Las Vegas, Nevada 2020

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From a small railroad service center in the desert in the early 20th century to America’s fastest growing city in 1999, Las Vegas is the only major metropolis in the famed American West to be founded in the 1900s. First introduced in 1905, Nevada’s largest city is often known simply as “Vegas”, a haven of spectacular entertainment, sophisticated and elaborate hotels and, of course, numerous sprawling casinos. It attracts millions of visitors each year, although most of them flock to a narrow 7km part of the city known as “The Strip”.

Geography and climate of Las Vegas

Aerial view of Las Vegas.

Located in Clark County, Nevada, Las Vegas sits in a basin of the Mojave Desert, called the Las Vegas Valley. Covering approximately 600 square miles, it is also home to the community of Paradise, and dry mountain ranges and desert vegetation dominate its surrounding landscape. These include the Spring Mountains to the west and the famous Mount Charleston. With an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, it is the highest point in Clark County.

Taking its name from the Spanish for “The Meadows”, Las Vegas has a hot, dry climate that lasts most of the year; on average, the daily temperature is 20 C (68 F), with highs of up to 27 C (80 F) and lows of 13 C (56 F). However, temperatures of up to 40 C (104 F) have often been recorded in summer. As a desert city, Las Vegas is only 160 km east of the famous Death Valley, which receives an average of only 100 mm of rain per year! When there is rainfall, however, it is likely to become torrential, and very destructive flash floods have affected Las Vegas perimeters in the past.

Tourism in Las Vegas

Although it has a modest population of 641,000 (based on 2020 data), everything else in Las Vegas is superlative indeed. A multi-billion dollar economic powerhouse, the city is home to colossal hotels (with thousands of rooms each), the world’s largest glass pyramid, and replicas of some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. Tens of millions of tourists flock to “Sin City” every year, making it one of the top vacation destinations in the United States. Las Vegas generally attracts more visitors than the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.

“The band”

Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip at night. Editorial Credit: Randy Andy / Shutterstock.com

The aforementioned “Strip” is of course what comes to mind when thinking of Las Vegas, home to many unique themed hotels and casinos; from Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, The Venetian, The Bellagio, The Luxor, and more. “The Strip” offers an endless array of bright lights, entertainment venues, restaurants and full-scale imitations of some of the world’s best-known landmarks. These include the Eiffel Tower, a section of the Brooklyn Bridge and, of course, the Great Egyptian Sphinx.

Spend an afternoon on Venice’s famous lagoons and take a gondola ride at the Venetian, ride the High Roller Ferris wheel, enjoy the spectacular water fountain show at the Bellagio, see the erupting volcano at the Mirage hotel or go to the very top of the Stratosphere Tower, some 1500 feet in the air! These sites and many more define “The Strip”, without ever getting bored.

Other attractions in Las Vegas

Fremont Street in Las Vegas
The famous Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Editorial credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Just off “The Strip”, visitors can also visit “Old Vegas” and the famous Fremont Street, a pedestrian-only area. Within a five-block radius, tourists can look up and enjoy the “Fremont Street Experience” and see a canopy of LED lights that illuminate the sky in ever-changing colors and other patterns.

For fans of fast cars, a visit to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is an opportunity not to be missed; 15 miles from downtown, the speedway is a 1,200-acre multi-track race complex that hosts NASCAR races and other local racing events. Those with enough cash to spend can even take a Ferrari or Lamborghini for a test drive around the track, unleashing their inner racing driver!

Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam.

And of course, the world famous Hoover Dam, the region’s main supplier of hydroelectric power, is always a popular destination to explore. Located 50 km from Las Vegas, tourists can take an underground tour of the dam’s generators and see this engineering marvel up close. Afterwards, why not take a boat trip on the artificial Lake Mead? A reservoir of the Hoover Dam, the 180 km long lake eventually connects to the Colorado River, a major river in the southwestern United States.

crime in the city

But beyond the millions of bright lights of “The Strip”, Las Vegas is also an ordinary city with schools, churches, shopping malls and all the conveniences of any metropolis. Deriving fame and most of its revenue from its Sin City component (making it one of the wealthiest cities in the United States), Las Vegas’ residential neighborhoods have struggled with higher rates of local crime, personal and against property. Illegal drug use has plagued the town for decades as residents attempt to redefine their home as more than a gambling den.

Economy of Las Vegas

Las Vegas Casino
A casino in Las Vegas.

Although tourism, gambling, and entertainment are the mainstays of the Las Vegas economy today, from the 19th century until its founding in the early 20th century, Las Vegas’ economic prosperity was largely based on agriculture. In fact, many outlying areas of the city still depended on agriculture and ranching as their main source of livelihood in the 1980s.

But the city’s transformation into an entertainment hotspot has made other economic ventures dwarfed by the vast wealth generated by its main hub. Since the 1990s, Las Vegas has had one of the fastest growing employment bases in the United States, benefiting from a favorable business climate and a large labor pool.

A city like no other

Vegas
The dazzling skyline of Las Vegas.

While the residential and local component of Las Vegas is often obscured by the city’s famous “alter ego”, it is a fully formed city, uniquely located in the Nevada desert. Visitors can’t descend into the city to see its churches, schools, and grocery stores, but nonetheless, Las Vegas has carved out its own success story; from a largely rural agricultural center to an entertainment and gambling juggernaut, it’s surely true that there’s no place like Las Vegas.

Whether sticking solely to “The Strip”, venturing to places like the Hoover Dam and the nearby Grand Canyon, or even deciding to visit the residential aspects of Las Vegas, a visit to “Sin City” will certainly leave a memorable impression.

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