Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Sierra, GOOD, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including in the book The Future of Transportation.
It also helps residents of Vegas' many unincorporated communities determine whether they're covered by city services.
Of the nearly 40 million tourists who descended upon Sin City last year, more than 75 percent spent their nights on the Strip, the skyscraper canyon of Las Vegas Boulevard that hosts the most famous hotels and casinos.
Yet travelers who stepped no further than the Bellagio's environs or nearby McCarran Airport technically never made it to Vegas at all. The Strip is actually a little over one mile outside the city of Las Vegas, whose boundaries also exclude large patches of land inside the city itself. A look at an official map of Las Vegas' limits reveals rather startling lines in the sand (pin-drop at the Bellagio):
Similar to Miami, a mega-metro composed of countless smaller cities, Las Vegas contains a number of unincorporated communities, including Paradise (the largest unincorporated city in the U.S., according the to 2000 census), Winchester, and Enterprise.
So in spite of the city's iconic lights and heights, it can be difficult to know if you are, in fact, in Vegas at all. Happily, there's now a map for that, aptly titled "Am I In Las Vegas?" Developers Lou Huang, Ryan Closner and Lindsay Ballant worked with the City of Las Vegas to create the simple online tool, where you may enter an address or reveal your location to receive a delightfully unconvoluted yes or or no reply.
And no, this isn't just for Hangover-style trips gone awry. Las Vegas' patchworked boundaries can create confusion for utterly sober residents of unincorporated communities, who aren't uniformly covered by all city services. While LV's police and library system serve Winchester and Paradise, other essentials—such as public works, animal control, and parks and recreation—are provided to these non-municipalities by Clark County. On top of that, a postal worker won't deliver mail to "Paradise, Nevada"—homes and businesses must still identify themselves with the Las Vegas name.
This is all useful information for locals. But as New Year's Eve approaches, we look forward to an update that can not only pinpoint whether the fountain in which you awoke in is inside city limits, but also traces your movements the previous evening and maps a cab route to the city impound lot.
*This article has been updated with an image that reflects the correct address of the White House.