Las Vegas is Southern California’s backyard Playground

Mar 03, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Welcome to Las Vegas

Even though Travelin’ Local’s mission tagline is "From Los Angeles to San Diego and everything in between," many people would only include SoCal in that analysis. In that, they would be wrong.

Also included would be Las Vegas.

Yes, Vegas, baby, Vegas!

For millions of Southern Californians, Vegas is considered part of our Backyard.

For each generation, including the present, Las Vegas is, both in time and place, where we’re able to let our hair down, gamble and drink, bask in the sun and sit by the pool, get married and divorced, and eat great food, at less than cost.

In short, we can go there, have a great time, and be back home in time for Monday’s work or other commitment.

As the graph below illustrates, Vegas is directly and axiomatically tied to the ethos and tourists from Southern California. The growth and dream of Hollywood and Los Angeles, as the "Industry Town," is a direct mirror image of Las Vegas. And Vegas had already grown into its own, as the Playground of the stars, while providing the glitz and glamor for the average person.


Vegas is omnipresent in our psyche and state of mind, as being "Our Backyard" as well as being part of "Southern California’s"backyard. Looking at the chart above, that sentiment is firmly based in reality and an extension of our dreams and pioneer spirit.

From the "Rat Pack" playing packed houses, to Judy Garland, Bette Milder, and thousands of celebrities playing Vegas show circuits, they’re just as glamorous as Hollywood; but in its own inimitable way.

Dunes circa 1950

Of course, with its non-stop gambling and nightlife, young and old, will forever be drawn and attracted from Southern California to Vegas Baby Vegas!

To be frank, not all " What happens in Vegas, now stays in Vegas, and it may not be as important as it used to be." Travelin’ Local will not only tell you why, but we’ll be covering the new Vegas extensively as part of what is deemed part of the Southern Californian experience.

Being only a few hours away–slowly but surely–Vegas is becoming something other than it was just a few years before. And that’s occurring on a cyclical basis–that, you can bet on, and "beat the house."

Here, take a look at 1959 Vegas:

There is a thread that runs through the whole history of this place as it relates to America and American culture. It’s a place that you run to. It’s a place that you indulge yourself in. It’s a way out of the incredible straight jacket that we find ourselves in, in our highly regimented and regulated lives. By the late 1960’s, the primly conservative values of post-war America were folding faster than a poker player with a busted hand.

In the rest of America, the goal was to get rid of the establishment.

The Strip circa late 1950s

For Las Vegas, the establishment had only just arrived –in the form of corporations, like Ramada and Hilton–who had finally decided Las Vegas was the place to be–and even then, we have to remember, Vegas was a small place. It was a place where you could walk in to a casino and people really would know your name.

For more than two decades, Sin City had made the visitor number one. Now, that exalted position belonged to the stockholders –and Las Vegas’s corporate managers were hell-bent on maximizing their returns. During the seventies we entered into an era of corporate Las Vegas.

Returning visitors immediately discerned a difference in the newly-corporate Las Vegas.The once world-class service was now notably sub-par. Worse still, the buzzing energy of the old Sin City seemed strangely muted. Glitzy had given way to bland.

Las Vegas circa 1970s

However dowdy, sleazy, or tame Las Vegas may have seemed to visitors, it was still the only big city in America, outside of Reno, where a person could legally sit down at a blackjack table and throw his life savings away. But now, even that distinction disappeared.

With a total metropolitan population now of more than 450,000 people, and an annual tourist tally that still topped ten million, Las Vegas was in no danger of disappearing. But it was tempting to conclude that its spectacular rise had reached a natural limit.

Like an aging showgirl, Sin City seemed an unlikely candidate for a second act. Those who were inclined to count the city out, however, didn’t know a thing about Las Vegas.

Here’s Vegas in 1991:

In 1988, after a fifteen-year construction slump, a highly anticipated new resort called the Mirage, began to rise up on the Strip. Not since Bugsy Siegel’s, Flamingo Hotel, nearly half a century before, had a Las Vegas hotel-casino generated quite so much buzz. Local curiosity had been mounting ever since the man behind the project, longtime Las Vegas resident and casino owner Steve Wynn, had gone public with his somewhat mysterious plans.

Las Vegas circa 1980s“They don’t need another casino in Las Vegas,” Wynn had told one writer, "but they sure as hell could use a major attraction." The Mirage, he promised, would be the Sin City-equivalent of Disneyland. The business that had built Las Vegas and fueled its growth for more than half a century was about to be turned on its head.

Historically, within the internal organization of a resort, the casino was king, and the showrooms, the rooms, the bars, they existed merely as appendages to the casino, didn’t matter if they made a profit or not. They were the lure to get people into the casino. Well, Steve Wynn changed all that, and Vegas at the same time.

Much to the detriment of the tourists’ pocket book. What that meant, was that while it would cost the tourists a lot more because the day of the twenty dollar a night room was gone, and the free meals were being fazed out, he upgraded the level of luxury to a point where a middle class person could come to Las Vegas, and feel like he really was a millionaire.

Shortly before the Dunes was demolished

Between 1989 and 2005, many of the city’s most iconic landmarks –the Dunes, Sands, the Hacienda, and even the Desert Inn –would be leveled, making way for what would come to be known as "the New Las Vegas.

And the European sense of construction and the Eastern American sense of construction is that you build for the centuries. And in the west, but particularly in Las Vegas and Hollywood, I think, there is this notion that you build for what you want now.

By 1999, Las Vegas was drawing some 37 million tourists annually, from all over the world, eclipsing even the holy city of Mecca, as the most visited place on the planet.

At a time when cities are forced by certain economic and cultural pressures to look more and more alike, when it’s harder and harder to figure out what differentiates Dallas from Atlanta say, Las Vegas is one American city that still feels distinct. But reality too, also forced Las Vegas in another direction because as cities grow, they inevitably change. It is, in fact, now a more traditional city, more like other places.

Flamingo Hotel - 1992

But it can’t admit that to the world or it won’t be Las Vegas. These would soon be followed by dazzlingly elaborate replicas of New York City, Paris, Lake Como and Venice.

In the end, there would be more hotel rooms on the corner of Flamingo Road and the Strip, than in the entire city of San Francisco.

Las Vegas has done a great job of selling itself as an acceptable mainstream experience. It’s interesting, a generation ago people defined Las Vegas in very moralistic terms.

Everybody in the world feels they ought to try to get here, just to see what it’s like, and a lot of people if you were to say to them, what’s your definition of the great life, would say without irony, without hesitation, "Well, a great weekend in Las Vegas.

That’s got the lot. That’s the package.

Now, here’s Las Vegas in 2009:

Vegas just keeps getting brighter and brighter, as it gets bigger and bigger. Maybe what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but in the case of Travelin’ Local, we plan on bringing you more news, places, and things to do in, and about, our Vegas Baby Vegas!!

Soon, we’re sure, Vegas will be our new and improved version of Monte Carlo, but until then, we’ve got plenty of time for fun in the sun, here and there.

Photos used in this article are courtesy of StevenM_61, Las Vegas Tips, and LasVegas4Newbies.

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