Sin City. Gambling Capital of the World. The city that never sleeps. These are some of the nicknames that are often used when referring to Las Vegas. And not without a reason. With its seemingly endless chain of casinos and options for adult entertainment, there seems to be no better way to describe this place. Yet there is so much more to Las Vegas than the classical stereotype of a party town with bleeping lights and all. The city holds a special place in my heart.
My husband and I visited the Las Vegas twice. Back in the days, it was just two of us and a tiny suitcase. No toys or strollers and certainly no oversize baggage. Both times, we were amazed by the beautiful desert landscape, local history, and vibrant art scene on the Strip and beyond. In fact, we became so fascinated with the region that we wanted to show it our daughter many years later when new responsibilities came into picture, but memories of good, old, carefree days were still fresh in our minds. This last winter, we had a few Las Vegas hotels in mind for our upcoming spring vacation (off-Strip, family friendly, and with a kitchen of course). We had plans to visit Sigfried & Roy’s Secret Garden, a dolphin/big cat sanctuary located a walking distance from Mandala Bay. I was also considering taking our little one to the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum, the Springs Preserve, and a few other less-known attractions in the city. Although we ended up travelling elsewhere, the hope to visit Las Vegas as a family remained.
There is no need to mention that reading the news this Monday broke my heart. Violence seems to be everywhere nowadays, but you still don’t expect something that horrible to happen in a place like the Strip. After recalling all the positive memories associated with Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, I felt compelled to write this post. I wanted to tell the truth about travelling to Nevada. Hopefully, it will help the readers look at Las Vegas in a new light and rediscover the true colors of the city and the region.
As most of us probably already know, Las Vegas is famous for a rich art scene. In fact, its entertainment scene is so rich and diverse that the “Sin City” image emblazoned in our minds from movies and media is only a tiny fraction of what the city actually represents. Every month, countless artists from all backgrounds and walks of life flock to Las Vegas in hopes of creating memorable experience for locals and visitors . Rock, pop, R&B, ethnic, country music, circus, theater—you name it! In fact it was by reading about the deadly mass shooting that I got to learn about Jason Aldean. I ended up looking him on YouTube and was blown away by his music. I would totally go to his concert.
The state of Nevada itself is a home place to many artists of varying genres, including rock, punk, gospel, and folk. The Fremont District, which is located just north of the Strip, is a hub for independent artists and bands.[i] Some of the local bands, including Panic! at the Disco and Ne-Yo have reached billboard charts, but even those who didn’t top charts deserve credit for bringing diversity into the music scene.
Additionally, the region is rich in visual arts and photography. The unique landscape and the local Native American culture draw in artists and photographers worldwide. Famous for its picturesque geological structures, the Red Rock Canyon, which is located in the suburbs of Las Vegas, offers Arts in Residence programs for artists to help them “reflect on scenic beauty, cultural history, and community engagement.”[ii] Some of the works created by these artists are truly incredible.
The arts of all sorts are actively encouraged by the city. The 18b Art District is home to numerous galleries, boutique, and vintage stores.[iii] The First Friday Art Walk, which takes place on the first Friday of every month, celebrates talents of all sorts, including local bands, acrobatic performers, break dancers, and fire breathers.[iv] The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which features theater, featuring orchestral, opera, ballet, choral, jazz, and dance performances, is comparable to New York’s Broadway .
History and Culture
Like most things from the North American continent, the Sin City phenomenon is relatively new. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the region was occupied by various Native-American tribes, including the Ancient Pueblo/Anasazi Peoples who left cultural footprints in various sites of Nevada and the surrounding states.[v] Their enigmatic petroglyphs can be viewed at the Valley of Fire State Park located only one hour drive from Las Vegas.
If you’re willing to take longer road trips from the city, you’ll be amazed to discover the staggering number of Native American ruins in the states like Arizona and Utah. From the authentic Puebloan ruins in Dark Canyon Wilderness to the Hopi-inspired Mary Colter’s building in Grand Canyon’s Southern Rim, there are myriads of landmarks waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers. Native jewelry can be found in small souvenir stores standing on the roads the lead to the major national parks.
A number of museums have been established in Las Vegas and the surrounding cities to celebrate local history, from both colonial ancient and pre-colonial époques. Known as Nevada’s first archaeological museum, the Lost City Museum displays countless artifacts unearthed at various archaeological sites along the Muddy River Valley in southern Nevada.[vi] As the name implies, the Nevada State Railroad Museum was established to preserve the state’s railroad heritage. Every year, it hosts numerous lectures, symposiums, and temporary exhibits dedication to the locomotives. [vii] Thanks to the Las Vegas Historical Society, the online gallery viewers can look at the city’s development throughout the centuries and learn a bit more about its fascinating history.[viii]
Finally, it is virtually impossible to talk about Nevada without mentioning its colorful landscape. Las Vegas is located in the Mojave Desert, which encompasses parts of Nevada, California, Utah, and Arizona. Its landscape is characterized by mountain ranges, valleys, basins, plateaus, canyons, and lakes. The area belongs to the Great Basin which had been formed millions of years ago and which comprises several more states, including Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho.[ix] The bright red and yellow colors, the winding roads leading to the major parks, the wildlife, and the local geology turn Nevada into an unforgettable destination for travelers of all ages and backgrounds.
In a conclusion, all I can say is that I’m still heartbroken over the mass shooting, and I cannot imagine the nightmare the victims’ families are currently going through. No one deserves to experience the horror of such unspeakable violence. However, this awful event won’t stop me from visiting the city again and possibly going on a concert. I must admit I’m not too big on Las Vegas nightlife and shows, but if one of my favorite artists came to the city and the tickets were on sale, I would consider going.
As much as we want to be careful with everything going on, too much worrying would mean foregoing travel altogether, and for me travelling means staying alive. I hope that someday, there’ll be laws to regulate gun violence and terrorism, so that we’ll be able to walk the streets without fear. For now, all we can really do is pray for the ones who died in the shooting and hope for better times.