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Las Vegas, Nevada Travel Guide
Last Updated: Nov-08-2011, Hits: 11,363, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Las Vegas, Nevada Travel Guide Restaurants (94)
Hotels and Lodging (92)
Bars and Nightlife (76)
Attractions (68)
Services (9)
Links (4)
Additional Articles (3)
Nevada Travel Forum (1)
Location: North America
Geography: Desert, City
Vacation Type: Family, Romantic, Relaxation, Cosmopolitan
Popularity: Touristy
Costs: Moderate, Expensive
Attractions: Golfing, Spa & Wellness, Shopping, Hiking, Gambling, Fishing, Festivals, Cultural Attractions, Boating, Food Destination, Nightlife, Breweries

Facts and Stats:
City Population: 567,641
Metro Population: 1,902,834
Land Area: 131.2 sq mi
Government: Constitution-based federal republic
Country Dialing Code: +1
Area Code: 702
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: United States Dollar
Time Zone: PST (UTC-8/-7)
Current Time:

Las Vegas, also known as "Sin City", is a popular gambling, entertainment, and shopping destination. Most of the action takes place on the famous Las Vegas Strip where most of the hotels and casinos are located. Those wanting to experience old Vegas head downtown to Fremont street which is lined with casinos and bars.

Las Vegas is the seat of Clark county located at 2,030 feet in the southern part of the state of Nevada, and approximately 220 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California. The city is located in the arid Mojave desert and is bordered on the west by the dry Spring Mountain range which includes peaks over 10,000 feet. Just 30 miles to the east of the city is Lake Mead which sits on the Arizona/Nevada border and is the largest resevoir in the United States. The lake was created when Hoover Dam was built on the Colorado River and has become a popular recreation area.

Brief History:
The Las Vegas area was first inhabited by Paleo-Indians 10,000 years ago. Anasazi and Pauite Indians roamed the area as long as 2000 years ago.

The Las Vegas valley was found by American explorer, Jedediah Smith and company in 1827, although some sources attribute the discovery to a scout named Rafael Rivera. While Rafael was in the area, he never made it to the Las Vegas valley. In 1829, a trade caravan of 60 men led by the Mexican merchant Antonio Armijo charged with establishing a trade route to Los Angeles traversed through the area. The group named the area "Las Vegas" which is Spanish for "The Meadows".

In 1844, John C. Fremont led an large expedition in Southern Nevada and camped in Las Vegas for a night. Their camp was used by future travellers passing through. In 1855, Brigham Young of the Latter Day Saints attempted to secure the area. The Mormons had disputes with the Pauite Indians which forced them back to Salt Lake City in 1858.

Nevada became a state in 1864, but Vegas was not permanently settled until Mormons migrated there at the end of the century.

Like many American cities, it was the railroads that got things rolling in 1905 when the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad was completed. Ironically, Las Vegas outlawed gambling in 1910 and had very strict rules against all forms of gaming. Clark County was established in 1909 and Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911 with a population of 800. When the railroads went under in 1922, the city found itself struggling. U.S. Route 91 reached the city in 1926 which made it easier for undesirable mobster elements to reach the city's prolific speakeasies and underground gambling scene that had cropped up during the lean years.

In 1931, work began on The Hoover Dam which brought about 20,000 mostly male workers to Vegas. Nearby Boulder City was created to house the workers. That same year, the city decided to legalize gambling. The federal government tried to keep the dam workers out of Vegas, but casinos and showgirl revues continued to establish themselves. Although the dam was completed in 1935 and many of the workers left, Lake Mead created by the Hoover Dam offered a new tourist attraction to attract tourists. The electricity from the dam and resulting lighting of the valley led to the nickname "Glitter Gulch".

The first casino on what is now called "The Strip" was the El Rancho Vegas. To this day The Strip is an unincorporated township called Paradise and is not legally part of Las Vegas. The first mob owned casino was The Flamingo which was opened by Bugsy Siegel in 1946. Many more mobster owned casinos followed.

During the 1960's, Howard Hughes used his wealth to foray into the casino business. After Hughes, many other companies and wealthy businessmen purchased casinos that were owned by the mobsters, or built their own. This began a new era of legitimacy for Las Vegas gaming and entertainment.

Since its inception, Vegas has been one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S.. Between 1985 and 1995, the population nearly doubled! In fact, Las Vegas is the largest metropolitan city in the U.S. that was founded in 20th century. During the last several years (2005-2011), the city has struggled as tourism has declined due to the recession. Many of the new building projects have been put on hold or cancelled.

People & Culture:
While Las Vegas has a philharmonic orchestra, ballet, and art galleries, it is the glitter, the around-the-clock party, the adrenalin rush of gambling, and the often tacky opulence that attract over 37 million people per year to this desert oasis. And while the fine arts exist here, it is the myriad of music artists, comedians, circus performers, and other acts that draw the crowds.

While Vegas is a place that you can enjoy with children, at its core, it is Disneyland for adults. Their recent marketing slogan, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", pretty much sums that up, but we'll spell it out for you anyway. Up until 2009, prostitution was legal in the city, but is now only permitted in brothels outside the county. The crime is only a misdemeanor and the culture of topless showgirls, strip clubs, and prostitution remain as attractions for those inclined. Vegas is one of few cities in the U.S. that tolerates (it is illegal, but ignored) drinking in public and the alcohol flows 24 hours a day. Then, of course, there is the gambling. Vegas offers a wide variety of legal table games, slots, and sports betting. Throw in the many wedding chapels for elopers as one more reason that adults flock here.

Despite all of the craziness of The Strip and downtown, the city has become a hot spot for retirees looking for better weather, easy access to health care, and affordable housing prices. Surprisingly, Vegas is also a Mecca for Hawaiian visitors, and more recently transplants. It is estimated that there are now over 80,000 Hawaiians calling Vegas home which has led to the nickname (like Vegas needs anymore) Hawaii's Ninth Island.

Food & Nightlife:
One of the great things about this place is that you can always find food day or night. If your wallet can handle it, there are many talented and famous chefs that have restaurants here, although most of these restaurants keep traditional hours. For other dining, the majority of hotels always have at least one restaurant or fast food joint open.

Vegas is a place of guilty pleasures, and while buffets are somewhat of a black sheep to many in the dining world elsewhere, they are a mainstay here. Most of the major hotels offer one.

Las Vegas has very few house rental or condo options near the action, so cooking for yourself isn't usually an option for those who want to be on The Strip or downtown.

Because of its perpetual nature, it's hard to use the word nightlife when referring to Las Vegas. Most of the hotels have popular bars and there are dance clubs, shows, rides and all sort of other things to do when not gambling or eating.

Money & Costs:
Costs in Vegas vary widely depending on where you stay and what you want to do while you are there. The downtown area (Fremont Street) is much less expensive than The Strip, but there is still a wide range of pricing even on The Strip. Costs also vary depending on the day of week and time of year that you visit. For example, hotel prices on weekdays are significantly less than on weekends, and the hot summer months are also less expensive. Other times you may want to avoid are major holidays and when one of the many large conventions is in town.

One of the best ways to maximize your dollars is to read our article, "Making the Most of Your Money in Las Vegas" in our articles section which can be accessed via the links at the top of this travel guide. This article explains how to get comps if you gamble, save money on shows, get special offers from casinos, and other money saving tips.

Speaking of tips, it is a good idea to keep some small denomination bills handy as you will be tipping bellhops, doormen/cab stand personnel, cocktail waitresses, and taxi drivers. And of course, standard tipping practice in restaurants is 15%-20%.

At the time of this writing, Nevada has a 8.1% sales tax. There is no state income tax which is one of the reasons many have chosen to relocate here.

Getting There & Around:
Las Vegas is serviced by McCarran International Airport (LAS) which is the 12th busiest airport in the U.S.. Once at the airport, there are a number of ways to get to your hotel. Some hotels offer shuttle services. Most people get in line at the cab stand. Fares in Vegas are governed by the Nevada Taxicab Authority and all fares are the same. The cost to get to most hotels in the area should be between $10 and $20. If you are staying on The Strip, some cabbies will try to long-haul you by taking you on the freeway which will likely add more to your fare. Tell your cab driver to take you via Paradise Road and avoid the airport tunnel.

While the lines at the cab stand tend to move fairly quickly, they can be quite long during peak times. If you are in a hurry, have a larger group of people, or want a little luxury, a limo can be hired to your hotel for about $60. This can save time in some situations if the cab stand is crowded.

A number of major metropolitan areas are within driving distance of Vegas and many choose to drive to the area. The table below shows the distances from nearby cities.

Flagstaff, AZ251 miles
Palm Springs, CA259 miles
Los Angeles, CA265 miles
Phoenix, AZ298 miles
San Diego, CA327 miles

There is no train service to Las Vegas, however, Greyhound busses to run to the city.

As far as getting around town, cabs are a fast option, but keep in mind that drivers are not allowed to pick up fares that flag them down. Most hotels have their own cab stands and the door man can always help you if necessary.

Of course, car rentals are available at McCarran and elsewhere, however, we would not recommend renting a car unless you plan on visiting attractions outside the city such as Hoover Dam or Lake Mead. Traffic on The Strip is very congested and there are other forms of transportation, including walking, that are more convenient in most situations. The hotels do offer parking garages.

Walking can be a great way to get around in some situations. The Strip is 4 miles long so you likely will not be walking from The Stratosphere to The Luxor, but many casinos and attractions will be within walking distance. When walking, stay on The Strip, particularly at night and during the hotter months. At night, you may be more susceptible to crime and during the hot months, dehydration. You don't realize how big these casinos are until you try to walk around one. A simple shortcut can turn into a Chevy Chase emerging from the desert scene in Vacation. Yes, that tip is from personal experience.

If walking isn't an option, there is the Monorail which runs along The Strip and offers 7 stops. Fares are $5 for a single fare or $12 for a day pass. There are plans to extend the monorail south to McCarran and north to Fremont Street.

Another option for getting around is the public bus system which has double-decker busses (known as "The Deuce"). Fares for a single ride are $3 and the busses run 24/7 unlike the Monorail.

And yet another option. The Las Vegas Trolley runs along The Strip and downtown. Trolleys run by each stop about every 20 minutes and run until about 2am. This is an inexpensive, albeit slow way to get around.

Las Vegas has a desert climate, and is usually warm and dry, however, one of the common misconceptions about Las Vegas' weather is that it is always nice. The winter months are much cooler and it can even get downright cold at night. The summer months are uncomfortably hot and most days are near or over 100 degrees. The spring and fall months are the periods when you will likely experience the best weather. Below are the current conditions and forecast for Las Vegas.

The table below shows the average high and low temperatures, average monthly precipitation, and average monthly humidity.

Month Avg High Avg Low Avg Rainfall Avg Humidity
January 57 37 0.59" 43
February 63 41 0.69" 28
March 69 47 0.59" 22
April 78 54 0.15" 20
May 88 63 0.24" 18
June 99 72 0.08" 21
July 104 78 0.44" 24
August 102 77 0.45" 26
September 94 69 0.31" 27
October 81 57 0.24" 29
November 66 44 0.31" 31
December 57 37 0.40" 44

  • Emergency: 911
  • Police (non-emergency): 702-795-3111
  • Crisis Mental Health Unit: 702-486-8020
  • Information and Referral HELP of Southern Nevada: 702-369-4357
  • Gamblers Anonymous Hotline: 888-442-2110
  • Problem Gamblers Helpline: 800-522-4700
  • Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority: 877-847-4858 or 702-892-7575

  • Tips & Additional Information:
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water in Vegas, particularly if you spend any time outdoors. Between alcohol and the heat, it is easy to get dehydrated.
  • Las Vegas is surprisingly safe, however, with all of the money flowing through the city, it is an attractive target for theives and pick-pockets. Do not leave valuables in your room - the hotel will let you use their safe. Keep an eye on your property at all times.
  • Set a budget for the amount of money you are willing to lose and then expect to lose it. Gambling is entertainment. If you expect to walk away a winner, you are most likely going to be disappointed.
  • Do not jaywalk on The Strip. Not only is it incredibly dangerous, it is illegal and enforced.
  • Las Vegas is very casual. There is no need to dress up unless you are going to a nice restaurant or nightclub.
  • The gambling age and drinking age are 21 years old. Minors cannot loiter on the casino floor even if they are with a guardian.
  • As of 2007, smoking is no longer permitted in any establishment that serves food. Smoking is still permitted in casinos and bars that do not serve food.

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