Over 37 million tourists visit Las Vegas annually, making it one of the most visited places in the world.
The city developed first as a remote “Old West” frontier town. In 1829, a trade caravan led by the Mexican merchant Antonio Armijo named the valley "Las Vegas" (which is Spanish for "The Meadows) after its natural artesian water supply and vast green grasses. In the late 1800’s, precious minerals including gold and silver, were found in Nevada, leading to the rapid development of the mining industry. Promises of a quick wealth lure many risk-taking people into the area.
In the early 1900’s, the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad was completed, linking Salt Lake City to southern California in 1905. Las Vegas became a railroad town (a water stop for railroad) and was incorporated as a city on March 16, 1911.
On July 3, 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed the appropriation bill for the Boulder Dam, renamed the Hoover Dam later on. With newcomers looking for a job building the dam, Las Vegas’ population multiplied by 5 during the Great depression.
Las Vegas businessmen, Mormon financiers, and Mafia crime lords developed casinos and showgirl theaters to entertain the largely male dam construction workers. In the Nevada state legislature legalized gambling at the local level in 1931 and allowed couples to marry on the spot with no waiting time and no required blood test
During the second world war, the activities of Las Vegas Army Airfield (today Nellis Air Force Base) grew considerably. Las Vegas' population continued to rise. Hotels opened on the Strip for the first time. The Las Vegas Strip is actually not located within the City of Las Vegas but it passes through the neighboring towns of Paradise and Winchester.
In 1944, Valentino Liberace, a famous American artist, made his Las Vegas debut. He became a legendary Vegas act, earning a record $ 300,000 a week by 1972.
After the war, the opening of several resorts on the Strip demonstrated the influence of organized crime on Las Vegas. In the early 1950’s, the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce (Kefauver Committee) concluded that organized crime money was incontrovertibly tied to the Las Vegas casinos. The USA did not institute a federal gambling control. However, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in 1970.
In the meantime, the Las Vegas Strip was booming. By 1954, over 8 million people were visiting Las Vegas pumping $200 million into casinos. Despite the risks of radiation exposure, Las Vegas advertised the nuclear explosions at the Nevada Test Site as another tourist attraction
In 1955, The Moulin Rouge Hotel casino opened as the only establishment on the Strip allowing African Americans. In 1959 the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was constructed 7.2 km (4.5 mi) outside of the city limits.
In the early 1960’s, "the Clan" (Rat Pack) featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop performed in Las Vegas for the first time.
Howard Robard Hughes, one of the wealthiest people in the world, moved to Las Vegas in 1966 and took-over many of the well-known hotels. He transformed Vegas into a corporately-held casino city and took control back from the mobsters of the Sin City era.
On July 26, 1969, Elvis debuted his Vegas act. Between 1969 and 1977, he played 837 consecutive sold-out shows.
With the construction of The Mirage in 1989, began a new chapter in the history of the Las Vegas Strip, the so-called megaresort era. Other opulent resorts followed then, including Rio, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Treasure Island, Luxor, Stratosphere, Monte Carlo, New York- New York, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Paris, Palms, Wynn, Palazzo, Encore, CityCenter, and The Cosmopolitan.
In 1995, the Fremont Experience opened in downtown Las Vegas. In 2005, Las Vegas celebrated its 100th birthday. In 2007, the Las Vegas Springs Preserve opened to the public in the "birthplace of Las Vegas".
The famed Las Vegas Strip features now unparalleled attractions like dancing fountains, a replica of the renown Eiffel Tower, an erupting volcano and some of the world's largest and most beautiful resorts. Most of the attractions and shows on the Strip are located on the hotel casino properties. Caesars Entertainment Corporation, MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts Ltd., and Las Vegas Sands Corp are among the main operators in the Las Vegas entertainment industry. Several shows combining mainly music, dance, and circus are produced by the Canadian company Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.
In 2012, about 26% of Las Vegas' visitors came from from Southern California and 17 % from foreign countries. The the average visitor's stay was 3.3 nights.
The Gambling Capital of the World, the Entertainment Capital of the World, Sin City, Capital of Second Chances, the Marriage Capital of the World are common nicknames of Las Vegas.
Besides magnificent golf courses, great outdoor recreation opportunities near Las Vegas include Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam.