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Great American Cities – Las Vegas Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Culture, Travel

Perhaps no American city has a reputation like the next stop on our journey – Las Vegas. First, let’s figure out where the name comes from.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

Name: The name Las Vegas means “the meadows” in Spanish. It was coined by a Mexican scout who was leading a group along the Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. He used the name because of the very large green areas and artesian wells where he and his men could get water.

Location: Las Vegas is located in the southwestern United States. It’s in the southern part of the state of Nevada. Flying into Las Vegas is interesting, because the city is surrounded by desert.

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip

Nicknames: The city has quite a few nicknames. People often refer to it simply as Vegas, and it’s also famously known as Sin City. This is because of the variety of adult activities you can do there – gambling, drinking, and strip clubs to name a few. It’s also called the Entertainment Capital of the World due to the wide variety of shows and performances you can see there.

Year Founded: In 1844, John C. Fremont arrived in the area and kept journals of his time there. His writing would lure other pioneers to the area. In 1855, Mormons built a fort here as it was halfway between Salt Lake City and LA. It became a city in 1905, when 110 acres of land was auctioned off. Clark County was founded in 1909, and Las Vegas became part of the county in 1911.

You can visit New York, Paris, or Venice here!

You can visit New York, Paris, or Venice here!

Population: As of the most recent census in 2010, there are around 584,000 people who live in the city, and around 1.9 million in the entire metro area. This makes Las Vegas the 30th most populous city in America. In 1990, Non-Hispanic Whites made up 72% of the population, but that number slipped down to 47% in 2010. Hispanic or Latino people comprise 31.5% of the population, African Americans are around 11%, and Asians are 6%.

Transportation: They want to get you in the door in Vegas, so there’s no shortage of ways to get there. The city has an airport, where you can take a local bus, rent a car, take a shuttle, or grab a cab to get to the Strip. You can also get to Vegas by bus or train, with routes serving a lot of locations such as LA and Phoenix. For getting around, you can walk, take the monorail, or ride the bus if you’re on a budget. Many people like to show off in Vegas, though, and they rent a limousine or party bus.

Some of the biggest casinos in Vegas.

Some of the biggest casinos in Vegas.

Famous Places: Unlike other big American cities such as New York or San Francisco, Las Vegas doesn’t have much in the way of traditional sightseeing. There aren’t many historical or cultural landmarks in the city; rather, it is famous for the many impressive hotels and casinos that line the Strip. Most visitors to Vegas are happy just to explore the many famous casinos such as Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio, which all have gambling, shopping, dining, drinking, and live entertainment. A short drive outside of the city, however, will take you to the world famous Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel.

Culture: Although some people think that Vegas is nothing but gambling and X-rated night life, there’s plenty of culture in the city. There are quite a few museums in Las Vegas, and there’s even a Downtown Arts District. There’s a lot more to the Las Vegas performing arts than sexy girls and wild circuses; you can just as easily see an opera or an orchestra here.

Sports Teams: One strange thing about Vegas is that it has zero professional sports teams, even though it is as big or bigger than many cities that do. There are a few reasons for the lack of pro sports here. First of all, there’s the issue of legal betting. Second, many people in Vegas work night shifts, meaning they couldn’t attend games. Finally, casinos want people to stay put and spend their money right there, rather than going out to an event in another venue. The city does have one minor league baseball team, the Las Vegas 51s.

Fountain show at the Bellagio.

Fountain show at the Bellagio.

Travel Experience: I’ve been to Las Vegas on two occasions – once when I was 18 and still in high school, and another time more recently when I was 27. Since you’re not allowed to gamble, drink, or enjoy many of the activities that Vegas has to offer until you’re 21, I had two very different experiences. The first time I visited Las Vegas was just to see my favorite band – Phish – play three concerts. As a young, bright-eyed kid, I was mesmerized by Sin City and planned to come back when I was of legal age.

A much younger me in Vegas in '04.

A much younger me in Vegas in ’04.

On our West Coast road-trip in the summer of 2013, we visited Las Vegas for a few days to see why they call it the Entertainment Capital of the World. With a 3-night stay, we spent most our time exploring the famous casinos and taking in the shows outside – things you can do for free!

Even if you can't afford to stay, you can still check it out!

Even if you can’t afford to stay, you can still check it out!

We also enjoyed the amazing food and beverage scene, from simple Happy Hours with good deals on appetizers and cocktails to the city’s famous all-you-can-eat buffets.

Happy Hour!

Happy Hour!

One of many amazing buffets.

One of many amazing buffets.

With so many options for evening performances, it was hard deciding which ones to go to. In the end, we decided to see the original version of Cirque du Soleil, called Mystere. It’s an amazing show, and should definitely be atop your list if visiting Vegas. Just see for yourself:

One show just isn’t enough, so we also bought tickets for the Blue Man Group. It’s no wonder this show has continued to be very popular all across America. It’s incredibly entertaining and a lot of fun for the whole family.

Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group

Of course, we also had to experience some of the thrills Vegas has to offer. One night, we headed to the top of the Stratosphere Tower to take one of the rides, and another night we hit the roller coaster at New York New York.

Buy the ticket, take the ride!

Buy the ticket, take the ride!

In the end, we had an amazing time in Vegas and didn’t break the bank doing so. If you want to travel to Vegas but think that it will be too expensive, don’t worry! You can get great deals on hotels, it’s easy to walk or take the bus, there’s lots of free entertainment, and it’s also possible to find discounts on drinks, meals, and even tickets. It’s a great city with a lot more to offer than slot machines and strip clubs. Give Vegas a chance and you might even find it to be one of your favorite cities in America!

I'll be back, don't worry!

I’ll be back, don’t worry!

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.