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Las Vegas, Nevada

Sign just to the south of the Las Vegas Strip welcoming visitors to the city
Sign just to the south of the Las Vegas Strip welcoming visitors to the city
Las Vegas from
Las Vegas from U.S. Highway 93

Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada and a major tourist, shopping, vacation and gambling destination. At the 2000 census, the city had a population of 478,434. The Census Bureau's official population estimate as of 2003 was 518,313. Las Vegas is the county seat of Clark County. The metropolitan area of Las Vegas boasts a population greater than 1.7 million people (October 2004 estimate).

The name Las Vegas is often also applied to the unincorporated areas of Clark County that surround the city, especially the resort areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip. This 4 mi (7 km) stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is mostly outside the Las Vegas city limits, in the township of Paradise.



Las Vegas was given its name by Spaniards in the Antonio Armijo party, who watered there while heading north and west along the Old Spanish Trail from Texas. At that time, some low areas of the Las Vegas Valley contained artesian springs that created extensive green areas in contrast to the surrounding desert, hence the name "Las Vegas", Spanish for "The Fertile Valleys".

The first European settlers, in 1854, were Mormon farmers sent to convert the Paiute Indian population. The Mormons abandoned the site in 1857, and the U.S. Army built Fort Baker there in 1864. The Mormons returned, and in 1895 they used the springs to irrigate crops located around the springs.

During the 1900s, the springs were piped into the town providing a reliable source of fresh water. This allowed Las Vegas to became a water stop, first for wagon trains and later railroads, on the trail between Los Angeles, California, and points east such as Albuquerque, New Mexico. Las Vegas was founded on May 15, 1905 when 110 ac (44 ha), in what would later become downtown, were auctioned to ready buyers.

Incorporated in 1911, and with gambling legalized in 1931, Las Vegas started its rise to world fame in 1941, when developers began building large hotels incorporating gambling casinos. Several such early enterprises are widely reputed to have been backed by money from crime syndicates based in the eastern United States. Gangsters Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Meyer Lansky are widely credited as the organizers and prime movers behind early development of Las Vegas. Ever since then, Las Vegas has been a mecca for gambling.

Las Vegas is sometimes called Sin City due to the popularity of legalized gambling, availability of alcoholic beverages any time of the day and night (like all of Nevada), various forms and degrees of adult entertainment, and legalized prostitution in nearby counties (Nevada law prohibits prostitution in counties which have large populations). The nickname favored by local government and promoters of tourism is The Entertainment Capital of the World. The city's glamorous image has made it a popular setting for films and television programs.

The Las Vegas Strip in 2003
The Las Vegas Strip in 2003

When The Mirage opened in 1989, it started a movement of people and construction away from downtown Las Vegas to the Las Vegas Strip. This resulted in a drop in tourism that the downtown area is still trying to recover from.

A concerted effort has been made by city fathers to diversify the Las Vegas economy from tourism by attracting light manufacturing, banking, and other commercial interests. The lack of any state, individual or corporate income tax, and very simple incorporation requirements, have fostered the success of this effort.

Having been late to develop an urban core of any substantial size, Las Vegas has retained very affordable real estate prices in comparison to nearby urban centers. Consequently, the city has recently enjoyed an enormous boom both in population and in tourism. As of 2001, the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area is the fastest growing population center in the United States. Las Vegas's incorporated population of 478,434 is an understatement of the city's recent population boom, as much of the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area is unincorporated. The Las Vegas Valley metropolitan area is home to 1,583,172 residents according to the county's 2003 estimate.

As a reflection of the city's rapid growing population, the new Chinatown of Las Vegas was constructed in the early 1990s on Spring Mountain Road. Chinatown initially consisted of only one large shopping center complex, but the area was recently expanded for new shopping centers that contain various Asian businesses.

Law and government

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department provides most law enforcement services in the city and surrounding county. Exceptions are those with their own law enforcement agency; including North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City.

Most of the people and businesses who call Las Vegas home, actually live in neighboring communities that have no city government. In fact, of the nearly 1.6 million people who live in the Las Vegas valley, nearly 690,000 live outside of city limits. The largest of these towns are Paradise (188,768) between Las Vegas and Henderson, Sunrise Manor (184,801) east of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, and Spring Valley (161,286) southwest of Las Vegas. These towns formed during a 1940s water dispute between the City of Las Vegas and early homeowners south of San Francisco Street, now Sahara Avenue. Residents of these towns cannot vote for the Mayor and City Council of Las Vegas, but they can vote for members of the Clark County Commission, which governs their areas. They are also represented by advisory boards, which are appointed by and give nonbinding suggestions to the Clark County Commission.

The City of Las Vegas government operates as a council-manager government. The Mayor sits as a Councilmember-At-Large and presides over all of the City Council meetings. In the event that the Mayor cannot preside over a City Council meeting the Mayor Pro-Tem is the presiding body of the meeting until such time as the Mayor returns to his seat. The City Manager is responsible for the administration and the day to day operation of all of the municipal services and city departments. The City Manager also maintains an intergovernmental relationships with federal, state, county and other local governments.

A Paiute Indian reservation occupies about 1 acre in the downtown area of Las Vegas.

Elected and Government Officials of the City of Las Vegas:
(For Councilmembers' official websites, see City of Las Vegas official website under external links)

  • Douglas Selby - City Manager
  • Barbara Jo (Roni) Ronemus - City Clerk
  • Oscar B. Goodman - Mayor and Councilmember at Large (Term Expires in 2007)
  • Gary Reese - Mayor Pro-Tem and 3rd Ward Councilmember (Term Expires in 2007)
  • Lois Tarkanian - 1st Ward Councilmember (Term Expires in 2007)²
  • Steve Wolfson - 2nd Ward Councilmember (Term Expires in 2005)¹
  • Larry Brown - 4th Ward Councilmember (Term Expires in 2005)
  • Lawrence Weekly - 5th Ward Councilmember (Term Expires in 2007)
  • Michael Mack - 6th Ward Councilmember (Term Expires in 2005)
¹ Elected on June 22, 2004 in a special election when Councilwoman Lynette Boggs-McDonald resigned prior to her appointment to the Clark County Commission.
² Elected on January 26, 2005 in a special election to replace Councilwoman Janet Moncrief when recalled from office. Lois Tarkanian will serve the remaining two years of the Ward 1 seat.

Government offices

City of Las Vegas   | Metropolitain Police | Detention Center (City jail)
 Government Offices |  Department          |  (not County Detention)
400 Stewart Avenue  | 400 Stewart Avenue   | 3200 Stewart Avenue
Las Vegas, Nv 89101 | Las Vegas, Nv 89101  | Las Vegas, Nv 89101

Marriage licenses are filed at the Clark County Courthouse.


Location of Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is located at 36°11'39" North, 115°13'19" West (36.194168, -115.222060).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 293.6 km² (113.4 mi²). 293.5 km² (113.3 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.04% water.

The city is located in an arid basin surrounded by mountains varying in color from pink to rust to gray. As befits a desert, much of the landscape is rocky and dusty, although, within the city, there is a great deal of greenery including lawns despite a movement to encourage xeriscaping.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 478,434 people, 176,750 households, and 117,538 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,630.3/km² (4,222.5/mi²). There are 190,724 housing units at an average density of 649.9/km² (1,683.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 69.86% White, 10.36% African American, 0.75% Native American, 4.78% Asian, 0.45% Pacific Islander, 9.75% from other races, and 4.05% from two or more races. 23.61% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

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

In the city the population is 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 are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 103.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 102.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $44,069, and the median income for a family is $50,465. Males have a median income of $35,511 versus $27,554 for females. The per capita income for the city is $22,060. 11.9% of the population and 8.6% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.4% of those under the age of 18 and 8.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

As of now, April 2005, the population of the entire Las Vegas Valley is about 2 million people.


Las Vegas has a desert climate with very little rainfall, and extreme heat in the summer; highs of 105° F (40° C) are common from May to September, and for several days each year, temperatures may exceed 115° F (46° C). Winters are cool and windy, with the balance of Las Vegas' annual 4.2 in (102 mm) of rainfall coming from January to March. Showers also occur, but less frequently, in the Spring or Fall. July through September, the Mexican Monsoon often brings enough moisture from the Gulf of Mexico across Mexico and into the southwest to cause afternoon thunderstorms. Although winter snows are usually visible from December to June on the mountains surrounding the valley, it rarely snows in Las Vegas itself.

The ground in Las Vegas valley is hard and non-absorbent. When rain showers drop more than an inch, the national weather service posts flood warnings, watches or advisories.


The primary driver is, and has been, tourism and gaming which have fueled the Las Vegas economy. The redevelopment listed below shows how the city's trying to diversify the economy and revitalize the downtown area. The World Market Center is an example of this.

City redevelopment

With the Strip expansion in the 1990s, downtown Las Vegas began to suffer. The Fremont Street Experience (FSE) was built in an effort to draw tourists downtown. While greatly slowing the decline, it did not stop the decline in tourism and revenue. The multi-level Neonopolis , complete with food court and theaters, was built offer more retail and services downtown. While there have been changes in ownership and management, Neonopolis has not been able to lease all the space available. As of March 2005, the property is for sale.

The city purchased 61 ac (24.5 ha) of property from Union Pacific Railroad during the 1990s with the goal of creating something that would draw tourists and locals to the downtown area. After several proposals, virtually all of that piece of land has no firm development plans. The city council agreed on zoning changes on Fremont street, allowing bars to be closer together duplicating what other cities have, like the Gaslamp district of San Diego. These changes have yet to make a noticeable impact.

In the early 2000s, some promising signs emerged. Several high rise condominium projects were announced for Las Vegas. The city successfully lured the Internal Revenue Service to move operations from outside the city limits to a new building downtown opening 2005 or 2006. It is hoped that the condominium projects bring a younger crowd to the urban setting. The IRS is expected to create a demand for additional businesses in the area.

In 2002, a major project was announced on a lot adjacent to the city's 61 ac (4.6 ha) and almost as large. World Market Center at 495 S. Grand Central Parkway is intended to be the nations and possibly the worlds preeminent furniture wholesale showroom and market plan. The project was announced as an 8 building, 7 million ft² (696 ) facility. While smaller than the International Home Furnishing Market , the most successful similar operation, in High Point, North Carolina, the Las Vegas facility was expected to have a major impact. All 8 of its buildings would be on a single site while the High Point market is spread out over a much larger area in hundreds of buildings. The Center would also compete with Chicago's Merchandise Mart and the San Francisco Mart .

One advantage that Las Vegas has for a showroom of this caliber, is the availability of hotel rooms, many near the marketplace. High Point has to provide transportation to buyers from remote towns. The Center is expected to make the visit more productive from the buyers, as they will spend less time getting to the various showrooms.

In 2005, the Center announced plans for completion of an expansion increasing the space to a total of 12 million ft² (1.11 km²). It is scheduled to open in May 2005, complete with skywalks between the buildings on all levels. Just in time for the first trade show booked in July 2005.


The CAT Bus is the a popular means of public transportation among locals and tourists with 51 bus routes operating covering a large portion of the valley.

The Las Vegas Monorail runs from the MGM Grand Hotel at the south end of the Strip to the Sahara Hotel at the north end of the Strip.

McCarran International Airport provides commercial flights into the Las Vegas valley. The airport also serves private aircraft, domestic and international passenger flights, and freight/cargo flights. Although general aviation traffic flies into McCarran International, other landing sites in the Las Vegas area include North Las Vegas Airport, Henderson Executive Airport, the Jean Sport Aviation Center, Overton-Perkins Field and Searchlight Airfield. A new airport, currently dubbed the Ivanpah Valley Airport, is in the planning stages with initial operation slated to begin in 2014.

Intercity bus service to Las Vegas is provided by traditional intercity bus carriers, including Greyhound; many charter services, including Green Tortoise; and several Chinatown bus lines.

Primary roadways into Las Vegas include I-15 (north to Salt Lake City–south to San Diego), US 93 (north to Ely and Jackpot–south to Kingman, Arizona) and US 95 (north towards Reno–south to Searchlight) provide interstate highway access.

Until 1997, the Amtrak Desert Wind train service ran through Las Vegas using the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) rails that run through the city; Amtrak service to Las Vegas has since been replaced by Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach bus service. Plans to restore Los Angeles–Las Vegas Amtrak service using a Talgo train have been discussed since the Desert Wind was discontinued, however, as of 2005, no such service has been established.

Culture and attractions

The city and surrounding areas offer many attractions for both visitors and locals to enjoy.

A number of museums are available around Las Vegas.

Not having a professional sports team does not mean there is a lack of sports activities in the area. There are also many options for boating, golf, hiking, rock climbing, and parks which offer a wide range of activities.

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), just north of the city hosts NASCAR and other automotive events.

Notable natives

Sister cities

Related topics


External links

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