Las Vegas for the Brits or How to Survive having Fun
Las Vegas translates into English as 'The Meadows' or 'The Grasslands' and was named by Spaniards in the Antonio Armijo party, who used the water in the area while heading north and west along the Old Spanish Trail from Texas. In the 1800s, areas of the Las Vegas Valley contained artesian wells that supported extensive green areas or Meadows (Vega in Spanish), hence the name Las Vegas. It is believed the birthplace of Las Vegas to be the Springs Preserve found by John C. Frémont when he travelled into the Las Vegas Valley on May 3, 1844, while it was still part of Mexico. He was a leader of a group of scientists, scouts and observers for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. On May 10, 1855, following annexation by the United States, Brigham Young assigned 30 Mormon missionaries led by William Bringhurst to the area to convert the Paiute Indian population. A fort was built near the current downtown area, serving as a stopover for travellers along the "Mormon Corridor" between Salt Lake and the briefly thriving Mormon colony at San Bernardino, California. Las Vegas was established as a railroad town on May 15, 1905. Las Vegas became an incorporated city on March 16, 1911.
Why Visit ?
Las vegas today is a bustling city like no other in the world. It is truly unique. Yes! It is a centre of gambling, but it is so much more and offers, not only its own city attractions, but access to a couple of legends of geography that everyone should experience if there is an opportunity to do so: The Grand Canyon and Death Valley. Thirty years ago, Vegas was quite simply a gambling centre for adults, today it is a place where you can go for a family holiday. There are attractions for all and you can spend a few most enjoyable days in the city without gambling a penny. If you are a 'people watcher' this is your paradise!.
Vegas never sleeps and is bustling 24 hours every day of the year. The best accommodation is to be found in one of the great casino/hotels, most of which are based along the 'strip' which forms the centre of Las Vegas. Each hotel boasts several thousand bedrooms and is likely to be based upon a theme ranging from ancient Egypt (The Luxor) to famous literature (Treasure Island). These hotels are luxurious throughout and such is competition to be the best, that demolition and reconstruction of seemingly perfectly good hotels is regularly seen. Most hotels feature daily exhibitions/shows related to their theme, an example of which is to be found at Treasure Island where, twice daily, at the front of the hotel a full sized Galleon is the star attraction in a sea battle featuring dozens of sword wielding pirates. The battle continues until the Galleon sinks beneath the water. There is also ample budget accommodation away from the strip in smaller hotels and chain motels like Motel 6.
The ground floor of each hotel is made up of the vast casino with thousands of slot machines, hundreds of gaming tables, a restaurant and very often, a theatre. Accommodation is on the floors above, ensuring that guests are forced to pass through or near the casino to get to their rooms. The revenue from gambling is where the casinos derive their profit; the accommodation and restaurants are the tools by which the gambler is attracted to the casino.
Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel
The brilliant Venetian Hotel
The Colourful Exalibur Hotel
The Iconic Luxor
The Colourful 'strip'
For this reason hotel accommodation tends to be very competitively priced and I would hazard a guess that for the type of luxury on offer; there is no better value anywhere in the world. Smiliarly, restaurants are used to draw customers to the hotel/casino and, even by American standards offer a very low price. The food is generally a running buffet at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a massive range of choices on an 'eat as much as you like' basis. Haute Cuisine it is not, but the offerings are high quality and extremely varied. If you are feeding a teenage food disposal unit, you will never do it cheaper.
Another feature of Vegas life is the lavish show. Very few places in the world have the money to put on the type of musicals, famous artists and speciality shows that are always a part of Vegas entertainment. Most have seen films of the heady days of Hollywood when a 100 glitteringly dressed showgirls cascade down mirrored steps with perfect timing. Today, Las Vegas is probably the only remaining venue that can guarantee the audience level to cover the cost of this type of entertainment.
Even with the drop in education standards in the UK, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley should still be well known to the young and old alike; both experiences are readily accessible from Las Vegas. Car hire is not expensive in the USA and driving standards are such that an experienced driver from Europe should not have the slightest apprehension about hiring a car and taking to the open road. Once in the car, a trip to Death Valley or the Grand Canyon makes a pleasant day trip. However, one should always take care to observe safety advice relevant to these trips, particularly Death Valley; reputedy the hottest place on earth at certain times of the year! For those who are prepared to spend a little more on their Grand Canyon trip, there are a number of companies that offer flights by small fixed wing aircraft or helicopters, from Las Vegas, transitting over the massive Hoover Dam en-route.
For the golfer, there are a number of excellent golf courses within easy range of the city. Some are very expensive, but others offer pretty good value for money, particularly with the US$ hovering around US$1.60 to £1 sterling.
Over recent years, direct flights to Las vegas have become more common. However, three or four days in Las Vegas is usually sufficient to see the sights in the city. Why not fly into San Francisco, hire a car and take a 14 days round-trip that includes Las Vegas. See the sights of Southern California, Yosemite National Park and the Napa Valley, as well as some of the countryside that travellers normally miss. Details of a suggested itinerary are at this link.
I like to play blackjack. I'm not addicted to gambling, I'm addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.
Mitch Hedberg (1968 - 2005)