Plenty has changed in Las Vegas since it was transformed from a sandy outpost in the middle of the desert in the 1930s to today's city of glamour, glitz and games. A half century ago, men wore tuxedos to gamble in the casinos, women dressed up in strapless gowns and no one wore shorts. That's not the scene today, where casual clothing is accepted just about anywhere, formal wear has morphed into cocktail dresses or pants, and there are lots of activities for your grandkids.
Here's a look at the Vegas of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and now:
Then: You could smoke a cigarette or cigar anywhere you wanted. There was no such thing as "No Smoking" hotel rooms, and casinos were filled with so much smoke you could cut the air with a knife (cough, cough).
Now: Restaurants designate an average of 70 percent of their space to nonsmokers, and many big hotels have designated 80 percent or more of their rooms and suites as nonsmoking. Many casinos have designated nonsmoking areas, including Harrah's, which has a 1,000-square-foot nonsmoking gaming section.* Newer hotels have improved ventilation and air-filtration systems. Poker rooms, previously the most smoke-filled places on the planet, are now smoke free.
* Las Vegas Advisor has a list of smoke-free areas in hotels and casinos.
Then: No welcome signs were out for diverse groups.
Now: Gay tourism is on the rise in Las Vegas. The travel board creates dedicated advertising for the LGBT community. A recent one featured a stereotypical male-female couple standing in the middle of an all-male pool party, with the caption, "Everyone's welcome, even straight people."
Then: Casinos were segregated. African Americans had to frequent their own casinos, which were located on the west side of town. Employment for African Americans was limited to the lowest-paid jobs. In the 1950s, organized crime bosses with sway over the city backed desegregation because they saw the chance for more customers and profits. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack were a force behind desegregation in the 1960s. Sinatra refused to perform at the Sands Hotel, or any other hotel in Vegas, unless they provided a room for his pal, Sammy Davis Jr. The NAACP worked to bring segregation barriers down as the civil rights movement enveloped America and brought change everywhere, including Vegas casinos.
Now: There are no barriers for anyone in Vegas. It happily embraces a multicultural, multiracial, multinational clientele.