The Las Vegas Strip is a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South in Clark County, Nevada, internationally known for its concentration of resort hotels and casinos along its route. The Strip is approximately 4.2 miles (6.8 km) in length, located immediately south of the Las Vegas city limits in the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester. However, the Strip is often referred to as being “in Las Vegas”. Most of the Strip has been designated an All-American Road, and is considered a scenic route at night. Many of the largest hotel, casino, and resort properties in the world are located on the Las Vegas Strip. Fifteen of the world’s 25 largest hotels by room count are on the Strip, with a total of over 62,000 rooms.
One of the most visible aspects of Las Vegas’ cityscape is its use of dramatic architecture and lights. The rapidly evolving skyline and constant modernization of hotels, casinos, restaurants, residential high-rises, and entertainment offerings on the Strip, have established it as one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the United States, and the world.
North of this point, the Resort Corridor can be considered to extend 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 Corridor from Interstate 215 to Spring Mountain Road. North of this point, Industrial Road serves as the western edge.
The famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign is located in the median just south of Russell Road, across from the now-demolished Klondike Hotel & Casino. Another similar sign is in the median at the north end of the Strip near the intersection of East St. Louis and South Main Streets. Newer resorts such as South Point and the M Resort are on Las Vegas Boulevard South as distant as 8 miles south of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Marketing for these casinos usually states that they are on southern Las Vegas Boulevard and not “Strip” properties.
The first casino to be built on Highway 91 was the Pair-o-Dice Club in 1931, but the first on what is currently the Strip was the El Rancho Vegas, opening on April 3, 1941, with 63 rooms. That casino stood for almost 20 years before being destroyed by a fire in 1960. Its success spawned a second hotel on what would become the Strip, the Hotel Last Frontier, in 1942. Organized crime figures such as New York’s Bugsy Siegel took interest in the growing gaming center leading to other resorts such as the Flamingo, which opened in 1946, and the Desert Inn, which opened in 1950. The funding for many projects was provided through the American National Insurance Company, which was based in the then notorious gambling empire of Galveston, Texas.
Las Vegas Boulevard South was previously called Arrowhead Highway, or Los Angeles Highway. The Strip was named by Los Angeles police officer Guy McAfee, after his hometown’s Sunset Strip.
In 1968, Kirk Kerkorian purchased the Flamingo and hired Sahara Hotels Vice President Alex Shoofey as President. Alex Shoofey brought along 33 of Sahara’s top executives. The Flamingo was used to train future employees of the International Hotel, which was under construction. Opening in 1969, the International Hotel, with 1,512 rooms, began the era of mega-resorts. The International is known as Westgate Las Vegas today.
The first MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, also a Kerkorian property, opened in 1973 with 2,084 rooms. At the time, this was one of the largest hotels in the world by number of rooms. The Rossiya Hotel built in 1967 in Moscow, for instance, had 3,200 rooms; however, most of the rooms in the Rossiya Hotel were single rooms of 118 sq. ft (roughly 1/4 size of a standard room at the MGM Grand Resort). On November 21, 1980, the MGM Grand suffered the worst resort fire in the history of Las Vegas as a result of electrical problems, killing 87 people. It reopened eight months later. In 1986, Kerkorian sold the MGM Grand to Bally Manufacturing, and it was renamed Bally’s.
The Wet ‘n Wild water park opened in 1985 and was located on the south side of the Sahara hotel. The park closed at the end of the 2004 season and was later demolished. The opening of The Mirage in 1989 set a new level to the Las Vegas experience, as smaller hotels and casinos made way for the larger mega-resorts. The Rio and the Exaclibur opened in 1990. These huge facilities offer entertainment and dining options, as well as gambling and lodging. This change affected the smaller, well-known and now historic hotels and casinos, like The Dunes, The Sands, the Stardust, and the Sahara.
The lights along the Strip have been dimmed in a sign of respect to five performers and one other major Las Vegas figure upon their deaths. They are Elvis Presley (1977), Sammy Davis Jr. (1990), Dean Martin (1995), George Burns (1996), Frank Sinatra (1998), and former UNLV basketball head coach Jerry Tarkanian (2015). In 2005, Clark County renamed a section of Industrial Road (south of Twain Avenue) as Dean Martin Drive, also as a tribute to the famous Rat Pack singer, actor, and frequent Las Vegas entertainer.
In an effort to attract families, resorts offered more attractions geared toward youth, but had limited success. The (current) MGM Grand opened in 1993 with MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park, but the park closed in 2000 due to lack of interest. Similarly, in 2003 Treasure Island closed its own video arcade and abandoned the previous pirate theme, adopting the new ti name.
In addition to the large hotels, casinos and resorts, the Strip is home to a few smaller casinos and other attractions, such as M&M World, Adventuredome and the Fashion Show Mall. Starting in the mid-1990s, the Strip became a popular New Year’s Eve celebration destination.
With the opening of Bellagio, Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn and Encore resorts, the strip trended towards the luxurious high end segment through most of the 2000s, while some older resorts added major expansions and renovations, including some de-theming of the earlier themed hotels. High end dining, specialty retail, spas and nightclubs increasingly became options for visitors in addition to gambling at most Strip resorts. There was also a trend towards expensive residential condo units on the strip.
In 2004, MGM Mirage announced plans for CityCenter, a 66-acre (27 ha), $7 billion multi-use project on the site of the Boardwalk hotel and adjoining land. It consists of hotel, casino, condo, retail, art, business and other uses on the site. City Center is currently the largest such complex in the world. Construction began in April 2006, with most elements of the project opened in late 2009. Also in 2006, the Las Vegas Strip lost its longtime status as the world’s highest-grossing gambling center, falling to second place behind Macau.