By Steve Beauregard
Las Vegas is located in well, Las Vegas. More specifically, it’s located in the Mojave Desert in the southern part of the state of Nevada, in the Western United States, near the borders of both California and Arizona.
To be even more specific, Las Vegas is in Clark County, Nevada – a large, 8,000 square mile (21,000 square kilometer) stretch of land in the extreme southern tip of the state of Nevada.
Looking north on the Las Vegas Strip
The most famous part of Las Vegas, the Strip, has 32 casinos
, and is located in the southern, middle part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area.
Whereas the popular downtown Fremont Street Casinos area is pretty much in the geographic center of Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Strip is located further to the south of town, sort of on the way to California.
Unlike metropolitan areas back east, or in other countries, Las Vegas is located pretty far from any other major city. From Los Angeles to Las Vegas, it’s 271 miles, or about a four hour drive. It’s 300 miles (a 4 and ½ hour drive) from Phoenix, Arizona, while Salt Lake City, Utah is 421 miles from Las Vegas, or roughly just under a six hour drive.
The Las Vegas Strip is located just to the east of Interstate 15, which is now the major thoroughfare through Sin City.
(The Orange pin represents Las Vegas)
The Strip used to be the major highway going from Los Angeles into town. The Strip led visitors, (most of whom traveled from Southern California) to downtown Las Vegas at Fremont Street, where visitors would enter into very modest casinos (some with sawdust on the floor), to try their luck at the one-armed bandits (“one-armed bandits” is the nickname for those old school slot machines you could only operate by pulling the handle).
Back in the early days of Las Vegas, (think 1940’s and earlier), Fremont Street in downtown was the epicenter of gambling in Las Vegas. The Strip was just barren desert you had to pass on the way to the excitement.
With gambling becoming more and more popular post-World War II, savvy casino developers (like the infamous mobster, Bugsy Siegel), sought to capture (not literally), some of those Los Angeles gamblers before they could get north to downtown.
As a result, casino/hotels like Bugsy’s Flamingo were built on the road south of Fremont Street, which was once known as the “Los Angeles Highway,” and later became “Las Vegas Boulevard,” which is technically, the real name of the Las Vegas Strip.
(Go here to learn about the first casino on the Las Vegas Strip).
(Here’s a Google map of the Las Vegas Strip from Mandalay Bay “A” north to the Stratosphere “B”)
Also in Paradise, Nevada is the region’s main airport, McCarran International Airport, which is located next door to the Las Vegas Strip. In fact, the western boundary of the airport fronts the Strip, right across the street from Mandalay Bay and the Luxor Hotel and Casino.
The Las Vegas Strip’s convenient location next to McCarran International Airport not only allows for cheaper Uber/Lyft and taxi rides, it provides guests staying at places like the MGM Grand to have a pretty good view of planes landing and taking off (because what else is there to do in Las Vegas?). As a side note, and in case you are wondering why they built an airport next to the Strip, the fact is that McCarran was actually there first. It is, for example, three years older than the Flamingo.
What Street is the Las Vegas Strip on?
When you think of Las Vegas, you naturally imagine the Strip. Yet the Las Vegas Strip is not actually IN Las Vegas. All parts of the Strip are situated south of the official Las Vegas city limits, in an unincorporated area of Paradise, Nevada. Some of the Strip wanders into a stretch of Winchester, Nevada.
Officially, the Strip is on South Las Vegas Boulevard. For example, on the southern end of the Strip, the Mandalay Bay’s address is 3950 S. Las Vegas Boulevard, while to the north, the Stratosphere’s address is 2000 S. Las Vegas Boulevard.
In fact, there is no official “Las Vegas Strip” street sign, as the name is just a nickname for Las Vegas Boulevard.
Strip Name History
Guy McAfee, a Los Angeles police officer, is credited with giving The Strip its nickname. In 1938, McAfee became the new owner of the Pair O’ Dice, which was (sort of), the very first casino on the strip, having opened in 1931.
Reportedly, McAfee imagined the new area as a high-energy, nightclub-packed stretch of land, similar to the Sunset Strip he was familiar with back in L.A.
Today, Guy McAfee’s “strip” stretches for just over 4 miles, end-to-end, although it feels like a lot more when you’re trying to walk from the MGM to the Bellagio, and it’s 115 degrees out. “It can’t be too far, the sign is right there!” many unsuspecting tourists have been heard to say, right before falling down on the hot pavement, dead.
Before becoming widely-known as the “The Strip” and before becoming Las Vegas Boulevard in the 1950’s, the road had undergone a variety of different names.
There was 5th Street, and Arrowhead Highway, and the “Los Angeles Highway” to signify that this road was the main highway between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Utah. In fact, what would become the world-famous Vegas Strip was at one time called, the “Salt Lake Highway.” Fortunately that name didn’t stick, because it’s hard to imagine people saying, “I can’t wait! Me and my buddies are flying out to a bachelor party on the Salt Lake Highway!”
At other times, the Strip was officially known as either Nevada 604 and/or US 91, as the road used to be an official part of the Nevada State Highway system.
With the implementation of the Eisenhower Interstate program during the 1950’s, the newly-built Interstate 15 (I-15) was built just to the east of US 91, and took over most of the heavy, long-distance traveler traffic. I-15 runs parallel to the strip and is a major artery for Sin City drivers.
In a similar way, most locals use Paradise Road on west side of the strip to get around and avoid the notoriously slow and busy Strip traffic.
Boutique restaurants and/or hotels like The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are located on Paradise Road, and the street is main gateway to McCarran International Airport.
The world-famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign marks the southernmost point of the Las Vegas strip. The classic sign, across the street from the Mandalay Bay, was erected in 1959, after a woman named Betty Willis came up with idea while working for a local neon light company.
It’s become almost a bucket-list item to have your picture taken in front of the sign, and because of that, a small parking lot adjacent to the sign was built to handle the tourists. The sign and its site are now part of the National Register of Historic Places.
From there, The Strip winds itself North 4.2 miles to its northernmost point, the Stratosphere, in an area that was the birthplace of The Strip.
The next nearest Strip casino is a desolate, empty .8 mile-long walk south to Circus Circus. In between you pass a few souvenir stores, some timeshares, vacant parcels, one newly-remodeled casino (The SLS Las Vegas), and one casino that was stopped halfway through construction (Fontainbleau). Although many people do walk it, I don’t recommend it at night.
In June of 2000, Las Vegas Boulevard was named by the Federal Highway Administration as an “All-American Road.” There are just 31 of these in the United States.
Las Vegas Location to Other Cities
While Sin City isn’t exactly close to other major towns, it is a fairly reasonable drive from most places in Southern California. The fact Las Vegas is located reasonably close to Los Angeles makes the gambling mecca Southern California’s most popular playground. This is especially true on weekends and holidays. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau, 26% of all visitors are from Southern California.
Other Places Located Nearby Las Vegas
It owes its early growth, (and current electricity), to the awe-inspiring Hoover Dam to the south and east of town. If you get a chance to escape the casinos, you should check it out, as Hoover Dam is located just 35 miles from Las Vegas.
For thrill seekers wanting to check out the hottest place in the United States (literally), Las Vegas is located 142 miles east of Death Valley.
On the opposite extreme, Las Vegas is located 50 miles away from a ski resort.
As for cities, Las Vegas is out west, in the middle of nowhere, (just as us Westerners like it). It is 1,125 miles from Seattle, 1,748 miles from Chicago, 2,519 miles from Miami, Florida, and 2,552 miles from New York.
(Photos courtesy of Graeme Maclean and Tony Kent from Flickr).