"Entertainment Capital of the World".
The downtown area of Las Vegas, known as Glitter Gulch, is characterized by extravagant casinos. In addition to the casinos and attractions downtown, more are located on The Strip, a 6-km (4-mi) neon-lined portion of Las Vegas Boulevard, located slightly south of downtown.
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A trend began toward huge resorts and family-oriented theme parks. Las Vegas now has several huge hotels, including the MGM Grand Hotel and Theme Park, which opened in 1993 as the largest hotel in the world. These hotels and resorts play a vital role in attracting more than 22 million guests to the city each year.
In addition to its renowned casinos, Las Vegas attracts visitors to its outdoor shows, including simulated volcanic eruptions, pirate duels on artificial lakes, and laser cannon displays. Indoor casino shows, with world-famous entertainers, are also popular. Annual events include the Mint 400 off-road vehicle race and the National Finals Rodeo. Las Vegas is a popular destination for tours and conventions, including COMDEX, an annual computer show.
Population growth accelerated in the 1930s with two innovations. In 1931 the Bureau of Reclamation started construction of Boulder (later Hoover) Dam on the nearby Colorado River. The Boulder was then the largest dam in the world. Dam construction brought jobs, growth, city development, and major federal funds to Las Vegas. That same year the state of Nevada legalized gambling, facilitating the modern era of Las Vegas, which began with the construction of the Flamingo Casino by gangster Bugsy Siegel in 1945. Other lavish casinos opened soon after, most of which were influenced or owned by criminals. Las Vegas serves as the center of one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. California migrants constitute about 60 percent of the newcomers to Las Vegas and contribute to the growth in home construction, landscaping, residential security, and light manufacturing in the increasingly varied Vegas economy. The population of the metropolitan region jumped from 528,000 in 1980 to 853,000 in 1990, an increase of 61.5 percent.
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The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), was founded in 1957. It is the main university in southern Nevada. The Community College of Southern Nevada has its main campus in North Las Vegas.
Specialty museums include the Liberace Museum (a museum dedicated to the flamboyant 20th-century Las Vegas performer), Ethel M's Dessert & Desert (a museum devoted to chocolate), and the Guinness World of Records Museum. Other museums in Las Vegas include the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society, which features exhibits on Nevada's history from 12,000 BC to 1950; the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which houses wildlife and dinosaur exhibits; and the Las Vegas Art Museum.
Las Vegas is served by an international airport, rail service, and several major highways.
Major Cities near Las Vegas:
Salt Lake City
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