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Las Vegas is the largest city in the state of Nevada. Commonly referred to as The Entertainment Capital Of The World, it is situated in the midst of the southern Nevada desert landscape. The city has giant mega-casino hotels, decorated with lavish care and attention to detail to create a fantasy-like atmosphere. The casinos have names that evoke romance and mystery - Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Rio, The Excalibur, the Flamingo. Others evoke popular worldwide destinations such as New York-New York, Paris, Monte Carlo, and the Venetian.
Compared with other cities in the West, Las Vegas is a relatively recent arrival. It was founded in 1905, and for many years was merely a small settlement in the middle of the desert. However, several pivotal events would come together in less than twenty years to make Las Vegas what it is today:
The construction of Hoover Dam in 1928 brought thousands of workers to the area.
Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, and what is now downtown Las Vegas became an entertainment center for the dam workers, with casinos and speakeasies.
Finally, in 1941, the luxurious El Rancho Vegas resort opened on what would later become the Las Vegas Strip. Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel later opened the Flamingo Hotel in 1946, starting the building boom and one-upsmanship that would continue largely unabated for the next 50 years and creating a precedent of Organized Crime involvement in Nevada's gamblng industry that arguably persists.
Southern Californians crowd Interstate 15 every weekend going back and forth to Vegas. Expect this drive to be crowded and frustrating, unless you can come and go at off-peak hours. However, many find the 280-mile drive along the I-15 restful and scenic. Attractions along the I-15 include the towns of Barstow, California; Baker, California; the Mojave Desert; and small hotel-casinos at Primm, Nevada (at the California border) and Jean, Nevada. Those who traverse the I-15 should remember that they are crossing a desert, and should carry (and drink) ample amounts of water, especially on hot summer days where temperatures can reach 120 degrees F (48 degrees Celsius).
From east of Las Vegas, travellers typically drive on I-40 through Arizona, and then head north toward Vegas on US-93 in Kingman, AZ, before finally picking up I-15. This route will take you along Lake Mead and directly through the Hoover Dam area. Traffic at the Dam tends to be extremely congested and slow-going; usually the slowest part of an otherwise sparsely populated desert area.
Greyhound operates buses from Salt Lake City, Utah; Kingman, Arizona; and Los Angeles, California to Las Vegas.
Megabus travels daily to and from Los Angeles, with two trips in each direction. Buses arrive and depart from the Gray Line Customer Service Center, on the southwest corner of East Tropicana Avenue and South Swenson Street, kitty-corner from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus. Fares start at just $1 when reserved well in advance.
McCarran International Airport (IATA: LAS) is served by many domestic and international air carriers. Discount air carriers serving LAS include US Airways/America West, JetBlue, and Southwest. As at most US airports, you can rent luggage carts for $3. MGM Grand properties (MGM Grand, and New York New York) and Harrah's Entertainment properties (Rio, Harrah's, Bally's, Paris, Caesars Palace, and Flamingo) offer check-in desks and luggage transfers at LAS. Getting from LAS to your hotel is accomplished by airport shuttle (Bell Trans, $3.50-$10); rent-a-car; taxi ($10-20); or limousine ($35). The taxi line is well organized, the city taxi dispatcher will direct you to a numbered space along the curb. You need not tip the taxi dispatcher. As in any city, you can be taken advantage of if the cab driver thinks you are naive or new to the city. Do not allow the cab driver to take you through the I-15 tunnel (an extra $10) or tell you the story about the "big accident" enroute to your hotel, if either of these happens take down the driver's hack license number and call the Nevada Taxi Commission.
Unfortunately, due to service cuts back in 1997, Amtrak does not have a route through Las Vegas anymore. There is a daily bus route from Needles, California to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, with a stop in Laughlin, Nevada, is operated in concert with Amtrak's Southwest Chief . Amtrak California's San Joaquins route operates 2 buses daily to Las Vegas from Bakersfield, California as part of its service.
If traveling around the strip, walking is a reasonable option as hotel-casinos are found close to each other. In fact, in most cases, at least two hotels are connected to each other either by bridge or underground or in the case of Excalibur, Luxor and Malanday Bay, by a complimentary rail shuttle. Be aware that during the summer, the oppressive heat during the daylight hours may make walking a very uncomfortable activity.
By public transit
The Las Vegas Monorail, +1 702 699-8200, runs on the east side of the strip with stops behind several of the hotels and at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It costs $5 one-way, $9 return and $15 for a one-day pass. Do the math before boarding, it could be cheaper for a small group to take a taxi. Because the monorail stops at the back entrance of the hotels, it takes a long time to wind through the maze of casinos, often taking 30 minutes to an hour to get from one point to another on the Strip - if you're in a hurry take a taxi. The monorail's carrying capacity of 4000 people per hour is woefully insufficient to handle the evening exodus from the larger conventions which have as many as 150,000 attendees. If you are visiting with a friend from Nevada and want to ride the monorail, consider asking them to buy your fare. By showing a Nevada State ID or Clark County Sheriffs Card (issued to all hotel employees) they qualify for the locals fare of $1, this can be purchased from the customer service booths located at each station.
The city bus line, Citizens Area Transit (CAT), +1 702 228-7433, operates 49 routes throughout the valley. Most routes operate 5:30AM-1:30AM everyday. Some routes operate 24 hours. The fare is $1.25 for adults and 60¢ for kids and seniors for all residential routes. The Deuce