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24 Things You Should Know About Las Vegas (and the Nearby Strip)

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What happens in Vegas … well, you know the rest. But here are 24 facts about Sin City you likely haven’t heard. 

1. Most of Vegas’ iconic hotels aren’t technically located in the city of Las Vegas. A good portion of the Las Vegas Strip —and the famed “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign—are actually located in an unincorporated township called Paradise, Nevada. 

2. One attraction that is within Las Vegas city limits: Vegas Vic, the oversized neon cowboy that presides over downtown’s famed Fremont Street. It’s the largest mechanical neon sign in the world.

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3.
More than 41 million visitors cycle through Sin City each year …

4. … So it's a good thing the town boasts 14 of the world’s 20 biggest hotels.

5. There's so much real estate for tourists to take advantage of, it would take a person 288 years to spend a night in every hotel room in the city.

6. There’s a secret city underneath the city. Miles of tunnels—originally built to protect the desert town from flash floods—house hundreds of homeless residents.

7. The strip’s Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino got its name from founder—and legendary mobster—Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend. Actress Virginia Hill went by the nickname “The Flamingo” because of her red hair and long, thin legs.

8. In the mid-20th century, Las Vegas possessed its own set of discriminatory Jim Crow laws, which—with the exception of low-wage service jobs—kept African Americans out of the growing city's hotels and casinos. Even legendary performers like Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole were forced to enter and exit the venues in which they were performing through back doors and side entryways. In 1952, acting legend Sammy Davis Jr. took a dip in the whites-only swimming pool at the New Frontier Hotel & Casino. Afterwards, the manager had it drained.

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9.
In May 1955, the Moulin Rouge made history when it became the city's first interracial casino. Legendary boxer Joe Louis, a part owner, declared, “This isn’t the opening of a Las Vegas hotel. It’s history."

10. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Las Vegas was known for putting on a different type of show. At the Nevada Test Site, just 65 miles northwest of the city, the U.S. Department of Energy would test nuclear devices. Las Vegas’ Chamber of Commerce saw a moneymaking opportunity, and decided to distribute calendars advertising detonation times and choice viewing locations.

11. Legendary recluse Howard Hughes checked into the strip’s Desert Inn on Thanksgiving Day 1966, renting the entire top two floors. When he overstayed his 10-day reservation, he was asked to leave. Instead, he started negotiations to buy the 715-room spot. His purchase was complete three months later.

12. FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith saved the delivery company with a trip to Vegas. In 1974—three years after he created the company—the Yale grad took the venture's last $5,000 and turned it into $32,000 with a weekend of blackjack. His, er, gamble gave the company enough money to stay afloat.

13. Do not disturb: Vegas has more unlisted phone numbers than any other city in the United States.

14. Reason to hope? Nevada law states that video slot machines must pay back a minimum of 75 percent of the money deposited on average. (Though it’s worth noting that in New Jersey, home to gambling mecca Atlantic City, it’s 83 percent.)

15. It takes roughly 10 minutes to nab a marriage license at the bureau in downtown Las Vegas, which is open every day from 8 a.m. until midnight. No wonder some 10,000 couples wed in the city each month.

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16.
Let them eat … shrimp cocktails? More than 60,000 pounds of the shellfish are consumed in the city each day. That’s higher than the rest of the country—combined.

17. The half-scale model of the Eiffel Tower, located outside Paris Las Vegas, was originally planned to be full-size, but due to the close proximity of the airport—just three miles—it had to be shrunk down. In contrast, the Luxor Las Vegas’ Sphinx is actually larger than the original Great Sphinx of Giza.

18. At 50 tons, the bronze lion outside the MGM Grand Hotel is believed to be the largest bronze sculpture in the western hemisphere.

19. The distinctive gold color of the windows at the Mirage Hotel comes from actual gold dust.

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20
. There are 3933 guest rooms at Bellagio Las Vegas—more than the number of residents in the city of Bellagio, Italy. 

21. Not into casinos? The city also features a heavy equipment playground where construction enthusiasts can drive around bulldozers for fun.

22. Before his death in 2009, Michael Jackson was looking into doing a Vegas residency. He planned to advertise it with a 50-foot robot-likeness of himself that would roam the Nevada desert.

23. At Vegas diner Heart Attack Grill, waitresses dress in nurses garb and patrons can order an 8000-calorie quadruple bypass burger with a side of flatliner fries. (Fried in pure lard!) Unfortunately, in 2013, one of the spot's regular patrons passed away … from an apparent heart attack.

24. From outer space, the Las Vegas Strip appears as the brightest spot on Earth. Who cares if it’s not actually in Las Vegas?

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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environment
Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

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