Kristen Peterson of the Las Vegas Sun had a great article about the lack of Cultural Tourism in Las Vegas. According to one poll, Las Vegas ranks almost last in yet another field. It's not bad enough that we rank at the bottom of the list for education, health services and more. It seems we aspire to be the worst at everything. Which is unfathomable to me why the people who live here don't rise up and scream bloody murder.
The City and County officials have done a wonderful job of marketing Las Vegas as the Gaming Capital, the Entertainment Capital of the World and the city where what happens stays here. They seem to think no one comes to Las Vegas to do anything but gamble, drink and do whatever naughty things you don't feel like you can do at home.
Which would all be fine if that was all people really came to Las Vegas for. But, with a population of almost 2 million people there are many reasons for coming to visit Las Vegas that don't include maxxing out your credit card, getting roaring drunk or waking up wondering what you did last night.
People come to visit relatives here, they accompany their spouses on conventions, they come to visit friends who were crazy enough to move here or have lived here all these lives. They come to visit the Lake Mead Recreation Area, the Dam, Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire.
But because no one markets it, they don't come here to visit our museums, do our walking or driving tours or to visit our cultural sites because the majority of them have no idea that these options exist.
Las Vegas is a city guaranteed to break your heart if you love history. The town that seems to shed its skin and become something new every few years has the reputation (very deserved) of not preserving its past. Despite some heroic efforts by preservationists, the City, County and the majority of officials (and perhaps residents) don't understand the basics of cultural tourism.
What do you do when you visit another city? If you are anything like my husband, Jon and me, you spend time exploring that city's history. We are not world travelers but every place we have gone from Hawaii to New York City to Nevada City and beyond, we have spent time exploring museums, the walking tours and visiting the historical sites.
You can do that here in Las Vegas but you have to almost have an inside track to be able to find them here because no one makes it easy.
Add to that, the fact that we keep destroying our historical neighborhoods in the name of progress. These are the neighborhoods where our pioneer families lived. They may not have lived in Victorian mansions but that doesn't make their homes any less important or less valuable.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, the World Furniture Market, Union Park, the Post Office Museum and Fremont East are all going to change the face of Downtown forever. City officials want the old Post Office to become a Mob Museum. They want it to be a world class museum in the manner of the Spy Museum in Washington DC.
I'm willing to bet that the majority of people coming to visit Downtown in the years ahead will be include a different kind of tourist than Las Vegas is used to. They will be coming to visit family and friends at the Ruvo Brain Institute, family and friends living in the Condos not only in Union Park but in the surrounding area, they will be interested not so much in gambling and drinking as they will be in exploring one of the very places that is a link to our past: Downtown and the surrounding area.
And what will they find? Well, it doesn't look too good these days that will be finding many links to our past or our pioneering families because the City seems hell bent on letting developers and businesses destroy the homes our pioneers built and lived in.
If the people of Las Vegas (both those who live in the City portion and the County portion) don't take their past seriously, then why should their officials. And why should anyone outside of Las Vegas care about our history if we don't.
As long as we stand idly by and do or say nothing, this destruction will continue. Everyone complains, "I have no place to take my friends when they come to visit because they don't gamble".
Well, yes, you do have some place to take them. You just have to realize the culture that this city has to offer is much more than magician's and impressionists playing the Strip. You have to be willing to do some homework to find it.
The problem is, you shouldn't have to do that homework.
A city that wants to be taken seriously by the nation and the world promotes itself through cultural tourism. That way both residents and visitors know that from the top down, cultural tourism is important.
Until that happens, Las Vegas may think it is a world class city, but it is only kidding itself.