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Las Vegas, Nevada
City
City of Las Vegas
Downtown Las Vegas in early June 2014
Downtown Las Vegas in early June 2014
Flag of Las Vegas, Nevada
Flag
Official seal of Las Vegas, Nevada
Seal
Nickname(s): "Vegas", "Sin City", "City of Lights", "The Gambling Capital of the World", "The Entertainment Capital of the World", "Capital of Second Chances", "The Marriage Capital of the World", "The Silver City", "America's Playground", "City of Lost Wages"
Location of the city of Las Vegas within Clark County, Nevada
Location of the city of Las Vegas within Clark County, Nevada
Country  United States of America
State  Nevada
County Clark
Founded May 15, 1905
Incorporated March 16, 1911
Government
 • Type Council–manager
 • Mayor Carolyn Goodman (D)
 • Mayor Pro Tem Steve Ross (D)
 • City manager Betsy Fretwell
Area
 • City 352 km2 (135.8 sq mi)
 • Land 352 km2 (135.8 sq mi)
 • Water 0.1 km2 (.05 sq mi)
Elevation 610 m (2,001 ft)
Population (2015)
 • City 623,727 (30th, U.S.)
 • Density 1,659.5/km2 (4,298.1/sq mi)
 • Urban 1,314,356
 • Metro 1,951,269
 • CSA 2,362,015 (US: 27th)
Demonym(s) Las Vegan
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
Area code(s) 702 & 725
FIPS code 32-40000
GNIS feature ID 0847388
Website www.lasvegasnevada.gov

Las Vegas (/lɑːs ˈvɡəs/, Spanish for "The Meadows"), officially the City of Las Vegas and often known simply as Vegas, is the 28th-most populated city in the United States, the most populated city in the state of Nevada, and the county seat of Clark County. The city anchors the Las Vegas Valley metropolitan area and is the largest city within the greater Mojave Desert. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city known primarily for its gambling, shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and nightlife. It is the leading financial, commercial, and cultural center for Nevada.

The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its mega casino–hotels and associated activities. It is a top three destination in the United States for business conventions and a global leader in the hospitality industry, claiming more AAA Five Diamond hotels than any city in the world. Today, Las Vegas annually ranks as one of the world's most visited tourist destinations. The city's tolerance for numerous forms of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City, and has made Las Vegas a popular setting for literature, films, television programs, and music videos.

Las Vegas was settled in 1905 and officially incorporated in 1911. At the close of the 20th century, it was the most populated American city founded within that century (a similar distinction earned by Chicago in the 1800s). Population growth has accelerated since the 1960s, and between 1990 and 2000 the population nearly doubled, increasing by 85.2%. Rapid growth has continued into the 21st century, and according to a 2013 estimate, the population is 603,488 with a regional population of 2,027,828.

"Las Vegas" is often used to describe areas beyond official city limits—especially the areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip, which is actually located within the unincorporated communities of Paradise, Winchester, and Enterprise.

History

Southern Paiutes
Southern Paiutes at Moapa wearing traditional Paiute basket hats with Paiute cradleboard and rabbit robe
Fremont Street 1952
Golden Nugget and Pioneer Club along Fremont Street in 1952
Las vegas late 60s
Fremont Street in the late 1960s
NNSA-NSO-787
This view of downtown Las Vegas shows a mushroom cloud in the background. Scenes such as this were typical during the 1950s. From 1951 to 1962 the government conducted 100 atmospheric tests at the nearby Nevada Test Site.

Perhaps the earliest visitors to the Las Vegas area were nomadic Paleo-Indians, who traveled there 10,000 years ago, leaving behind petroglyphs. Anasazi and Paiute tribes followed at least 2,000 years ago.

A young Mexican scout named Rafael Rivera is credited as the first non-Native American to encounter the valley, in 1829. Trader Antonio Armijo led a 60-man party along the Spanish Trail to Los Angeles, California in 1829. The area was named Las Vegas, which is Spanish for "the meadows," as it featured abundant wild grasses, as well as desert spring waters for westward travelers. The year 1844 marked the arrival of John C. Frémont, whose writings helped lure pioneers to the area. Downtown Las Vegas' Fremont Street is named after him.

Eleven years later members of the LDS Church chose Las Vegas as the site to build a fort halfway between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, where they would travel to gather supplies. The fort was abandoned several years afterward. The remainder of this Old Mormon Fort can still be seen at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue.

Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905, when 110 acres (45 ha) of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks were auctioned in what would become the downtown area. In 1911, Las Vegas was incorporated as a city.

1931 was a pivotal year for Las Vegas. At that time, Nevada legalized casino gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks. This year also witnessed the beginning of construction on nearby Hoover Dam. The influx of construction workers and their families helped Las Vegas avoid economic calamity during the Great Depression. The construction work was completed in 1935.

In 1941, the Las Vegas Army Air Corps Gunnery School was established. Currently known as Nellis Air Force Base, it is home to the aerobatic team called the Thunderbirds.

Following World War II, lavishly decorated hotels, gambling casinos and big-name entertainment became synonymous with Las Vegas.

The 1950s saw the opening of the Moulin Rouge, the first racially integrated casino-hotel in Las Vegas.

In 1951, nuclear weapons testing began at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles (105 km) northwest of Las Vegas. City residents and visitors were able to witness the mushroom clouds and be exposed to the fallout until 1963 when the limited Test Ban Treaty required that nuclear tests be moved underground.

The iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, which was never located in the city, was created in 1959 by Betty Willis, who never copyrighted it.

During the 1960s, corporations and business powerhouses such as Howard Hughes were building and buying hotel-casino properties. Gambling was referred to as "gaming," which transitioned into legitimate business.

In 1989, entrepreneur Steve Wynn changed the face of the Las Vegas gaming industry by opening up The Mirage, the Las Vegas Strip's first mega-casino resort.

The year 1995 marked the opening of the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas' downtown area. This canopied, five-block area features 12.5 million LED lights and 550,000 watts of sound from dusk until midnight during shows held on the top of each hour.

Due to the realization of many revitalization efforts, 2012 was dubbed "The Year of Downtown." Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of projects made their debut at this time. They included The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and DISCOVERY Children's Museum, Mob Museum, Neon Museum, a new City Hall complex and renovations for a new Zappos.com corporate headquarters in the old City Hall building.

Geography

Las Vegas at Night
Astronaut photograph of Las Vegas at night

Las Vegas is situated within Clark County in a basin on the floor of the Mojave Desert and is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. Much of the landscape is rocky and arid with desert vegetation and wildlife. It can be subjected to torrential flash floods, although much has been done to mitigate the effects of flash floods through improved drainage systems.

The peaks surrounding Las Vegas reach elevations of over 10,000 feet (3,000 m), and act as barriers to the strong flow of moisture from the surrounding area. The elevation is approximately 2,030 ft (620 m) above sea level. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 135.86 sq mi (351.9 km2), of which 135.81 sq mi (351.7 km2) is land and 0.05 sq mi (0.13 km2) (0.03%) is water.

Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the U.S. (after Alaska and California); it has been estimated by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that over the next 50 years there is a 10–20% chance of a M6.0 or greater earthquake occurring within 50 km of Las Vegas.

Within the city there are many lawns, trees and other greenery. Due to water resource issues, there has been a movement to encourage xeriscapes. Another part of conservation efforts is scheduled watering days for residential landscaping. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant in 2008 funded a program that analyzed and forecast growth and environmental impacts through the year 2019.

Climate

Spring Flowers in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Desert scene at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in the Las Vegas area

Las Vegas has a subtropical hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification: BWh), typical of the Mojave Desert in which it lies. This climate is typified by long, very hot summers; warm transitional seasons; and short, mild to chilly winters. There is abundant sunshine throughout the year, with an average of 310 sunny days and bright sunshine occurring during 86% of all daylight hours. Rainfall is scarce, with an average of 4.2 in (110 mm) dispersed between roughly 26 to 27 total rainy days per year. Las Vegas is among the sunniest, driest, and least humid locations in all of North America, with exceptionally low dew points and humidity that sometimes remains below 10%.

The summer months of June through September are very hot, though moderated by extremely low humidity. July is the hottest month with an average daytime high of 104.2 °F (40.1 °C). On average, 134 days per year reach or exceed 90 °F (32 °C), of which 74 days reach 100 °F (38 °C) and 7 days reach 110 °F (43 °C). During the peak intensity of summer, overnight lows frequently remain above 80 °F (27 °C) and occasionally above 85 °F (29 °C). While most summer days are consistently hot, dry, and cloudless, the North American Monsoon sporadically interrupts this pattern and brings more cloud cover, thunderstorms, lightning, increased humidity, and brief spells of heavy rain to the area. The window of opportunity for the monsoon to affect Las Vegas usually falls between July and August, although this is inconsistent and varies considerably in its impact from year to year.

Las Vegas winters are short and generally very mild, with chilly (but rarely cold) daytime temperatures. Like all seasons, sunshine during the winter is abundant. December is both the coolest and cloudiest month of the year, with an average daytime high of 56.6 °F (13.7 °C) and sunshine occurring during 78% of its daylight hours. Winter evenings are defined by clear skies and swift drops in temperature after sunset, with overnight lows sinking to 39 °F (3.9 °C) or lower during the majority of nights in December and January. Owing to its elevation that ranges from 2,000 feet to 3,000 feet, Las Vegas experiences markedly cooler winters than other areas of the Mojave Desert and the adjacent Sonoran Desert that are closer to sea level. Consequently, the city records freezing temperatures an average of 16 nights per winter. However, it is exceptionally rare for temperatures to ever fall to or below 25 °F (−4 °C), or for temperatures to remain below 45 °F (7 °C) for an entire day. Most of the annual precipitation falls during the winter months, but even the wettest month (February) averages only four days of measurable rain. The mountains immediately surrounding the Las Vegas Valley accumulate snow every winter, but significant or sustained accumulation of any kind within the city itself is rare. The most recent major event occurred on December 16, 2008, when Las Vegas received 3.6 inches (9.1 cm).

Nearby communities

MacDonaldHighlands1
Affluent neighborhoods are located throughout the Las Vegas Valley. Above is the entrance to MacDonald Highlands.

Demographics

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1900 25
1910 800 3100.0%
1920 2,304 188.0%
1930 5,165 124.2%
1940 8,422 63.1%
1950 24,624 192.4%
1960 64,405 161.6%
1970 125,787 95.3%
1980 164,674 30.9%
1990 258,295 56.9%
2000 478,434 85.2%
2010 583,756 22.0%
Est. 2015 623,747 30.4%
source:
Demographic profile 2010 2000 1990 1970
White 62.1% 69.9% 78.4% 87.6%
 —Non-Hispanic 47.9% 58.0% 72.1% 83.1%
Black or African American 11.1% 10.4% 11.4% 11.2%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 31.5% 23.6% 12.5% 4.6%
Asian 6.1% 4.8% 3.6% 0.7%
Race and ethnicity 2010- Las Vegas (5559885507)
Map of racial distribution in Las Vegas, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian Hispanic, or Other (yellow)

According to the 2010 Census, the racial composition of Las Vegas was as follows:

  • White: 62.1% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 47.9%; Hispanic Whites: 14.2%)
  • Black or African American: 11.1%
  • Asian: 6.1% (3.3% Filipino, 0.7% Chinese, 0.5% Korean, 0.4% Japanese, 0.4% Indian, 0.2% Vietnamese, 0.2% Thai)
  • Two or more races: 4.9%
  • Native American: 0.7%
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.6%

Source:

The city's most populous ethnic group, non-Hispanic Whites, have proportionally declined from 72.1% of the population in 1990 to 47.9% in 2010, even as total numbers of all ethnicities have increased with the population. Hispanics or Latinos of any race make up 31.5% of the population. Of those 24.0% are of Mexican, 1.4% of Salvadoran, 0.9% of Puerto Rican, 0.9% of Cuban, 0.6% of Guatemalan, 0.2% of Peruvian, 0.2% of Colombian, 0.2% of Honduran and 0.2% of Nicaraguan descent.

Hawaiians and Las Vegans sometimes refer to Las Vegas as the "ninth island of Hawaii" because so many Hawaiians have moved to the city.

As of the census of 2010, there were 583,756 people, 211,689 households, and 117,538 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,222.5/sq mi (1,630.3/km2). There are 190,724 housing units at an average density of 1,683.3/sq mi (649.9/km2).

Las Vegas from Frenchman 3
Downtown Las Vegas and Red Rock behind

As of 2006, there were 176,750 households, out of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.3% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.5% were non-families. 25.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.20.

In the city, the population was spread out with 25.9% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 103.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $53,000 and the median income for a family was $58,465. Males had a median income of $35,511 versus $27,554 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,060. About 6.6% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.4% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.

According to a 2004 study, Las Vegas has one of the highest divorce rates. The city's high divorce rate is not wholly due to Las Vegans themselves getting divorced. Since divorce is easier in Nevada than most other states, many people come from across the country for the easier process. Similarly, Nevada marriages are notoriously easy to get. Las Vegas has one of the highest marriage rates of U.S. cities, with many licenses issued to people from outside the area (see Las Vegas weddings).

Culture

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts & DISCOVERY Children's Museum
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts & Discovery Museum, located in Symphony Park in Downtown Las Vegas.
LasVegasSymphonyPark1
Symphony Park in Downtown Las Vegas.

The city is home to several museums, including the Neon Museum (the location for many of the historical signs from Las Vegas' mid-20th century heyday), The Mob Museum, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, the DISCOVERY Children's Museum, the Nevada State Museum and the Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park.

The city is home to an extensive Downtown Arts District, which hosts numerous galleries and events including the annual Las Vegas Film Festival. "First Friday" is a monthly celebration that includes arts, music, special presentations and food in a section of the city's downtown region called 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District. The festival extends into the Fremont East Entertainment District as well.

The Thursday prior to First Friday is known in the arts district as "Preview Thursday." This evening event highlights new gallery exhibitions throughout the district.

The Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts is a Grammy award-winning magnet school located in downtown Las Vegas.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is situated downtown in Symphony Park. The world-class performing arts center hosts Broadway shows and other major touring attractions, as well as orchestral, opera, ballet, choir, jazz, and dance performances.

Las Vegas is also known as the Gambling Capital of the World, as the city currently has the largest strip of land-based casinos in the world.

Parks and recreation

Las Vegas has 68 parks. The city owns the land for, but does not operate, four golf courses: Angel Park Golf Club, Desert Pines Golf Club, Durango Hills Golf Club and the Las Vegas Municipal Golf Course. It is also responsible for 123 playgrounds, 23 softball fields, 10 football fields, 44 soccer fields, 10 dog parks, six community centers, four senior centers, 109 skates parks, six swimming pools and more.

Transportation

RTC Bus Picture - Photo by June Johns
Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) provides public transportation
Mercedes Benz at CES 2014 (13896148599)
McCarran International Airport provides private and public aviation services to the city
T3 landside at LAS, 06-2014
Inside Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport, Paradise, Nevada

RTC Transit is a public transportation system providing bus service throughout Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas and other areas of the valley. Inter-city bus service to and from Las Vegas is provided by Greyhound, BoltBus, Orange Belt Stages, Tufesa, and several smaller carriers. Amtrak trains have not served Las Vegas since the service via the Desert Wind was discontinued in 1997. Though no Amtrak trains have served Las Vegas since the Desert Wind was cancelled in 1997, Amtrak California operates Thruway Motorcoach dedicated service between the city and its passenger rail stations in Bakersfield, California, as well as Los Angeles Union Station via Barstow.

A bus rapid-transit link in Las Vegas called the Strip & Downtown Express (previously ACE Gold Line) with limited stops and frequent service was launched in March 2010, and connects downtown Las Vegas, the Strip and the Las Vegas Convention Center.

With some exceptions, including Las Vegas Boulevard, Boulder Highway (SR 582) and Rancho Drive (SR 599), the majority of surface streets in Las Vegas are laid out in a grid along Public Land Survey System section lines. Many are maintained by the Nevada Department of Transportation as state highways. The street numbering system is divided by the following streets:

  • Westcliff Drive, US 95 Expressway, Fremont Street and Charleston Boulevard divide the north–south block numbers from west to east.
  • Las Vegas Boulevard divides the east–west streets from the Las Vegas Strip to near the Stratosphere, then Main Street becomes the dividing line from the Stratosphere to the North Las Vegas border, after which the Goldfield Street alignment divides east and west.
  • On the east side of Las Vegas, block numbers between Charleston Boulevard and Washington Avenue are different along Nellis Boulevard, which is the eastern border of the city limits.

Interstates 15, 515, and US 95 lead out of the city in four directions. Two major freeways – Interstate 15 and Interstate 515/U.S. Route 95 – cross in downtown Las Vegas. I-15 connects Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and heads northeast to and beyond Salt Lake City. I-515 goes southeast to Henderson, beyond which US 93 continues over the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge towards Phoenix, Arizona. US 95 connects the city to northwestern Nevada, including Carson City and Reno. US 93 splits from I-15 northeast of Las Vegas and goes north through the eastern part of the state, serving Ely and Wells. US 95 heads south from US 93 near Henderson through far eastern California. A partial beltway has been built, consisting of Interstate 215 on the south and Clark County 215 on the west and north. Other radial routes include Blue Diamond Road (SR 160) to Pahrump and Lake Mead Boulevard (SR 147) to Lake Mead.

East–west roads, north to south
  • Ann Road
  • Nevada 573.svg Craig Road (SR 573)
  • Nevada 574.svg Cheyenne Avenue (SR 574)
  • Smoke Ranch Road
  • Nevada 578.svg Washington Avenue (SR 578)
  • Summerlin Parkway
  • Nevada 579.svg Bonanza Road (SR 579)
  • Nevada 159.svg Charleston Boulevard (SR 159)
  • Nevada 589.svg Sahara Avenue (SR 589)
North–south roads, west to east
  • Fort Apache Road
  • Durango Drive
  • Buffalo Drive
  • Nevada 595.svg Rainbow Boulevard (SR 595)
  • Nevada 596.svg Jones Boulevard (SR 596)
  • Decatur Boulevard
  • Valley View Boulevard
  • Nevada 599.svg Rancho Drive
  • Maryland Parkway
  • Nevada 607.svg Eastern Avenue (SR 607)
  • Pecos Road
  • Nevada 610.svg Lamb Boulevard (SR 610)
  • Nevada 612.svg Nellis Boulevard (SR 612)

McCarran International Airport handles international and domestic flights into the Las Vegas Valley. The airport also serves private aircraft and freight/cargo flights. Most general aviation traffic uses the smaller North Las Vegas Airport and Henderson Executive Airport.

The Union Pacific Railroad is the only Class I railroad providing rail freight service to the city. Until 1997, the Amtrak Desert Wind train service ran through Las Vegas using the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

Images for kids


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