search

Best Museums in Las Vegas

Las Vegas' 10 best museums: explore mobsters, ghosts, neon and more


Las Vegas’ museums cover a wide range of interests, from the city’s history with the mob to family-friendly educational experiences. Visitors will find award-winning collections, hands-on opportunities for kids and a few unusual museums that are uniquely suited to Las Vegas.

At The Neon Museum, visitors can wander through a boneyard filled with the fabled signs of Las Vegas' past. Nearby, The Mob Museum is located in a historic downtown building that once held some of the Kefauver Hearings and today explores the history of organized crime.

If museums dealing with unusual subjects intrigue you, Las Vegas has a couple of collections you may enjoy. Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum is located in a historic building that’s reportedly haunted, and it’s home to a vast collection of paranormal objects. The history of atomic testing is the focus at the National Atomic Testing Museum, a subject that ties into Las Vegas’ history as a place tourists once came to watch mushroom clouds from the above-ground detonations 65 miles away.

For those looking for something educational to do with the kids, the DISCOVERY Children's Museum will take everyone in the family on a hands-on learning experience. The Origen Museum at the Springs Preserve also employs interactive exhibits to tell the history of Southern Nevada, and live animal exhibits showcase the native critters found in this part of the Mojave Desert.

Scroll down to keep reading about Las Vegas' 10 best museums.


Advertisement

Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Photo courtesy of 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 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.

Recommended for Museums because: Everyone in the family will enjoy the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, where visitors can see exhibits ranging from an Egyptian tomb to live animals.

Terrisa's expert tip: Shark feedings are held regularly in the Marine Life Gallery. While times and days may vary, feedings are generally held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:30 p.m., but visitors should check ahead for the current schedule.

Read more about Las Vegas Natural History Museum →


DISCOVERY Children's Museum
Photo courtesy of DISCOVERY Children's Museum


Located in the Donald W. Reynolds Discovery Center in 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.

Recommended for Museums because: With interactive exhibits that are educational for everyone in the family, the DISCOVERY Children's Museum is a place kids and adults enjoy.

Terrisa's expert tip: On the museum's website, people can take a virtual tour of the three-story DISCOVERY Children's Museum to get a sense of what the museum is like. As a bonus, anyone who finds the ten hidden leprechauns in the tour gets 10% off an online ticket purchase.

Read more about DISCOVERY Children's Museum →




The Clark County Museum doesn't just tell visitors about the history of Southern Nevada--it shows them with historic buildings and artifacts. Located in Henderson, this unique museum is home to a street of restored historic buildings that were transferred to the museum's grounds. Visitors can walk through the buildings and experience a trip back in time to one of several prior eras. In addition to the houses along Heritage Street, the museum's 30 acres include an exhibit hall, a "ghost town," mining equipment, a train depot and vintage train cars, a caboose and a 1918 Union Pacific steam engine. The majority of the museum takes visitors outside and includes a half-mile nature trail where guests can see native flora and fauna.

Recommended for Museums because: The delightful Clark County Museum takes visitors back in time with restored historic buildings and exhibits exploring Southern Nevada history.

Terrisa's expert tip: Since the majority of the Clark County Museum requires walking outside, if you time your visit for earlier in the day you can enjoy cooler temperatures and have a better chance of seeing birds and other wildlife.

Read more about Clark County Museum →


Advertisement


Las Vegas has a long and rich history, and the Origen Museum does a tremendous job educating visitors about that history. Located at the Springs Preserve, which was built on the site where Las Vegas got its name--artesian springs were once a prominent feature of the area--Origen is a fascinating place for both children and adults. More than 75 permanent exhibits offer guests the chance to learn about Las Vegas. The history of the area goes back thousands of years, although most people only think of the Las Vegas we currently know, which began in 1905 when the railroad auctioned off plots of land in downtown Las Vegas. Origen explores the entirety of the area's history with interactive features, as well as exhibits featuring live native animals.

Recommended for Museums because: The Origen Museum explores the history of Las Vegas with exhibits that will engage the entire family.

Terrisa's expert tip: Be sure to visit the flash flood exhibit, which simulates a flash flood, complete with rushing water. It's one of the museum's most popular exhibits.

Read more about Origen Museum →




Fans of haunted houses, ghosts and other spooky things will find a large collection of paranormal items at Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum. Located in a house that's allegedly haunted, the museum is packed with artifacts carrying seriously scary histories. Visitors may recognize Bagans' name from the show "Ghost Adventures," where he investigates paranormal activity. The museum houses a collection he's assembled and includes the Dybbuk Box, a staircase from a haunted Indiana house known as the "Demon House" and even the VW van where Dr. Jack Kevorkian ended the lives of people suffering from terminal illnesses. Every item comes with a story, and sightings of mysterious, ghostly figures have been reported. Guests must be 16 or older to enter.

Recommended for Museums because: Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum holds a large collection of paranormal objects inside a house that many believe is haunted itself.

Terrisa's expert tip: Paranormal enthusiasts may want to try out the Late Night Flashlight Ghost Tour, which allows up to 20 people to explore the darkened museum with flashlights.

Read more about Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum →


Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International


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. Past exhibitions included collections of Picasso, Faberge, Warhol, and Lichtenstein. Past shows have also displayed exceptional pieces from Las Vegas collectors as well as Japanese art. This small gallery may be compact, but exhibits are carefully curated to bring in well-known artists and unusual collections. Exhibits rotate frequently, so it's a must to check ahead on the website to see what's currently on display. Purchasing tickets in advance is a good idea, and opening times may change due to private functions.

Recommended for Museums because: The Bellagio Gallery of Fine art features rotating exhibitions that feature leading names and thought-provoking collections.

Terrisa's expert tip: Through October 10, 2021, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is displaying works inspired by the world of boxing in the exhibition "Leather Throwers." Items on display include pieces from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, as well as Las Vegas-specific artifacts.

Read more about Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art →


National Atomic Testing Museum
Photo courtesy of 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 in the U.S., which began in the 1950s and lasted until 1992, when the last test was conducted. 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 tunnels used in underground detonations. Visitors can even have their picture taken with Miss Atomic Bomb. The museum's displays take visitors on a journey from the early days of atomic testing through the Cold War with a focus on the Nevada Test Site, where above-ground and underground tests were performed.

Recommended for Museums because: The National Atomic Testing Museum details the unique history of atomic testing and the Nevada Test Site.

Terrisa's expert tip: Visitors can see a piece of the Berlin Wall, which represents the end of the Cold War, as well as two pieces from the World Trade Center.

Read more about National Atomic Testing Museum →


Nevada State Museum
Photo courtesy of Matt B. Brown, Nevada Magazine


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. The museum store also carries a variety of goods, including Native American jewelry, collector items, books, children's items and Nevada-made products.

Recommended for Museums because: The Nevada State museum holds exhibits covering every aspect of Southern Nevada history from fossils to the Las Vegas Strip.

Terrisa's expert tip: The museum's Showgirl Wall features the elaborate costumes and other memorabilia from some of Las Vegas' most well-known shows, like Lido de Paris, Folies Bergére and Jubilee.

Read more about Nevada State Museum →


The Mob Museum
Photo courtesy of The Mob Museum


Educating visitors not only about the history of organized crime in America, but also about the law enforcement personnel 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.

Recommended for Museums because: The Mob Museum looks at the history of organized crime and its influence in Las Vegas and beyond.

Terrisa's expert tip: One of the most iconic artifacts at The Mob Museum is a brick wall from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Members of Al Capone's gang lined up seven rival gang members in front of the wall and shot them on February 14, 1929.

Read more about The Mob Museum →


The Neon Museum
Photo courtesy of 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. Visits to the Boneyard at sunset or after dark allow for prime viewing of the signs that have been electrified.

Recommended for Museums because: The Neon Museum gives visitors a new way to appreciate the colorful history of Las Vegas.

Terrisa's expert tip: While the Neon Boneyard gets the majority of attention from visitors, the North Gallery holds unrestored signs from the museum's collection and is where the immersive audio/visual show called "Brilliant!" takes place--it reanimates the historic signs with special effects and is the largest augmented reality experience of its kind.

Read more about The Neon Museum →


Map

Meet Terrisa Meeks

Terrisa Meeks is a native born, life-long resident of Las Vegas. She's watched Las Vegas grow and change over the years, especially the ever-evolving Las Vegas Strip. She still enjoys hanging...  More About Terrisa

×