Get Cultured: 10 Las Vegas Museums Sure To Entertain And Educate
By Heather Turk
Las Vegas Local Expert
Las Vegas is known as the Entertainment Capital of the World for a reason: there's something to entertain visitors of all types. While it's true most people come to the city to gamble or see one of its lavish productions, there are plenty of attractions to entertain and educate guests as well.
For those who miss the "good old days," the Neon Museum proudly displays the signs of Las Vegas' past in a two-acre boneyard downtown. Also downtown is one of the city's newest "hit" attractions, The Mob Museum, which tells the story of organized crime in America and the brave men who fought against it.
Got kids? The DISCOVERY Children's Museum recently moved into a beautiful new building next to the Smith Center, while the Las Vegas Natural History Museum is sure to impress younger guests with its 35-foot-tall T-Rex. The Nevada State Museum also recently relocated next to the family-friendly Springs Preserve.
There's plenty of culture amidst the glitz and glamor of the Strip, too, including one of Las Vegas' most popular attractions: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Art aficionados are sure to love the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, while The Chuck Jones Experience will entertain animation lovers both young and old. Classic car enthusiasts, meanwhile, should race on over to world's largest classic car showroom: The Auto Collections at The Quad.
For more on these and other local museums (the National Atomic Testing Museum is a real blast!), check out our list of Las Vegas' 10 best museums.
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Dinosaurs, marine creatures and animals native to Africa and the Nevadan Mojave Desert are highlighted at this family-friendly museum. Through its interactive exhibits, educational programs and the preservation of its collections, the museum teaches visitors about the complex relationship between humans and the ecosystem. Live animals and taxidermy displays amaze and entertain, and the hands-on gallery lets kids dig for fossils and observe animal tracks. The museum also offers continually changing weekend programs. Permanent exhibits include The Treasures of Egypt, which features nearly 500 reproduced artifacts including the tomb of Tutankhamun; a Marine Life Gallery with small sharks, stingrays and fish; a Young Scientist Center; a Geology and Prehistoric Mammal Gallery; an African Savannah and Rainforest; a Nevada Wildlife Gallery; and a Prehistoric Life Gallery featuring a 35-foot-tall T-Rex. (702-384-3466)
DISCOVERY Children's Museum
Located in the new Donald W. Reynolds Discovery Center, a three-story, 58,000-square-foot building adjacent to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, this interactive children's museum features more than 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, including a 5,000-square-foot traveling exhibition gallery. Offering exhibits in science, arts and culture and early childhood development, guests of all ages can watch daily demonstrations and participate in various programs and activities. One exhibit that's not to be missed is Water World, where, among other hands-on activities, visitors can interact with models of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the new Bypass Bridge. The museum even features a desert-themed exhibition specifically designed for its youngest visitors: Toddler Town. (702-382-3445)
The Auto Collections
Located on the fifth floor of The Quad's parking garage, The Auto Collections features a variety of antique, classic, muscle, famous and infamous cars. Visitors are able to tour the facility daily and see more than $100 million worth of inventory for sale. During a visit to the classic car extravaganza, guests can listen to an hour-long recording which includes facts on some of the most notable automobiles in the collection, including the limo President JFK rode in a week before his assassination, the Suburban from the hit television show "The Sopranos" and talk show host Johnny Carson's Chrysler Royal. Who knows? If you hit it big at the tables, you might even drive off in a piece of movie history; Eleanor, the famous Mustang from the 2000 action hit "Gone in Sixty Seconds," is currently on sale for $375,000. (702-794-3174)
The Chuck Jones Experience
Like a cartoon come to life, The Chuck Jones Experience is an engaging museum that celebrates the legacy and creativity of legendary animation director Chuck Jones. Amongst Jones' many creations were the Road Runner, Pepe Le Pew and Wile E. Coyote. Visitors will learn more about how these characters were developed while viewing some of the original drawings made by Jones. Guests can also find their inner artist as they journey through the attraction, which includes interactive learning activities, screenings of animated films and more than 250 displays of art. Be sure to visit the Acme Workshop, where visitors can try their hand at creating sound effects and voice-overs for an actual Chuck Jones cartoon. (702-224-2580)
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
One of Las Vegas' most talked-about museums, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition houses an enchanting collection of artifacts recovered from the infamous ship's wreckage. Visitors can walk through authentically recreated first- and third-class rooms and have their pictures taken on a full-scale recreation of the Grand Staircase. The Promenade Deck even allows guests to experience the frigid temperatures of that fateful April night. From now until May 31, guests can see 15 of the most prestigious artifacts ever recovered from the wreck site thanks to "Jewels of Titanic," a special limited-time exhibition that's included with each paid admission. Featuring diamonds, sapphires, pearls and gold jewelry that once belonged to some of Titanic's wealthiest passengers, this could be the last time to view these remarkable artifacts together in one place. (702-262-4400)
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
One of Las Vegas' premier cultural destinations, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art features ever-changing exhibitions exposing both tourists and Las Vegas residents to incredible works and artists. Currently on display through Oct. 27, 2013, is "Warhol Out West," the only comprehensive Warhol exhibition in the United States outside of his namesake museum in Pittsburgh. Focusing on the iconic artist's depiction of all things Western, the pioneering exhibition features 59 of Warhol's works including paintings, sculptures, photographs, screen prints and wallpaper. Exhibits include Warhol's 1960s Pop paintings of celebrities and consumer products; the 1980s advertisement series; the beloved "Double Elvis" painting; and his rarely seen "Cowboys and Indians" series. Audio tours are included in the price of admission and a complimentary docent tour is offered daily at 2 p.m., taking visitors throughout the exhibit while providing an in-depth look at Warhol and his extensive range of artwork. (702-693-7871)
National Atomic Testing Museum
One of the top science and technology museums in the United States, the National Atomic Testing Museum tells the story of atomic weapons testing during the 1950s. Visitors can experience a simulated atomic test in the Ground Zero Theater; watch an original Disney cartoon from the 1950s explaining atomic energy; and see the actual drill bits used in creating the mammoth underground tunnels. Visitors can even have their picture taken with Miss Atomic Bomb. There's also a new exhibit, "AREA 51: Myth or Reality," that explores the scientific information on a recently declassified top secret aircraft designed and tested in AREA 51. Since opening on March 26, 2012, "AREA 51: Myth or Reality" has quadrupled the number of visitors to the museum. (702-794-5151)
Nevada State Museum
Located at the Springs Preserve, the Nevada State Museum is home to a variety of permanent and changing exhibits that offer a fascinating look at the state's history and natural history. Highlights include a 14-foot-tall Columbian Mammoth skeleton and an Ichthyosaur, Nevada's state fossil, which lived in the waters that covered Nevada 225 million years ago. Guests can also hear tales of the famed Comstock Lode, as characters from Nevada's most famous gold and silver strike come to life. In addition to the engaging exhibits, the museum has a research library that focuses on southern Nevada history, an education lab, meeting rooms and spacious banquet facilities. The museum store also carries a variety of goods, including Native American jewelry, collector items, books, children's items and Nevada-made products. (702-486-5205)
The Mob Museum
Educating visitors not only about the history of organized crime in America, but also about the men who fought it, The Mob Museum features three floors of engaging exhibits, including high-tech theater presentations, iconic one-of-a-kind artifacts and interactive, themed environments. Located in a historic Downtown Las Vegas building which was formerly a federal courthouse and United States Post Office, The Mob Museum has enlisted the help of notable museum experts to help them present a rounded view of this chapter of American history. These are names that many people recognize from the movies, but The Mob Museum gives the real story. You'll learn about Al Capone, Tony Spilotro and Whitey Bulger, among other infamous men who once played important roles in American organized crime. This isn't a one-sided story, though, so you'll also learn about law enforcement agents like Joe Pistone, who went undercover as Donnie Brasco. (702-229-2734)
The Neon Museum
Las Vegas is known for lots of things, including its wealth of colorful neon. But where do old signs end up? If they're lucky, in the possession of the Neon Museum. Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic and cultural enrichment. In addition to an approximately two-acre Neon Museum campus, which includes the outdoor exhibition space known as the Neon Boneyard, the museum also encompasses a visitors' center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby as well as several restored signs installed as public art throughout downtown Las Vegas. If you haven't visited in a while, be sure to check out the Neon Boneyard, which now features some electrified signs as part of its permanent collection. (702-387-6366)
About Heather Turk
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Heather's byline has appeared everywhere from The Los Angeles Times to Playboy.com--with her review of The Truman Show making the front page of The Detroit News' movie section when she was just 16 years old. When she's not at her computer writing a story for one of the many outlets she freelances for (including Allegiant Air's in-flight magazine Sunseeker, the Los Angeles Times Las Vegas Guide and CBS Las Vegas), she can often be found at the movies, on the Strip checking out the latest restaurant/show/spa/hotel opening or at Disneyland.
Read more about Heather Turk here.