Las Vegas Central is at the intersection of the Great Basin, and the Mojave and the Sonoran Deserts. Indians were the first residents of the Las Vegas Valley. The ancient hunters and farmers were “discovered” by Euro-American explorers who settled in the Valley to enjoy the warm, dry climate and stunning views. Monuments and parks are found through the Valley and beyond, preserving the history and culture of the ancient people. Ghost towns and other historic sites preserve the memory of later arrivals in the desert.
The city of Las Vegas (meaning “The Meadows” in Spanish) was originally a traveler’s rest for those going to California. Mormon travelers established a settlement during the silver rush of the 1700s. In 1855, the first permanent non-native settlers in the Las Vegas Valley, a group of Mormon missionaries, built an adobe fort along Las Vegas Creek. They farmed the area by diverting water from the creek. Today, the settlement is part of the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park. Remnants of the adobe fort serve as the Visitor Center where exhibits and displays retell the story of the first settlers.
The Union Pacific Railroad arrived in 1905 and The Great Depression brought the unemployed to the area to work on the construction of Hoover Dam. Completed in 1936, the Dam created Lake Mead and provides hydroelectric power to keep the lights bright on “The Strip” and beyond. Nevada State legislators legalized gambling in 1936. Immediately the city transformed with casinos, hotels and every type of pleasure, distraction and merriment imaginable. Today Las Vegas is home to world-class entertainment, huge hotels with everything from gondolas on canals to a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower to a great pyramid, a volcano and a medieval castle, and every casino game imaginable.
Not just a gambling mecca, Las Vegas is rich in history which can be viewed at the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society, and the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History: The Zoological-Botanical Park features a 4-acre zoo of desert plants and animals. Cultural activities include visits to the many art galleries and museums or a night at the Nevada Symphony, Nevada Dance Theatre, Winchester Center Theatre or the Clark County Amphitheater. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada's oldest and largest state park, is located 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Hidden canyons, unique rock formations, petroglyphs and the remains of ancient Indian civilizations can be found throughout the Park.
The Clark County Museum celebrates the history of southern Nevada. From prehistoric times to the Age of Entertainment, exhibits, dioramas and presentations cover nearly 10,000 years. A full-sized pueblo, Native American artifacts and a walk-in mine filled with treasures are a few of the displays that make the Clark County Museum one of a kind. A most astounding exhibit of historic homes and businesses from the early 20th century can be toured on Heritage Street. The Boulder City train depot, along with historic rail cars, is also on display. A trail leads through the museum’s “desert” to a recreated ghost town.
The Thunderbirds precision flying team calls nearby Nellis Air Force Base home, and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, home to NASCAR's "Las Vegas 400" and a host of other world class motor racing events is just north of the city. Attend a triple-A baseball game, a PGA or LPGA golf tournament, and root for the UNLV “Rebels." Festivals are held year round in the Las Vegas Valley and include the Aloha Pacific Festival, Taste of Vegas, Renaissance Festival, Gem and Mineral Fair, “Strut Your Mutt” dog show, the National Finals Rodeo, Oktoberfest, Christmas programs, and Fourth of July fireworks displays.
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