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    www.www.gzbgl.cn / USA / Cities / Las Vegas

    Highlights of Las Vegas

    New York might be The City That Never Sleeps, but Las Vegas would never make such a claim - after a hard night's gambling and drinking, they snooze the whole day away, getting up just in time for another night's carousing.

    Considering that it's built in a bona-fide desert, it probably is a good idea to sleep while the sun is beating down, at least in summer.   In winter it's milder, sometimes downright cold, but at least the sun's usually shining for the millions of tourists who pour in from all over the United States and many other parts of the world.

    This is a view of the Las Vegas Strip taken from the top of the Stratotower, and if you don't know why it's called the Strip then just go to one of the many shows, or visit a casino and watch what happens to the wallets of the gamblers - there's a reason many Americans refer to the place as "Lost Wages"!

    In spite of being in the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas was actually named after meadows supported by natural springs fed by snowmelt from the mountains in the area.

    Gambling was legalized in 1931, but the city didn't really take off until the 1940s when organized crime figures like Bugsy Siegel moved in and set up large casinos catering to people living in Los Angeles and, eventually, the rest of the USA.   As recently as 1960 the population of the metropolitan area was only 127,000 but it's now estimated at 1,836,000.

    The Circus, Circus hotel and casino is one of the more venerable attractions on the Strip, its large Lucky the Clown sign dating back to 1976.   True to its name, it hosts the largest permanent Big Top circus in the world.   The circus includes acts from all over the world, with many performers from Russia and Eastern Europe, where circuses are more common than they now are in the west.

    Opening in 1952, the Sahara is even older than Circus, Circus.   Indeed, the Sahara is the last "rat pack" casino, made famous by "pack" members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.

    The official motto of Las Vegas is "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," which certainly suits the criminal element, their clientele, and even many ordinary visitors who let their hair down without resorting to illegal acts.

    Las Vegas is a convenient location for all sorts of things which you wouldn't do at home, which is why it has one of the highest marriage rates in the United States and also one of the highest divorce rates, largely because it's easier for people from outside Nevada to do these things here than in their home state.

    The suicide rate for visitors is also about twice the national average, and even residents have a much higher risk of killing themselves, in spite of all the sunshine.

    In 2000 this roller-coaster called "Speed, the Ride" was added to the Sahara, starting in the NASCAR Restaurant inside, dropping under the ground in front of the hotel (where this photo was taken) and then passing through the "Sahara" sign and retracing the journey - backwards!

    There are several other roller-coasters based in the city's casinos.   Circus Circus has the world's only indoor double loop, double corkscrew coaster, the Manhattan Express at New York New York has a 540 degree spiral and Desperado at Buffalo Bill's reaches 80 mph down its 225 foot drop.

    Perhaps the craziest coaster of all was the High Roller, appropriately located over 1000 feet above the ground at the top of the Stratosphere Tower.   It was replaced in 2006 by a new observation deck, but there are three other rides still on the tower which are widely considered the most terrifying in the city.

    Harrah's is the largest gambling company in the world and owner of the magnificent Sky Tower in my own native New Zealand, a very worthy rival to the Stratosphere Tower!

    Although only two are visible in this photo, there are actually six gold-leaf covered jesters at Harrah's, each 32 feet high, weighing 22,000 pounds and wearing size 43 shoes!

    The second largest gaming company in the world is MGM Mirage, which owns the Mirage casino and hotel.

    The Mirage was the most expensive casino and hotel ever built, and it's easy to see where the money went - the windows are a golden color, because they're tinted with real gold!

    Not only was the Mirage very successful, it also led to many other construction projects in the city, which had been suffering a long-term downturn.

    The Mirage has an elaborate French Polynesian flavored fire-and-water display each night called The Volcano, for obvious reasons!   It's also home to the world famous Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas.

    Nineteen of the world's twenty five largest hotels are located on the Strip - this one, the Bellagio, has almost 4000 rooms.   It's now also owned by MGM Mirage.

    The Bellagio is named after a town beside Italy's spectacularly beautiful Lake Como.

    The Bellagio is most famous for the spectacular water show put on by the Fountains of Bellagio situated in the middle of the eight acre lake between the hotel and the Strip.

    The Fountains are an engineering marvel, the 1200 nozzles shooting water up to 460 feet in the air, in a synchronized display with music and 4500 lights.

    Of course, it's very environmentally questionable to have a giant lake and fountains in the middle of a desert where water is in short supply.   Although much of the water for Las Vegas comes from rapidly falling Lake Mead, behind the Hoover Dam, water for the Bellagio is drawn from a well, and it's said that the lake and fountains use less water than the golf course they replaced (which isn't saying much!)

    The Bellagio is just one of several Las Vegas casinos with a European theme.

    Almost straight across the Strip is Paris Las Vegas, which not only imitates the style of Paris but also several of its landmarks, like a half-scale Eiffel Tower, a two-thirds scale Arc de Triomphe and even an illuminated replica of a Montgolfier balloon which serves as the casino's sign.

    There are many other direct references and echos to Parisian architecture scattered throughout the property, which opened in 1999.

    It's said that the replica Eiffel Tower was originally designed to be full-scale, but permission for it was denied because the casino is too close to the airport.

    An unusual feature of the replica is that one of its legs descends all the way into the casino, through the roof!

    The Venetian Casino is on the same side of the Strip as Paris Las Vegas and, as you might have guessed, it's modeled on Venice in Italy, complete with St Mark's Square, the Rialto Bridge, canals and gondolas equipped with all mod cons, including singing gondoliers.   Completed in the same year as Paris Las Vegas, but with a higher cost estimated at 1.5 billion US dollars, the Venetian's opening ceremonies included appearances by Italian actress Sophia Loren.

    As with all of the large casinos, nightly shows are one of the main attractions.   The Venetian features the Blue Man Group, a rotating set of mute, bald-headed musicians covered in blue paint who make music on unusual instruments, such as clusters of PVC rain pipes.

    The Venetian also has high art, exemplified by the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum which operates within its walls.   In the public areas of the hotel and casino are replica art works on the walls and ceilings, such as this one.

    With neon lights everywhere, it's no wonder that Las Vegas is the brightest city on earth when viewed from space.   To stand out from the crowd, even burger joints need to have psychedelic displays!

    As well as the all-too-human charms within the city, there are a number of other attractions around Las Vegas, including Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, which is located 40 miles to the south-east.   There are also natural sights like the pine forests and streams in the Spring Mountains, which receive a great deal of snow in the winter.   For desert landscapes you can visit Red Rock Canyon and the extraordinarily colored and shaped formations in the Valley of Fire.

    Those of you with a really serious need for speed can visit the annual Nellis Air Force Base airshow, held in the cool of November only 8 miles from downtown.   Here you'll see vintage and modern aircraft doing their thing, and you're guaranteed to see the United States Air Force Thunderbirds display team flying their F-16 Falcon jet fighters, because this is their home base and the show marks the end of the season for them.

    www.www.gzbgl.cn / USA / Cities / Las Vegas