Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, we try our luck in the entertainment capital of the country, Nevada. Mrs. Sip and I have travelled to the Silver State many times, even enjoying attractions off the Las Vegas Strip. Time to roll the dice and see what comes up:
Motto: “All for Our Country” – Such selflessness!
Food: While today, casino buffets offer a culinary delight of worldwide dishes, the early days of these all-you-can-eat feasts were a little different. Las Vegas revolutionized the concept, with the first ever offered at the El Rancho Vegas (also the first casino on the Strip). Dubbed the Buckaroo Buffet, it offered a mix of hot and cold dishes, 24 hours a day, for a whopping $1.
Drink: One of the most unique cocktails I’ve ever had was the Verbena, created by head mixologist, Mariena Mercer, of The Cosmopolitan, in Las Vegas. You begin by chewing a Sichuan flower and then move onto the margarita-like cocktail. With each sip, as the flower takes effect, you become a super taster, thanks to your taste buds being altered.
Site to See: Outside of Las Vegas, top attractions include tourist towns such as Reno (‘The Biggest Little City in the World’) and Lake Tahoe, as well as sites such as the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Great Basin National Park, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and Valley of Fire State Park. However, what happens there, doesn’t stay there.
Street: One can basically travel the world while walking the Las Vegas Strip (aka Las Vegas Boulevard), with hotels themed after destinations such as Paris, Monaco, Egypt, New York, Venice, and Brazil. Other highlights include the Stratosphere, the tallest structure in the western U.S., and a multitude of dining, drinking and entertainment options. There’s also the Fremont Street Experience, for a taste of old Vegas.
TV Show: I have to go with CSI: Las Vegas in this category for creating the police forensic procedural genre. The show ran for 15 seasons and 337 episodes and was so popular, it spawned spinoffs set in Miami and New York City, as well as a Cyber Crimes series. Honourable mentions go to Reno 911! and Mike Tyson Mysteries for their characters and comedy.
Movie: A tough choice here, as I love The Hangover for its wild and hilarious story. I also enjoy a good heist film, with Ocean’s 11 (the Rat Pack original and the George Clooney remake) ranking among my favourites. Lastly, I can’t leave out Vegas Vacation, for the many lines that have become part of the Sip Family’s vernacular.
Book/Author: A few other notable Las Vegas films were adapted from books, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson), Leaving Las Vegas (a semi-autobiographical novel by John O’Brien), and Casino (based on the non-fiction Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi).
Fictional Character: I’m surprised at how few options were available for this category. I’ll go with Balrog from the Street Fighter video game franchise. A former boxer, the character was based on Mike Tyson, even being named M. Bison in the Japanese version of the games. Due to legal concerns, some characters were rotated for the North American ports.
Fictional City: The movie Tremors, starring Kevin Bacon, takes place in the fictional town of Perfection. Things are far from perfect, though, as giant sandworm-type creatures are attacking the town in a hunt for human flesh. The movie spawned a franchise of five direct-to-video sequels, one prequel and a TV series, which lasted one season and 13 episodes.
Actor/Actress: Jena Malone was born in Sparks, with her most notable role being Johanna Mason from The Hunger Games franchise. Other stars from Nevada include Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island), Rutina Wesley (Tara on True Blood), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia on Buffy/Angel), and Thomas Ian Nicholas from the American Pie series.
Song: Most songs about Nevada focus on Las Vegas and nothing can get you into the Sin City mood more than Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas. Presley was practically an honourary citizen of the state, performing 636 straight sold out shows (two shows a night, seven days a week), as one of the original residency acts. Viva Las Vegas was recorded for Presley’s 1964 film of the same name.
Band/Musician: Rock band, The Killers, were formed in Las Vegas, in 2001. The quartet has sold more than 28 million records and are still going strong today. The group is known for songs like Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me. Special shout out to fellow rockers, Imagine Dragons (also formed in Las Vegas), for their song Radioactive being the longest Billboard Hot 100 chart topper ever.
People: Betty Willis may not be a household name, but the artist born in Overton, created one of the most recognizable pieces in Nevada, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Willis did not trademark her design, instead gifting it to the city. She passed away, in 2015, at the age of 91.
Animal: Nevada has a long history of animal performers. Most famous among them were the tigers and lions part of the Siegfried & Roy act at the Mirage. Sadly, one of those tigers, named Montecore, attacked Roy during one show in 2003, ending the duo’s successful 13-year run at the hotel. There was also Bertha the Elephant, who performed at the Nugget, in Sparks, for over 30 years.
Invention: While operating a tailor shop in Reno, Jacob Davis invented blue jeans, while making a stronger pair of working pants for a customer’s husband. Davis later partnered with Levi Strauss, who was providing the fabric for the jeans, to apply for a patent on the creation. As a frequent wearer of blue jeans, I thank both gentlemen.
Crime: In 2017, the world was shocked by a mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. Nevadan Stephen Paddock fired more than 1,000 rounds from the Mandalay Bay resort onto the nearby Route 91 Harvest music festival. He killed 58 people and wounded 438 others, with injuries totalling 869 in the panicked aftermath. Paddock committed suicide following the massacre.
Law: Nevada is my kind of state. They have a law that makes sure public intoxication can’t be made illegal and another law that allows the sale of booze to occur 24 hours a day from bars, restaurants and stores.
Sports Team: Nevada was devoid of professional teams until 2017, when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL as an expansion franchise. Similarly, should an NFL season be played this year, the Oakland Raiders will officially relocate to Las Vegas. The city is also the epicenter of boxing and mixed martial arts cards, host to numerous memorable fights.
Athlete: Tennis star, Andre Agassi, was born in Las Vegas and lives there to this day. Agassi became a pop culture icon in the early 90’s, thanks to his success on the court, good looks, and high-profile relationships with Barbra Streisand and Brooke Shields. Agassi won a total of eight majors, as well as a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, in Atlanta.
Famous Home: The Underground House, in Las Vegas, looks like a normal residence, until you realize it is constructed 26 feet below the surface and doubles as a bomb shelter. The property includes a home, yard, pool, spa, trees, guest accommodation, BBQ, and fountain, as well as outdoorsy murals. In 2019, it was listed to sell for $18 million, although it sold in 2015 for only $1.15 million.
Urban Legend: Area 51’s existence wasn’t confirmed by government until 1990, inspiring a number of conspiracy theories. These include the housing of UFOs and alien lifeforms, as well as experiments involving weather control, time travel and teleportation. Route 375, leading up to the facility, was renamed the Extraterrestrial Highway, in 1996.
Museum: Mrs. Sip and I have visited and fully recommend both the Neon Museum and Mob Museum. The Neon Museum has a “boneyard” of signs from the history of Las Vegas, while the Mob Museum documents the city’s affiliation with organized crime. Another museum we would like to check out in the future is the Pinball Hall of Fame.
Firsts: Nevada was the first state to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment, which barred the government and states from denying people the right to vote, based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Nevada is also the only state to legalize prostitution, although it is technically still illegal in area like Las Vegas and Reno, due to their larger populations.
Company: The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the leader in mixed martial arts action, is headquartered in Las Vegas. Since its inception in 1993, the promotion has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but has grown from a one-night tough man tournament to a global phenomenon. UFC President, Dana White, is now among the most recognizable people in sports.
Events: When Nevada Governor, Fred Balzar, signed Assembly Bill 98, legalizing gambling in the state, in 1931, he paved the way for Nevada to become the place it is today. The same year, the Pair-O-Dice Club became the first casino to open in Nevada, with the resort being renamed The Frontier later, which is how most remember it. It closed in 2007, with the property now being owned by Wynn Resorts.
Miscellaneous: I couldn’t wrap this article without mentioning the September 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur, which occurred in Las Vegas. Shakur succumbed to his injuries six days after the drive-by shooting, at the age of 25. The murder has remained unsolved, despite speculation of gang and rap feud ties, drawing much intrigue from fans and filmmakers alike.
- 1.5 oz Gin
- 0.5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
- Splash of Lemon Juice
- Dash of Orange Bitters
- Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry
This International Bartenders Association official cocktail is perfect for Nevada. It dates back to at least 1917, when it first appeared in a recipe guide. It’s funny how many drinks for this project use a combination of Gin, Maraschino Liqueur and Lemon or Lime Juice. I will say, this was a tasty blend of that formula.