Las Vegas City Guide
Las Vegas is an iconic city of excess, known for its legalized gambling, flamboyant shows, high-end restaurants, and emphasis on spectacle. The city bills itself as "the Entertainment Capital of the World". Coming from anyplace else, that might sound like hubris on an epic scale; from Vegas, it's simply a statement of fact. Understatement is a four-letter word on the Las Vegas Strip, where the mega-casino hotels constantly vie to outdo one another in sheer opulence. Neon towers, dancing fountains, pirate ships, and erupting volcanoes all compete for the attention of the casual passerby, while building-sized video billboards offer up advertisements for the myriad stage shows and performers. The original hotels and casinos that put Las Vegas on the map can be found at the northern end of the Strip in downtown Las Vegas. While many of these locations lack the glitz of their southern counterparts, they do offer up what purists call "the true Vegas experience," with its old-school gambling dens, showgirls, and lounge singers. The folks who come here aren't looking for drinks served by gladiators, pirates, or Klingons. They came to play!
Las Vegas (which is Spanish for "The Meadows") began as a watering hole along the Old Spanish Trail in the 1800s, as well as a stopover for Mormons traveling between Salt Lake City and San Bernardino. It was established as a proper town in 1905 when it became a stop along the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City Railroad line, and was officially incorporated as a city in 1911. Construction began on the Hoover Dam in 1928, which brought thousands of workers to the area. When Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, Las Vegas became a city dominated by casinos and speakeasies catering to the dam workers. The upscale El Rancho Vegas resort was one of the first to lend a touch of class to the decadence, but it was Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo Hotel, opened in 1946, that started the Vegas tradition of opulence and luxury. The success of the Flamingo led to a building boom as newer resorts tried desperately to outshine their competitors. This custom of one-upmanship is an integral part of Vegas' heritage, and is still quite evident among the casinos today.