Useful Notes: Las Vegas

Vegas, baby!

"What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas."
— Las Vegas Conventions and Visitors Authority

Sin City. City of Lights. The Gambling Capital of the World. The Entertainment Capital of the World. Capital of Second Chances. The Marriage Capital of the World. The Silver City. VEGAS.

The most populous city in the state of Nevada, Las Vegas is famous worldwide for its ostentatious casinos, unrestrained excess, and nonstop debauchery. In actuality, it's more like The Theme Park Version of a Wretched Hive, with just enough free-wheeling enthusiasm to give visitors a rush of excitement without endangering themselves.

The city was founded in 1829 by a party of explorers traveling along the Spanish Trail to Los Angeles; its name means "the meadows" in Spanish, after the area's abundant grasses and desert springs. Incorporated in 1911, the city grew rapidly in the thirties, as Nevada's legalization of gambling and the construction of nearby Hoover Dam produced an influx of construction workers and tourists.

Technically speaking, the world-famous casinos of Vegas are located in an unincorporated area immediately south of the city limits, to avoid municipal taxes. The Las Vegas Strip is most popular in the evenings, where the neon lights and hotel attractions make it a uniquely scenic route. Outside of the Strip itself are several local and lesser-known attractions such as Red Rock Canyon National Park, Lake Las Vegas, and the Pinball Hall of Fame. The city gets over 40 million visitors annually, many of them from nearby Los Angeles.note 

Unsurprisingly, Las Vegas is a popular setting for many works, as its unrestrained reputation makes it easy to justify various sorts of comedic or dramatic plots. Several works are set entirely in the city, and there is even a trope solely about traveling to Las Vegas.

Works set in Las Vegas (or feature it prominently) include:

  • Best Night Ever: Four women go to Vegas for a Bachelorette party.
  • Casino: Martin Scorsese's story about the transition of Las Vegas from gamblers-only mob controlled city to playground for corporations and themed hotels built on junk bonds.
  • Con Air: The big climax takes place in (technically, over) Vegas.
  • The Cooler: A Las Vegas loser unexpectedly falls in love.
  • Fright Night: The 2011 remake is set in Las Vegas.
  • The Hangover: Four guys drive to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.
  • Hick: A 13-year-old runs away to Las Vegas.
  • Hostel III
  • Las Vegas Bloodbath: A Vegas man snaps and goes on a woman-killing spree.
  • Last Vegas: Four seniors reunite for a bachelor party in Las Vegas.
  • Leaving Las Vegas: A depressed Hollywood screenwriter goes to Vegas to drink himself to death, and meets a prostitute who changes his life.
  • Oceans Eleven: Both the original and the remake feature a big heist in Las Vegas.
  • Rain Man: Tom Cruise takes his autistic brother to count cards in Vegas.
  • Rush Hour 2: The final act of the movie involves a scheme to use a newly-opened casino to launder money.
  • Showgirls: The infamous movie about a country girl who hitchhikes to Vegas in hopes of becoming a "dancer".
  • This Is Not A Movie: A man prepares for the end of the world in a Las Vegas motel room.
  • Vegas Vacation: The Griswalds go to Vegas.
  • Very Bad Things: A Las Vegas bachelor party goes From Bad to Worse.
  • What Happens In Vegas: Two friends accidentally get married while visiting Vegas.


Live-Action TV
  • Caesar's Challenge: A game show set at the Caesars Palace casino.
  • Las Vegas: A drama following the employees of a hotel/casino.
  • CSI: Sin City provides lots of crime scenes to investigate.
  • Pawn Stars: Reality TV show based on a Las Vegas pawn shop.
  • Vega$: A Vegas private investigator solves crime.
  • Vegas (2012): A period drama pitting the mob vs. the mayor.

  • Blue Man Group has been performing on the Strip in a sit-down production since 2000.
  • Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas"
  • Sheryl Crow's debut song "Leaving Las Vegas" (which has nothing to do with the eponymous Nicolas Cage film that followed). Incidentally, its follow-up hit is her classic "All I Wanna Do."
  • Faith Hill's "Let's Go to Vegas"
  • Katy Perry's "Waking Up In Vegas"


Video Games

Tropes associated with Las Vegas and the Strip include:

  • Ascetic Aesthetic: The hotels after the Turn of the Millennium invoke this trope. Instead of the oversized Roman forums, Egyptian pyramids, and faux Renaissance architecture previously used, the latest additions — such as the Wynn, the Cosmopolitan, and the Aria — all resemble tall, featureless, glass-and-steel monoliths.
  • The Artifact
    • Las Vegas showgirls, with their Pimped Out Dresses, Showgirl Skirts, Fluffy Fashion Feathers, and sparkling jewelry, have fallen out of favor since The '90s; most of the Strip's shows today are either Cirque du Soleil productions, other performance art shows such as Blue Man Group and JABBAWOCKEEZ, musical concerts, or small stage acts. Yet the showgirls remain an icon of the city, and can be found on the sidewalks taking photos with tourists.
    • The faux-Arabian Nights architecture of a large stretch of the Miracle Mile Shops mall at the Planet Hollywood resort is an artifact of the resort's previous identity as the Aladdin.
  • The Casino: The bigger the better; if it's not a Big Labyrinthine Building, you're doing it wrong.
  • Channel Hop: It's common for performers and even whole shows (usually small-scale ones) to move from one casino showroom to another as their popularity builds or declines. Often it's a jump from an off-Strip property to one on the Strip itself, or from a small/aging Strip property to a big-league resort, often with an attendant jump in production values if their fortunes are on the upswing. Lounge acts are similarly mobile, if not more so.
  • Disneyfication: The themed casino/resorts can be seen as this for their Real Life counterparts.
  • Dork Age: During The '90s, there was a marketing trend to promote Las Vegas as a family-vacation destination. It was led by the opening of the Excalibur casino and hotel, and was quickly followed with the MGM Grand Hotel's full-sized theme park, the Egyptian-themed Luxor, and Treasure Island, complete with pirate duels and sinking ships. The experiment was deemed a flop a few years later — the new features required a lot of manpower and money to operate, gamblers were annoyed at the kids running around the casinos, many parents simply dropped off their kids and rushed to the tables, and tourism did not increase significantly. By mid-2005, most of the new features were either shut down or repurposed into more adult fare, and only a few family-oriented venues remain. It wasn't all fruitless, though — the push for family-friendly entertainment opened the door for Cirque du Soleil to put down stakes in the city, and the Forum Shops mall at Caesars Palace was so popular that the Strip has since become an amazing destination for high-end shopping and dining.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Played with; although prostitution is legal in the state of Nevada, it is illegal in Clark County itself, where The Strip is located (hence the lack of brothels in casinos). That doesn't stop the numerous adult entertainers from advertising themselves to visitors, usually by "snappers" handing out titillating cards to passersby.
  • Follow the Leader: Common practice when it comes to shows, dining, clubs, etc. If one concept hits it big, every other casino will rush to come up with its own version of it.
  • Goofy Suit: In the wake of the Great Recession of the turn of The New Tens, which cut heavily into available professional opportunities for performers in the city, the Strip and Downtown's Fremont Street have been flush with celebrity/movie character lookalikes and street performers in unlicensed character costumes (Mickey Mouse, Batman, Hello Kitty, etc.) who pose with passerby for pictures and take tips as payment, ala New York's Times Square and Los Angeles' Hollywood Boulevard.
  • Retool: Las Vegas resorts are constantly in a state of flux in one aspect or another. Showrooms, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping venues, etc. go up and are remodeled, rebranded, or torn down entirely to chase, keep pace with, and start trends.
  • Stage Magician: A mainstay of many of the Strip's headliners, from perpetual favorites Lance Burton and David Copperfield to Penn & Teller at the Rio and Criss Angel BeLIEve at the Luxor. The city's most famous magicians, however, are arguably Sigfried & Roy, who headlined at the Mirage for over a decade until Roy's Career-Ending Injury in 2003.
  • The Theme Park Version: Not only is Vegas itself a theme-park version of a Vice City, but many of the casinos are flanderized versions of Real Life attractions. Who needs to go to France, Greece, Italy, or Egypt when you can visit Paris Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, the Venetian, and the Luxor instead?