Las Vegas. The entertainment capital of the world, in many people’s eyes. It seems like every year, there are new hotels, restaurants, and attractions to choose from in Sin City. There is no way to run out of things to do or places to stay in this city, and this can sometimes make decisions very difficult without experiencing some sort of FOMO.
This site is here to help you make the best decisions for your trip to Las Vegas. Whether you are going on a girls’ weekend, a couple’s escape, or traveling for work, we have you covered. We’ll review all the hotels on the Strip, as well as giving you some helpful tips on how to get the most out of your time in Vegas. But first, let us take you down memory lane with a brief history on how Las Vegas became the gambling mecca of the US.
A Brief History Of Las Vegas
Many of you know tidbits of information about the history of Las Vegas, but there is a lot to take in about how a city in the middle of the desert turned itself into the entertainment and gambling capital of the world. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and give you a brief overview of Sin City.
Many people are not sure where the name Las Vegas came from. Clearly, it has some Spanish reference, but it was all the way back in 1829 when a Mexican explorer named Antonio Armijo was trying to find a route from New Mexico to Los Angeles to transport trade. One of his exploration groups, led by Rafael Rivera, settled in close to Las Vegas on this expedition. While searching for water, Rivera cam across the water flowing into the area, creating a lot of greenery. It was then that Rivera chose to call the location Las Vegas, which is Spanish for “The Meadows.”
It could have been the anti-gambling capital
After the Spanish Trail was established, several groups made their way through Las Vegas, often trying to get trade through to the West Coast. However, one group that stopped and stayed a while were the Mormons. A group of missionaries settled in the region, building a fort there. This didn’t end up being an ideal location for the Mormons to set up camp outside Utah, so they left the fort for good in 1857, only two years after arriving.
For the next while, there wasn’t much in the way of settlers in Las Vegas, with the area being used primarily as a rest stop on the way to California for tradesmen.
Along came the railroad
As the country started to modernize, a railroad was being built to transport people and goods all over the United States. The Western swing of this railroad, the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad, had plans to run through the area, which would bring major changes in settlement and development. By 1895, the Mormons had made their way back to Las Vegas, but this time with the assistance of building the railroad in mind. The mastermind behind the rail project, Montana Senator William Andrews Clark enlisted Utah Senator Thomas Kearns to help get the project completed, and with that, a whole new era was born.
Incorporation and Growth
The construction of the railroad brought with it many people, and those people needed places to live. Part of the development of the area was the introduction of clean water flowing from wells built all around the town. The county was named after William A. Clark as a sign of respect for the man who had chosen this location for the expansion of the railroad. The project was completed in 1905, and Las Vegas officially became a city in that same year.
With the railroad passing through, Las Vegas became a booming region. Of course, the original batch of settlers were railroad workers, who had a reputation for working hard and playing hard. The area became buzzing with saloons and everything that went along with the life of excess – drinking, prostitution, crime, and, of course, gambling. This was, however, not something the state was very happy with – a city full of debauchery spinning out of control. The state passed measures in late 1910 that would see gambling outlawed – however, that just drove the business underground. Las Vegas officially incorporated as a city in 1911, and this was also when the East Coast mob realized the potential in making a move to this city of sin.
Lows before the Highs
Unfortunately for Las Vegas, the events of World War I and the money that it took from the federal government that was flowing in previously had a major impact on the city. One of the railroads was forced to declare bankruptcy as a result. After the war, a railroad workers strike in 1922 threatened to cripple the city indefinitely. It certainly wasn’t a great time to be living in the city back then.
Las Vegas finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel in 1930 when President Hoover passed a bill that would see money spent around the country on infrastructure. As part of that bill, money was set aside to build the Boulder Dam (now called the Hoover Dam). This massive project would see the area become a hub for electricity, and within a few months, the population of Las Vegas, only 30 miles from the spot of the Dam, would skyrocket.
Gambling would finally make its way back to the city legally in 1931 when the first casino license was issued. It made total sense – the city was booming with all the money that had been pouring in as a result of the construction of the Dam, and with that returned that life of excess. Workers who were transient were spending their downtime in bars, nightclubs, and casinos, all of which brought tax revenues back to Clark County.
Back in those days, the center of Las Vegas was what we now know as Downtown Las Vegas – a much smaller area. However, with all this influx of investment into the area, it wasn’t long before the first properties were being built on a large stretch of land that would become known as the Las Vegas Strip.
Casinos, Casinos, Casinos!
The first hotel on the Strip was also the first resort-style property, called the El Rancho Casino Resort. This opened the floodgates to development in the area, primarily funded by mob money being funneled through the Mormon Church. Famously, the Flamingo Hotel and Casino, built with mob money by Bugsy Siegel, was the reason Siegel himself was gunned down by the mob after the property was continually losing money.
This didn’t stop the growth of casino development – in fact, in the 1940s and early 1950s, the Strip would see many properties built. The city was quickly becoming an entertainment destination, with all the major stars of music and comedy setting up shop in the different resorts. This was the era of Sinatra, Davis, Martin, Elvis, and many more top stars performing nightly in resort theatres.
Modern Vegas Emerges
Vegas was a top tourist destination by the time Howard Hughes landed there in 1966. He quickly sensed the potential of the region, purchasing the Desert Inn not long after arriving. He gave the property a major facelift, creating the start of the Las Vegas that you now know and love. Over the next several years, Hughes would expand his real estate empire in the city, forcing other resorts to follow along in transformation.
Hughes buying and remodelling these casinos spelled the beginning of the end of the mob’s ties to the city. This ushered in an era of corporate investment, featuring companies that had far more money than the mob, which was required to build these new “mega-resorts.” Along with these resorts came a push to make the city less reliant on gambling – the attractions started to become more family-friendly, and things like top-notch restaurants replacing all the buffets that were a staple of the Strip become more common.
By the 1990s, the Strip had transformed once again. With properties like MGM Grand, The Mirage, and others being built, the sheer number of hotel rooms in the city was astounding. People flocked to Las Vegas to eat, be entertained, and of course, to gamble – that was never going to change. Major entertainment and sporting events were held in the city as well.
In the mid-1990s, Fremont Street seemed like a ghost town. The casinos were small and outdated, and most of the action had gone a few miles up the road to the Strip. However, there is a lot of history in the properties in Downtown Las Vegas, and the development of the Fremont Street Experience breathed new life into the area. A lighted cover over the street protected people from the searing heat of the desert during the day and provided entertainment in the light shows at night.
Back on the Strip, more and more properties were being built, each more lavish than the one before. Opulent resorts like the Wynn, Venetian, and Bellagio were now the most popular in the city. These billion-dollar properties are the reason Las Vegas continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and why tens of millions of visitors make their way to Sin City every year, looking for the best place to stay!
Hotels in Las Vegas
Las Vegas has a hotel for every type of guest and every type of budget. There are loads of huge casino resorts on the Strip, as well as many great hotels, only a short drive away. If you want to be in the middle of the action but are working with a budget, there are still some gems on Las Vegas Boulevard. Our Hotel Reviews take a look at the hotel in full – from the rooms to the restaurants to the gaming tables and entertainment options. You’ll be able to book with confidence after reading what our experts have to say.
Top 3 Hotel Suites in Vegas
While we will give you full details on the room types in each of the hotels we review, we couldn’t resist giving you a taste of the high roller life with our Top 3 Over The Top Suites in Las Vegas
#1. The Sky Villa at The Palms
Yes, The Palms hotel is off the Strip, which doesn’t make it as exciting as some of the other hotels you will find on this site. However, the casino and hotel have had a massive remodel, with one of the few things left unchanged being the Sky Villa Suites. These two-level suites are approximately 9,000 square feet in size, which is plenty of space for you and all the friends you will make. However, the gem of this room is an outdoor pool that is hanging off the side of the building, giving you an unforgettable view of the Strip.
#2. The Presidential Suite at Bellagio
While there are newer suites that have more bells and whistles, there is still something classic and prestigious about having the Presidential Suite at a hotel like Bellagio. While it isn’t the largest suite at just over 4,000 square feet, it does have a beautiful view of the Strip and the iconic Bellagio fountain. It also features a solarium for those looking for a bit of nature in the desert. The price won’t break the bank either.
#3. The Chairman Suite at Venetian
Fair warning here: You probably aren’t the type of player to be given the opportunity to stay at this invite-only suite at the Venetian, but one can dream, right? This opulent suite has four bedrooms and comes in at 10,000 square feet. Included in this space is a massage room, a sauna, and a beauty salon, along with some of the most gorgeous pieces of art in the hotel’s collection. It’s worth trying to have a look even if you have to beg someone to get you up to the 36th floor.
Dining in Vegas
There once was a time when Las Vegas was known for its 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail, and the all you can eat buffets were the most popular food choice. These days, true foodie culture has taken over Las Vegas, with some of the top chefs in the world opening restaurants in the casino resorts up and down the Strip. There is something for everyone when it comes to eating in Las Vegas, and if you are feeling adventurous, there are some amazing restaurants not located in hotels as well.
3 Can’t Miss Restaurants in Vegas
#1. Mon Ami Gabi
This French-style Bistro is one of the best places to people-watch in Las Vegas. Located in the base of the Paris Casino and Resort, its windows and patio overlook Las Vegas Boulevard, where you can sit for hours and watch society walk by. The food is excellent, and the view of the Bellagio fountain doesn’t hurt either.
#2. Lotus of Siam
This Thai restaurant is not located in one of the hotels and is not even on the Strip, but based on how difficult it is to get a reservation, it is not shocking to hear that it is one of the best Thai restaurants in the country. Specializing on Northern Thai dishes (not the stuff you order from takeout) and featuring a drool-worthy wine list thousands of names long, this restaurant is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. It’s a can’t-miss dining option if you are willing to wait for a table or book far enough in advance.
When Tao opened back in the 2000s, it was hard to tell if the restaurant-nightclub combination was going to work for Vegas travelers. Over 15 years later, the proof is in the pudding. The tables at this Venetian staple have been full for years, and guests can sample the amazing Asian-themed menu before heading to the dance floor to hear some of the world’s top DJs.
Gambling in Vegas
Of course, Las Vegas was built on the back of the casino table games and slot machines, and even though the city offers so many more things to do than sit in a casino, gambling is still the most popular pastime. Each of our hotel reviews will look at the gaming floor of each property – we mean it when we say there is something for everyone. If you like louder, rowdy casinos, or if you prefer high roller rooms, we will give you the best ones for your taste. There’s a wide range of betting limits up and down the Strip, and Downtown Las Vegas gives you a glimpse into what Vegas was like before the Strip even existed.
Never hurt to be prepared before trying your luck, here are a few gambling guides to get your started:
Online Gambling in Las Vegas
Over the last twenty years, the gambling landscape has changed dramatically. Without question, the introduction of online gambling has reshaped the way the industry works and has introduced a whole new group of people to the games that have made Las Vegas the city it is today. It would be easy to think that Sin City would have embraced online gambling when it burst onto the scene, but this could not be further from the truth. Let’s have a look at the history of online gambling in Las Vegas.
A rocky start
When online casinos became popular in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, Las Vegas operators did not react well. Sensing that this new, far more convenient way to play table games and slots might eat into the number of tourists who came to the city each year, most operators fought back against these offshore-based online casinos.
The most vocal opponent of online gambling in Las Vegas is Sheldon Adelson, who is the CRO of the Sands group that owns the Venetian Hotel and Casino. Adelson has made it his mission to make online gambling illegal, lobbying very hard in Washington to make his case. Many other operators followed his lead well into the 2000s.
Along Came Online Poker
When online gambling was more focused on sports betting and casino games, the Las Vegas pushback was very strong. However, when Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event after qualifying for the tournament in a satellite on Poker Stars, that changed everything.
Almost overnight, online poker sites grew exponentially, and with that, more players were given a chance to qualify for the Main Event. In fact, the WSOP was becoming such a popular series that many sites were offering online satellites to more than just the Main Event, spreading players across multiple events. From 2004-2006, Las Vegas hotels and casinos reaped the benefit of having so many online poker qualifiers descend on the city in the heat of summer when occupancy rates in hotels were traditionally very low. The Rio All-Suites Hotel, the host of the tournament from 2005 onwards, had an entire convention center full of hospitality suites and a poker convention essentially paid for by the online poker community. At its peak, over 4,000 of the 8,621 total players qualified online for the 2006 WSOP Main Event, which still holds the record for the largest Main Event field ever.
Not everyone was happy
Even though it seemed that Las Vegas was embracing online gambling, it was pretty clear that Adelson and his group of detractors were not on board. With growing non-taxed revenues from these sites flowing offshore, the U.S. government passed a law in October 2006 that would cripple the online gambling business in the United States. The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act saw all banking transactions for these sites by U.S. banks illegal. This shuttered the online poker industry but also killed the momentum that the WSOP and other land-based casinos had with players coming in for events. By 2011, the entire online poker industry in the United States had dried up…but there was now a groundswell of support for online gambling coming out of Las Vegas.
Dipping toes in the Social pool
As the real money online poker business was fading away in the U.S., a new type of gambling site was starting to emerge – social gambling. These sites, which gained prominence on Facebook, allowed players to play for free, accumulating free chips and achievements along the way. In some instances, players were even able to purchase play chips for real money in order to access different games.
Las Vegas casinos, sensing they needed to improve their online presence, started to buy into these social casino and poker games as a way to engage with their players and enhance overall brand loyalty. Hotel sites began adding these games, and companies like the World Series of Poker (owned by Caesars) branded play money and social poker games as well.
Poker is back in Nevada…kind of
In 2012, discussions began at the state level to legalize and regulate online gaming. By this time, mobile devices were starting to heavily penetrate the market, and in 2013 the state decided to pass legislation that would see the return of real money online poker. However, as this was a state initiative, the sites would only be able to attract players physically located within the borders. This made for very small pools to draw from for poker, so after the initial launch, only one real money site remained – WSOP.com.
The good news for residents and visitors to Las Vegas is that there are lots of great games to play at this site. Also, to tie in the brand, the site has offered official WSOP bracelet events during the traditional dates of the festival at the Rio. Despite the struggle to keep games going all day, the site continues to be popular with all types of poker players.
Sports Betting becomes legal across the U.S. …and helps Las Vegas?
The next big shift in online gambling for Las Vegas was in sports betting. The state first allowed mobile and online betting on-property in the mid-2010s, but with a lot of restrictions. Then, it allowed Las Vegas casinos to have players bet from their homes as long as they funded their accounts in-person at the property.
In May 2018, the entire sports betting and online gambling landscape changed in the U.S. when the Supreme Court repealed the law that prohibited sports betting from anywhere outside Nevada. The stranglehold that Las Vegas sportsbooks had over betting across the country was gone, and many Las Vegas casinos wondered what impact that would have on their business. As it turns out, Nevada sportsbook numbers continue to set records for revenue and handle despite sports betting being legal in a number of states.
What’s next for online gambling in Las Vegas?
With the continued changes in the way players play games, it is logical that online casinos will make their way into Las Vegas brands in the coming years. There are already synergies between the slots providers and online operators, with several brands crossing over between online and land-based play. There will be a growing desire for casinos to find new revenue streams, and this will very likely include expanding land-based brands online in order to capture the loyalty of the players.
There are still offshore-based online casinos and sportsbooks that accept players from Las Vegas, which his an added incentive for land-based properties to lobby to be allowed to compete for every gambling dollar. For the time being, visitors to Las Vegas can play for real money on the casino floor and then take their skills to the social sites that give them a chance to earn more valuable comp points.
Traveling to Vegas
Las Vegas is a city that sees tourists from all over the world, all with one thing in mind: to be entertained. That many people in one small area can also bring with it some general concerns, and we want to make sure your trip is magical. Our team has posted a series of articles on how to make the most out of your trip to Las Vegas, from how to manage your money to how to ensure you are as safe as possible when out in the crowds.
Here are some ‘how to’s’ to help you make the most of your trip:
- Choosing the Best VIP Rooms in Las Vegas
- How To Get Around Las Vegas
- How To Stay Safe in Vegas
- How To Maximize Your Money while in Las Vegas
- Look Out for the Best Casino Promotions
Entertainment & Attractions in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is definitely known to be the city of unlimited fun and excitement. With so many attractions, shows and just plain ol’ things to do, you’re probably wondering where to start. Las Vegas is a great place for entertainment all year-round and here’s our list of just some of the top things to do and see while there.
Special Events in Vegas
If you’re looking for a more unique experience when visiting Las Vegas, here are some of the best annual events to plan your trip around:
- Nascar Weekend
- Great Vegas Festival of Beer
- Las Vegas Day Parties
- Las Vegas Nightlife
- Las Vegas Food & Wine Festival
- Celebrity Residencies
- The Water Lantern Festivals
- The Electric Daisy Carnival
- The Comedy Club
We’ll be posting new content in this space regularly, so make sure to check back if you ever have any questions about this great city and how best to enjoy it!