Las Vegas, /lɑːs ˈveɪɡəs/ (locally, also pronounced as /lɑːs ˈvɛɡɨs/) officially the City of Las Vegas and often known as simply Vegas, is a city in the United States, the most populous city in the state of Nevada, the county seat of Clark County, and the city proper of the Las Vegas Valley. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city known primarily for gambling, shopping, fine dining and nightlife and is the leading financial and cultural center for Southern Nevada. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its mega casino–hotels and associated entertainment. A growing retirement and family city, Las Vegas is the 31st-most populous city in the United States, with a population at the 2010 census of 583,736. The 2010 population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area was 1,951,269. The city is one of the top three leading destinations in the United States for conventions, business, and meetings. In addition, the city’s metropolitan area has more AAA Five Diamond hotels than any other city in the world, and is a global leader in the hospitality industry. Today, Las Vegas is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, drawing over 40 million international and domestic visitors in 2013 with a GMP of US$103.3 billion.
Established in 1905, Las Vegas was incorporated as a city in 1911. At the close of the 20th century, Las Vegas was the most populous American city founded in that century (a similar distinction retained by Chicago in the 19th century).
Perhaps the earliest visitors to the Las Vegas area were nomadic Paleo-Indians, who traveled here 10,000 years ago, leaving behind petroglyphs. Anasazi and Pauite tribes followed at least 2,000 years ago.
he area was named Las Vegas, which is Spanish for “the meadows”, as it featured abundant wild grasses, as well as desert spring waters for westward travelers.
Eleven years later members of the LDS Church chose Las Vegas as the site to build a fort halfway between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, where they would travel to gather supplies. The fort was abandoned several years afterward. The remainder of this Old Mormon Fort can still be seen at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue.
Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905, when 110 acres (45 ha) of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks were auctioned in what would become the downtown area. In 1911, Las Vegas was incorporated as a city.
1931 was a pivotal year for Las Vegas. At that time, Nevada legalized casino gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks. This year also witnessed the beginning of construction on nearby Hoover Dam. The influx of construction workers and their families helped Las Vegas avoid economic calamity during the Great Depression. The construction work was completed in 1935.
In 1941, the Las Vegas Army Air Corps Gunnery School was established. Currently known as Nellis Air Force Base, it is home to the aerobatic team called the Thunderbirds.
Following World War II, lavishly decorated hotels, gambling casinos and big-name entertainment became synonymous with Las Vegas.
During the 1960s, corporations and business powerhouses such as Howard Hughes were building and buying hotel-casino properties. Gambling was referred to as “gaming,” which transitioned into legitimate business.
In 1989, entrepreneur Steve Wynn changed the face of the Las Vegas gaming industry by opening up The Mirage, the Las Vegas Strip’s first mega-casino resort.
The year 1995 marked the opening of the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas’ downtown area. This canopied, five-block area features 12.5 million LED lights and 550,000 watts of sound from dusk until midnight during shows held on the top of each hour.
Due to years of revitalization efforts, 2012 was dubbed “The Year of Downtown”. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects made their debut at this time. They included The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and DISCOVERY Children’s Museum, the Mob Museum, the Neon Museum, a new City Hall complex and renovations for a new Zappos.com corporate headquarters in the old City Hall building.
Las Vegas is situated within Clark County in a basin on the floor of the Mojave Desert and is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. Much of the landscape is rocky and arid with desert vegetation and wildlife. It can be subjected to torrential flash floods, although much has been done to mitigate the effects of flash floods through improved drainage systems.
The primary drivers of the Las Vegas economy are tourism, gaming and conventions, which in turn feed the retail and restaurant industries.
The major attractions in Las Vegas are the casinos and the hotels, although in recent years other new attractions have begun to emerge.
When The Mirage opened in 1989, it started a trend of major resort development on the Las Vegas Strip outside of the city. This resulted in a drop in tourism in the downtown area, but many recent projects have increased the number of visitors to downtown.
An effort has been made by city officials to diversify the economy by attracting health-related, high-tech and other commercial interests. No state tax for individuals or corporations, as well as a lack of other forms of business-related taxes, have aided the success of these efforts.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is situated downtown in Symphony Park. The world-class performing arts center hosts Broadway shows and other major touring attractions, as well as orchestral, opera, ballet, choir, jazz, and dance performances.
A bus rapid-transit link in Las Vegas called the Strip & Downtown Express (previously ACE Gold Line) with limited stops and frequent service was launched in March 2010, and connects downtown Las Vegas, the Strip and the Las Vegas Convention Center.