Glitter Gulch, Neon City and Atomic City are just a few iconic names Las Vegas has earned over the years, but how did this great city earn them? To answer that question, you need to dig into how this sparkling place started. It’s better to understand the history that made Las Vegas, by looking at some of these top attractions created or inspired by the golden age of this unforgettable city.
As the first permanent, non-native settlement, the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort is a unique historical destination for understanding the city’s origins. Located right on the outskirts of Downtown Las Vegas, this amazing state park features the remains of an adobe fort built by Mormon missionaries in 1855. Situated on the only free-flowing creek for miles, the outpost served as a meeting point for travelers for decades. With daily admission priced at $3, this site is a must-see historical experience for the whole family!
As the oldest hotel in Downtown Las Vegas, the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino is a crucial spot for delving into the city’s history. Opened in 1906, this historic boutique hotel initially charged $1-2 per day for a room, depending on amenities. Many of these rooms, augmented by today’s comforts, are still in use. Iconic singers like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were mainstays at the hotel’s Bar Prohibition!, with many residents of Fremont Street expressing surprise that liquor was ever illegal when Prohibition ended in 1933. Not only a destination for libations, Golden Gate is also credited with creating the iconic Las Vegas original shrimp cocktail, selling 25 million cocktails by 1991.
While the mafia might have built the first entertainment in Las Vegas, nothing would be possible without the Hoover Dam. Originally named the Boulder Dam by the Roosevelt administration, the Hoover Dam was completed after a six-year build at the height of the Great Depression in 1936. Supplying power for Nevada, Arizona, and California, the dam remains one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the country, attracting 7 million tourists each year.
Opened in 1952, Atomic Liquors is honored to be Las Vegas’ first official free-standing bar. The proud owners of liquor license number #00001, this watering hole was the premier spot to take in the atomic bomb testing by the United States military in the 1940s and 50s. While tests officially halted in 1992, the rooftop of Atomic Liquors is still an unforgettable spot to take in the view while sipping on an atomic-themed cocktail. Try the Hunter S. Smash or Strawberry Fields for a sipper sure to set off your Geiger counter!
Top of Binion’s Steakhouse is a step back into the city’s history with its vintage Vegas decor, romantic atmosphere, and old-world charm. Located on the 24th floor, the restaurant was originally known as Top of the Mint, when Mint tower was completed in 1965. Serving 40-day-minimum aged steak cut from their in-house butcher shop, enjoy a taste of golden-age Vegas at this Prohibition-era institution.
Source: Jeremy Thompson
Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum protects and preserves historic Las Vegas iconography. As a 501(c)3, the museum collects and studies these signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment. With fully restored signs from institutions like Sarah and Riviera, it’s easy to see why the Neon Museum attracts over 150,000 visitors annually. During the day, you can see the beauty of the aging signs, and at night they light up, giving you a taste of how they glimmered in their glory days.
Did you know the mafia built early Las Vegas? When work started on the Hoover Dam, many young men came to the city to build the dam. Looking to entertain and vitalize a growing population, the mob funded and constructed many of Las Vegas’ first hotels and theaters. Looking to dig deeper? Head to the Mob Museum. Situated near the bustling Fremont Street Experience, this 501(c)3 highlights the impact of organized crime on American culture. Whether you want to see the original wall from the Valentine’s Day massacre or Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s sunglasses, the Mob Museum is a Las Vegas gem waiting for you to explore.
Now that you have an idea of the rich history behind Las Vegas, it’s time to start planning your visit and start making some history of your own! While the Prohibition gangsters might have left, there’s no shortage of unique adventures to get into during your time in Las Vegas. To truly immerse yourself in Las Vegas history, you can book one of the Original 10 rooms at Golden Gate Las Vegas – an incredible preservation of the original rooms from the opening in 1906. Whether you book an original or a newer room, you’ll still be staying in part of Las Vegas history!