It is somehow fitting that a stroke of good luck played a part in the Las Vegas’ evolution from arid wasteland to international tourist mecca. In the early 19th century, a group of Mexican traders deviated off-course from the Old Spanish Trail, a trade route established decades earlier by Spanish missionaries and nomadic Native tribes. The traders would have faced certain death in the blistering heat typical to the region, if not for the fortuitous discovery of an artesian spring and lush wetlands nearby.
That very discovery accelerated the settlement of the American West. The city would eventually be named for the life-saving oasis (“las vegas” means “the meadows” in Spanish). The advent of the railroad and the construction of the Hoover Dam kick-started Las Vegas’ rise to prominence in the West; the establishment of legalized gambling promoted it to the status of “icon.”
Las Vegas hotels, casinos and other attractions are concentrated in two primary areas: Las Vegas Boulevard, commonly known as the “Strip” and Downtown, also known as “Fremont Street.” Millions of travelers from around the world visit Las Vegas annually. As a result, traffic tends to be congested 24 hours a day. Try to drive as little as possible once you get to your hotel.
The Las Vegas Strip is a fun place to walk. The interiors of the different hotels and casinos on the Strip will transport you from Paris to New York to Egypt to Monte Carlo to medieval England all in the space of a few miles. It’s even more spectacular at night when all the hotels light up their world-famous neon signs. Downtown, the Fremont Street Experience was also designed to be pedestrian-friendly, with hotels, casinos, shops and restaurants all enclosed by an overhead canopy that projects videos at night.
Public transportation can be easily obtained in Las Vegas. Taxis can be called from most hotels (if they’re not waiting out front already). Many hotels also offer shuttle service, especially those situated off-strip. The CAT (Citizens’ Area Transit) bus line covers the Las Vegas Metro area, with the double decker “Deuce” Bus serving the route from the Strip to Downtown. $2.00 per ride; day use passes are available for $5.00 each.
The Las Vegas Monorail is another quick and efficient way to get to many Strip attractions. Beginning at the MGM Grand, the Monorail goes to Bally’s, the Flamingo, Harrah’s, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Las Vegas Hilton and the Sahara. $5.00 for one ride, day passes $15.00, 3-day passes are $40.00.
Of course there’s more to Las Vegas than just Las Vegas. Outside of the city limits lies a whole different world. Scenic attractions like Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, Mt. Charleston, and Eldorado Canyon, just might make you forget that you’re in the other city that never sleeps!
Those with the time to spare should also take advantage of the opportunity to visit the many National Parks surrounding Las Vegas. Death Valley, Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, the Grand Staircase, and more are all located mere hours from the lights of the city. And if you’ve come as far as Las Vegas, you’ve come too far not to see the grandest attraction of them all – the Grand Canyon.