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When you think about it, Las Vegas is a city in USA with a downright weird story behind it. After all, not many times in history you get to see a sprawling hotspot of entertainment appear in the middle of a lifeless desert. The story of how Las Vegas came to be is pretty much as wild as Sin City itself, it includes the gold rush, mobsters, and even atomic testing!

Las Vegas used to be run so that everything that was done was used to facilitate gambling. They would have cheap rooms, cheap food, free parking and cheap entertainment so that people would come in and gamble. It worked well for a long time. However when the corporations came in and started buying up all the hotels, someone came up the idea that all the different functions of the hotel should be a profit center.

So they started charging for parking as hotel rooms rates went up. Food got more expensive and so did the entertainment. The corporations wanted to make sure that every function of the hotel made money.

Las Vegas is known as the glittery city of lights. This place in the dessert holds a unique appeal. It has been one of the most attractive sites for visitors from decades. The decorations feel like you have decorated the city with thousands of custom printed candles. Large resort complexes draw everyone starting from newly-weds to families who love to hand out.

Las Vegas is full of entertainment options. Most of the top starts name this place like home to attract a large audience every night. Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Death Valley National parks are some of the surrounding places to add to your experience.

In this post, we'll explore some of the most historic sites you can visit during your stay at Las Vegas. But don't worry though this is Las Vegas we're talking about, even the most historic museum here has a unique fun spin to it. Now sit back and enjoy as we explore the sites that saw how a city as improbable as Las Vegas came to be.

But first a little bit of transportation advice for those interested in seeing each of the sites. One of the best way to see each of these sites is to book a rental car in Las Vegas, as some of the sites are not in las Vegas proper but in nearby car accessible places that often have great scenic drives.

best things to do in Las Vegas

So, without further ado let's begin our trip through Las Vegas history.

1. Valley of Fire

It's hard to figure out the prehistory of any city, but amazingly some places can give you glimpses into Las Vegas's forgotten past. Valley of Fire is one such places. Here you can find amazing rock formations that take almost every shade of red. These formations were made millions of years ago when a deep oceanic basin was lifted to dry land and exposed to natural erosion which in turn produced the amazing coloration of the rock.

In addition to the unique rock formations, you can also find some petroglyphs from bygone cultures that seemed to have had an especial interest in this place. Yes, it's really hot here (summer up to 45 degree Celsius) but the complex rock structures of the Valley of Fire are well worth a visit.

There are several amazing hiking trails and camping grounds along this national park, where you can truly experience this primordial place in all of its glory. The park is less than one hour away driving from Las Vegas. Some of the roads leading to this place are described as breathtaking so take your camera with you! There's a $10 entry fee and a $20 camping fee, so prepare accordingly.

2. Rhyolite

Now the Mojave Desert isn't what you'd call a fertile place. So before any casino or resort ever existed, towns came and went depending on the resources people could find around, one in particular: Gold. Rhyolite was built in 1904 during a gold rush, but by 1920 the gold ran out and the town was abandoned. It comes to prove that when a town exists solely to take advantage of a resource and that resource stops existing, people just leave.

Nowadays Rhyolite stands as an eerie abandoned town, perfect for those who enjoy more mysterious destinations. The town was built with more durable materials than most other ghost towns so there are more things to see. Adjacent to the town there is also an open-air modern art museum that only adds eeriness to this already haunting place with some fascinating and weird sculptures of ghostly figures.

The abandoned town is a roughly two-hour drive from Las Vegas. So its recommendable that you rent a car if you want to visit this ghost town. Websites such as Miles Car Rental, offer great options and discounts to find a good rental car.

3. The Mob Museum

Organized crime had a famous role in the making of Las Vegas as famous mobsters started investing their dirty money into more legitimate business, or well as legitimate as mobsters get anyway. You see, some of the earliest casinos and hotels in Las Vegas were funded by mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel, a notorious gangster from the Jewish mafia who decided to try his luck as a legitimate businessman in Las Vegas.

Now, Las Vegas has changed a lot since the days of the mobsters, but the city still remembers its murky past with the mob museum: a museum dedicated to the history of organized crime and the fight against it. Here you can find exhibits about the history of organized crime, including the recordings that incriminated many mafia bosses, and a hall dedicated exclusively to the influence of mobsters in Las Vegas

There is also an exhibit dedicated to the prohibition era called 'The Underground', which features a fully functional speakeasy bar and a distillery!

You can find the museum at downtown Las Vegas more specifically at 300 Stewart Ave there are parking options nearby.

4. National Atomic Testing Museum

Las Vegas had a front-row seat for the beginning of the atomic era. You see, due to its remoteness and relatively low population, Nevada was chosen for making nuclear tests. Many of the mushroom clouds from atomic testing in the Mojave Desert, were actually visible from Las Vegas. In fact these awful detonations were used as a touristic attraction, to the point that there are a couple of cocktails made in honor of the atomic testing!

That speaks poorly about Las Vegas safety standards, but hey at least they're very committed to entertainment. And so, we'd be remiss if we didn’t pay a visit to this museum dedicated to both the scientific and cultural phenomenon that signified the atomic era.

Here you can find almost everything related to that strange and fascinating period of history: from the scientific equipment used in atomic testing to the toys and cultural paraphernalia involved in this crazy period of history full of equal parts folly and science.

You can find the museum at 755 E Flamingo Road. There is plenty of parking available and the place itself it's not far from the Strip. So if you want to sprinkle a little bit of history on your trip to Vegas this is the perfect place to visit.

5. Red Rock Canyon

Its proximity to Las Vegas makes it a perfect destination for a good excursion. If you do not have time to go to the Grand Canyon then this can be a small-scale substitute destination.

6. Lake Mead

Between the inaccessible deserts of Arizona and Nevada, Lake Mead is a literal oasis, full of plants and animals that often develop to cope with the regular dryness of swallowing heat and desert life. You can see incredible variety of wildlife present there. Throughout the year, this lake is a tourist attraction and is one of the best destinations for honeymoon.

You can do boating, fishing, picnicking, water skiing, kayaking, canoeing or just sitting and sunbathing.

7. Fly Geyser

It does not appear in the great tourist guides and, until a few decades ago, it was not even known by the inhabitants of the area. However, everyone agrees that it is a pearl; an accident of the hand of the man that has turned into an almost natural wonder near Gerlach, in the Black Rock desert, to the northwest of the North American state of Nevada.

The Fly Geyser is the beautiful result of a human error, so it is not a completely natural phenomenon. Even so, its beauty makes it one of the best tourist possibilities for those who travel to Nevada, despite not being one of the best known. Also, the water that constantly releases from the geyser at first sight can look like three mountains of different colors, reaches a meter and a half in the air.

8. Washoe Lake State Park

Explore the most popular trails in Washoe Lake State Park with maps of hand-cured trails and driving directions, as well as detailed reviews and photos of hikers, campers and nature lovers like you. Here, visitors will find spectacular views of the majestic Sierra Nevada and the Carson mountain range.

Popular activities in the park include the study of nature, bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, picnics, windsurfing, water skiing, catamaran, jet skiing and fishing. A camp, boats, group use area, daytime picnic sites and equestrian trail are available. A wetland area with an observation tower and interpretive displays is a new addition to the park.

The park is located 10 miles north of Carson City and 15 miles south of Reno. Take US 395 north to the East Lake Boulevard exit, then drive north on East Lake Boulevard approximately 3.1 miles to the park entrance. From Reno, take 395 South to the intersection of East Lake Boulevard.

9. Shopping in Las Vegas

Shopping in Las Vegas is an unrepeatable experience. Some hotels, like The Venetian, have shopping centers inside. There are also shopping centers in the city, such as Crystals, with spectacular architecture. And do not miss the outlets, like the Fashion Outlets Primm or the Vegas Premium Outlets North.

You can take a break by having a beer in Budweiser Beer Park. This bar and grill is located in the Paris Las Vegas hotel and offers more than 100 types of beer and games of darts and billiards.

And there you have it, next time you’re visiting Vegas and want to sprinkle some history on your trip you'll know a couple of places to visit.
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