Then: Just a few casinos and hotels dotted the three-mile Strip, where the action happened. There was no other way to spend your time or your money.
Now: There's much to do besides gambling. You can see a facsimile of the Sphinx or the Eiffel Tower, ride a gondola along a Grand Canal (à la Venice), ride a New York roller coaster, swing to Mardi Gras vibes or sip a tropical cocktail amid trickling waters and ferns - not to mention having spa experiences to die for, shopping at high-end boutiques and taking in entertainment of all kinds.
Then: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford.
Now: Donny and Marie Osmond, Celine Dion, Elton John, Shania Twain.
Then: Tropicana, Flamingo and the Sands were the popular hotels, with few amenities besides being the gateways to casinoland.
Now: Those old hotels have been eclipsed by bigger and grander edifices, such as the MGM Grand, the Mandarin Orientale, Harrah's and the Mirage. They are much more than places to sleep, with world-class spas, exercise classes and plenty of ways to drop your money shopping.
Then: Leave the children at home. No kids wanted in Sin City.
Now: Legions of family visitors have plenty of friendly entertainment for the under-18 crowd.
Then: You could get a $4.99 blue plate special of prime rib and soggy mashed potatoes - nothing fancy and nothing foreign.
Now: There's a huge array of restaurants with famous chefs and cuisine from around the world.
Then: There were a few famous crooners, but no extravagant outlets. The idea was to play the casinos, not frolic for fun or shop till you drop.
Now: Vegas has long outgrown its adult playground connotation. No matter when you visit, there's a show to see. There are masquerade balls, magic shows, comedy acts, headliner concerts, theatrical performances, symphonies, live animal shows and even roller coasters.