chicago Outfit also joined the race. They joined hands with the New York City Mafia families that operated in Las Vegas. This lead to the opening of the Stardust, the Riviera, and the Desert Inn. Later more casinos were added by them – The Sahara, Hacienda, Golden Nugget and Fremont casinos.
Elvis Presley – The King Is Still In Town
1956 was a big year for the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Elvis Presley. At a youthful age of just 21 years, he was already a power-packed singer. The New Frontier Hotel booked him to play in the Venus Room. Due to the aged crowd that frequented Vegas at that time his shows faced a cool reception. In 1963 he spent a lot of time in Las Vegas filming “Viva Las Vegas”. The movie became a rip-roaring success and Elvis Presley and Las Vegas forged an unforgettable bond. In 1967, Elvis married Priscilla Anne Beaulieu at, Milton Prell’s, Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.
In 1969 Elvis performed at the International Hotel to a sold-out audience. He performed regular engagements for nearly seven years at this property. Today, the International Hotel is known as the Westgate Las Vegas.
The memory of the King still lives in the very soul of Las Vegas. It reflects in the little chapels, where the marriage ceremonies are performed by Elvis lookalikes. He is also paid tributes through numerous performances throughout the year.
Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas
One of the most visited sites on the Strip is the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” signboard. This sign was constructed exactly 4.5 miles or 7.2 km outside the city limits. Today this sign lies in the median south of Russell Road. The closest hotel to this most frequented site is The Mandalay Bay.
City Highlights For Tourists
For any tourist, a nighttime stroll through the Strip and the Fremont Street is a must do. The Strip offers a spectacular sight in its millions of dazzling lights. Similarly, the Fremont Street boasts of the biggest TV screen. But that is not all, there is so much more to do in Vegas.
- The LINQ High Roller – High Roller at the LINQ is the world’s tallest observation wheel that offers a 360-degree view of the Las Vegas Strip. It soars almost 550 feet above the Strip. The High Roller is operational even during daytime but the best time to appreciate its wonder is at night when the Strip is blazing with lights in every possible color. Although you might want to consider your budget while deciding the time as the daytime tickets are nearly $10 cheaper than night time.
- Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat – The Mirage holds a secret garden in its heart. In this garden reside the rare white lions and white tigers along with leopards. The Dolphin Habitat is an equally wonderful place where you can get up and personal with the dolphins with the help of a trainer. But of course, such luxury comes with a price so do keep an eye on your budget. An all-day adventure pass comes for $22 and for kids aged 4-12 you pay $17.
- Zip Line at Fremont Street – In downtown Las Vegas on the Fremont Street awaits a thrilling ride worth experiencing. This is the zip line attraction known as SlotZilla. There is a lower zip line (77 feet high and 850 feet long costing $20) and then there is the upper zoom line (114 feet high and 1700 feet long costing $40). Flying past over the neon signboards, under the world’s largest canopy, is very exhilarating.
- Bellagio Musical Fountain – The musical fountain at Bellagio is already quite famous and requires no introduction. And the best part is that it costs nothing to see this beautiful and mesmerizing performance of water. You just need to be there on time. Fear not if you miss it as it starts every half an hour to 15 mins depending on the day and time of the week. The span of the water display is 1,000 feet and the water soars as high as 460 feet in the air. The choreography of water, light, and music is very romantic and soothing.
- The Mirage Volcano – You don’t have to be on the mouth of a crater to experience the fury of a volcano. The Mirage captures all the drama for you with its very own Volcano. The Volcano is located outside the Main Entrance of The Mirage. Again, viewing it costs nothing. So, it should not be missed. This man-made volcano spews water, smoke, and fire in a spellbinding display. As per the schedule, the Volcano erupts at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with an additional show at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
- Eiffel Tower at Paris – Rising above the Strip is another attraction of Vegas and that is a half-scale replica of the world-renowned Eiffel Tower. This very own Eiffel Tower of Vegas offers a fascinating view of the Strip. It also makes for a romantic wedding spot. The tower is nearly 46 stories high with a restaurant on the 11th floor. Going up almost 460 feet in a glass elevator is very stimulating. From 10 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. the price for this experience is $16 plus tax for adults and $10 for seniors and children. From 7:15 p.m. to 1 a.m. the cost is $22 plus tax for adults and $20 for seniors and children.
- The Mob Museum – The Mob Museum is in downtown Las Vegas. It offers an insight into the impact of organized crime on the history of Las Vegas. The museum is spread over 3 floors. You start at the top and work your way down. With well curated and informational displays, artifacts and video installations, the Mob Museum will give you a realistic glimpse into the past of the sin city. It is highly recommended to those who really want to understand how Vegas was in the times gone by. The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the tickets cost nearly $22 for adults while children under 10 years are free.
P.S. Although the slot machines at casinos look rather inviting they are all programmed to favor the house. So, no matter how many times you play on the same machine or the amount you spend each time, your chances of winning are still negligible.