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To Live and Die in Sin City; A History of Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada is widely considered to be one of the most exciting cities in the world and is best known for offering first class dining, the finest wine and champagne, high-end entertainment and luxurious, world-renowned hotels. Las Vegas is a thrilling city to visit no matter the time of year and is guaranteed to keep you entertained throughout your stay.
Brandon Speakman on August 26, 2020 - 3:30 pm in City Spotlight, Historical

Things to do in Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada is always an exhilarating city to visit (even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.) Nicknamed “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” Las Vegas is known for hosting some of the biggest names in entertainment be it musicians like Wayne Newton and Aerosmith or magicians like Penn & Teller and Mat Franco (winner of the ninth season of America’s Got Talent.) Las Vegas is also known for offering an abundance of lavish hotels, posh restaurants and large casinos. Whatever your pleasure may be, Las Vegas is sure to offer it.


Siegfried and Roy Bronze Statue Outside The Mirage Hotel & Casino Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

It is assumed that the earliest groups of people to visit the area of Las Vegas were nomadic Paleo-Indians, who traveled to that area 10,000 years ago and left behind petroglyphs. Anasazi and Paiute tribes traveled to Las Vegas 2,000 years ago.


Southern Paiute at Moapa wearing traditional Paiute cradleboard and rabbit robe Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

Rafael Rivera, a young Mexican scout, is known as the first non-Native American to discover the Las Vegas Valley in 1829. Las Vegas is Spanish for “the meadows” and the city got its name from the lavish amount of wild grasses in the area and the desert spring waters that were enjoyed by westward travelers. John C. Frémont arrived to the area in 1844 and helped entice other pioneers to move to the area through his writings. In 1855, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built a fort in Las Vegas, as it was halfway between Los Angeles (The LDS Church would travel to Los Angeles to gather supplies,) and Salt Lake City. Several years later, the LDS fort would be abandoned. Today, you can see what is left of the Old Mormon Fort at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue. Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905 (this was the year that the land next to the Union Pacific Railroad became downtown Las Vegas.) Las Vegas was incorporated as a city in 1911.


Old Mormon Fort Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In 1931, the state of Nevada legalized casino gambling and “reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks.” Construction on the Hoover Dam also started that year. Due to the increase in construction workers moving to Las Vegas and getting hired to build the Hoover Dam, there was no downturn of the city’s economy during The Great Depression. Construction on the Hoover Dam concluded in 1935. In 1941, the Las Vegas Army Airfield Gunnery School (now known as Nellis Air Force Base) was initiated. After World War II, “lavishly decorated hotels, gambling casinos and big-name entertainment became synonymous with Las Vegas.” In 1951, the Nevada Test Site started testing nuclear weapons 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Eventually, Las Vegas was nicknamed the “Atomic City.” In 1963, “the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty required that nuclear tests be moved underground.”


Mushroom cloud seen from Downtown Las Vegas Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Golden Nugget and Pioneer Club along Fremont Street in 1952 Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In 1955, the Moulin Rouge Hotel opened and has been known since it’s opening as “the first racially integrated casino-hotel in Las Vegas.” In 1959, Betty Willis created the now iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” Sign (“which has never been located within municipal limits.”)


The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign is Trip Advisor’s #10 recommended attraction to visit in Las Vegas. I was excited to get a picture in front of the sign on my way out of town, until I saw a line of 50 people with the same idea. Maybe next time! Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas saw some major changes in the 1960s, as corporations and business tycoons (Howard Hughes being one of them) were building and buying hotel-casino properties in the city. The 1960s was also the decade when gambling became a more legitimate business, as it started being referred to as gaming. The Fremont Street Experience opened in 1995 in Downtown Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is a sensational one-of-a-kind-town to enjoy. While I did visit Las Vegas during the Covid-19 pandemic, I rather enjoyed my time and was impressed with all the measures Las Vegas is taking to keep their visitors safe.


At the Bellagio Fountains Photo Credit Brandon Speakman

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Humans were attracted to Red Rock Canyon due to the high resources of water, plant, and animal life. Hunters and gatherers, like the historic Southern Paiute, Archaic and Desert Culture Native Americans, were among the first humans to successfully live in the Red Rock Canyon area. Although, the first official group of people to live in Red Rock Canyon were the Paleo-Indians. History has found that up to six different Native American cultures have been present at Red Rock Canyon over the millennia, including the Southern Paiute (900 to modern times), Patayan Culture (900 to early historic times in the 1800s), Anasazi (1 AD to 1150), Pinto/Gypsum (Archaic) (3500BC to 1 AD), San Dieguito (7000 to 5500 BC) and Paleo-Indians (Tule Springs) (11,000 to 8,000 BC.) Petroglyphs and pottery fragments still remain in Red Rock Canyon and can be seen throughout the area.


Petroglyphs at Red Rock Canyon Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

Today, you can drive through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on a 13-mile loop and view the large red rock formations and sandstone peaks/walls (called the Keystone Thrust) that the area showcases.


Photo Credit Brandon Speakman



You can also visit the area for hiking, biking, rock scrambling, and rock climbing. Horseback riding and camping is also available at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, but only in limited areas. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area makes for a pretty drive and is a great place to get a unique background in photographs. A day pass for a vehicle at Red Rock Canyon costs $15. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is Trip Advisor’s #1 recommended attraction to visit in Las Vegas.


Aerial view of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada looking northeast Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

High Roller

High Roller is a 550-foot tall Ferris wheel, located on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. High Roller is owned and operated by Cesar’s Entertainment Corporation. High Roller opened to the public on March 31, 2014 and holds the record for being the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. The High Roller can be found on Las Vegas Boulevard, across from Caesars Palace.


Photo Credit: Nate Stiller Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tickets to ride the High Roller cost $20.50 for adults and $7.50 for youth in the daytime. At night, tickets for adults cost $32.75 and 16.50 for youth. High Roller is an exciting attraction for the family to take part in and is Trip Advisor’s #2 recommended attraction to visit in Las Vegas.


Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

The Mob Runs The Strip

The Las Vegas Strip (also known as The Strip) is a portion of South Las Vegas Boulevard that is known for being home to all of the famous hotel and casinos in Las Vegas. (Interestingly enough, The Strip is actually not located within Las Vegas city limits and is a part of Clark County.) The Strip has been classified as an “All-American Road” and, at night, it is considered a “scenic route.”


The Strip in the 1940s. Gas Station of The Last Frontier Hotel, the second hotel on The Strip. Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

One of the first resorts to open on the Strip was built with mob money by 2 gangsters, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky. The resort was called The Flamingo and it officially opened on New Year’s Eve 1946.

Front of Flamingo Hotel

Front of The Flamingo Hotel in 1947 Photo Courtesy Kstadelman/Wikimedia Commons

Even after Siegel was murdered in 1947, mobsters still continued to build casinos and hotels in the 1950s and 1960s like the Sahara, the Sands, the New Frontier and the Riviera. The money that was used to build these resorts came from a combination of organized crime and different investors like Wall Street, union pension funds, the Princeton University endowments and the Mormon Church.


The Sands Hotel and Casino in 1959 Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Frank Rosenthal was another famous mobster who ran multiple casinos in Las Vegas, which were all owned by The Chicago Mafia. It was until the late 1970s when Rosenthal’s gaming license was denied by the city, due to his ties with criminal activities. Rosenthal left Las Vegas and moved to Orange County, California before retiring to Miami, Florida, where he passed away in 2008. You may know Rosenthal by the name Sam “Ace” Rothstein (portrayed by Robert De Niro), from Martin Scorsese’s 1995 mobster film “Casino.” It wasn’t until the 1980s when the mob started to disappear from Las Vegas, due to “The Black Book,” which banned all suspected criminals and gangsters from being able to set foot in a casino in the city.

The Strip Has a Change of Scenery

Back in the day, there was no state speed limit in Nevada, no sales tax, no marriage-waiting period and gambling was unregulated. It wasn’t surprising when Las Vegas was nicknamed “the world’s playground.” In the early 1950s, there were around 1,800 hotel rooms available to be booked on The Strip. The nicer hotels cost $7.50 a night and a motel cost $3.00 a night. Casinos on the Strip started acquiring coin slot machines in the 1960s. Today, you can stay at some of the oldest hotels on the Strip, which haven’t changed much since the 1950s and 1960s, like The Flamingo and Tropicana (The Riviera was also a casino/hotel that hadn’t changed much, but it closed in May 2015.) Other hotels were imploded to make room for newer and nicer resort hotels; The Dunes became The Bellagio; The Sands became The Venetian; The Hacienda became Mandalay Bay and Desert Inn became the new Wynn Las Vegas “mega-resort.” Some hotels have the same name; they have just expanded throughout the years, like Cesars Palace. The Strip is an attraction in Las Vegas that will always be mesmerizing to explore, no matter how many times you’ve been to Vegas. The Strip is Trip Advisor’s #3 recommended attraction to visit in Las Vegas.

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Cesars Palace in 1970 Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Cesars Palace in 2006 Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Cesar in 2020 Photo Credit: Brandon Speakman

Booking a Room on The Strip

Depending on the hotel you stay at today, rates can be surprisingly affordable (especially in July and August.) With that being said, occasionally if you book through Priceline.com or other websites that advertises a “cheap” deal, every so often the website will add on a “hotel fee.” I booked 4 nights at Treasure Island in July because the nightly rate was a mere $24 a night (shocking, I know), but after the “hotel fee” was added on, my 4 nights jumped from $207 to $384. I still consider that to be an incredible deal, but I was not expecting an extra $176 charge.


Photo Courtesy Pixabay


Looking south of The Las Vegas Strip at night. Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


The Strip in 2009 Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons- Lasvegaslover

Fountains of Bellagio

The Fountains of Bellagio is a “choreographed water feature with performances set to light and music.” The Fountains of Bellagio are located in front of The Bellagio Hotel and Casino.


Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Photo Credit Brandon Speakman


Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

The Fountains of Bellagio show takes place every 30 minutes in the afternoons and early evenings, and every 15 minutes from 8 pm to midnight. The Fountains of Bellagio are choreographed with songs like “The Star Spangled Banner” by Whitney Houston, “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli, “Your Song” by Elton John, “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, “Luck Be a Lady” by Frank Sinatra and “My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion. The Fountains of Bellagio is a neat (and free!) attraction to view with your family, while walking around the Las Vegas Strip. The Fountains of Bellagio is Trip Advisor’s #4 recommended attraction to visit in Las Vegas.


Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Mob Museum

The Mob Museum (also known by its official name “National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement”) is a history museum in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. The Mob Museum opened on February 14, 2012 and showcases “artifacts, stories, and history of organized crime in the United States, as well as the actions and initiatives by law enforcement to prevent such crimes.” The Mob Museum is located inside the former Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse, a structure that was built in 1933 and that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Front of the Mob Museum Photo Credit: Wtstoffs Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The main exhibit of the Mob Museum is the courtroom on the second floor. This court room was where “one of fourteen national Kefauver Committee hearings to expose organized crime [was] held in 1950 and 1951.” The Mob Museum also has the brick wall where the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred. The other exhibits in the museum give a spotlight on Mob violence, casino money skimming operations, and wiretapping by law enforcement.


Mob Museum Exhibit with an Early Slot Machine Photo Credit: Kremerbi Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In 2018, a new exhibit called “Organized Crime Today” debuted at the museum. In April 2018, The Mob Museum opened up its own speakeasy and distillery, as part of their basement exhibit, The Underground. The Underground displays cultural history of The Prohibition era and exhibits of the bootleggers, rumrunners, and moonshiners who helped keep alcohol available during federal Prohibition. The Mob Museum “distills its own 100 proof, 100% corn moonshine in a custom-built pot still located in the Underground.” While the museum’s moonshine was only available to order at The Underground for many years, the beverage is now available for purchase at Lee’s Discount Liquor stores in the Las Vegas Valley. The Mob Museum is a great place to learn more about the mobsters and crime families who ran Las Vegas from the 1940s to the mid 1960s. The Mob Museum is Trip Advisor’s #5 recommended attraction to visit in Las Vegas.

Mr. Mamas

Mr. Mamas is a restaurant in the Boulder Junction neighborhood of Las Vegas (5 miles from The Strip.) Mr. Mamas specializes in breakfast and lunch and is open from 6:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday-Friday and 7:00 am – 2:00 pm Saturday and Sunday. The owner of Mr. Mamas, Nick, is described as “a Greek boy from Detroit, Michigan.” Nick came from a family with a great deal of experience in the restaurant industry and has been able to showcase that through the tasty food and welcoming, warm atmosphere that is offered at Mr. Mamas. Mr. Mamas is an affordable restaurant to get a bite to eat at and is a great excuse if you need to get away from The Strip for a while. While Mr. Mamas serves up a great deal of Greek food, you can always enjoy classic comfort food. Mr. Mamas creates varieties of omelets, Greek omelets, Greek breakfast wraps, pancakes, French toast, sandwiches, chili, soup, and hamburgers. You can also order from a section of the menu that is called “Mamas Breakfast Favorites” that includes Mamas Homemade Biscuits & Sausage Gravy (2 homemade buttermilk biscuits, smothered in mamas sausage gravy), Mamas Breakfast Burrito (Wrapped in a 12″ tortilla with cheddar jack cheese, eggs, green and red bell peppers, onions, cheese and potatoes. Choice of bacon, ham or sausage), Homemade Corned Beef Hash (2 eggs cooked to order on a bed of corned beef hash with your choice of potatoes and toast), Steak and Eggs (Choice ribeye with 2 eggs, potatoes, and toast) and much more. Mr. Mamas is a great restaurant to dine at in Las Vegas and TripAdvisor’s #1 recommended restaurant to dine at.

Fine Dining at the Paris Las Vegas Casino Hotel

Eiffel Tower Restaurant

On my first night in Las Vegas, I dined at Gordon Ramsay Steak and was convinced nothing would top that meal, and then I had dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant (both restaurants are located inside the Paris Las Vegas casino hotel.)


Photo Credit: Brandon Speakman

Reservations are recommended at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Walk-ins are welcomed, but it may take a while to be seated. I did not have a reservation and had to wait a bit, but the wait was well worth it.


Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

Dining at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant is an amazing experience. The restaurant includes an extraordinary view of Las Vegas, as the Eiffel Tower Restaurant overlooks the Fountains of Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace. Before my meal, I was presented with 2 very fancy pre-dinner snacks (compliments of the Chef.) The first was a Cold Zucchini Soup, which was very tasty, and the second was a plate with some bite sized snacks that included a small piece of bread topped with basil, a small cracker topped with a little bit of hummus and an endive.


Cold Zucchini Soup Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman


Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

Some of the appetizers offered at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant include “Smoked Salmon, Classic Condiments, Brioche”, “Slow Braised Smoked Pork Belly Lyonnaise Sauce”, and “Brioche Crown, Wholesome Farms Butter, Rosemary Salted Butter.” The entrees include “Olive Oil Poached Alaskan Halibut, Herbed Pearl Barley, Sauce Vierge”, “Whole Boneless Dover Sole, Petite Grenobloise”, “Roasted Colorado Rack Of Lamb, Ratatouille Tian, Tarragon Jus”, “Rossini Style Filet Mignon, Foie Gras, Truffle Sauce” and much more. Out of the recommendation of the hostess at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, I ordered the “Slow Roasted Filet of Salmon, Pinot Noir Sauce” with a side of mashed potatoes and the “Casco Bay Sea Scallops, Poached Leeks, Mimosa Brown Butter” as an appetizer.


Casco Bay Sea Scallops Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman


Slow Roasted Filet of Salmon, Pinot Noir Sauce Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman


Mashed Potatoes Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

I hadn’t had such a fresh, moist, exquisite piece of salmon like the one I had for dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. I didn’t know salmon could taste as flavorful as mine did. It paired well with the mashed potatoes and the Casco Bay Sea Scallops, which were divine. At the recommendation of my server, I finished my meal with a chocolate “Eiffel Tower Soufflé”, which was chocolate heaven. I had never had a chocolate soufflé before my trip to the Eiffel Tower Restaurant and now it is a desert that I can’t stop thinking about. The Eiffel Tower Soufflés come in a variety of flavors including pistachio, Grand Marnier, apple crumble, banana, a seasonal flavor (which is currently strawberry rhubarb), and chocolate. The Eiffel Tower Soufflés are a pretty good size for 1 person. But you won’t want to share your Eiffel Tower Soufflé anyway, because of its magnificent taste.


Chocolate Eiffel Tower Soufflé Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman


After dinner refreshments, compliments of the Chef Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

The Eiffel Tower Restaurant also serves a Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, Classic Creme Brulée and Chef’s Selection of French and American Cheeses. The Eiffel Tower Restaurant is a must-dine-at restaurant when visiting Las Vegas because who doesn’t love spectacular views and delectable French cuisine. The dress code at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant is smart casual. If you end up adoring the food at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, you may purchase the official restaurant cook book and master the art of French cooking in the comfort of your own home. You may also buy tickets to go up to the Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck, which cost $18 a ticket. The Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck is Trip Advisor’s #6 recommended attraction to visit in Las Vegas.


Photo Courtesy Pixabay


Photo Courtesy Pixabay

Gordon Ramsay Steak

Gordon Ramsay Steak opened in 2012 and is another mouthwatering restaurant located inside the Paris Las Vegas casino hotel.


Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

The dishes that are recommended at Gordon Ramsay Steak are listed on the official Paris Las Vegas casino website and include the Iced shellfish platter, Triple seared Japanese A5 Kobe and the Mac and cheese. 2 of the dishes that are recommended repeatedly include the Roasted beef wellington and Ramsay’s legendary sticky toffee pudding. My dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak was a spectacular culinary experience. I ordered the bone in New York Steak and a lobster tail with a side of mac and cheese. The steak was juicy and tender, the lobster tail was succulent and the mac and cheese was heavenly. If you dine at Gordon Ramsay Steak just for the experience and want to save some money, the mac and cheese would probably be the dish I’d recommend the most.


New York Steak and Lobster Tail Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman


Mac and Cheese Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

I pride myself on traveling within some type of a budget; however, this is not something I did at Gordon Ramsay Steak. Gordon Ramsay Steak is a bit on the pricey side. The main website advertises that the average entree price is $100. While Gordon Ramsay Steak might not be the cheapest restaurant in Las Vegas, I cannot recommend it enough. Gordon Ramsay Steak is open Thursday-Sunday from 4:30pm – 10:30 pm. The dress code at Gordon Ramsay Steak requires gentlemen to wear a shirt with a collar and it is preferred men wear a dress jacket.


Photo Courtesy Brandon Speakman

Las Vegas, Nevada is an exciting town to visit with plenty of exciting activities and day trips to take part in, if gambling isn’t your thing. For more information on Las Vegas, check out the official Las Vegas visitor’s guide or hire a travel planner to coordinate it.


Photo Courtesy Pixabay


Astronaut photograph of Las Vegas at night Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


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