Why is Las Vegas Called Sin City?
If you live on the West Coast like me, then you’ll know that Las Vegas is the place to go when you want to have a short trip away from home.
It’s one of the hottest cities to visit when you want to party, have a huge celebration, experience the nightlife, clubbing, and everything in-between.
I mean, it’s not called “Sin City” for no reason. You experience the nightlife much differently in Vegas than you would if you were in another city.
Even though I’ve been to Vegas many times, I’ve always wondered why this city gained the nickname ‘Sin City.’ Now obviously, Vegas isn’t a place to go to if you’re looking for an innocent trip with your BFFs.
I’m assuming you’re there for more than just a cocktail and to sit by the pool with a view of Caesar Palace and Bellagio. So, I wanted to dive more into “Sin City” and learn about the history behind its famous nickname.
** The following information below may not be suitable for all audiences. Please read at your discretion **
Who Named Las Vegas?
Before we dive into the nickname, let’s rewind to the day Las Vegas got its name:
It began in 1829 when a young Mexican man named Raphael Riviera was in search of a new route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. He was known to be the first non-Native American to explore the Las Vegas Valley (via Wikipedia and Love Exploring). However, he wasn’t the only person to have stepped foot in that desert in the late 1820s.
From 1829–1830, Antonio Armijo was a Spanish explorer who led a caravan party “between Abiquiú, Nuevo México, and San Gabriel Mission in Alta California” (via Wikipedia).
Although it’s unclear whether Riviera and Armijo’s group arrived at the same time, it’s evident that they experienced the same vibe when they were in the desert.
Because of the wild grass and desert spring waters, Armijo’s group and Riviera gave the name “Las Vegas” aka “The Meadows” to the desert. However, it remains a mystery who gave the name first to Las Vegas.
Block 16 & 17
According to Neighborhoods, the famous Las Vegas strip did not exist in the early 1900s. However, downtown Las Vegas and Fremont east have been around for quite some time, assuming during the earliest stages of Las Vegas (2020).
In this early stage of Sin City, there were two popular blocks of the 40 blocks in Las Vegas: Block 16 and Block 17.
Block 17 was known for gambling and selling liquor to workers and travelers. However, Block 16 was the most notorious one because it was known for the Las Vegas sex market (via Las Vegas Advisor, 2020).
Block 16 was an infamous district that had several saloons that rented out upstairs rooms for prostitution.
Where Did “Sin City” Come From?
According to Neighborhoods and Love Exploring, (Allegedly) ‘Sin City’ (the nickname) came from Block 16 and 17 due to suspicious and “illegal” activities that were done in those areas.
According to Las Vegas Advisor, what people did in those two blocks (specifically block 16) wasn’t considered illegal or legal. It was just known to be a notorious spot with a dangerous reputation.
It’s also good to remember that there weren’t any “real” laws towards gambling and prostitution until the 1930s and 1940s. So, it’s safe to say that if anyone wanted to do certain activities in Las Vegas, they could have easily gotten away with it because there were no laws to “stop” them from doing it.
Has Las Vegas shed it’s “sinful” image?
The short answer is…no. This city still very much lives up to its name even if it’s more regulated than it used to be.
However, Vegas has slowly transformed into an area where everybody can come for fun. You don’t necessarily have to go to Vegas for a wild night with your close friends. You can do family-friendly activities in the city and still have a memorable experience with your loved ones.