Las Vegas, Nevada is a vibrant pulsating city. It is a community that was created from
the wastelands of the Mojave Desert in Nevada specifically to provide a
gambling and entertainment oasis for the titillation seeking residents of
post-war Los Angeles. Everything in Las Vegas has been done (or overdone) on a
grand and spectacular scale. Along the Las Vegas strip, a black glass pyramid
rises over a hundred meters above the desert with a larger than full sized replica
of the Sphinx at its entry. Next to it, sits a larger than life castle with
garishly colored turrets. Across the street, is a scaled-down skyline of New
York City complete with a Brooklyn Bridge and a Statue of Liberty. Beyond that,
you can see a half-sized replica of the Eifel Tower, a near full sized replica
of the Piazza San Marco from Venice and a large volcano that erupts flames
every thirty minutes. In Las Vegas, you often ask yourself, Is this
really a city, or am I visiting some futuristic amusement park on another

On any given evening in Las Vegas,
you will find hundreds of entertainment events such as the renown
Las Vegas stage shows,
world class sporting events, performances by world famous entertainers plus
music, dance and comedy at large and small venues throughout the city. This
city never seems to sleep. The frivolity continues long into the night and the
serious gamblers continue their pursuit of riches until well after the morning
sun has risen on a new day.

The city was created by a reputed

In 1931 gambling was legalized in
the barren desert state of Nevada while it remained illegal in the more
populous neighboring state of California. As early as 1940, the first hotel
casino named El Rancho Vegas was constructed on the outskirts of a sleepy
desert community in the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada known as Las Vegas.
A second hotel casino named the Last Frontier was opened a year later. Both
profited from their proximity to the large gambling population living in Los Angeles and
other southern California communities. In December of 1946, Bugsy Siegal a
reputed New York gangster, then living in Beverly Hills California, and
managing various illegal gambling operations on the West Coast, built a lavish
new hotel casino named the Flamingo. He dreamed of creating a whole new resort city
in the desert dedicated to gambling and entertainment. Unfortunately, Bugsy was
shot to death in his Beverly Hills home in 1947; so he never got to see his
dream fulfilled; but the legacy of lavish hotel casinos controlled by gangsters
persisted in Las Vegas for many decades to come.

Today, this desert gambling oasis is
a thriving city with more than one million inhabitants and over 38 million
visitors a year. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the USA, with up to
5,000 new residents settling there every month. It has fourteen of the fifteen
largest hotels in the USA and over 130,000 rooms available to visitors.
Gambling and entertainment are still its biggest attractions and its largest
industries. Supposedly, all the mafia gangsters have been removed from the Las
Vegas gambling scene, only to be replaced by large corporate owners. (Is that
an improvement?) In 1999, Oscar Goodman, the flamboyant lawyer whose spirited
defense of many reputed gangsters and criminals earned him the unofficial title
of mouthpiece for the mob, was elected mayor of Las Vegas. He seems
to be a most appropriate character to lead the government of Sin
City USA.

Las Vegas Boulevard is the

Las Vegas is located in the
southwestern corner of Nevada near the borders of California and Arizona. It is
275 miles (450 km) from Los Angeles and less than a four-hours drive on
excellent interstate highway. The city is situated in a broad flat desert
valley surrounded by barren arid mountains. It receives only about 2 inches (5
cm) of rain per year; yet the city is an oasis of green grass, flowers and palm
trees all subsisting on imported water. A vast checkerboard of low suburban
homes sprawls across the valley floor for dozens of miles in every direction
with new tracts of houses eternally sprouting like fields of cactus in the
surrounding desert.

All the action is centered on one
broad avenue that stretches from the southern fringe of the city northward for
a dozen miles until it reaches the heart of old downtown. This is Las Vegas
Boulevard, commonly known as the Strip. McCarran International
Airport is located adjacent to the southern end of the Strip, and nearly all of
the major casinos are lined up along its sides. A drive down Las Vegas
Boulevard takes you past the pyramid of Luxor casino, the skyline of New York
casino, the Eifel Tower of Paris casino, the great tent of the Circus casino
and the lofty tower of the Stratosphere casino. Eventually, it takes you to
downtown Vegas and Fremont Street, home of the historic old gambling parlors
like Binyons and the Golden Nugget. Just driving down the strip past all these
spectacular casino resorts is a fantastic experience. At night, the strip
comes alive with miles of colored neon and millions of dancing, pulsating

The Bargains are often off the

Most of the newest, grandest Las Vegas casino hotels are located along the southern end of the strip near
McCarran Airport. Even the smallest of these newer casino hotels has over 2,000
rooms with MGM Grand offering more than 5,000 rooms. Each casino contains
thousands of slot machines, hundreds of gaming tables, multiple restaurants,
numerous shops, theaters featuring Las Vegas Shows plus numerous
bars, cocktail lounges and smaller entertainment venues.

Along the northern part of the
Strip, a few miles away from McCarran Airport, and also in the downtown area
even further north, the casinos are older and a bit less spectacular. That
means they usually offer their accommodations, their all-you-can-eat buffets,
and their shows at bargain prices to entice you to come and gamble at their
facility. There are also a few large casino hotels like Sam's Town and Boulder
Station located well away from the strip. Those isolated casinos often offer
super-saver bargains.

Las Vegas Weddings

the early days when Las Vegas was but a sleepy town in the desert, Nevada has
had a reputation as a very permissive state that allowed legal gambling, legal
prostitution and easy divorce. Many California citizens would drive across the
state line to Las Vegas in order to obtain quick-and-easy divorces from their
unwanted spouses. Since divorces were often instigated by the desire to marry a
new mate, Las Vegas began offering quick-and-easy weddings to go along with the
quick-and-easy divorces. Wedding chapels sprouted along the Strip to
accommodate this unique industry of legal mate swapping.

Today, many other states offer quick
no-fault divorces, so the Las Vegas divorce is no longer in great
demand. The city has, however, kept its reputation for quick-and-easy
marriages. The wedding chapels are still visible along the strip and in the
downtown area near the Clark County Court House. Nearly all the major casinos
have wedding chapels or wedding rooms. The City marriage office is open until
midnight every weekday and open 24 hours a day from Friday until Sunday. If you
suddenly decide you want to get married at 4AM on a Sunday morning, you can
easily do it in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Entertainment

Since the time of Bugsy Siegel, Las
Vegas has been renowned not only for its gambling, but also for its free
flowing liquor, its fine dining and its extravagant entertainment especially at
the Las Vegas Shows. All these original ingredients are still available in even
greater variety and quantity in modern-day Las Vegas

The famous
old Las Vegas Shows were typically variety shows featuring headline
entertainment, well known bands, scantily-clad dancing girls and ribald humor.
You can still find some of those shows on the Strip. The afternoon performances
and the early evening performances are usually toned-down family-oriented
presentations, while the late night performances are more adult oriented
featuing nudity, risque humor and adult themes. A typical old-time Las Vegas
Show in family-oriented theme is held at the Stratosphere Casino every
afternoon, and the admission is very reasonably priced.

Some of the
newer shows are even more extravagant productions than the old-time ones.
Cirque du Soliel runs about a half dozen fabulous productions in Las Vegas
including: Mystere, Ka, O, and Zumanity. Each production is set in an immense
specially-constructed theater with fantastic sets and technological marvels. The
prices are fairly expensive, but they are certainly amazing feats of

At least two
or more Broadway-style productions of musicals or plays are constantly featured
in Las Vegas. There are a number of Las Vegas regulars playing at
Casinos throughout the city, and new famous, world renown entertainers appear
for limited engagements nearly every week. In addition to all this, there are
free shows and free entertainments available at many of the casinos nearly
every day. There is certainly no lack of entertaining diversions in this town.

Las Vegas Dining

Good food in
large quanities has been the staple of Las Vegas hospitality since the early
days, and the all-you-can-eat buffet was a renown attraction at nearly every
casino. They are still popular and almost universally available. The more
isolated and the less popular casinos offer their buffets at ridiculously low
prices just to attract gamblers to their gaming tables. The newer casinos often
feature higher priced buffets with better quality foods. All of them provide
unlimited quantities.

For more
serious dining, Las Vegas provides hundreds of good restaurants in the casinos
and throughout the city. Each of the large casinos offers at least four or six
restaurants ranging from inexpensive snack bars and all-you-can-eat buffets to
high-class, expensive, five-star restaurants.

This is a gateway to the Southwest

Las Vegas is
ideally situated for anyone that would like to explore the Southwest of the
USA. It is centrally located amongst some of the greatest natural attractions
in the USA like the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Bryce Canyon and Zion National
Park. McCarran Airport has nearly 500 flights per day arriving from both
domestic and international destinations, so access is convenient and often very

The desert
landscape surrounding Las Vegas is stark and forbidding but strangely
beautiful. Red Rock Canyon, just 20 miles west of the city, looks just like
hollywood scenery for a cowboy movie. Boulder Dam and Lake Mead, located just
25 miles east of the city provides the strangely contrasting images of deep
blue waters set among stark arid hills and barren rock formations. About 60
miles to the north, the Valley of Fire offers some unique hiking and sightseeing
opportunities in a volcanically created environment of strange contorted rocks,
lava fields and ancient Native American runes.

Tours depart from Las Vegas to many

Grand Canyon
National Park, one of the great natural wonders of the world, is only 150 miles
east of Las Vegas. The drive to the South Rim Visitors Center is 300 miles by
road, while the slightly less spectacular West Rim is only a 150-miles drive
from downtown Las Vegas. Death Valley National Park is about 150 driving miles
to the west and can easily be seen on a one-day drive from Las Vegas. Zion
National Park is about 150 driving miles to the north east, and Bryce Canyon is
about 80 miles past it. If you do not wish to drive to any of the attractions,
there are many tour options to these great natural wonders via bus, airplane
and helicopter.

If you
intend to visit Las Vegas for a few days or more, you need only leave the
gambling parlors for a single day or even only a half day to see some of this
spectacular Southwest scenery. There are numerous tours departing from Las
Vegas to the Grand Canyon, Death valley, Zion National Park, Boulder Dam, Lake
Mead, the Valley of Fire and other interesting places. The tours can be via
airplane, helicopter, bus, van, jeep or even hummer. Normally, the tour
operators pick you up at your hotel, take you on a guided tour of the
attraction, then return you to your hotel later in the day. This is a very
convenient way to see some of the fabulous scenery in a very limited amount of
time. Naturally, you can always rent a car and tour these same fabulous sights
on your own.