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Is Las Vegas Now a Museum City?

Travelers often think of museum cities as Paris, New York, Amsterdam, or Washington D.C., And rightly so.  But is Las Vegas starting to qualify as a city with good museum options?  It might qualify as a creative and diverse museum city with a mix of traditional museums and quirky, more unusual offerings.  

Here are some examples of Museums and other attractions that are well worth exploring in Las Vegas.

Neon Museum

Only in Las Vegas could you experience such a place. The Neon Museum features iconic signs created from metal, glass, and gasses like neon. This unique museum offers a fun look back to the glitz and glamor of old Las Vegas, with the illuminated signs that helped make it famous. Explore the retired signs of the past, some of which have been restored and some of which are aging gracefully. Nowhere else will help visitors feel Vegas’s true vibe and vibrance through the years. These signs have stories and memories. They are not forgotten but remembered fondly at this unique outdoor museum in downtown Las Vegas. Tours can be scheduled in advance, and advance tickets to the Neon Museum are recommended due to limited admissions.

Hoover Dam Museum, Boulder City

The small but informative Hoover Dam Museum is located inside the Boulder Dam Hotel in historic Boulder City.  Boulder City is just 45 minutes from Las Vegas and should be combined with any Hoover Dam Tour or visit Hoover Dam. Entrance is free, and visitors will learn a bit more about the building of Hoover Dam, originally Boulder Dam, and the 1930s era that supported its construction.  The Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum tells the story of the people who built the dam. Boulder City is the town that housed the workers who built Boulder Dam, later renamed Hoover Dam.  Excellent displays share historical photos and detailed information about the dam’s construction in the 1930s and the city’s history.  

Photographs, oral histories, and artifacts combine to help guests understand the real people involved with the construction of the dam. This was a town run by the federal government. It was very different from other emerging towns of the era.  Today, Boulder City still retains much of its original character.  

Admission is free. The historic hotel, Boulder Dam Hotel, which houses the museum, is also worth visiting.  Inside the hotel, there is an art gallery that offers a variety of local artists’ collections on display.

Shelby Museum

The Shelby Heritage Center is free and open to the public daily. A behind-the-scenes tour is available for an additional cost, which includes a gift bag with authentic Shelby merchandise. The self-guided tours are free any time!

Established in 2013, Shelby Heritage Center includes over 30 Shelby vehicles on display and shares the story of Carroll Shelby and the company he started in 1962. The Heritage Center is over 15,000 square feet.  The 150,000-square-foot production facility is where the vehicles are rebuilt and improved. The production facility allows customers to bring or send their Mustangs, trucks, and other cars to be rebuilt.  These vehicles will be enhanced with high-performance components, converting them into actual Shelby vehicles.  Visitors can watch the work on the conversions through windows into the production facility.  

The recent film Ford vs. Ferrari brings to life the competitive story and history of the auto racing industry. The film has also brought new fans to Shelby. The center shares the fascinating background of Carroll Shelby’s legacy.  

There is a Shelby store also, which offers various gifts, collectibles, and branded apparel.  The Shelby Museum is located at 6405 Ensworth Street, about 10 minutes south of the Las Vegas Strip.

Mob Museum

This is an incredible building, experience, and collection of interactive exhibits.  It is huge and full of amazing information.  Whatever you think you know about the mob is not enough.  This is a very fact-based museum with more history than you could have imagined about the mob’s interaction with Las Vegas and other areas.  This spreads over several floors of the original courthouse where the mob trials occurred. This beautifully restored, historic building helps bring the stories to life very realistically. Some visitors will spend hours at the Mob Museum and still not want to leave.  There is even a speak-easy down in the basement.  

Atomic Testing Museum

The Atomic Testing Museum is right in Las Vegas.  It is located on Flamingo Road, about 5 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. This fascinating museum includes interactive experiences such as the Ground Zero Theater, Learn How to Survive and Atomic Blast, and Radiation and Atomic Culture.

Everyone can learn and experience new things in the over 8,000 square feet of displays that present the development and testing of one of man’s most significant inventions: the nuclear bomb. The National Atomic Testing Museum tells the incredible story of the nuclear weapons testing program at the nearby Nevada Test Site.  Visitors walk through bomb shelters and underground bunkers, learning about the past and understanding more about the present and future.  The items on display are authentic.  The museum highlights 75 years of nuclear testing. The artifacts, equipment, and weapons help to tell the strange and fascinating story of the atomic age in Las Vegas.

Nevada State Museum

The Nevada State Museum includes a 13,000-square-foot permanent gallery that shares the local history from millions of years ago to present-day Las Vegas.  The museum offers an interactive visitor experience that interprets the history of Nevada.  Visitors hear how geology shaped the Great Basin, in which Nevada sits.  Learn about the plants and animals that inhabit Nevada.  See Nevada’s state fossil, the ichthyosaur. Learn about the cultural history of Native Americans, pioneers, miners, early settlers, ranchers, railroaders, and modern entrepreneurs. Learn about the construction of the Hoover Dam, the atomic era, and the creation of Las Vegas as the gambling mecca and resort capital of the world.  The museum sits in a beautiful building with views of the Las Vegas Valley and is adjacent to the Springs Preserve.  The Nevada State Museum is located at 309 S. Valley View Blvd, Las Vegas. It is open Thursday to Monday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  The entrance fee is included with admission to the Springs Preserve.

The Origen Museum at the Springs Preserve

The name “Origen” was created from two words: original and generations. It is the interpretive focal point for history at the Springs Preserve.  The Origen Museum features more than 75 permanent exhibits, including an indoor theater, traveling exhibit space, and an exciting, wet, flash flood experience.  There is an outdoor area with live animal exhibits that include lizards, Gila monsters, gray foxes, frogs, and rabbits.  You can learn about the famous 1905 land auction and the history and culture of the first dwellers in the valley. There are also Hoover Dam exhibits and modern water conservation and delivery.  A common theme among other buildings at the Springs Preserve is sustainability.  The Springs Preserve is open daily, and prices start at $9.95 for adults and $4.95 for children.  This is a very family-friendly center that encourages visitors of all ages.  The center often has activities planned for children and families.  There is also a film presentation, “Miracle in the Mojave,” at the Big Springs Theater, exploring the interaction between water and desert.   

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

Las Vegas’s superb exhibition venue, Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, presents exhibitions of sculptures, paintings, and other works on paper by some of the world’s most famous artists, like Warhol and Picasso. Rotating exhibitions offer visitors a rare opportunity to view important works of art carefully selected from prestigious international collections. Check their website to see what the current exhibition includes.  It is important to note that this is also within the Bellagio Hotel, which includes many artistic pieces to experience, including the Italian glass sculptures in the ceiling near the reception area.  

Immersive Van Gough Exhibit

The Original Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit is located at the Shops at Crystals adjacent to ARIA Resort & Casino, at 3720 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas. The Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated set designer David Korins has created an art experience where guests become part of Van Gough’s masterpieces. Many Broadway hits, including Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, were designed by Korins. This rare experience of becoming part of the color and light will bring art to life in a new way. Visitors can only feel the artistic presence of Vincent’s dreams and reality in Las Vegas.  Vincent is famous for his use of vibrant colors. You can let colors bloom into paintings on your phone through augmented reality software. Walk through his world.  See, feel, touch, and breathe in the artist’s feelings.  Unforgettably become part of his landscape. 

Pinball Hall of Fame

The Pinball Hall of Fame is located just across from Mandalay Bay, at 4925 South Las Vegas Blvd. This new location opened in 2021, expanding the center to 25,000 square feet, which is much larger than its previous location in Tropicana.     

The very best part is that you can play the games!  This is a huge nostalgia warehouse, offering you an experience like stepping into a time machine.  The past comes to life!  In the traditional museum-like sense, this is not a formal Hall of Fame.  Rather, it is a living, breathing cultural collection of fun.  It is a window to the culture of decades past.  Some machines may be much older than your memories. Some modern versions display amazing technology and innovation.  Most machines have an information card that shares the dates and history of that particular unit.  You will read the year each machine was made and any significant details. 

The entrance is free.  You can wander and enjoy the vintage displays without spending anything if you like.  But hopefully, you will spend a few quarters playing whichever pinball machines you choose.  Many of the older machines only cost the original 25 cents to play.  So have some fun and play!

The Pinball Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit 501c3.  The organization donates to charities such as The Salvation Army.  Tim Arnold established the Pinball Hall of Fame.  He has been very generous over the years, helping the community.  He has also shared joy and history with visitors from all over the world.

Clark County Museum

Las Vegas lies in Clark County.  There is a unique museum located in Henderson, about 20 minutes from the Las Vegas resorts.  The Clark County Museum includes some traditional indoor exhibits about the area’s settling, gaming development, and even firearms and the railroad. An unusual and interesting area of the museum is outside Heritage Street. This collection of historic buildings has been relocated to the site and brings the past to life. Famous homes, a print shop, railroad depot, wedding chapel, barn, and Airstream trailer have come together to share the past with us.  People of all ages will enjoy the well-preserved and maintained collection of architecture, history, and life stories that the area presents.  The museum sits on 30 acres and includes beautiful trees and a small walking trail.  

Museum of Natural History

In downtown Las Vegas, the Museum of Natural History is great for kids to enjoy.  Its live animals, natural history displays, and displays of wildlife offer a wide array to see and learn about. They also have a unique exhibit from ancient Egypt, acquired from the Luxor Las Vegas, which includes depictions of King Tut’s tomb.  

Museum of Selfies

This isn’t quite a museum in the traditional sense, but as art evolves, so does the definition of one. This venue is heaven for those that want to create selfie art.  If you want to take amazing photos and have lots of fun, this might be the right place to visit.  It is located on the LINQ Promenade, right in the center of Las Vegas.  

Bauman Rare Books

So this is a rare bookstore, not a museum. But the incredible collection of vintage, collectible and rare books makes this a stop worth including on a museum list.  My son visited a few years ago and could hold and look at the first edition of Alice in Wonderland, which he still remembers.  Amazing examples of maps, writings, and other documents share bits of history that will astound the visitors.  Works by world leaders, famous authors, and politicians fill the beautiful shelves.  It is a fun place to explore and learn more about history.  You might find a book or treasure you want to purchase and start or add to your own museum. Bauman Rare Books offers a 2300-square-foot gallery and features a private library and enough space for special exhibits and events.  They also offer free weekly introductions to book collecting.  The gallery is located in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Palazzo.  

Office of Collecting and Design

Jessica Oreck describes this experience as a “collection of collections.” This includes many small collections of obscure, random, and fascinating items.  Oreck has worked as an artist, animator, and filmmaker.  Her work has often used these items and given them purpose.  Some collections within the collection include teeth, dice, foreign gum, marbles, bird feet, metal bits, doll parts, animal toys, tiny spoons, and buttons.  

Visitors are welcome to open the drawers and find and explore where there is waiting to be seen.  It is a very hands-on destination.  Each of these objects begs to be seen and appreciated. There are displays on the walls, in the reading room, within jars, bureaus, shelves, and more.  It is a wonderland for explorers and discoverers.  

One of the magical things about this unusual little place is that it is available to be seen.  Many people have small or large collections of some of these things, but we rarely get to glimpse them.  This is a fun group of collections on display and available for the public to peruse and enjoy.  While it is not a collection of Faberge or Tiffany, it is a gathering of cultural and historical items, which build stories and spark the imagination and are well worth visiting.  Whether ordinary or extraordinary, rare or common, simple or complex, each “mini” collection has value.  It is often said that a sum is worth more than its parts, which is never truer than at this whimsical Office of Collecting and Design.

“My parents said I collected before I could walk. I was always gathering little collections of things. I think it’s a character trait. It’s an innate gene that I have, and I can’t escape it. When I was 12 years old, my aunt gave me some dice that belonged to my great-grandmother. And that was what kicked it off.”

Oreck has lived in Germany, Russia, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, and Mexico. This has added to the diversity and breadth of the collections.  It is fun to be able to handle the items and appreciate the nostalgia and past lives of the items.  It is important to be able to touch, move and compare many objects.  That makes for a much stronger visit than just viewing them on display. The Office of Collecting and Design museum is free to visit.  It is open on Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  On other days, an appointment is required and can be made by email to appointments@officeofcollecting.com or by calling 725-226-8355.  The location is 900 Karen Ave, Suite B-105, Las Vegas, Nevada.  The museum is free to enjoy. Walk-ins are welcome on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You need an appointment on most days. To book an appointment, visit officeofcollecting.com, email appointments@officeofcollecting.com, or call (725) 226-8355.

Children’s Discovery Museum

If you have young children, this is a must to discover.  The highlight is the Summit Tower, a 12-level climbing adventure of over 22,000 square feet, transporting children and parents through all three floors of the museum.  Each level has interactive displays and activities.  Young children will also love the Water World play area on the first floor.  Children of all ages will enjoy the pirate ship, Eco City, and the various activities and mini-classes available during the day.  The Children’s Discovery Museum is an incredible center and will be one of the highlights of your family trip to Las Vegas.  

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden

While this is not a museum, it is worth mentioning, and with some imagination, it might be called a “living” museum full of plants, water, and wonderful smelling air.  You can visit the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden inside the beautiful Bellagio Hotel.  The display changes with the seasons.  With incredible attention to detail, the masters of engineering and horticulture create sensory experiences that amaze guests.  The fresh-smelling flowers and plants combine with the visual beauty under a glass-enclosed conservatory.  This is a spectacular place that truly delights visitors.  Even if you have seen it in the past, a future visit will be different and unique and will surprise and entertain you all over again. 

Historic Gondola Display at The Venetian

Inside the Venetian Palazzo complex, you can find an amazing display and information on the history of gondolas in Venice. There is a beautiful historic gondola with excellent historical information.  This is a history rich in details and personality.  The fun part is that visitors can book a ride on a modern, authentic gondola through the canals of The Venetian after learning a bit about the history.  The canals and floating gondolas of The Venetian are modern masterpieces, reflective of the age of the Renaissance.  The details are amazing.  A ride is well worth it.  Enjoy the splendor that is St. Mark’s Square. Sit down, relax, enjoy a snack or a meal, and watch the world pass by you.  There are often music ensembles or street performers to entertain visitors.  There are cafes and snack options in St. Mark’s Square.  The ceiling is painted like a blue sky with clouds, and you will feel that you are outside in perfect weather.  But a ride on the gondola will remain in your memory forever.

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