Love it or hate it, there is no place on earth like Vegas. I was in the Arts District recently and found plenty to get involved in, outside the usual fan fair. I shopped at many stores specializing in 60s antiques and old relics of Vegas casinos. I bought postcards, playing cards and tumbler glasses of vanished casinos. The city makes a considerable effort to preserve the signs that have become an iconic part of Las Vegas. I appreciate the nostalgia of the 50s and 60s. And while tacky as hell, it was pretty fabulous.
If you have the time, I suggest leaving the strip and visiting the Neon Museum. It is all the retired lights that have found a home in the Neon Boneyard. I took the day tour, but there is a lighted night tour available as well. Use the link at the bottom of the article if you are so inclined
I find interesting how Vegas “reinvents itself” while still maintaining its core Vegas values of excess, debauchery and fantasy. In the 40s, the casinos took on images of the old west with hotels named Frontier, The Golden Nugget and El Rancho. In the 50s, when Vegas hit its stride, the themes acknowledged the fact that you were sitting in the middle of the desert. Casinos named Sundance, Sahara, Sands Dunes, and Desert Inn promoted the desert as an exotic oasis. Not many hotels have continued on with this theme, the only one I can think of is The Mirage.
After that, in the 90s, it seemed people went to Vegas to be anywhere BUT Vegas. The Venetian, Caesars Palace, Paris, New York New York, and Rio opened. I think this was time period we officially lost the cheap buffets Vegas was notorious for.
Today, Dunes has been replaced by Bellagio, Sands replaced by Venetian, The Desert Inn is The Wynn; and Aladdin replaced by Planet Hollywood. We have all seen the demolition videos of the buildings. My favorite story is how they unearthed the old vintage Sands casino chips when they demolished the New Frontier (pictured below). It is also rumored that casinos used to dispose of their obsolete chips by tossing them overboard into Lake Mead, or dumping them in the concrete foundation of a new casino. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising with mobsters running the city.
Those hotels must have been an experience back in the day.
Places to Visit:
Neon Museum: http://www.neonmuseum.org/about/the-collection/neon-boneyard