Designer shops. Famous chefs running five star restaurants. Superficial, fake, surreal and expensive. And well, we are not exactly trying to say that is not true. But there’s so much more, if you’re willing to give the city a try.
The Neon Museum
The museum, run by a non-profit organization is a house to a huge number of iconic neon signs of the casinos and other famous establishments. As Stephanie Fox writes in her excellent blog post on the place, neon lights are everywhere in Las Vegas.
To visit the museum you’ll need to join a guided tour and we warmly recommend advance booking as tours tend to be super successful. We got lucky early in the morning, but by the time our tour ended the rest of the tours were fully booked.
If you have any background knowledge of the history of building Las Vegas, it’s famous names and events, these tours will fill in gaps and connect dots for you.
We’ve seen quite a many of the signs of the past establishments on the Strip and Downtown when they were still up on the roofs and above entrances. But so many signs we’re still hoping to see up close. So far, we haven’t seen the iconic Blue Angel, for example. She was taken down in 2017, will be given a face lift and then given a home at the Neon Museum’s collections.
The National Atomic Testing Museum
How much fun it would be observing atomic testing from a close proximity? Well, obviously it is dangerous and deadly as well sooner or later, but that was not thought of when the Nevada Test Site arranged public viewings – mushroom cloud, hurrah!
The explosive history of Las Vegas, The Atomic City, USA, is absurd: the advertisers lured visitors with atomic bomb themed ads and marketing, casino bars had atomic cocktails, held atomic parties. And the Miss Atomic Bomb contest, of course.
NATM is a national science, history and educational institution that tells the story of America’s nuclear weapons testing program at the Nevada Test Site and reminds us all of the madness of humankind. Our photos do not exist as we were totally sucked into the experience.
The Mob Museum
The National Museum of organized Crime and Law Enforcement is located in a former courthouse in the Downtown area, steps away from Fremont Street.
The interactive, multi-sensory museum takes you on a thrilling journey through the real history of organized crime in America. It’s origins, it’s operations, it’s networks and it’s effects as well as the role of the law enforcement.
Las Vegas has been an integral part of the game and there’s no better place for this particular museum than Sin City.
Again, you’ll get a deeper experience if you’ve read about the history of the city and have heard about the famous names that pop up around the exhibitions. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Meyer Lansky, Al Capone, Tony Spilotro, Charlie “Lucky” Luciano and so on.
By the way: did you know that the former Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar B Goodman used to be a lawyer of the mobsters? Only in Las Vegas! The latest additions to the museum are an operating Speakeasy and a distillery, taking visitors to the Prohibition era.
Pinball Hall of Fame
You’ll have endless rows of pinball machines, not just to see, but to play. The world’s largest collection of pinballs open to the public has no entrance fee, you only need some money to feed the machines. You can exchange your bills into coins here.
The collection has machines from different decades, from the earliest ones with a very simple mechanism running them to the latest, very sophisticated, popular culture branded ones.
Our favorites include pinballs such as the enchanting Theatre of Magic that sucks you into the mysteries of old school magic and Scared Stiff that is based on the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark stories. Both are very visual, detailed and the sound effects are crazy good. Unfortunately our photos are crap as they are old and later we’ve just been playing without anyone taking photos.
The current location of this pinball paradise is 1610 East Tropicana Avenue, but the guys running the establishment have purchased land from the Las Vegas Boulevard South to build a larger hall for the pinball enthousiasts.
Las Vegas these days is so many things, not just the stereotypes, and we recommend digging below the surface. There are many museums, cultural institutions and surprising places of interest you’d never think of finding in Las Vegas. Go check out our recommendations for 6 Day Trips from Las Vegas Strip and ideas for the Holiday Season in Sin City can be found in the post Christmas in Las Vegas?