Meaning of Viva Las Vegas (Origin & Translation Explained)

If you’ve been to Las Vegas, you’ve probably seen the phrase Viva Las Vegas printed on t-shirts and billboards. But what does the expression actually mean?

Viva Las Vegas Meaning – Viva Las Vegas is a Spanish expression that translates to “long live Las Vegas.” It’s a phrase that is used to show appreciation for the city of Las Vegas.

The phrase Viva Las Vegas has been around for a long time, but it didn’t become popular until Elvis Presley started using it in the 1960s. Continue reading to learn more about the exact origin of the popular phrase and how Elvis made it famous.

Also See: What Does Las Vegas Mean?

Viva Las Vegas sign

Viva Las Vegas Meaning

When most people say Viva Las Vegas, they mean long live Las Vegas. If you translate each word literally, “viva” means “live,” while Las Vegas is translated to “the meadows. So in Spanish, the exact translation of Viva Las Vegas is Long Live the Meadows.

Viva or “Long Live” makes sense, but “The Meadows” may seem like an odd name for a city located in the middle of the desert. Although it sounds weird at first, the name makes more sense when you understand where it came from.

Las Vegas was given its name in the early 1800s by a Spanish explorer named Rafael Rivera. Explorers would often stop in the area to get water when traveling through the Mojave Desert.

He gave Las Vegas its name because parts of the Las Vegas Valley contain natural water springs and wells. At the time, these springs were surrounded by vegetation, which made the valley look like a meadow.

That’s how Las Vegas got its name, but the saying Viva Las Vegas was actually made popular by Elvis Presley.

The Phrase Came From an Elvis Presley Movie

Elvis Presley starred in a 1964 film called Viva Las Vegas (directed by George Sidney). The movie is about a race car driver named Lucky (played by Elvis) who comes to Las Vegas, Nevada to take park the Grand Prix Rice. His car needs a new engine, but he loses his money when he is pushed into a pool by Rusty Martin (played by Ann-Margret).

Lucky then has to work as a waiter at the hotel to pull together some cash. He ends up entering the hotel’s talent competition to win the cash prize and pay for his car’s repairs.

Elvis’s character ends up winning the race and marrying Rusty. Long story short, one of the songs that came out of the movie became a huge hit. Oddly enough, the song’s name is also Viva Las Vegas.

Where to see Elvis in Vegas Today

Las Vegas Elvis Presley impersonators can be found everywhere. You’re likely to see one or two of them simply by walking up Las Vegas Strip. Besides Las Vegas Boulevard, you can often find Las Vegas Elvis look-alikes on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas. There are also plenty of shows on the Strip about the King of Rock and Roll.

The Viva Las Vegas Song

Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas song came out of his Viva Las Vegas movie (it was the song he used in the movie’s talent show). Elvis never actually sang the song live, it was only recorded once in the film. This was also one of the few Elvis films that featured a completely unedited scene.

He didn’t write the song either, since it was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman for the film (fun fact: Elvis Presley didn’t write any of his own lyrics).

Where to Hear the Song in Las Vegas Today

Of course, you can re-watch the movie, but you can also listen to the song live in Las Vegas at the Bellagio Fountains. Viva Las Vegas is one of the 20 rotating songs played at the fountains.

It’s difficult to know exactly when this classic is going to come on, but the Bellagio plays a new song every 30 minutes from 3pm to 7pm (Monday through Friday). On the weekends, shows start every 30 minutes from 12pm until 7pm. Then shows are scheduled every 15 minutes from 7pm until midnight.

If you want to know exactly when the song is going to come on, you can also give the Bellagio a call. You can request that they play a specific song as well.

Modern Covers to the Song

The song Viva Las Vegas has been remade a couple of times. Two of the more notable Viva Las Vegas cover songs include ZZ Top and the Dead Kennedys. Some of the lyrics have changed, but you can clearly hear the similarities when the songs are playing side by side.

Interesting Facts About the Film

1. The Viva Las Vegas film is the shortest film of Elvis’ career. It’s only 1 hour and 25 minutes long.

2. Viva Las Vegas grossed nearly 10 million dollars, which was considered a lot at the time.

3. The movie earned more than the Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” which was released in the same year. Although Viva Las Vegas had a mixed reception, it was one of the most popular movies in the world.

4. Viva Las Vegas was filmed at a number of locations including the Sahara Hotel, Lake Mead Marina, the Frontier Hotel, the University of Nevada Las Vegas gym, McCarran Airport (now Harry Reid International Airport), and the pool at the Flamingo Hotel.

5. One of the movie scenes was filmed at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. At the time, the hotel had a skeet shooting range, which would certainly be considered dangerous today.

6. The wedding scene at the end of Viva Las Vegas was shot at one of the most famous wedding chapels in Las Vegas. The Little Church of the West, which has been around for 80 years, still stands today. You can visit it at 4617 S Las Vegas Blvd.

7. When the wedding scene was filmed, paparazzi at the time ran stories suggesting that Elvis and Ann-Margret had really gotten married.

8. Despite not actually getting married like they do in Viva Las Vegas, Elvis and Ann-Margret reported did have an affair. This didn’t sit well with his future wife and girlfriend at the time, Priscilla Presley.

9. Elvis was 28 years old when Viva Las Vegas was filmed. It was his 14th movie at the time.

10. After the release of Viva Las Vegas, Elvis became a regular headliner for shows in several Las Vegas casinos.

Related Article: How Often Does it Rain in Las Vegas?

What Viva Las Vegan Means

The meaning of Viva Las Vegas may be Long Live Las Vegas, but Viva Las Vegan means something completely different. It’s a parody of the iconic Las Vegas catchphrase repurposed for Vegans.

If you’re unfamiliar, the definition of a Vegan is someone who doesn’t eat any food derived from animals. They often avoid other animal products as well.

Since the word “Viva” means “live,” the phrase translates to “long live Vegans.” It’s mostly a joke, but many people are passionate about this lifestyle.

Ryan Ouellette

Ryan has been living in Vegas on and off for years now. Spending at least a couple of months each year in the city that never sleeps, he got to enjoy and experience what Vegas has to offer while building this blog from scratch. If you're looking for the best hotels, clubs or places to eat, he got you covered.

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