Viva Las Vegas!
Las Vegas really is a city like no other, and it is the entertainment capital of the world. It is located in the South-West corner of the United States covering around 113 squares miles of the Nevada desert, and is also around 270 miles from Los Angeles.
More than 38 million people from all over the world visit this city in the desert. Tourists are lured in by its famous casinos, amazing attractions, the spectacular Grand Canyon a short trip away and the engineering triumph that is the Hoover Dam. So how did a city like this grow from a few houses to support workers building the nearby Hoover Dam into a gambling capital and holiday destination that it is today?
Workers were attracted to Las Vegas because of its gambling and alcohol laws and the ability to get a quickie divorce under the State of Nevada laws. After the Dam was built the town needed to supply jobs for the workers who had settled there and it wasn’t long before the military also rolled into town and set up base. This led to the need to provide entertainment for the troops and in turn the city gained a reputation for gambling. It was referred to then as Sin City.
Because there was so much money changing hands in Las Vegas at that time, it wasn’t too long before ‘The Mob’ decided to get in on the action, as well as the Mafia. These days the City has a good clean reputation and welcomes gamblers and families to enjoy the entertainment on offer.
Having visited recently, I can honestly say that this is a place that will not fail to impress. Because of its remote location it must offer something pretty special, as people are expected to spend 10 hours on a plane to visit. As you come into land at McCarran International Airport you begin to get a feel for the size of this place, on the skyline you can see the ‘Stratosphere’, the MGM Hotel and the giant Pyramid hotel, the ‘Luxor’, but there is so much more waiting for you just a short 10-minute taxi ride from the airport.
Las Vegas is built on the North and South Strip which is about 3 miles long from end to end. Getting about on foot is easy and is advised so that you don’t miss out on any of the street side entertainment that can be found at some of the biggest hotels in the world. Each hotel is individually ‘themed’ thus giving the impression that you can visit every major city in the world in just one place.
You can ride the roller coaster at New York New York, watch the fountains at the Bellagio or catch some world class entertainment at Caesars Palace. The ceilings at the shopping centre here have to be seen to be believed as each shopfront and street makes you feel like you have stepped back in time to an old Roman town.
The Luxor Hotel is an enormous glass panelled pyramid currently housing an exhibit of the Titanic. You can take a Gondola ride through the streams of the Venetian Hotel, watch the dolphins at the water park of the Mirage hotel or take a roller coaster ride off the top of the ‘Stratosphere’ where you can, if brave enough, also do a ‘bungee jump’.
Moving from one hotel to the next is made easy by travelling walkways and escalators that take you from street level into the entertainment levels of these vast hotels. Every hotel has a floor dedicated to those who have come to play the slot machines or a game of black jack or roulette. There is entertainment non-stop during the day and this gets more intense as the nights draw in with shows like Cirque de Soleil, entertainers such as Britney Spears, Elton John and Celine Dion. Las Vegas was a frequent destination for entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Liberace and Elvis Presley.
Apart from the gambling and nightlife, Vegas is also very famous for one other thing, namely being a prime destination for those wishing to get married quickly. In Vegas you can register to get married and actually get married the same day! Before you can legally marry in Las Vegas you first need to get a marriage licence. This can be bought from the court office in downtown Vegas just off the Strip. From there couples can take a limousine for a short drive to one of the many Wedding Chapels. Some of the best known ones are Paradise Falls, Chapel of the Flowers, the Little Church of the West (Vegas’s oldest wedding chapel) or you could even get married by Elvis (not the real one) at the Graceland Wedding Chapel.
You need to remember that Las Vegas is a city in the desert, it doesn’t rain here very much and the Hoover Dam (also known as the Boulder Dam) is the main source of water that supplies the city. In the summer the average daytime temperature reaches 40°C (104°F). So it’s a good idea to pick a hotel that has a pool to cool off, although most hotel rooms do have air conditioning to help you cool down.
And talking of pools, what about a hotel with its own beach? In the desert? Yes, everything is possible in Vegas. The Mandalay Bay at the start of the Strip on the South end has its own beach with real waves and a waterfall. As we make our way down the South Strip to the North Strip, we pass the Luxor Pyramide hotel and then a King Arthur’s Camelot Medieval themed Excalibur Hotel. On to a taste of New York at New York New York with a replica statue of Liberty and its own roller coaster. If you love the movies you can stop by at the MGM Grand or see the small town of Monte Carlo recreated just opposite. As we near the centre of the Strip, we can visit the famous Planet Hollywood, where some of the biggest pop acts appear, or admire the half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. From here we can view the spectacular dancing fountains at the Bellagio Hotel before moving on to the Flamingo and Ceasars Palace which was the location for the comedy film The Hangover. As you enter the North end of the Strip the entertainment continues at the Italian themed hotel called the Venetian and the water park at the Mirage. At the far end of the North strip you will find the Stratosphere which towers above the skyline.
You will never be stuck for something to see or do. Vegas has its own Madame Tussaud’s (Inside the Venetian Hotel) where you can come face to face with your favourite celebrities. If you want to go outside of the city, you are only a short drive or flight across to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley or Mojave Desert. Plus you can even visit Los Angeles from here as it’s only 270 miles away.
The great thing about Las Vegas is that it’s a city that is constantly changing to meet the needs of its visitors each year. If you have ever considered a trip to Vegas I would highly recommend it.