History of Las Vegas
The first European in the area of present-day Las Vegas was Raphael Rivera in 1829. The Spaniards who used the Old Spanish Trail noticed that the area was green, with many meadows, and named the city after them (“Vegas” is Spanish for meadows). In 1855, when the Las Vegas Valley was annexed to the United States, Brigham Young sent 30 missionaries of the LDS Church to convert the Indian population in the Valley. A fort was built in what is now the downtown area of the city and it served as a stopover on the Mormon Corridor between Salt Lake City and San Bernardino in California. Mormons left Las Vegas in 1857 and 50 years later parcels of land were auctioned off for the construction of a Union Pacific railroad link between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911 and became an affluent railroad town. When the railroad network in the nation became wider, Las Vegas lost some of its importance but in 1935 it started growing again during the construction of the nearby Hoover Dam. The dam with seventy stories is still considered to be one of the modern engineering wonders and continues to be important as it supplies cheap power to Arizona, Nevada and California.
Casino gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931 and after the World War II the entertainment and gaming industry in the city boomed. By the 1950s, Las Vegas was famous for its unique brand of entertainment and recreation, not only in the nation but around the world. Dozens of new casino-hotels opened, each more luxurious than the last one. Concerts, shows, cabaret and vaudeville plays and all sorts of spectacles were held in the city and it hosted almost every important performer of the time. The State of Nevada offered lenient laws regarding marriage and the city opened hundreds of wedding chapels that worked non-stop and where thousands of couples were married each year. Las Vegas never really had a downfall since it established itself as the America’s prime entertainment center, which it continues to be to the day.
Geography and Climate
Las Vegas is located in the Mojave Desert, surrounded by dry mountains. The landscape is generally dusty and rocky, with typical desert vegetation and some wildlife. The city itself, however, has many lawns, parks and greenery, which is all supported by irrigation systems. Total area of the city is 135.8 square miles, all of which is land.
Las Vegas has subtropical desert climate and gets about 300 sunny days per year. Summer is very hot and dry and winter is short and mild. Snowfall is very rare.
The name “Las Vegas” often refers not just to the city limits but also to certain areas outside of it, especially the areas on and around the Las Vegas Strip. The Strip is a stretch of the Las Vegas Boulevard, a major road in the city that runs the length of the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Most of the city’s most famous hotels, resorts and casinos are located on the Strip.
The population of Las Vegas is growing continuously. Between 1990 and 2000 there has been a population increase of 82% and at the latest official census, in 2010, the city had a population of 583,756. The racial makeup in Las Vegas in 2010 was 47.9% non-Hispanic Whites, 31.5% Hispanic or Latino, 11.1% Black or African American, 6.1% Asian, 0.7% Native American, 0.6% Pacific Islander and 4.9% two or more races.
Las Vegas has some of the highest suicide and divorce rates in the nation. The high divorce rate in the city does not necessarily mean Las Vegans themselves are getting divorced - due to more relaxed state laws in Nevada many people come to other states to get divorced easily. The marriage rate is also very high, for the same reason.
The median household income in Las Vegas was $53,000 in 2010 and the per capita income was $22,060. About 8.9% of the population lived below the poverty line.
Economy of Las Vegas
The primary economic sectors in Las Vegas are tourism, conventions, gaming, retail and restaurant industries. Las Vegas is a major tourist destinations in the United States. The city’s downtown area has been the center of the gaming industry since its early days and most of the casinos and hotels are located there. The casino business started in 1931 with the Northern Club (now La Bayou) and other notable early casinos included Binion’s Horseshoe (now Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel), California Hotel and Casino, Fremont Hotel and Casino and Main Street Casino. The largest hotel and casino not just in the downtown area but in the entire city is the Golden Nugget. Other casinos in that area include El Cortez, The D, Las Vegas Club, Four Queens and Gold Spike.
Other casinos and hotels are located outside the city limits, on the Las Vegas Strip. Some of the most famous ones are Bellagio, Ceasars Palace, The Mirage, The Palazzo, Monte Carlo, Casino Royale, Tropicana, Four Seasons and others.
Some of the most visited museums in the city include Neon Museum, The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, National Atomic Testing Museum, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, Las Vegas natural History Museum and Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park.
The main institution of higher learning in Las Vegas is the College of Southern Nevada, the third-largest community college in the nation by enrollment. Other institutions include University of Nevada School of Medicine and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
The primary airport in the city is McCarran International Airport. Intercity transportation is also provided by Amtrak, Greyhound, Chinatown bus lines and Green Tortoise.