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Las Vegas, Spanish for “The Meadows” is officially the City of Las Vegas and often known as simply Vegas is a city in the United States and the most populous city in the state of Nevada, the county seat of Clark County, and the city proper of the Las Vegas Valley. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city known primarily for gambling, shopping, fine dining, and nightlife and is the leading financial, commercial, and cultural center for Southern Nevada.

The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its mega casino hotels and associated entertainment. A growing retirement and family city, Las Vegas is the 29th-most populous city in the United States, with a population of 603,488 at the 2013 United States Census Estimates. The 2013 population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area was 2,027,828. The city is one of the top three leading destinations in the United States for conventions, business, and meetings. In addition, the city’s metropolitan area has more AAA Five Diamond hotels than any other city in the world, and is a global leader in the hospitality industry. Today, Las Vegas is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Established in 1905, Las Vegas was incorporated as a city in 1911. At the close of the 20th century, Las Vegas was the most populous American city founded in that century. The city’s tolerance for numerous forms of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City and has made Las Vegas a popular setting for films, television programs, and music videos.

“Las Vegas” is generally used to describe not just the city itself but areas beyond the city limits, especially the resort areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip and the Las Vegas Valley. The 4.2 mi (6.8 km) stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Las Vegas Strip is in the unincorporated communities of Paradise, Winchester, and Enterprise, located in Clark County.

A young Mexican scout named Rafael Rivera is credited as the first non-Native American to encounter the valley, in 1829. Trader Antonio Armijo led a 60-man party along the Spanish Trail to Los Angeles, California in 1829. The area was named Las Vegas, which is Spanish for “the meadows,” as it featured abundant wild grasses, as well as desert spring waters for westward travelers. The year 1844 marked the arrival of John C. Fremont, whose writings helped lure pioneers to the area. Downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont Street is named after him.

Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905, when 110 acres (45 ha) of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks were auctioned in what would become the downtown area. In 1911, Las Vegas was incorporated as a city.

1931 was a pivotal year for Las Vegas. At that time, Nevada legalized casino gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks. This year also witnessed the beginning of construction on nearby Hoover Dam. The influx of construction workers and their families helped Las Vegas avoid economic calamity during the Great Depression. The construction work was completed in 1935.

In 1941, the Las Vegas Army Air Corps Gunnery School was established. Currently known as Nellis Air Force Base which is home to the aerobatic team called the Thunderbirds.

Following World War II, lavishly decorated hotels, gambling casinos and big-name entertainment became synonymous with Las Vegas.

The 1950s saw the opening of the Moulin Rouge, the first racially integrated casino-hotel in Las Vegas.

The iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, which was never located in the city, was created in 1959 by Betty Willis who never copyrighted it.

During 1960 corporations and business powerhouses such as Howard Hughes were building and buying hotel-casino properties. Gambling was referred to as “gaming,” which transitioned into legitimate business.

In 1989, entrepreneur Steve Wynn changed the face of the Las Vegas gaming industry by opening up The Mirage, the Las Vegas Strip’s first mega-casino resort.

The year 1995 marked the opening of the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas’ downtown area. This canopied, five-block area features 12.5 million LED lights and 550,000 watts of sound from dusk until midnight during shows held on the top of each hour.

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