Todd DeFeo

Bright light city gonna set my soul…

LAS VEGAS – The typical Vegas casino is an endless row of slot machines, roulette wheels and blackjack tables. Hundreds of opportunities await the lucky traveler to try his or her hand at just about every type of bet imaginable.

Whatever strikes your fancy, Vegas has it and in any number of themes – from Central Park at New York-New York to ancient Rome at Caesars Palace to the canals of Venice at The Venetian. Where else in the world can you find the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statute of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and a pyramid within walking distance?

Surreal? Yes. Bizarre? Indeed. Over the top? Without a doubt. After three trips to Las Vegas, I’ve learned that Sin City is whatever you make of it.

Want to bet $10 on a hand of blackjack? There are a dozen or so chances to do so within about five feet. But maybe you don’t part quite so easily with your hard-earned cash. No need to worry.

If you’re like me – that is, playing the penny slots – it’s rather difficult to gamble all that much. I could have stayed in town for a month and only bet $14 at the penny slots. Allegedly, it’s possible to spend an entire week in Vegas and bet only one penny. Just think of how many times you could pull the handle on the penny slot machine if you put in a $10 bill. At the blackjack table, that could be gone in seconds.

Nevada Gov. Fred Balzar paved the way for modern day Vegas. On March 19, 1931, he signed into law a bill that allowed gambling. The Northern Club on Fremont Street has the distinction of being the first legal gambling establishment in Las Vegas, and while the basics of Vegas have stayed the same over the years, the city has changed – the hotels have gotten flashier and the money bet has grown exponentially.

Vegas vaulted into legend starting in the 1940s and continuing through the 1960s. Thomas Hull’s El Rancho, credited as Sin City’s first themed hotel, and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s Flamingo, both of which opened in the 1940s, changed the meaning of the casino-hotel. Vegas’ stature continued to rise as The Rat Pack, Elvis and Liberace became synonymous with the city.

Just as famous as the hotels and casinos are the shows. From the legendary stage shows to the scantily clad showgirls, Sin City has it all. Lavish hardly begins to describe the shows – the music, the stunts and the scenery are about as over the top as the hotels themselves. Shows will definitely cost you, but if you’re in Vegas for the weekend, you might as well go the distance.

Las Vegas certainly represents about the most extreme that America has to offer. But a trip to Vegas isn’t just about The Strip and its casinos. Strategically located in the Nevada desert, it is easy to head out to other nearby destinations, such as the Hoover Dam, for a quick trip, or the Grand Canyon by bus or helicopter for an even longer jaunt.

About Todd DeFeo
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.