Las Vegas is now marketed as a major family resort. There are carnival rides (including a roller coaster and “drop” ride atop the Stratosphere tower). There are “all you can eat” family-style buffets. There are shows and museums and any number of diversions. That’s all well and good, but gambling is what Vegas is all about. Do not be fooled into thinking that these “improvements” are concerned with diversifying the economy. No, no, no. The added attractions are designed — like everything else in town — to draw and suck in gambling tourists. Gambling is where the profits are. Period. And the “strip” casinos are where most people do it.
Las Vegas Boulevard is pretty amazing, especially at night. What was originally an attention-getting form of roadside advertising has now become a tradition. Strangely enough, a subdued and “tasteful” casino might be more likely to stand out now, if it could be seen through the sea of lights.
For a good look at where Vegas has been (and, alas, where it’s going) check out the Fremont Street Experience. The Fremont strip was the original casino zone and is the one you usually see in movies and videos. You know the one which inspires awe when you drive through it? It’s located downtown and is much more concentrated and dense than Las Vegas Boulevard, where everything is surrounded by a sea of asphalt. Unfortunately, it’s being turned into a mall. The street is now closed to vehicular traffic, and a strange post-modern “roof” has been added. Light shows are projected on the roof to compete with the neon. An 80’s aesthetic nightmare which was constructed in the 90’s. Pity.