The desert city has a lot to offer.
Just a mention of the city evokes images of fun, excitement and spectacle. It's no surprise that Las Vegas is dubbed "the entertainment capital of the world."
Las Vegas was established in 1905 and became an official city in 1911.
Railroads, construction and gambling contributed to the city's rise in popularity, and early casino hotels -- then with the involvement of organized crime -- cemented the city's status as a premier entertainment center.
Las Vegas celebrated its 100th birthday on May 15, 2005. A year of celebratory events led up to the centennial.
The metropolis, nestled in the Mojave Desert, is home to about 1.8 million people, but the city hosts millions of visitors each month and is the top gaming destination in the world.
More than 37 million people traveled to Las Vegas in 2008, and more than 22,000 conventions are held there every year.
Las Vegas Grows Even More
In response to the increased interest in the city, ambitious new development is taking form.
One such project -- the CityCenter -- is opening in phases starting this week in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd.
CityCenter has been under construction for years. It's $1.2 billion over-budget and has the world's attention because it's partially owned by the economically troubled government of Dubai.
The behemoth project was started by MGM Mirage. But after the company ran into financial problems, putting CityCenter in jeopardy, the investing arm of the Dubai government, called Dubai World, came to the rescue and formed a joint venture. MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren admits that getting the $8.5 billion project finished was a feat in itself.
"With everything that's happened in the United States, that's happened to our company, that's happened globally, to be able to deliver this product on time is remarkable," Murren said, talking to ABC News while sitting in a bar at one of CityCenter's new hotels, called Vdara.
CityCenter looks like a piece of a downtown skyline dropped in the middle of the Vegas Strip between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo casinos. Its high rises look more like futuristic office buildings than hotels and casinos. Gone are the glitzy light up signs and the themed properties so prevalent in this town.
Architects were tasked with building a city within a city that would be different and eco-friendly. They hoped in the process it would attract a more high-end clientele.
"The architecture speaks for itself," said Paul Berry, vice president of hotel operations at Aria, CityCenter's only casino/hotel. "You walk in, you see clean, simple lines. You'll see sedated colors, lots of natural light."
Las Vegas Offers Visitors Hotels, Shopping, Attractions
Visitors are drawn not just to the wide range of gaming options available in the city, but to luxury accommodations. The Las Vegas Strip is home to 17 of the 20 largest hotels in the United States, world-class restaurants, shopping and a plethora of indoor and outdoor attractions and activities.
Since its Rat Pack days, Las Vegas has been inextricably associated with legendary shows, showgirls and entertainers.
Today, the entertainment scene in Las Vegas still has plenty of its classic glamour, but it has evolved to include award-winning magicians, Broadway-caliber productions, world-renowned concert headliners, comedians and unique production shows.
Here are five Las Vegas holiday traditions:
America's Party: Las Vegas New Year (Dec. 31, 2009) America's Party is the official moniker coined by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Las Vegas Events to signify the annual citywide celebration of New Year's Eve. Festivities include a themed fireworks extravaganza on the Las Vegas Strip and live concerts and fireworks under the canopy at the Fremont Street Experience.
Fremont Street Experience Holiday Festival (December 2009) Fremont Street Experience hosts its annual 12-day holiday festival each December. The event features millions of twinkling lights, a classic Santa with showgirls and live, world-class entertainment. Festivities kick-off with the official holiday tree lighting by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and continue with nightly holiday shows. For more on Fremont Street, visit www.vegasexperience.com
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Holiday Display The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is filled with gazebos, bridges, ponds and water features arranged by 140 expert horticulturists. During the holidays, the display of nature in its glory transforms into a winter wonderland. Gorgeous plants, flowers and trees are thoughtfully arranged to inspire the holiday spirit.
Other Las Vegas Traditions
The Palazzo Holiday Display Each year, The Palazzo atrium transforms into a beautiful holiday display. This season, Paul Ecke Ranch, the world's largest breeder of poinsettia plants, is partnering with The Palazzo to create a stunning, living topiary holiday display made from Ecke's newest introduction, the polar bear poinsettia.
Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas' annual Gingerbread Village Created by pastry chef Jean-Luc Daul and his team, the 10th annual gingerbread village features an eye-catching display of 20 gingerbread houses and a giant working carousel made entirely of chocolate and sugar. With more than 500 hours of total production time, this intricate display takes two full days to assemble in the hotel lobby.
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