Ten things you probably didn’t know about Las Vegas

Yes yes, yadda yadda. Las Vegas. Sin City. Casinos and hotels and slightly past-it pop acts running through the hits one more time on some enormous stage. What is there possibly left to learn about this noisy hotspot in the sand? Well, you may be surprised…

1. Its first tourists LOVED atomic bombs

Even for Las Vegas, the idea of using atomic explosions as reasons for merriment seems a touch extreme. And yet, that is exactly what used to happen in Nevada’s party town in the mid-Fifties. At a time when nuclear detonations were a regular event at the Nevada Test Site, some 65 miles north-west of the city, guests would gather at casinos such as Binion’s Horseshoe and the Desert Inn to watch mushroom clouds rise.
Beauty pageants – to find “Miss Atomic Bomb” – were held in the same decade, as a way of celebrating America’s position at the forefront of mass-death technology. What terribly jolly japes. (Indie-rock band The Killers, who hail from Las Vegas, referenced this in the track Miss Atomic Bomb on their 2012 album Battle Born). You can discover more about this madness at the city’s National Atomic Testing Museum (001 702 794 5151; nationalatomictestingmuseum.org) – or read more about it in this feature.

2. It is younger than you think

There is a reason why Carson City got the nod as Nevada capital in 1864, and Vegas did not. Vegas did not exist 152 years ago. It would not appear on the map until 1905 – when it was founded as a stop on the Union Pacific Railroad. It has done a lot of growing since.

3. It has a naughty museum…

If you’re staring west at trains from the Trump International Hotel, you may as well lower your gaze a few inches – down a bit, down a bit; yes, that’s it, right there – and cast your eye over one of Vegas’s less-known attractions. That would be the Erotic Heritage Museum (001 702 794 4000; eroticmuseumvegas.com/museum), which sits immediately opposite Donald’s Vegas bolthole at 3275 Sammy Davis Jr Drive. This fine institution “houses more than 24,000 square feet of permanent and featured exhibits designed to preserve wonders of the erotic imagination as depicted through the artistic expression of acts of sex and love”. This means it has pictures of people sans vetements. This is surely the first time such nudity has occurred in Las Vegas, so this is real groundbreaking stuff.

4. and a museum which is a really bright idea

Vegas is often deemed to be a city which focuses solely on the future, ever tearing up the blueprint for something bigger, better, higher, stronger, longer – and every other superlative you can think of. But it does play host to an attraction which, rather than being hell-bent on racing into tomorrow, takes care of its past. The Neon Museum (001 702 387 6366; neonmuseum.org) is as retirement home for some of the city’s fallen giants – glowing words, flashing billboards and luminous lettering that, at some moment of yesteryear, adorned hotels, restaurants and bars in this hedonistic haven. These include the original 80ft (24m) sign which beckoned guests into the Sahara when this fabled casino-resort opened in 1952. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr would have strolled past it on their way into the hotel for performances of Rat Pack insouciance.

5. It has trains – but not for you

Ironically for a city that was a direct result of America’s railway boom, you cannot reach Las Vegas by train. There is no Amtrak station. Of course, the Union Pacific Railroad is still there. Indeed, it runs parallel to The Strip (Las VegasBoulevard), a mere block to the west. If you stay at the Trump International Hotel (which, depending on your political standpoint, you may or may not wish to do), and peer from your window in this direction, you will be able to see the tracks directly below, over the road. You still can’t catch a ride.

6. Las Vegas’s most famous sign is not in Las Vegas

Only in Las Vegas could a sign which marks the point where you (supposedly) arrive in Las Vegas not be in Las Vegas. The iconic “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign which has stood at 5200 Las Vegas Boulevard since 1959 does not, strictly, announce its happy greeting within the metropolis. It sits about four miles south of the city limits, in the (technically) separate town of Paradise. So its wave hello to passersby is both preemptive and presumptuous. That said, its jaunty tip of the hat to arriving travellers is only half of its perky message. For every front there is a back – and the rear of this chipper billboard also has something to say. Which is: “Drive Carefully, Come Back Soon.” Which is nice.

7. You can go skiing “nearby”

And not in the way that you can ski in Dubai on the indoor slope at the enormous Mall of the Emirates (although it’s a surprise that no-one in Las Vegas has yet thought to replicate this). The Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, out on the west edge of the state, is home to wintersports resorts including Heavenly (001 775 586 7000; skiheavenly.com), where 97 pistes include challenges with names like Outlaw and Cloud Nine. Your best bet is to take a flight to Reno – one hour – then dash south for powder, rather than drive all 450 miles.

8. You can see rugged scenery without having to fly to Arizona

The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas have long been an easy partnership. Numerous tour operators offer quick-hop flights to Arizona’s fabled scar in the soil. But you can find a pristine protected space rather closer to Sin City. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (001 702 515 5350; redrockcanyonlv.org) spreads out some 16 miles west of the centre as a series of ruddy sandstone peaks – which rear to as high as 8154ft (2485m) in the case of La Madre mountain. Put down that cocktail and that bad poker hand – and come here for a hike instead. It will make you feel better. You know it will.

9. It is not the capital of Nevada

True, it is most certainly this dust-bound state’s biggest city. If you take the whole giant conurbation which spreads out into the Mojave Desert as being Las Vegas proper, then it has a population of 2.3million. Of course, this is only enough to make it the 27th biggest city in the USA – and not enough to make it the local capital. That honour goes to Carson City, which has been Nevada’s kingpin since it became a state in 1864 – despite having only 54,522 residents. This continues a trend for American states to have capitals whose status has long been overshadowed by bigger, more glittering metropolises. See also Albany (New York state), Sacramento (California), Springfield (Illinois), Olympia (Washington state), Tallahassee (Florida), Baton Rouge (Louisiana) and Austin (Texas).

10. You shouldn’t confuse it with another Las Vegas

Another Las Vegas? What is this witchcraft? This surely cannot be! And yet, lo, peer at the map of New Mexico, and there, in the north-east of said state, you will notice – why yes – the city of Las Vegas. And guess what? It has a functioning Amtrak station, making it the Las Vegas you can go to by train. Alternatively, you could take a road trip in search of it. The drive from Las Vegas to Las Vegas (bear with us) is almost exactly 700 miles, and will take you into some fascinating corners of the American west – across the torso of Arizona via Flagstaff; and on through New Mexico, ticking off the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. A fine idea if you love Las Vegas so much you want to see it twice (sort of).

Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/north-america/united-states/las-vegas/articles/las-vegas-nevada-facts-surprising-strange/

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