The "vintage rooms" remain popular with some guests.

"They like to be in the old-fashioned rooms right above the casino," Nolan said.

You can still find vestiges of long-gone properties downtown. Lighted signs that once welcomed guests have been restored and plugged in along Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. At the intersection of the two, an oversized horse, its rider dressed in colorful strands of neon, stands atop a pole near the eastern end of the Fremont Street Experience. It once welcomed people to the Hacienda, on land now occupied by Mandalay Bay.

Other salvaged, once-again shining signs include those from the Chief Court Hotel, the Flame restaurant and the genie's lamp from the original Aladdin. (For details, click on "The Collection" at http://www.neonmuseum.org.)

As Shono observed, Vegas used to be a kinder, gentler place. But even back in the day, it was too crowded and crazed for some famous folks. They preferred the serenity and natural beauty of Spring Mountain Ranch.

Located about 20 miles west of the Strip, the ranch was, in the 1800s, a watering hole along a shorter, alternate route of the Old Spanish Trail.

In 1947, radio star Chet Lauck, half of the "Lum and Abner" show, bought the 520-acre ranch and built his personal retreat. The exterior of Lauck's two-story home — now part of the beautiful Spring Mountain Ranch State Park ([702] 875-4141, http://www.parks.nv.gov/smr.htm) is made of locally quarried sandstone. Inside, the walls feature knotty pine. The ceiling beams are redwood. A huge fireplace and hearth in the great room are of brick removed from Los Angeles' Olvera Street.

Volunteers lead visitors on tours through the house, which reeks of history. Among the many surprises is the "secret bedroom" built by a later owner, German actress Vera Krupp. It's hidden behind pine panels in Krupp's boudoir.

"She was the last person who lived here full-time and operated it as a cattle ranch," said docent Sarah Murphy, who notes that the property was sold in the '60s to reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

"We've never had any proof that Mr. Hughes was ever here," Murphy said but noted that his senior advisors used the place for weekend getaways. The heliport they built is now the site of the popular Super Summer Theatre ([702] 594-7529, http://www.supersummertheatre.org), which stages musicals each June through September, with the mountains providing a majestic backdrop.

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