The unique and booming desert metropolis of Las Vegas continues to be a curiosity among today’s U.S. cities. Las Vegas is known for its famous “Strip”, an adult Disneyland attracting visitors worldwide to its gaudy hotel-casino reproductions of famous world places, like King Tut’s tomb or downtown New York or Paris. In fact, most of these “strip” sites are second generation, with older hotels being torn down and replaced with new fantasies apparently purposed as much to outdo each other as to entertain visitors.
The Strip is actually the “Paradise” in the metro area name, stretching south along Las Vegas Boulevard from a not-too-interesting real downtown area and has resisted annexation from the city proper. That’s probably okay; this area flourishes on its own and doesn’t get much attention in real life from local residents, except those who work there.
Stripping away tourism and entertainment still reveals a hot, dry, desert town exploding with growth. Las Vegas has one of the highest growth rates among larger metropolitan areas, as well as the sprawl problems that accompany it. The economy is highly tied to the tourist trade and more recently the construction trade, as housing construction is booming. Home prices have skyrocketed in recent years.
The area has become quite popular with wealthy individuals and especially business owners looking for a favorable income and inheritance tax climate, and is also gaining ground as an “escape” destination from pricier West Coast locations and is picking up a number of overseas immigrants also bypassing the more expensive larger Coast cities. The middle class is growing, but is still less evident than in most American cities.
As mentioned, the Strip, while near the center of town, is fairly self-contained with little spreading away from its central core. Sprouting up outside the city in most directions are suburbs and self-contained communities, particularly to the northwest, west and southeast, for many miles. A few high end community developments lie to the northwest, while Spring Valley to the west is middle class and one of the more family oriented communities. The strongest growth is occurring south and east in Henderson, once a separate town but now a booming commercial and retail center and location of most of the heavier industry in the area, with suburbs spreading mostly west. Finally, not inconsistent with other parts of the area, the posh Lake Las Vegas just northeast of Henderson is a man-made recreation of a Mediterranean villa.
The University of Nevada at Las Vegas adds a college presence, sports entertainment and is a significant employer, as are local health care providers. The tourist industry brings excellent air service to all parts of the country at reasonable prices. The surrounding mountainous terrain offers hiking and rock-climbing opportunities and winter skiing.
Bottom line: upsides include economic growth, albeit coming in a cyclically riskier form than most places, a pleasant winter climate and attractive housing especially for more upscale buyers. Downsides include heat, desert monotony, high violent crime rates, home prices, dependence on tourism and the constant influx of tourists.
Las Vegas is situated near the center of a broad desert valley surrounded by mountains rising 2,000 feet to 10,000 feet. The climate is arid with four distinct seasons. Maximum summer temperatures are in the 100 degrees range. Mountain proximity contributes to relatively cool (mid-70’s) summer nights. About 2 weeks each summer, warm, moist air moves in from the south, causing scattered thunderstorms, occasionally severe, together with higher than average humidity. Winters on the whole are mild and pleasant. Daytime temperatures average near 60 degrees with mostly clear skies. Spring and fall seasons are generally the most pleasant, although sharp temperature changes can occur during these months. The city is the driest and sunniest in the United States, with cloudy days averaging about 2 per month and rainy days less than 1 per month year-round. Snow rarely falls.