10 Lesser-Known Facts About Las Vegas

by Aleena Khan3 weeks ago
Picture 10 Lesser-Known Facts About Las Vegas

Las Vegas is known for its glitz and glamour, but there’s much more to this iconic city. From its origins as a Mormon settlement to its quirky modern-day attractions and historical oddities, here are ten lesser-known facts about Las Vegas.

1 Las Vegas was originally founded by Mormon missionaries.

 Old Mormon Fort
The Old Mormon Fort, Birthplace of Las Vegas, Nevada

In 1855, a group of Mormon missionaries established the first permanent settlement in Las Vegas. They constructed an adobe fort and planted crops along the Las Vegas Creek. The mission served as a halfway station between Utah and California, providing rest and supplies to travelers. However, the mission was short-lived, and the site eventually evolved into what is now downtown Las Vegas.

2 In 1900, the population of Las Vegas was 22.

Las Vegas Creek
Ranch house on Las Vegas Creek, circa 1903.

Las Vegas was a small settlement with a mere 22 residents in 1900, largely due to its role as a modest stopover for travelers and traders. This early community was supported by water from the Las Vegas Springs. The population and significance of Las Vegas began to increase significantly after the completion of the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad in 1905, which connected it to major cities and facilitated its growth​.

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3 In the 1950s, atomic tests were a tourist draw in Las Vegas.

Nuclear test
Nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site in the 1960s. Image credit: National Nuclear Security Administration

During the 1950s, Las Vegas capitalized on its proximity to the Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles away, where the U.S. government conducted atmospheric nuclear tests. These tests became a unique attraction, with tourists flocking to the city to witness the detonations. Hotels and casinos advertised the best viewing spots, and events like “Dawn Bomb Parties” and “atomic cocktails” became popular. This era of atomic tourism significantly boosted Las Vegas’s economy and contributed to its growth.

4 A maze of tunnels exists under Las Vegas, where people live.

Beneath the bustling streets and neon lights of Las Vegas lies an extensive network of storm drainage tunnels, originally built to prevent flooding. These tunnels, stretching for hundreds of miles, have become home to a hidden community of homeless individuals. Living in these tunnels is a last resort for many who struggle with homelessness, addiction, and lack of resources. Organizations like Shine a Light work to provide support and pathways out of the tunnels for those ready to leave this precarious underground life​.

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5 Las Vegas is not the world’s gambling capital—Macau’s gambling revenue is much higher.

Macau
Macau at night.

In recent years, Macau has outpaced Las Vegas in gambling revenue. In 2019, Macau generated approximately $36 billion in gambling revenue, while Nevada, home to Las Vegas, reported just under $12 billion. Additionally, Macau is home to the biggest casino in the world, The Venetian Macao, which features a staggering 550,000 square feet of gaming space, 3,400 slot machines, and 800 gambling tables. This colossal casino not only outshines its competitors in size but also attracts a significant number of tourists and gamblers from around the globe.

6 The phrase “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” originated from a 2003 advertising campaign.

Vegas
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”

Created by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the advertising firm R&R Partners, the slogan aimed to rebrand Las Vegas as a place where visitors could let loose without fear of consequences back home. The original phrase was “What happens here, stays here,” and it quickly became a cultural phenomenon, embodying the city’s ethos of indulgence and freedom​.

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7 Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas offers free meals to customers over 350 lbs.

Heart Attack Grill restaurant
Heart Attack Grill Restaurant, Las Vegas, Nevada. Image credit: Megan Frost Photography/Shutterstock.com

Heart Attack Grill, a Las Vegas restaurant, offers free meals to customers who weigh over 350 lbs. The restaurant is infamous for its high-calorie menu, including the nearly 10,000-calorie Quadruple Bypass Burger. Tragically, three patrons have died while eating there, highlighting the extreme nature of the food served. Notably, the only vegan option on the menu is cigarettes, adding to its controversial reputation.

8 An average of 10 people are reported missing daily in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Image credit: Kuba Puchajda/shutterstock.com

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department handles a significant number of missing persons cases each day, with an average of 10 adults reported missing daily. This high volume translates to over 300 cases each month, emphasizing the extensive efforts required by local law enforcement to manage and resolve these cases.

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9 The “Sky Beam” that shoots out of the Luxor Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas attracts so many insects that it has established a new ecosystem.

The Luxor Light Beam
The Luxor Light Beam and the Las Vegas Strip

The Luxor Sky Beam is one of the most powerful light beams in the world, visible from space and shining at 42.3 billion candelas. This intense light attracts a multitude of insects, creating a feeding ground for bats and, in turn, drawing in owls. The beam essentially forms a unique nocturnal ecosystem around the hotel, with various species interacting in this artificial environment​.

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10 In 2019, a massive grasshopper swarm invaded Las Vegas, Nevada, appearing on weather radar.

During the summer of 2019, Las Vegas experienced a remarkable event where approximately 46 million grasshoppers descended upon the city. This swarm was so large that it was visible on weather radar. The grasshoppers, attracted by the city’s bright lights, created a spectacle as they filled the sky, particularly around prominent landmarks like the Luxor pyramid. This unusual phenomenon highlighted the impact of artificial lighting on insect behavior and was extensively studied using radar data to understand the scale of the invasion.

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Picture 10 Lesser-Known Facts About Las Vegas
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