When most people think of Las Vegas they immediately think of the famous Las Vegas Strip. The Strip is quintessential Las Vegas, stuffed with its luxurious casino hotels.
In addition to the gambling floors, the vast hotel complexes house a variety of opulent shops, restaurants (ranging from chain diners to fine dining), and performance halls for the iconic musician, legendary comedians and circus-style acts. Attractions like the soaring choreographed Fountains of Bellagio and the High Roller observation wheel certainly draw mesmerized crowds.
For all of its notoriety, I’m surprised how often I’m asked “Where is the Las Vegas Strip?”. Most often I’m asked by a friend or acquaintance in anticipation of an upcoming trip. However, that’s not always the case.
So, I’m going to break this down assuming some readers may have just reanimated after being frozen in ice for the last 10,000 years or so, then inexplicably learned to read and presumably speak English and now must make a trek to the Las Vegas Strip post haste.
State of Mind
Las Vegas is a city near the southern tip of Nevada. Located in the Western United States, Nevada is the 7th largest state in the union.
If you assumed that Las Vegas is the most populated city in Nevada, you’d be correct.
Nevada is often referred to as the Silver State because of the importance the silver boom played in the state’s early settlement.
The U.S. annexed the area now known as Nevada in 1848 after its victory in the Spanish-American War and 16 years later Nevada would become the 36th state.
Nevada is known for its libertarian laws. In 1940, with a population of around 110,000 people, Nevada was by far the least-populated state, with less than half the population of the next least-populated state.
However, legalized gambling and liberal laws regarding marriage transformed Nevada into a major tourist destination in the 20th century. Nevada is also the only U.S. state where prostitution is legal, though it is illegal in its most populated areas.
Year after year the tourism industry is Nevada’s biggest employer. Nearly 300,000 jobs in Nevada exist thanks directly to tourism. Mining continues to be a substantial contributor to the economy and Nevada is the fourth-largest gold producer in the world.
Nevada has much more than Las Vegas to offer travelers. The Hoover Dam, Lake Tahoe, Valley of Fire State Park and Burning Man come to mind, just to name a few.
Go Towards the Light
Las Vegas bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, but it gets its name from the Spanish words for “The Meadows. Las Vegas certainly makes it difficult to argue with the title it has claimed for itself.
In 1911, Las Vegas was incorporated as a city. Las Vegas is located in Clark County, in a basin on the floor of the Mojave Desert and is flanked by beautiful mountain ranges on all sides.
Much of the landscape is rocky and arid, full of flora and fauna you’d expect in a desert region. Like many desert regions, it is subject to extreme flash flooding.
The mountain peaks surrounding Las Vegas reach elevations of over 10,000 feet and act as barriers to the strong flow of moist air from the surrounding area. The elevation is approximately 2,030 ft above sea level. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 135.86 square miles.
Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the U.S. It has been estimated by the United States Geological Survey that over the next 50 years, there is a 10–20% chance of a Magnitude 6.0 or larger earthquake occurring within 30 miles of Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas metro area known as the Las Vegas Valley is comprised of Las Vegas proper and 11 smaller communities. The Las Vegas Strip is a stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard in Clark County that is known for its concentration of luxurious resort hotels and casinos.
Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas Strip
The Strip, slightly over 4 miles long, sits directly south of the Las Vegas city limits in the areas of Winchester and Paradise but is often referred to as being in Las Vegas.
Historically, area casinos that were not downtown sat outside the city limits on Las Vegas Boulevard. In 1959, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was erected and sits roughly 4-5 miles outside the city limits. The sign is currently located in the median just south of Russell Road, across from the location where the Klondike stood before being demolished.
In its purest sense, “the Strip” refers only to the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that is roughly between Sahara Avenue and Russel Road, making for 4 miles of glitz and glamour under the neon lights.
However, “the Strip” is often used to refer not only to the road but also to the multiple casinos and resorts that litter the road, and even to those properties that are near but not on the road.
Phrases such as Strip Area or Resort District are sometimes used to indicate a larger geographical area, including properties a mile or more away from Las Vegas Boulevard, such as the Rio, Palms, and Hard Rock resorts.
The Sahara is widely considered the Strip’s northern curtain, though travel guides typically broaden it to the Stratosphere a half-mile to the north.
Mandalay Bay, directly north of Russell Road, is the southernmost resort considered to be on the Strip. The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign is often considered part of the Strip, although it sits another half-mile south of the Mandalay Bay and Russell Road.
Due to the number and breadth of the Vegas resorts, the resort corridor can be rather wide. Interstate 15 runs roughly parallel and 0.5 to 0.8 miles to the west of Las Vegas Boulevard for the entire length of the Strip.
Paradise Road runs to the east in an akin fashion and ends at St. Louis Avenue. The eastern side of the Strip is bordered by McCarran International Airport south of Tropicana Avenue.
North of this area, the resort corridor may be treated as extending as far east as Paradise Road, although some consider Koval Lane as a less inclusive boundary.
Interstate 15 is sometimes considered the western edge of the resort district from Interstate 215 to Spring Mountain Road. North of this point, Industrial Road serves as the western border.
Newer casinos and resorts such as South Point and M Resort are on Las Vegas Boulevard South as distant as 8 miles south of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Marketing for these casinos and hotels usually states that they are on southern Las Vegas Boulevard and not “Strip” properties.
Over the last 20 years, there have been some big changes to the strip.
With the opening of Bellagio, Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn and Encore resorts, the strip gravitated towards the luxurious high-end segment through most of the 2000s. Meanwhile, older resorts introduced major expansions and total renovations, including complete rebrandings.
Fine dining, boutique retail, posh spas, and lively nightclubs progressively became more available to visitors. High-end residential condo units also began to pop up along the strip.
In early 2004, MGM Mirage announced plans for City Center, a 66-acre, $7 billion multi-use project on the site of the Boardwalk hotel and adjoining land. It consists of a hotel, casino, condo, retail, art, business and other uses on the site.
City Center is currently the biggest complex of its kind in the world. Groundbreaking started in April 2006, with most elements of the project opened in late 2009.
Also in 2006, the Las Vegas Strip lost its longtime tenure as the world’s highest-grossing gambling center, falling to second place behind Macau.
In 2012, the High Roller Ferris wheel and a retail center called The Linq Promenade broke ground in an attempt to diversify attractions beyond that of casino resorts.
Renovations and rebrandings continued to transform the Strip in 2014.
You’ll spot it from far away if you were clever enough to ask for a window seat on the plane. Spend time in Sin City – an oasis of glittering lights in the desert, home of the Strip and the drive-in wedding chapel, playground of the Mob, and a visual spectacle complete with its own Eiffel Tower, Egyptian pyramids, and Venetian canals.
Welcome to Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Strip’s nightlife is legendary, whether you’re moving to the rhythm of DJ-spun beats on a dance floor lined with gold or standing on an open-air terrace, drink in hand, taking in the sweeping views of neon-lit resorts and casinos below.
This is the Las Vegas Strip, baby.