Welcome to shiny and sparkly Sin City!
Can it really be so shiny and full of lights? Yes, in some areas where casinos and other entertainment areas are created for the tourists it really is. In those areas I would say it is also the cleanest city I saw until now in The United States of America. Shiny, overblown and a bit tacky, of course this is the place where the golden hotel of Trump looks like it is in just the right place.
Las Vegas is the reason why people from North America don’t ever need to go to Europe, because there you can find little Venice, London or Paris without needing to fly. Of course I am being sarcastic and we are not willing to pay lots of money for having a gondola tour in their plastic lagoon (I simply love the smell of Venice’s canals, because it might be stinky but it is natural and real).
Oh well, since we were in maybe the most touristic place in the USA we decided we were going to enjoy it and do a couple of local things, just not to spend crazy amounts of our money in the smoky carpeted casinos. Damn, I really dislike carpets in public spaces!
So, apart from twinkly lights, what do most people picture when they think about Las Vegas? Danny Ocean’s crew stealing money from casinos or maybe scenes from Diamonds Are Forever?
Actually in my opinion this neon lit metropolis is a great example of how it is possible to create something in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that is not so true though, there have been people living here for a much longer time than the city has existed, and it was an important place on the route between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.
The growth of Las Vegas
If you are from Europe and hear that that the city of Las Vegas was only founded in 1905 it gives you a single thought – such a young city! Yes it is young, started in the time of the gold rush. It is located in the basin of the Mojave desert, so it is not the coolest place, but honestly felt a bit refreshing after Death Valley, still you might experience 45-47 degrees celsius sometimes.
After the state of Nevada state legalized casino gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks, in 1931, the city used this situation and started to build its unique reputation. Even after the great depression came the local workforce were saved by the nearby construction of an amazing object – the Hoover Dam.
All of this time the city was growing in size, population and tourism levels. Now it is known worldwide as a leader in the hospitality industry, a centre of gambling and an easy place to get married. Some of the hotels with attached casinos are massive, they can accommodate thousands of people in many different buildings. If you pay more for accommodation then you actually never need to leave the building because you can find everything you might need at your resort, swimming pools, massage, casino, restaurants, shops and other entertainment, but where is the fun in that? The annoying thing is that you always need to pay these hotels ‘resort fees’ even if you just want a place to sleep.
The city has ended up with two main areas, the Downtown area around Fremont Street and Las Vegas Strip. The Strip was actually outside of the original city and as it boomed tourism dropped in the downtown area, but development projects gave a big input and Downtown fought back. I would say that now they offer two really quite different ways to experience Las Vegas – the plastic reality massive hotels area of The Strip or the far more cozy walkable Downtown, for sure I prefer the second cozy one.
Rachel and Ross got married (or maybe not)
American movies give you the impression that to get married in Vegas super easy. It’s a huge industry and weddings give a good part of city incomes. Clark county for sure has very ‘light’ rules for marriages, but it doesn’t happen quite like in the movies. Rachel and Ross couldn’t be official married as it was shown in our beloved series of Friends. You still need to get official documents before, then after the ceremony bring the marriage license back and wait up to 10 days to receive you official certificate.
There are many crazy looking chapels for your wedding celebration. Your ceremony can be lead by Elvis Presley, can be done in a fancy old fashion car, or maybe at a drive through. Many places have 24/7 reception and offers plenty of assorted services. Actually we did that experience while we were in town too! Basically we got everything for under 120 dollars, it was fun even if sadly, or maybe happily, we were not drunk 😀
Lovely people and great graffiti
We were super lucky to meet many different people who were great to us! So later when we spent time in LA we got kind of a cold shower about some of the not so nice ones we met there. While we were hunting for Polaroid films we met a man who gave us fresh cold water at the bus station. I think his company is responsible for roads and they like to keep people from having heat exhaustion at the side of them. When you are kind of boiling in the heat it makes you appreciate water even more. Another time we didn’t have any cash and thought that we might pay for a bus ticket by card, the lady just let us go without payment because it was cash only, and that was great! To be honest all of the bus drivers are incredibly nice to everyone, at least the ones we met.
Nevada, as California, Florida and others warm places, have great graffiti. When the weather is kind without raining or snowing or whatever the urban street art can last much longer and give us a chance to have great art tours just by walking along the streets.
If you want be full of more than just art, make sure you have nachos! Believe me, you can have amazing food at Nacho Daddy just off of Fremont Street, probably I had the best ever nachos in my life here!
A good starting point
Atomic City is quite an amazing location to start from if you want to do some day tours by car. You can find some cheap place to sleep, and then rent a car or take organised tours from here. Some of the places you could visit are the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, the Hoover Dam, Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River, Marble Canyon, Death Valley, some of Nevada’s many ghost towns, and I am sure there are many more.
You might be wondering why I wrote not Las Vegas, Sin City or Vegas, but Atomic City. It is one more nickname for this city because in 1951 nuclear weapons testing was started at the Nevada Test Site, about 105 km from Las Vegas. We just passed by in the car and the place is huge, I’m really quite anti-military, but sadly military force is a massive thing in all of The USA.
Did we like the city in the desert?
Yes we did, but it is not the place I would wish to come back to. We would definitely recommend to visit it once though, and to actually get outside of the huge hotels and away from The Strip 🙂