The City of Las Vegas has a long and complex history but its real notoriety was achieved in the period between 1930 and 1980. The construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s brought the first showgirl clubs and casinos to the region in an effort to entertain the mostly male population of workers at the dam site.
After World War II, the city saw significant growth as crime lords took interest in the money to be had in organized gambling casinos in the region. The number of Las Vegas hotels, restaurants, show clubs and casinos boomed from the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s. When most people think of the classic Las Vegas, this is the period that comes to mind. The 1940s, 50s and 60s were the heyday for Las Vegas, with the Rat Pack frequently appearing in the Copa Room and other locations. The city was the pinnacle of cool.
Las Vegas saw unprecedented growth from the late 1960s through the 1980s and this period is also of significant nostalgic value for many. It was the era of the big Broadway shows and lounge singers. Performers like Liberace, Elvis, Wayne Newton, Bobby Darrin and others frequented the stages of various locations in Vegas.
For those who are interested in Las Vegas history, there are certain areas of the city that are particular merit. You can see some of the oldest buildings, historic hotels and casinos in the Fremont Street area. The Golden Gate Hotel is the oldest standing hotel in the city and located in downtown Las Vegas near the Fremont Street Experience. It was built in 1906 and continues to be a destination spot for history buffs.
Some of the oldest Las Vegas hotels after The Golden Gate are the Golden Nugget and Binion's. Rat Pack-era hotels still in operation in Vegas include the Sahara, Tropicana, Flamingo and Riviera. All of these older hotels still have rooms available and those who want to experience the feeling of the old Las Vegas will enjoy the accommodations.
The Neon Museum on Fremont Street is a big draw for those who wish to see the old Las Vegas. The outdoor museum features neon signs from throughout Vegas history including those that were frequently seen in old movies and television shows. Slowly, the signs are being restored and added to Fremont Street for public display.
For those who wish to see some of the other signs that have not yet been restored, a trip to "The Boneyard" should be on the agenda. The Boneyard is a three-acre storage area in which more than 150 of the city's classic neon signs are stored. Guided tours are available.
If you're interested in classic Vegas entertainment, there is a number of options available to you. Tribute shows frequent the stages in Vegas. These include The Rat Pack is Back, Legends in Concert, and Human Nature – The Ultimate Celebration of Motown Sound presented by Smokey Robinson.
The Supremes first appeared in Vegas in 1966 on the stage at the Flamingo. Many of the big Motown names continue to perform in Vegas today. Gladys Knight, The Temptations and Smokey Robinson are all contemporary Vegas weekend headliners.
For those who want a traditional Vegas dining experience, there are a number of old-style Vegas lounges from which to choose. Lawry's, Mr. Lucky's at the Hard Rock Hotel, Peppermill, and the Circus Circus Steak House are a few to check out. Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse at the Golden Nugget is another classic spot located inside one of the older casinos. And for those who don't mind traveling off The Strip, the Golden Steer Steak House is a good choice. This place has seen a number of celebrities, including Elvis Presley and the Rat Pack.
Las Vegas also has its share of museums and historic monuments. If you're there to take in some Vegas cultural history in addition to a bit of gambling, you may want to stop by the Liberace Museum or the Las Vegas Hilton to see the Elvis statue dedicated to the legendary King.
For traditional history buffs, there are several museums of merit in Las Vegas. In the 1950s, there were nuclear tests held just an hour outside of Las Vegas and the Atomic Testing Museum in the city includes 10,000 square feet of displays, interactive events and short films capturing the controversial history of this era.
The Mob Experience at the Tropicana is another must-see for those interested in Las Vegas history. This museum opens in late 2010 and will include authentic photos, videos and artifacts of the organized crime lords who once ran Las Vegas.
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