Las Vegas is the city that never should have been due to a concern about a lack of water supply. If you drive around into the residential area of town, you'll notice there are no 1930's homes. That's because Las Vegas is a relatively young city, especially compared to cities like Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago. It wasn't until the '30s when the Las Vegas Valley began to see significant population growth.
Despite the city's youth, there is a lot of history behind these iconic places.
The Hoover Dam is arguably the most important Las Vegas landmark. If not for President Herbert Hoover signing an appropriation bill in 1930 for what was then called the Boulder Dam, Las Vegas as you know it today wouldn't be the same. Instead of coming here to gamble and party, you probably would be coming here to fill up on gas on your way to Los Angeles or Phoenix.
The creation of the dam led to a spike in population from 5,000 to 25,000. Most of those newcomers were males who needed some entertainment options. In came the Mafia bosses to build casinos and hire showgirls to entertain the construction workers. And that, my friends, is the foundation for how Las Vegas became the city it is today. You can check out the gorgeous Hoover Dam via a tour, like the Super Hoover Dam Express Tour, or you can take a drive out there and view it on your own. The drive is about 30 minutes from the Strip.
Fremont Street Experience
Fremont Street is a blast, but a trip downtown to Fremont Street will take you back in history to the early days of Sin City. Although things have changed over the years, Fremont still remains a historic area with an interesting story. Fremont Street is home to Las Vegas' first hotel (Hotel Nevada in 1906, now the Golden Gate), first paved road and first traffic light.
Fremont Street was originally the main gambling center in Las Vegas before the large hotel casinos were formed on the Strip. The Fremont Street district now features about a dozen casinos, some cheap and free live entertainment, cheap hotel rooms compared to the Strip, and some of the best people watching in the country. The Strip is more modern, while Fremont is more old-school. And that's sort of what makes Fremont Street so fascinating.
In 1995, a canopy was added above a 5-block stretch of the road, which was also closed to traffic. Tourists can enjoy nightly shows projected on the "Viva Vision" canopy, which is the world's largest LED screen. In more recent years, many of the hotels on Fremont Street have undergone a face-lifts while the area has welcomed new attractions like the Slotzilla zip line.
Red Rock Canyon
I can't think of a better way to ditch the craziness of the Strip than to go for a relaxing hike at Red Rock Canyon. The drive is about 15 minutes west of the Strip. The trip to Red Rock Canyon provides some exceptional picture taking opportunities. The area features large red rock formations, scenic mountains, and some cool hiking trails.
Red Rock Canyon also has plenty of history. The first humans settled in at Red Rock Canyon due to the area's presence of water, plant, and animal life. There are pottery fragments still present at Red Rock Canyon that date way back to 11,000 B.C. and many roasting pits that were used by early Native Americans. So if you head out to Red Rock Canyon, you can say you've spent time in an area where the earliest Native Americans settled.
You can't come to Las Vegas without checking out some of the many mega resorts that populate this beautiful city. Most of the mega resorts reside on the Las Vegas Strip, but the first one ever built is actually a long walk east of the Strip. That resort is now called the Westgate Las Vegas, but it was originally named the International Hotel, and opened in 1969. You may also know this place as the Las Vegas Hilton (LVH) or Las Vegas Hotel. Yes, it's changed names quite a few times over the years. Las Vegas is, after all, the master of reinvention.
Once International Hotel opened, it paved way for the growth of all the mega resorts you see today. By walking into places such as Bellagio, Flamingo and Caesars Palace, you are stepping foot in a historic landmark. Every one of those massive hotels has a story behind it.
Las Vegas is an exciting city with an interesting history. If not for the Hoover Dam and organized crime, Las Vegas may have been nothing more than a pit stop. Mafia bosses are long removed from running this town, but it was mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel that helped turn Las Vegas into an entertainment Mecca.
Featured photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons