I went to Vegas originally intending to only stay a day or two, and ended up staying for a whole week. Despite what you might think, Las Vegas is actually quite a pleasant town with a unique and interesting history. Originally a simple water stop on the way to California, Vegas' famous reputation as a gambling capital began with the construction of the Hoover Dam. During its construction, workers in need for entertainment flocked to Vegas to spend their money. So strong was this desire that even when the government took steps to prevent workers from indulging in illegal pleasures, they came anyway. When the dam was completed, it provided electricty first to Vegas, which enabled local entrepreneurs to coax their guests with the garish light decorations Vegas is famous for today. Nevada legalized gambling against much resistance in 1931 and paved the way for Vegas' main industry.
In the 1940's the American government chose a location for atomic bomb testing close to Las Vegas, and development of the town proper began. Bomb testing became a major tourist draw, and the history and culture of Las Vegas is closely linked to the bomb, a fact that the "Atomic Testing Museum" pays suitable homage to. It gives an interesting insight in the amount of impact the bomb had on popular American culture. For fans of "Fallout" an absolute must.
|"The power of the atom" symbolized by a giant|
|Civil Defense was the keyword during the cold war|
|Soldiers where handed pamphlete about atomic warfare|
|Mannequin dummies were used to measure the effects of a blast|
|Bomb testing was open for tourists: they even got certificates|
|"Miss Atomic Bomb" models were photographed in front of blast clouds|
|Seamless transition from the cold war to the war on terror....|
|The kids' corner. Hooray mushroom clouds.|
Many of the large resorts that make up the Vegas skyline where created in the late eighties and nineties, and are now the biggest tourist attraction. Apart from being tacky copies of existing international architecture they feature live shows, such a battling pirate ships, shark diving or indoor lion cages. Add waterslides, musicals and magic shows and you will find that Vegas is actually a very family friendly place that is visited by many parents and their kids, even if they don't gamble.
|Entrace to the Egyptian-themed Luxor|
|New York, New York|
|Lion statue outside the MGM Grand|
|Italian Renaissance light.|
|Interior of Caesar's Palace|
|Fake blue skies make sure your sense of time leaves with your money|
|Pirates battle scantily clad sirens outside Tropical Island|
|Circus Circus, of Fear and Loathing fame.|
Another reason to come to Vegas is marriage. Roughly 5 percent of all American marriages are preformed here,which is around a 120000 marriages a year. Las Vegas is also the easiest and fastest place to get a marriage certificate, and wedding chapels abound. There is even drive-in ones.
Outside the strip, I found Vegas to be a laid-back enjoyable town, full of seedy bars and tattoo parlours filled with likeable sleazebags. The wacky and the surreal are never far in Vegas, and you can easily spend some weeks (and dollars) on and off the strip and have a great time.