Las Vegas, Gambling, and silver mines are a few things we instantly link to Nevada, but what is Nevada famous for besides these?
Located in Southwestern USA, Nevada is landlocked between California to the west, Oregon to the northwest, Idaho to the northeast, Utah to the east, and Arizona to the southeast. Nevada is a rather big state (the 7th in the Union) but is not very crowded. In fact, it used to be the least populous state until the 1940s. Today it’s only the 19th least populated, although about three-fourths of the population lives in the Las Vegas metro area.
Nicknamed the “silver state” because of its substantial silver mines, it became a US state in 1864 (36th). Mountains peaks and the dry desert characterize this state, but it was the libertarian laws that made it so popular in TV, movies, and as a tourist destination.
But for now, let’s clarify what is Nevada famous for!
12 Things Nevada is famous for
What is Nevada famous for? Las Vegas is the obvious choice. It is the biggest city in the state, and its metropolitan area has almost three-fourths of its population. Las Vegas is also growing incredibly fast, tripling its population in less than three decades, from 740 000 in 1990 to 2 200 000 in 2018. This makes Las Vegas one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the USA.
Las Vegas has a relatively short history. In the 20th century, it grew from a tiny town in the middle of the desert to a vast metropolitan area with international business, commerce, and most importantly, entertainment – particularly adult entertainment (we will talk about this below).
Today, Las Vegas is one of the most visited tourist destinations globally and one of the most popular cities in the USA. Vegas is particularly famous for parties, casinos, gambling, weddings, and major resorts. It is constantly on TV, series, movies… Invariably, when someone is looking to party, they go to Vegas.
In hindsight, Las Vegas is marketed as the adult version of Disneyland, a libertarian city where anything can happen. Who has never heard the motto “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”?
Casinos and Gambling
One of the main reasons for the rapid growth of Las Vegas and Nevada was the legalization of gambling in 1931. The Pair-O-Dice Club was the first casino to open, but many many others have opened ever since. One can say that Las Vegas was built with gambling (and other vices that came with it) money.
There are casinos spread throughout the state, but the biggest and most popular are in the Las Vegas Strip. Today, there are 144 casinos in Las Vegas. The Casinos and their luxury hotels are still an essential part of the state’s economy (and Vegas in particular) and a significant source of revenue. On the other hand, Las Vegas is no longer the world’s gambling capital – that title now goes to Macau, China.
About 80% of the people who go to Vegas end up gambling and spending an average of 590 USD, which explains why the biggest casinos have more than $6B in annual gaming revenues. However, one should note that they only represent about 26% of total yearly revenues – Casinos in Vegas have dozens of ways of making money. From food and drinks to the shows and obviously the luxury resorts.
Nevada is the only state in the USA where prostitution is legal, so it’s naturally one of the things that Nevada is famous for. However, it is not legal in all the states, as it is heavily regulated and restricted.
Legal prostitution is only permitted in regulated brothels allowed only in counties with less than 700 000 people. This means that the most populated regions like Las Vegas, Reno, or Carson City can’t legalize it. As of 2018, only seven of the 16 counties of Nevada have active brothels, making a total of 21 legal brothels within the state.
So, all the prostitution that happens in the bigger cities and that is often depicted in pop culture is illegal – the offense is a misdemeanor. Studies show that about 66 times more money is spent by customers on illegal prostitution in Nevada than in regulated brothels. Every year 75 million USA is spent in Legal, while illegal prostitution grosses more than $5 billion per year.
Las Vegas is known as the Marriage Capital of the World. People go to Nevada (and Las Vegas in particular) because of the ease of obtaining a marriage license and the insignificant costs involved.
Nevada became a popular wedding destination when it made it incredibly easy to get a marriage license in the early 20th century. This was a deliberate choice of the Silver State to promote tourism. Even today, with roughly 150 weddings per day, about 5% of the weddings in the USA are performed in Clark County, Nevada. So, it’s much more than a convenient plot in a sitcom or romantic comedy.
So, how easy is it? The Las Vegas Marriage License Bureau is open 365 days per year, up until midnight. Unmarried couples simply need to show their government ID, fill out the form and pay 102USD—no need for blood tests or a waiting period. The marriage license can be issued on the same day! And this license is valid and binding in all USA and many other countries in the world!
Though we need to mention that Nevada weddings aren’t popular only because they are cheap and easy. There’s an actual industry around it, with the famous wedding chapels and luxury wedding venues in the resorts and casinos. Many people choose to marry in Las Vegas because they want a wedding that turns into a vacation for their guests. Couples can bring their family and friends and have a bachelor/bachelorette party, wedding ceremony, and honeymoon all in one city.
Las Vegas is a hugely popular destination in the US, with all sorts of entertainment, as we will see below.
No income tax
The last of the libertarian measures that Nevada is famous for is the low taxes, particularly the inexistence of personal and corporate income taxes. Nevada doesn’t levy state income taxes, either personal income or capital gains, to attract people and businesses to the state.
We should note that Nevada isn’t the only state without an income tax. Alaska, Florida, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming follow a similar tax policy. On the other hand, we should not assume that there aren’t taxes in Nevada. The sales taxes are relatively high, and the overall tax burden is about 8,39%, which is low but not close to the lowest.
Nevada’s tax policy is rather interesting. It sets low taxes to individuals who live and earn income in the state but increases the general sales tax and the excise tax rates for motor fuel, alcohol, and cigarettes, which everyone, including visitors, pays. This way, the enormous tourism industry is actually funding the state.
Tourism and entertainment
Tourism is the driving force of Nevada’s economy. Nevada attracts all kinds of tourists, but particularly those looking for adult entertainment. In the beginning casinos, celebrity shows were the major attractions. Still, now there are also huge conventions, luxury resorts, fine dining, shopping opportunities, and even Nevada’s outdoor beauty is drawing people to the state.
Las Vegas leads the way with about 150 000 hotel rooms, more than any other city in the world. Most of the largest hotels are on the Strip, including 15 of the 25 largest hotels in the world (by number of rooms) are on the Strip. However, there are rooms of all types and sizes totaling an incredible 62 000 rooms. The leading casinos are also located in the 4.2km Las Vegas Strip, with a few others spread through Boulder and Downtown Las Vegas.
Tourism is the cornerstone of Nevada’s Economy representing about 22% of the state’s economy. About 56 million people visited Nevada in 2019, spending 42 Billion USD in total, which corresponded to more than 10 Billion in tax revenue. It is estimated that each household would need to pay 5000 USD more in taxes to compensate for state taxes collected from visitors.
Silver and Gold mines
Before gambling, tourism, and the entertainment industry took over the state’s economy in the 20th century, the main economic drive was mining, silver, and gold mining. Historically silver was so crucial that Nevada earned “the silver state” nickname.
The discovery of the Comstock lode in 1858 marked the beginning of an era in Nevada and became the first major silver-mining district in the US. This vital discovery stimulated silver prospecting across the Great Basin region resulting in a silver rush that led to many other silver discoveries in the area.
The Comstock lode generated huge fortunes and played an essential role in the growth of Nevada in the 19th century. Still, it was also pivotal for developing new mining technologies like the Washoe process and the square set timbering. The Comstock mines declined in the last decades of the 19th century, but silver and gold mining in Nevada kept going in other districts.
Currently, Nevada is the #1 state in Gold production and the #2 (after Alaska) in Silver production. It produces more than 10 million troy ounces of silver per year, a substantial part as a byproduct of gold mining. Furthermore, Nevada is one of the largest gold producers in the world. With 173.6 tonnes of Gold in 2018, it represented 78% of US gold and 5.0% of the world’s production.
Dry and desert
What is Nevada famous for? For being dry and desert… Nevada is almost completely covered in deserts and semi-arid lands of the Mojave and Great Basin deserts. In fact, Nevada is considered the driest state in the USA, with less than 10 inches of rain per year. Most of the state receives very little precipitation during the year, with the mountain regions taking most of the state’s rainfall.
The Great Basin desert occupies central and northern Nevada. It is a cold, dry, high-elevation desert that receives small amounts of rainfall. Most of the precipitation comes as snow in the winter.
The Mojave Desert covers most of southern Nevada (including Las Vegas). It’s a hot, dry desert that receives minimal amounts of precipitation (under 2 inches of rainfall per year). The western edge of Nevada, which includes Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada, is the only region of the state that isn’t considered a desert. Besides Lake Tahoe, the only existing water source of most of the state is the Hoover Dam in the Colorado River.
The Hoover dam is located on the Colorado River on the border with Arizona. It is one of the most famous landmarks in both Arizona and Nevada as its construction was a massive project and an incredible engineering feat. Until 1948 it was the world’s largest hydroelectric power station.
The Hoover Dam is pivotal to the economy of Nevada (and Arizona), providing irrigation water, controlling floods, and producing electricity. One can say it completely changed the two states, presenting a water source to a deserted area. Without the dam and the reservoir, it would be impossible for Las Vegas to exist.
Constructed between 1931 and 1936, it is 726 feet high and 1 244 feet long. At the time of completion, it was the largest dam in the world. Today, the Hoover Dam is a huge tourist attraction receiving more than one million visitors per year. The dam’s crest was used to cross the Colorado River until 2010 when a bypass was opened.
When full, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir by volume in the United States. At total capacity, it is 112 miles long, 532 feet deep, and has roughly 247 square miles of surface area. However, the lake hasn’t reached full capacity since 1983 due to increased water demand and droughts. In June 2021, lake mead was only at 35% capacity, an all-time low record.
Aliens and UFOs
One other thing Nevada is famous for is aliens and UFOs. The infamous area 51 is located in a remote part of southern Nevada, in the Mojave desert. Officially, this area is an Air force flight test center, and its purpose is to operate and analyze enemy aircraft and weapons systems and test new military aircraft. It was here that the famed U-2 airplane was developed.
Area 51 isn’t considered a secret base, but everything that happened there is top secret. CIA didn’t even acknowledge its existence until 2013… The intense mystery around the base made it a frequent ingredient in conspiracy theories and the main element of UFO folklore and mythology. Some of our favorite theories include:
- Everything related with Roswell, New Mexico – including the examination and reverse engineering of the crashed alien spacecraft and their occupants;
- development of exotic weapons and energy sources;
- Weather controling;
- Development of teleportation and time travel technologies;
- Meetings with extraterrestrials beings;
Besides being the perfect place to hide aliens, deserted Nevada is an excellent location to try out new weapons, particularly nuclear ones. Thus, It’s not surprising that Area 51 shares a border with the Nevada Test Site, the location of 739 of the 928 nuclear tests conducted by the United States Department of Energy.
Nuclear tests started in 1951 with the Nevada Test Site, and hundreds followed during the following decades. During the 1950s, the mushroom clouds from the tests could be seen as far as 100 miles. As Las Vegas is only 65 miles northwest of the site, the clouds could be seen from downtown hotels and became a tourist attraction. Seismic effects from the explosions were also felt in the sin city.
Many of the iconic pictures of the nuclear testing era came from Nevada Test Site, and for a while, the state was also a synonym of atomic tests. Today, the site is still active but with the name “Nevada National Security Site,” but no tests are being done. Thus it’s more of a memory of the past, yet many people still strongly associate Nevada with Nuclear bomb tests.
Records and fun facts about Nevada
Nevada is a state of extremes and oddities, from the almost libertarian culture that allowed casinos, prostitution, low taxes, easy weddings, and divorces to the harsh weather conditions. Many of these are well-known records and fun facts. Let’s explore some of them.
- Nevada was named after the Sierra Nevada mountains;
- Nevada means “snow-covered” in Spanish;
- The US Federal Government owns almost 90% of Nevada’s land;
- Goldfield was once the largest city in Nevada – in 2010 it had a resident population of 268;
- The hard hats construction workers use was invented in 1933 for the Hoover Dam workers;
- The “What happen in Vegas stays in Vegas” slogan was trademarked and sold for 1 USD;
- Hoover Dam was called Boulder Dam until 1947, after Herbert Hoover the 31st President;
- Herbert Hoover wasn’t even invited to the dam’s original dedication cerimony in 1935;
- There are more than 200 000 slot machines in Nevada – about one for every 15 residents;
- Las Vegas consumes more schrimp than the rest of the country combine;
- Shared with Californida, Lake Tahoe is the third deepest in the USA;
- It’s also the largest alpine lake in the US and one of the clearest bodies of water globally;
- Levis blue jeans were invented in Reno by tailor Jacob Davis;
- The Stratosphere is the tallest, free-standing observation tower in the US;
- With more than 300 individual mountain ranges, Nevada is the most mountainous in the Lower 48 (Colorado probably wants to claim this);