Las Vegas

Exploring Las Vegas

Rising like a mirage out of Nevada's beautiful southern desert, Las Vegas is a glittering wonderland that promises fun to all its visitors. The city's unique attraction is its hotels with their fantastic architecture, re-creating such cities as New York and Venice. At the heart of these palaces lie the casinos where the lure of million dollar jackpots draws almost 37 million visitors each year.

Occupied by the Ancestral Puebloan peoples until around 1150 AD, the Las Vegas area was the home of several Native American tribes, including the Paiute, until Mexican traders arrived in the early 19th century. Mormon pioneers built a fort here in 1855, establishing the beginnings of a settlement in the area, which gradually developed.

Officially founded in 1905, the city of Las Vegas expanded in the 1930s with the building of the Hoover Dam across the Colorado River, some 30 miles (45 km) away, and the legalization of gambling here in 1931. The influx of construction workers with money to burn, and the electricity and water provided by the dam, paved the way for the casino-based growth that took place in the 1940s and 1950s.

Since the 1990s, numbers of ever more extravagant resorts have been built in the city, including the impressive Bellagio, Venetian, and and this expansion shows no signs of slowing.

For those who can tear themselves away from the city, the surrounding country has much to offer. Lake Mead and the stunning rock formations of the Valley of Fire State Park provide a range of outdoor pleasures from horseback riding to watersports.

Today, Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the US, with more than 1,000 people moving in each week.

Tourism and gaming remain the city's most successful industries - it has 18 of the 20 largest hotels in the world - but it is also known for its wedding chapels and top-quality entertainment.