Introduction to Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, located in southern Nevada near the Colorado River, is the largest city in the state. America's gambling capital is also its fastest-growing city (nearly doubling since the 1990s), with around 500,000 city residents and a metropolitan population of over 1,600,000. Discovered by Spanish explorers in 1829 and settled by Mormons in the 1850s, the area that would become Las Vegas developed as a stopping point for settlers on their way to California.
At the turn of the century, railroads helped grow the city, but the most significant development came in 1931, when gambling became legal in Nevada. Casinos and hotels sprung up in the downtown area; after World War II, "the strip" was created, with huge hotels, restaurants and entertainment and gambling complexes that lure vacationers and fortune seekers from both coasts. Las Vegas now has more hotel rooms than any city in the world, and 19 of the world's 20 largest hotels. Those looking to visit should have no problems finding a travel agent that is well equipped to highlight all that Las Vegas has to offer. With no city or state taxes and new hotels constantly creating jobs, Las Vegas attracts young transplants seeking fortunes from its bustling economy.
Las Vegas Culture
Though not known for its culture, Las Vegas is home to the Las Vegas Art Museum, a branch of the Guggenheim Museum and large collections of Picassos and other top artists on display in hotel lobbies. More in keeping with the city's lowbrow reputation are the Elvis-a-Rama Museum, the Guinness World of Records Museum and the Liberace Museum. Musical entertainment is available nightly up and down the strip, and not just cheesy hotel-run extravaganzas. The biggest acts in rock and pop music make Las Vegas an important stop on their tours.
Las Vegas Sports and Leisure
With legal sports gambling in Las Vegas, there are no pro teams in the area, but there are still many spectator sports attractions. The Las Vegas 51s, a triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, play minor league baseball north of the city at 9,000-seat Cashman Field. Las Vegas frequently hosts championship and high-profile boxing matches, usually at Caesar's Palace. Just off the strip, UNLV has one of the country's top college basketball programs. Las Vegas Motor Speedway, just northeast of the city, holds several NASCAR events each year.
Las Vegas Outdoors
Though the high temperatures and the high stakes temptations of the casinos keep many indoors year 'round, there's a lot to do outside in Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon, just 105 miles west of the city, allows hiking, bicycling, camping, rock climbing in its nearly 200,000 acres of impressive scenery. Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the east provides recreation of all kinds, with trails for hiking and huge lakes for swimming, boating, and fishing.
Las Vegas at Night
Las Vegas is famous for its world-class nightlife, with some of the finest restaurants in the country, musical productions at every turn, a myriad of family-based and (ahem) adult-themed entertainment options, and (of course) gambling.