Set in the Mojave Desert in Nevada near the west coast of the United States, Las Vegas is famous for its casinos and entertainment and is seen by many as the entertainment capitol of the world, and its tolerance for most types of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City.
The first recorded visit to the area was by wagon train scout, Raphael Rivera in 1829, the abundant supply of water and the green meadows (from the Spanish) gave their name to Las Vegas and made it a regular stop along the Old Spanish Trail, the route which connected New Mexico with southern California.
Las Vegas became a railroad town in 1905 and a stopover on the pioneer trails to the west; it officially became a city in 1911. With the completion of the construction of the nearby Hoover Dam in 1935, Las Vegas became the first customer to use electricity from the dam, and it experienced rapid growth in both population and in tourism.
The legalisation of gambling in 1931 led to the development of the casino hotels for which Las Vegas is famous. The high profits to be made from gambling resulted in many of the casinos being funded by organized crime figures such as "Bugsy" Siegel.
In 1940 major development occurred due the influx of scientists and staff from the Manhattan Project, which was carrying out research for the atomic bomb during World War II.
1941 saw the development of the Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as “the Strip”, when El Rancho, the first resort on the strip opened. Others were to follow including the Sands and the Sahara and by the time of the construction of The Mirage in 1989 there was a movement away from the downtown area to “the Strip”. In 1994 work began on the Fremont Street Experience in order to regenerate the downtown area. This was a $70 million shopping mall covering five blocks. It contains a 90 feet high, 1,500 feet long barrel vault canopy containing 12 million LED displays which provides a spectacular lights display.
The hotels along the strip are some of the most spectacular buildings in the world, each with its own special theme, and new ones are springing up on a regular basis. Some of the most famous are:
Stratosphere Tower, built in 1996 it has 2,444 roams. It also has a thrill ride, situated nearly 900 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard. Circus Circus opened as a casino without a hotel in 1968, and a hotel with 400 rooms was added in 1972. It now has 3,774 rooms and is famous for its circus acts and stalls. Treasure Island Hotel opened in 1993 with 2,900 rooms. It contains a full size reproduction of a pirate ship and stages pirate battles every night. Excalibur with its 4,032 rooms has an Arthurian theme and children's attractions.
Caesars Palace opened in 1966 with 700 rooms; it now has 3,348 rooms in five towers named: Augustus, Centurion, Forum, Palace, and Roman. The Forum tower features guest suites with 1,000 square feet of space. In 1997 it was expanded to include Forum Shops and restaurants with many statues and an indoor sky and artificial storms.
The Bellagio was built on the site of the former Dunes Hotel, which was demolished in 1993. The Dunes was one of the top hotels in the 50’s/60’s, where most of the world’s most famous entertainers performed. The 46 storey, 3,000-room Bellagio opened in 1998 as the world’s most expensive hotel costing $1.7 billion. The Bellagio is famed for its fountain displays, which take place every 15 minutes and co-ordinate the water movement with lights and music. The fountains consist of 1,000 nozzles, some of which are able to shoot water 76 metres into the air. Inside the Bellagio are a number of botanical displays, including a tree which is several hundred years old brought from Florida, and a waterwheel. It also has 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers, covering the lobby ceiling.
Many of the hotels use cities around the world as their inspiration. The Paris Hotel opened in 1999 with 2,914 rooms and includes replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, The Paris Opera House and the Louvre. New York New York opened in 1997 has architecture which creates the impression of the New York City skyline; including towers to replicate New York City skyscrapers, such as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. At the front of the hotel is a representation of New York Harbour and a replica of the Statue of Liberty. It also has a roller coaster which reaches speeds up to 67 mph.
The Venetian opened in 1999 on the site of the former Sands Hotel which was demolished in 1996. The Venetian cost $1.8 billion to construct the hotel and casino, with the 9 full size reconstructions of the landmarks of Venice. It was extended in 2007 giving it 7,074 rooms, at that time making it the largest hotel in the world. The interior gives the impression of the canals of Venice and although the canals are real they are not a ground level - they are on the first floor! The sky, which changes according to the time of day, is not real. It is painted concrete with its appearance being changed by the lighting.
The Luxor has an Egyptian theme and includes a 30 storey pyramid, 350 feet high (106 metres). The pyramid and two 22-storey ziggurat towers covered in bronze glass contain a total of 4,407 rooms. Opened in 1993, it boasts the world’s most powerful light beam, which is visible from space. The cost of the electric for this beam alone is $125,000 per year. An obelisk and a sphinx 10 storey high lead from the monorail into the hotel and the world's largest atrium, which contains columns, statues, and hieroglyphic reliefs.
Many people visit Las Vegas for the gambling or the entertainment although it has a great deal to offer those interested in buildings and architecture.