Las Vegas, Nevada
Sin City needs no introduction. However, this location wasn’t always a paradise for risk-takers and spur-of-the-moment weddings. The first structure built on the grounds of present-day Las Vegas was built by the decidedly anti-sin Mormon Church in 1855. The Mormons may have been looking to establish a secure rest and supply point midway between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. In contrast to its arid, desert surroundings, the Las Vegas (“the meadows” in Spanish) area offered some water and the ability to resupply. This fort was abandoned within a few years, but parts remain preserved for those visitors seeking quieter historical attractions.
For a long while afterward, Las Vegas remained a minor stop-off point for travelers. Significant settlement did not begin until the 1880s, which accelerated in the early 20th century with the advent of better water carrying and railroad technology.
1931 proved a pivotal year for Las Vegas. Construction of the nearby Hoover Dam attracted thousands of new residents seeking employment, multiplying a small population by many times. This influx of freewheeling young men looked like a valuable opportunity, and gambling was permitted on a local level to allow the establishment and licensing of the first legal casinos.
The real boom took off after World War II. Hotel and casino development exploded with the aid and interest of some of the 20th century’s most notorious organized crime figures. Vegas’s late 1940s and 1950s growth laid the foundation for the glittering, no-holds-barred playground for grown-ups it is today.
Until very recently, Las Vegas was by many measures the fastest growing city in the United States. Accompanying this residential growth was the multiplication of ever-bigger, ever-fancier new resort casinos: the MGM Grand, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, The Cosmopolitan, and many more. The development has also resulted in more family-friendly amenities, making Vegas a more comprehensive vacation destination for families and friends alike. The huge resorts make an effort to provide as many perks and services to visitors as possible. Guests could be excused for thinking there’s no reason to step outside. But as inviting as plush hotel rooms, world-class bars and restaurants, swimming pools, and massive casinos might be, Vegas offers far more than any one resort can hold.
Recent years have seen a revitalization of downtown Las Vegas, as opposed to the Las Vegas Strip, where most of the casino activity has been concentrated since the 1980s and 1990s. The Fremont Street Experience is a canopied attraction featuring light shows and live music to accompany the retro vibe of the original Vegas casinos, bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Museums on the arts and local history have opened up, and there’s no question that at this point, Las Vegas’s appeal extends far beyond the gambling.
Vine Vera Las Vegas is among the high-end retail stores located on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas. Other downtown attractions include the SlotZilla zipline, built to resemble a gigantic slot machine, Vegas Vic and Vickie, the iconic neon figures welcoming visitors to the “Glitter Gulch,” microbreweries, and other mega-sized, ultra-kitschy spectacles.