Visiting Las Vegas
Under Reconstruction 🙂
Las Vegas rises out of the Nevada desert, and became an unlikely oasis nearly 100 years ago. The city went from an unknown small town to one of the world’s most recognized entertainment destinations, all in a relatively short time. Vegas is a place that I’ve been lucky to visit multiple times over the past 20 years, and feel like I know the city beyond a superficial level. Each time I visited I discovered something new, and on my most recent trip these two pictures above and below showed my return as I drove back into the city.
I think Vegas is definitely a city that is a bit misunderstood by many, including myself until I got to know it better. Most people understandably envision Las Vegas as a city full of strip clubs and gambling. I was often confused on why couples would want to visit or even families with young kids. The photo above is an advertisement of “Hot Babes”, and below you can see a few other advertisements for peep shows and other clubs. I once thought that Las Vegas was nothing but these kinds of places, and aside clubs and casinos there wasn’t much else going on. But while Vegas certainly earned its nickname Sin City, there really is a lot more to this amazing place, and plenty of fun for everyone.
Though Vegas has lots of diverse districts, the most popular will always be the downtown strip. This is the chaotic part of the city, that’s always packed with people. The first time I ever visited Las Vegas was on new years in 2001. I’ve no photos of that trip, but I can say it was so packed that walking a few feet required a couple minutes because of the wall of people. The downtown strip is famous for its shows, luxury hotels, and recreations of famous buildings.
One of the most famous hotels in the city is Ballys. This is one of the older giants that opened up as the MGM back in the early 1970’s, and believe it or not it was actually once the largest hotel in the world! With so many guests the hotel earned its own station to the city’s monorail. I’ve never stayed in any of these massive hotels before, and wouldn’t even know which one to pick. When I visited in 2001, we were all 18 years old and had been too stupid to book a hotel in advance. Everything was completely booked, but at the last minute we ended up finding a single room in a one star hotel with no sheets. At a cost of $250 a night, we actually felt pretty fortunate. I’d imagine that a hotel like this would be at least $500 a night if you booked it last minute on a major holiday!
Caesar’s Palace hotel was one of the originals that opened up in 1966, while the Bellagio below is more recent and opened in the 1990’s. I wish I took some more photos from the insides of the hotels. In my opinion the inside is much more impressive. Many include indoor malls with different themes, such as an indoor Venice where you can ride a gondola. Others have giant indoor pools and enough world class entertainment within their own walls that you never have to leave your hotel. If you don’t attempt to book on New Year’s Eve like I did once, rates usually start around $200 a night, but can go up as high as you are willing to pay.
Another famous hotel is the Mirage Casino. This hotel was known for the tiger shows with Siegfried & Roy, but now that that show is over the hotel has lost most of its fame. Two failures I’ve made so far in Vegas was not going to a major show, and as I mentioned earlier not photographing the inside of any of the hotels. I had planned to fix this on my next return to Vegas but only have a single shot of a lobby, which doesn’t do much justice. Next time again…
Las Vegas hosts some of the best entertainment and shows in the world, with one of the most known being Siegfried & Roy. They performed several acts with tigers for decades until their careers were ended by an accident in 2003. Roy was bitten on the neck by a tiger named Montecore, in which he claims the tiger was actually trying to pick him up. The incident partially paralyzed Roy and ended the “most watched show in Vegas” forever.
Another legend in that lives in Las Vegas is David Copperfield. I caught this advertisement for Copperfield, who has over 11 Guinness World Records from some of his amazing stunts, and magic acts. He has sold well over 33 million tickets to date, and is considered to be the best magician in history. This photo was taken close to ten years ago, so I’m not even sure if he’s retired or not!
While there are always big names running shows in the city, there seems to be an infinite number of street performers and those simply dressed up along the strip. The transformer guy above either dedicated a year’s paycheck to that costume or maybe he is some kind of promotional figure from a new movie. The jester on the other hand had a much simpler gig and had lots of competition.
Some dream of coming to Las Vegas and winning big, either through the jackpot or show biz. I wish I could share photos of the casinos, but it’s usually forbidden to photograph gambling tables. That of course makes me a bit sad, since in many ways its the heart of what makes Vegas. Most come to Vegas simply to have fun, but a few have definitely won millions and changed their life for better or worse. Some people who visit Vegas simply get unlucky. This guy who is surrounded by medics stepped into the street and was struck by a vehicle.
It wasn’t until I visited Vegas for my fourth time that I learned about Fremont. I’m a bit embarassed to admit that, because Fremont was the original strip in Las Vegas. I mentioned how some of the other casinos opened in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but Fremont is the original Las Vegas, and famous casinos like the Golden Nugget, Binion’s Horseshoe, Eldorado Club and more were all started here. In 1925 Fremont became the first paved street in Las Vegas, and within ten years it already had a reputation for gambling; although it was still illegal at the time. I once had a friend who lived in Vegas, and he told me the city was nothing but Mormons and the Mafia. Mormons in Vegas to me sounded extremely bizarre, but most people are aware that the Mafia were those behind the scenes and are credited for building Vegas.
Compared to the main Las Vegas Strip, Fremont felt much quieter. That wasn’t a bad thing though, and I actually found that I preferred this area. Just like the rest of Vegas, Fremont has plenty of restaurants, casinos, and its own entertainment. I had always heard about the Heart Attack Grill in Vegas but had no idea it was in Fremont. This place doesn’t shame itself for the fact that it serves meals that push record amounts of calories and unhealthiness. The cook famously was overweight and died of a heart attack himself. Needless to say, I didn’t eat there!
Like the rest of Vegas, Fremont also had its own entertainers lining the streets. I’m not exactly sure how this lady above got paid, but she was one of a few “Dancing DJ’s” spread about the Fremont strip. She would play music along the street and do a dance while people passed by. The stone man below worked on tips, and my friend gave him some cash so we got to see him in action.F
As I left Fremont and walked back to my friend’s place we happened to stumble on this giant metal praying mantis. As it turns out, each hour on the hour the song Sail by Awolnation comes on, and the metal mantis comes to life by shooting flames out of its antennas. I have a few photos of the flames coming out, but decided to show the main body instead. The flames were so high that my camera couldn’t capture it all unless I stepped back several hundred feet.
The praying mantis led us into a small neighborhood called Container Park. My friend had explained to me that Container Park was completely built out of used shipping containers, to make up shops, restaurants and even a playground. To be honest, I expected rusty containers with businesses such as bail bondsmen and tattoo parlors. Well there was one tattoo parlor, but like the rest of the park everything looked bran new and I was shocked by how nice it was. Maybe it was because we visited at night, but even after going inside some of the shops I don’t think I would have even noticed this place was built out of shipping containers! The photo above shows the center of the neighborhood where you can see there are two levels of stores in the background. On the outside you can tell the BBQ joint below is made from a shipping container, but for the most part I don’t think I would have ever noticed, ,especially when you’re inside the shops and restaurants!
I’ve just realized that nearly every photo so far on this page was taken at night! During the day time there are still plenty of things to do in Vegas. Once during a visit it was even raining, and so I decided to duck inside and I went to the Las Vegas museum of natural history. I actually came across this place on accident, but it was definitely worth the visit. They had a number of stuffed animals here from all over the world, but I choose to photograph those that are native to Nevada. I liked the exhibit above since it shows some of the common wildlife you could find while hiking in the local deserts or mountains. It’s also hard to believe, but Nevada is even home to the giant grizzly bear photographed below!
A bit random but I figured I’d share this anyway. The museum for some reason had a large area dedicated to ancient Egypt. This included some real artifacts and many replicas. The museum didn’t look to big to me from the outside, but it’s got a lot to it and was perfect for me on a rainy day. Other exhibits here include an African wildlife section, dinosaur section with some life size models, a geological section, and more.
There are plenty of museums and historical places to visit in Vegas. The Las Vegas Springs Preserve museum recreated some of the early Native American life in the area. This is another large complex and gives a good history of the city, as well as the way of life here for early settlers. These photos above and below show some of the Native Americans homes that were common in southern Nevada.
Once Europeans made it to Nevada, this region was actually once part of Mexico. It became annexed into the United States in 1855, and almost immediately Mormons established themselves here. They built this historic Mormon fort in 1855, which provided an important stopover for those traveling from Salt Lake City to Bernando, Caliornia. From here they also worked to convert the native population. Because the Mormons were essentially forced out west by persecution in the mid-West, they had a high level of distrust between the US government and other settlers. This eventually led to an armed conflict with the US government known as the Utah War, and the aftermath of that is what caused them to abandon Las Vegas. Here are two photos of the remains of the Mormon Fort, located right in the heart of Las Vegas.
By the late 1800’s, Las Vegas became known as railroad and mining town. As time went on the mines were eventually depleted, and naturally led to the city’s future being questioned. Las Vegas went into a major recession, but still survived the next few decades. Above and below are two more photos from the Las Vegas Springs Preserve showing auctions and passengers arriving by train. The city’s first major boost didn’t come until the 1930’s when the Hoover Dam was built. This was created to bring water to the desert, but was such an impressive engineering feat it brought lots of tourism and first put Vegas on the city map.
And lastly, these two final photos probably look pretty insignificant, but it was these exact sights that led to the birth of one of the greatest cities in the world. When in the dry desert, dust and other wind spread debris usually blow right past you. But when they come in contact with spring water they clump together. Over time they grow high enough to create large mounds that are usually covered with plants in the otherwise empty desert. That’s what happened in these photos above, and Spanish settlers called this area Las Vegas, or the meadows. The supply of water here is what inspired the first settlement that eventually grew to be one of America’s most famous cities.