10 Fun Facts About the History of Las Vegas

historic image of neon signs in las vegas

Sin city holds a lot of secrets and many of them lie in its past. If you’re planning a trip to Vegas, you might want to read up about the interesting history of this iconic city, or plan to take a Las Vegas Tour to get better acquainted with the area.

From its origins as a small frontier town to its present-day status as a global gambling and entertainment mecca, Las Vegas has come a long way in a relatively short time. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the history of Las Vegas and how it has evolved over the years. We’ll also explore some of the most famous casinos in town and see what made them so special. So sit back, grab a drink from the nearest slot machine, and let’s dive into the fascinating history of Las Vegas casinos!

Interesting Facts about the History of Las Vegas you may not know

Las Vegas is a city that is rich in history and culture. There are many interesting facts about the history of Las Vegas that most people do not know. This blog will highlight 10 fun facts about the history of Las Vegas that you may not be aware of.

#1 – First Settlers were The Native Americans

native americans in the Las Vegas Tribe

The first settlers in the area now known as Las Vegas were the Native Americans. They settled in the area over 10,000 years ago and have been living there ever since. The Native Americans have a long and rich history in the area and have contributed greatly to the culture of Las Vegas.

#2 – How Las Vegas Got Its Name

historic Meadows Hotel in Las Vegas

The city of Las Vegas was named after the Spanish word for “the meadows”, which is what the area was known for. The Meadows were a popular stop for travelers on the Spanish trail and the name eventually stuck. All its other nicknames it got all on its own accord!

#3 – When Casinos Came To Vegas and how

first hotel in Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Strip was originally nothing more than a two-lane road that ran through the desert. The first official Casino might have been the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino but it wasn’t until El Rancho Vegas that the Strip was really born. It was the first of many casinos that would eventually make the Las Vegas Strip one of the most famous roads in the world.

#4 – Did someone say Las Vegas Mob?

las vegas historic image of mob member gambling

The Las Vegas Mafia is a real thing and it has a long history in the city. The Mafia has been involved in many aspects of Las Vegas’ history, including the construction of some of the most famous casinos. The Mafia also had a hand in creating the Las Vegas Strip as we know it today.

#5 – Legalizing Gambling

las vegas store fronts after gambling is legalized

After gambling was banned in the state in 1906, it was again legalized in Nevada in 1931, which paved the way for the construction of casinos in Las Vegas. This was a major turning point in the history of Las Vegas and it is what made the city what it is today.

#6 – The Rat Pack

the Rat Pack performing in Las Vegas

The Rat Pack was a group of entertainers that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The Rat Pack included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and many other famous entertainers. The Rat Pack was known for their performances at the Sands Hotel and Casino, which was one of the most famous casinos in Las Vegas at the time.

#7 – The Flamingo Hotel

historic flamingo hotel

The Flamingo Hotel was one of the first hotel and casinos built on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel was built by mobster Bugsy Siegel and it opened its doors in 1946. The Flamingo Hotel was a major success and it helped to put Las Vegas on the map.


#8 – The Hoover Dam

men in a tube of the Hoover Dam during contsruction

The Hoover Dam is one of the most famous landmarks in Las Vegas. The dam was built in the 1930s and it is located just outside of the city. The Hoover Dam is a popular tourist attraction and it is one of the most visited sites in Nevada.

#9 – Area 51

image of sign on highway on the way to Area 51

Area 51 is a secretive military base that is located just outside of Las Vegas. The base is rumored to be the home of a number of UFO sightings and it is one of the most popular conspiracy theories. Area 51 is a highly classified area and very little is known about what goes on there.

#10 – The Neon Museum

neon signs at the museum in Las Vegas

The Neon Museum is a popular tourist attraction in Las Vegas. The museum is home to a collection of old neon signs that were once used to advertise casinos and other businesses in Las Vegas. The Neon Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Las Vegas and see some of the most iconic signs in the city.

Origins of Las Vegas and How the City Got Its Start

Las Vegas was officially founded in 1905 by a group of developers seeking to build a railroad stop in the desert between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. The city’s name is derived from the Spanish word “vegas,” meaning meadows, and it was originally intended as a green oasis in the desert. However, due to the lack of water in the area, the early settlers were forced to rely on wells and springs for their water supply.

Las Vegas Early Timeline:

  • Las Vegas, Spanish for “the meadows,” is the name given to springs in the desert by Spanish explorers in 1829.
  • As a result of John Fremont’s journal of camping at Las Vegas Springs, the region receives a great deal of publicity.
  • First attempts are made by Mormons to settle Las Vegas in 1855.
  • Nevada becomes the 36th state in the Union on October 31, 1864.
  • In 1902, U.S. Senator William Andrews Clark attempts to connect the transcontinental railroad through Las Vegas.
  • Las Vegas is established as a town on May 15, 1905, when Clark auctions off 600 plots of land.
  • Between 1905 and 1906 the first Church and Casino are built.


What’s the History of the Las Vegas Strip?

The first casino on what is now known as the Las Vegas Strip was The Pair-O-Dice Club. It was a nightclub that was more famous for its gambling than anything else.

Next was El Rancho Vegas, which opened its doors in 1941. The Strip was originally nothing more than a two-lane highway lined with casinos and motels. However, as Las Vegas became increasingly popular as a destination for both gambling and entertainment, the Strip began to grow and evolve. 

Today, it is home to some of the most iconic hotels and casinos in the world, including the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and the Venetian.

Discover the Original Las Vegas Strip

The original Las Vegas Strip was actually located downtown on Fremont Street, not on the famous four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that it is today. It wasn’t until the construction of the Flamingo hotel in 1946 that the Strip began to take shape as we know it today.

Las Vegas Strip early timeline

  • Gambling is banned in Nevada in 1909.
  • In 1931, The Pair-O-Dice Club opens on Highway 91, later becoming part of the famous Las Vegas Strip.
  • The Prohibition Act is repealed in 1933.
  • Las Vegas becomes the most popular gambling destination after California authorities crack down on illegal gambling.

Staying in an iconic Las Vegas Hotel? Discover the History

Some of the most iconic hotels in Las Vegas have a long and interesting history. The Flamingo, for example, was built by mobster Bugsy Siegel and was originally intended to be a much smaller property. However, due to cost overruns, the hotel ended up being significantly larger and more lavish than originally planned. The Venetian, on the other hand, is a relatively new hotel, having only opened in 1999. It was designed to evoke the feel of old-world Venice, complete with canals and gondolas.

Top Historic Las Vegas Hotels

Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas being built

If you’re interested in staying in a historic Las Vegas hotel, there are plenty of options to choose from. Some of the most popular historic hotels include the Flamingo, Caesars Palace, and the Venetian. All of these hotels offer a unique blend of history and luxury that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Some of the iconic hotels of the past don’t exist anymore, like the El Rancho. It had a devastating fire in 1960 and today you can find the Fontainebleau Las Vegas resort in its place.

1. The Flamingo Las Vegas – The first hotel on the Las Vegas strip

The Flamingo Las Vegas was the first hotel and casino to open on the Las Vegas Strip. It was built by American gangster Bugsy Siegel and opened on December 26, 1946. The Flamingo has a long and storied history, and has been home to many famous faces over the years. Today, it is one of the most popular hotels on the Strip, known for its luxurious accommodations and world-class casino.

2. Caesars Palace – A Las Vegas institution

Caesars Palace is one of the most iconic hotels in Las Vegas. It opened its doors on August 5, 1966 and has been a mainstay on the Strip ever since. Its world-famous casino and luxurious amenities make Caesars Palace a popular destination. It has been home to many famous faces over the years, including Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, and Elvis Presley.

3. The Venetian Las Vegas – A luxurious and modern hotel

The Venetian Las Vegas is a modern and luxurious hotel that opened its doors on May 3, 1999. The hotel is located on the site of the old Sands Hotel and Casino, and was built to resemble Venice, Italy. The Venetian is home to many high-end shops, restaurants, and attractions, and is one of the most popular hotels on the Strip.

4. MGM Grand Las Vegas – A world-famous hotel and casino

The MGM Grand Las Vegas is a world-famous hotel and casino that opened its doors on December 5, 1993. The MGM Grand is well-known for its star-studded events at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and is one of the most popular hotels on the Strip. The hotel is also home to a large casino, making it a popular destination for gamblers from all over the world.

5. The Bellagio Las Vegas – An iconic Las Vegas hotel

The Bellagio Las Vegas is an iconic hotel that opened its doors on October 15, 1998. The hotel is located on the site of the old Dunes Hotel and Casino. The Bellagio is famous for its water and light shows.

What’s the Oldest Las Vegas Hotel?

The Golden Gate Hotel is the oldest hotel in Las Vegas – and it still stands! Having first opened its doors in 1906, the hotel has undergone a number of renovations over the years, but it has kept its original charm. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, the Golden Gate is definitely worth considering.

Las Vegas Hotel Timeline

  • The Flamingo Hotel opens on December 26, 1946, under the leadership of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.
  • In 1955, the first racially integrated hotel opened its doors at the Moulin Rouge.
  • Downtown Las Vegas’s tallest building opens on May 18, 1956: the 12-story Fremont Hotel.
  • The world’s largest hotel at a cost of $1 billion opens with Kirk Kerkorian’s MGM Grand Hotel & Theme Parks.
  • Las Vegas opens its first Hard Rock Hotel on March 10, 1995.
  • Modern Las Vegas hotel and casinos are increasingly family-friendly

The History of Las Vegas Casinos – More than lights and shows

Casinos have been a part of Las Vegas since the city’s earliest days. The first official casino on the infamous Las Vegas Strip was the El Rancho Vegas, which opened its doors in 1941. However, it wasn’t until the construction of the Flamingo hotel in 1946 that casinos began to proliferate on the Strip. Today, there are dozens of casinos in Las Vegas, ranging from small gambling halls to massive resort properties.

The First Casinos in Las Vegas

While the modest Golden Gate Hotel & Casino paved the way for the current Las Vegas scene, the history of Las Vegas casinos was full of larger-than-life characters, incredible stories, and momentous occasions. From the early days of mob bosses and the Flamingo to today’s mega-resorts, casinos have always been a central part of Sin City.

The first luxury casino-hotel to open its doors on the strip in 1941 was the El Rancho Vegas. This was quickly followed by the Flamingo in 1946, which was built by infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel. The Flamingo set the standard for luxury hotels on the Strip and ushered in a new era of development in Las Vegas.

In 1955, the Riviera Hotel and Casino opened its doors, becoming the first high-rise hotel on the Strip. The Riviera was also home to the first sports book in Las Vegas, making it a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike. 

As the years went on, more and more hotels and casinos cropped up on the Strip. Some of the most famous include Caesars Palace (1966), The Mirage (1989), Bellagio (1998), and Wynn Las Vegas (2005). Each new hotel brought something unique to the table, helping to make Las Vegas the world-renowned destination it is today. 

Casinos have always been a central part of Las Vegas, but they weren’t always as flashy and extravagant as they are now. In the early days, most casinos were small affairs with only a handful of games. These days, however, casinos are massive complexes with hundreds of different games and attractions. 

One of the biggest changes to casinos in recent years is the introduction of more family-friendly attractions. While casinos have always been a popular destination for adults, they are now increasingly catering to families with kids. This is evidenced by the introduction of kid-friendly hotels like Circus Circus and the Excalibur, as well as family-friendly shows like the Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil.

Las Vegas is truly a unique city, and its casinos are a big part of what makes it so special. Whether you’re a high roller or just looking for some fun, there’s a casino in Las Vegas that’s perfect for you. 

History of the Mob in Las Vegas

The history of Las Vegas is closely linked to the history of organized crime in America. Some of the most famous mobsters in America, including Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, were heavily involved in the development of Las Vegas. 

In fact, many of the earliest casinos on the Strip were financed by money from organized crime. However, as Las Vegas has grown and evolved, its ties to organized crime have diminished.

Today, there are only a handful of active mafia families in Las Vegas. However, their impact on the city’s history is still evident.

Ready to Explore Las Vegas?

Las Vegas is a city with a rich and fascinating history. The best way to experience it is close up, but don’t get stuck in traffic, explore Sin City with the all new Las Vegas GoCar tour.

This unique tour takes you on an adventure through the city, with stops at some of the most popular attractions. You’ll learn about the history of Las Vegas while getting a unique perspective of the city. So, what are you waiting for? Book your tour today!