The 10 Best Museums in Las Vegas

The Mob Museum Opens In Las Vegas
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

You might think that Las Vegas is not exactly a museum town, and you’d have a point. After all, people come here for sensory overload, but this city does specialize in immortalizing all its quirks. And there are quite a few museums you’ll find only here. There are museums dedicated to the almighty pinball machine, Liberace, and organized crime, for starters. Here’s what not to miss.

01 of 10

The National Atomic Testing Museum

Exhibits in the Atomic Testing Museum

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

755 E Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
Phone +1 702-409-7366

Downtown Las Vegas was a tourist draw in the 1950s not only for its nascent nightlife and gambling scene but also for the mushroom clouds you could view from the rooftops—exploding from the Nevada Test Site 65 miles outside of town. The National Atomic Testing Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, is one of the best attractions in Las Vegas, particularly for history buffs. The museum chronicles the state’s atomic history from its beginning, with artifacts, interactive modules (check to see how radioactive you are!), and actual equipment from the site. Don’t miss the simulator that allows you to experience bomb testing as the locals used to, from an “outdoor” seat watching an atomic explosion. (Spoiler alert: Even if you know it’s coming, you’ll still jump when the bomb goes off and the theater seats shake.)

02 of 10

The Mob Museum

People reading an exhibit in the Mob Museum

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

300 Stewart Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101, USA
Phone +1 702-229-2734

The Mob Museum (officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement) occupies the actual former federal courthouse where landmark hearings such as the 1950 Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime were held and where Oscar Goodman, former mayor of Las Vegas, defended real-life wise guys like Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro. The $42 million museum was created by the same team that designed the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

Don’t miss the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall, the bullet-ridden portion of the wall from a hit ordered by Al Capone’s Chicago outfit reconstructed from 300 bricks salvaged from the wall in 1967. Take an interactive history lesson in The Underground Speakeasy, which serves its own moonshine-based cocktails and other Prohibition Era favorites. The Crime Lab multimedia experience lets you learn about crime scene investigation, fingerprint and DNA analysis, and ballistics, and you can try your own hand at forensics.

03 of 10

The Neon Museum

 Row of decommissioned Neon Signs laying on their side in the Neon Museum in Las Vegas

Timothy Fadek / Getty Images

770 Las Vegas Blvd N, Las Vegas, NV 89101, USA
Phone +1 702-387-6366

The Neon Museum, a collection of 800 neon sign pieces from 200-plus properties dating from the 1930s, takes you through some of the retired icons of the Golden Age of Las Vegas. You'll see signs from Moulin Rouge, Lady Luck, Desert Inn, and the Stardust. The iconic La Concha Motel lobby stands as its visitor center. The best way to see it is at night: A guide will take you on a walk through the pathways of dramatically lit un-restored signs.

04 of 10

Nevada State Museum

Two stuffed bighorn sheep are a large part of a display on the Spring Mountains, at the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas
Mark E. Gibson / Getty Images
309 S Valley View Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89107, USA
Phone +1 702-486-5205

Originally in a cramped and outdated building, the Nevada State Museum moved its collection to a 70,000-square-foot, $50 million museum within the Springs Preserve. The massive Preserve is known for its interactive, bells-and-whistles “edutainment” format, and the new museum, which covers Prehistoric Nevada to the present, doesn’t disappoint. There's a touch screen to tell the story of continental drift, a 3D movie about the desert at night, a re-created railway, and casino ephemera from long-gone icons—including a $25,000 Dunes gambling chip and postcards from the likes of the Sands, Stardust, and Thunderbird casinos. Oh and don't forget about the museum's showpiece, a 43-foot-long ichthyosaur.

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05 of 10

Discovery Children's Museum

Illuminated neon sign above the entrance to the Discovery Children's Museum
WireImage / Getty Images
360 Promenade Pl, Las Vegas, NV 89106, USA
Phone +1 702-382-3445

Discovery Children’s Museum is full of interactive exhibits for kids. For older kids, there’s a lab and workspace for creators and builders that includes 3-D printers, a laser cutter, CAD software, and a kiln. But some of our favorite exhibits are for the littles, like Toddler Town, where your kids can draw with markers, listen to animal sounds, pretend to be train engineers, and try mining by loading fake rocks and boulders into an overhead bucket system. Other highlights include Patent Pending, where inventors can create contraptions to withstand an earthquake; a mystery town where kids can uncover clues; and a 70-foot, 13-level tower with slides and climbing tubes.

06 of 10

Pinball Hall of Fame

Rows of pinball machines in a large room

Courtesy of Visit Las Vegas

4925 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
Phone +1 702-597-2627

Perhaps you weren’t aware that there is a Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club, or that they have created a museum to display the world’s largest pinball collection. Now you are. The games range from the 1950s to the 1990s, all in one massive new 25,000-square-foot location of the Pinball Hall of Fame on the Strip, right across from the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. All the machines have been restored to like-new playing condition by serious pinball wizards. The older machines are set to 25 cents per game and 1990s models cost 50 cents per game. The Pinball Hall of Fame promotes itself as the antidote to the rule of the mindless slot machine and its no-risk, skill-involved, family-friendly fun will convince you.

07 of 10

Springs Preserve

Black and white butterfly on a pink and yellow flower with green leaves
Ethan Miller / Getty Images
333 S Valley View Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89107, USA
Phone +1 702-822-7700

Springs Preserve—a 180-acre preserve in the Mojave Desert just 3 miles west of the Strip—takes visitors through museums, galleries, and a living collection full of Gila monsters, foxes, and nocturnal critters like recluse spiders, sidewinders, and black widows. You can see Boomtown 1905, a recreation of the early days of Las Vegas a , as well as a beautiful butterfly habitat, and the Origen Museum, an alarmingly realistic flash flood room that simulates the desert phenomenon. Plus, admission to Springs Preserve includes access to the neighboring Nevada State Museum, so you can do them both in a day.

08 of 10

Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

Contemporary art in a gallery with white walls and light wooden floors

Courtesy of Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

4505 S Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
Phone +1 702-895-3381

Originally home to Nevada’s Desert Research Institute in the 1960s, this museum became a center for contemporary art and now houses rotating exhibits that include installations, ceramics, and paintings. It has also forged collaborations with community groups to reinforce diverse artistic and community representation. It has a stunning and important permanent art collection, and thought-provoking rotating exhibitions.

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09 of 10

Las Vegas Natural History Museum

Replica tyrannosaurus Rex facing a triceratops in the Las Vegas Natural History Museum

Courtesy of Las Vegas Natural History Museum 

900 Las Vegas Blvd N, Las Vegas, NV 89101, USA
Phone +1 702-384-3466

The Las Vegas Natural History Museum opened in 1991 with a collection of wildlife and prehistoric artifacts and has since built a world-class collection that spans not only the ages but also goes far afield from its original, local cache. For instance, you can see recreations of a tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops, ankylosaur, and raptor—all prehistoric animals that roamed this area. Live sharks and stingrays swim in a 3,000-gallon tank in the Marine Life Gallery while ice age mammals including saber-tooth cat, giant ground sloth, and prehistoric camel (all discovered in Las Vegas) get a gallery all their own. Visitors can even see one of only two Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities-approved replicas of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

10 of 10

The Liberace Garage

Liberace gaudy automobiles displayed at the Liberace Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada
Buyenlarge / Getty Images
5115 Dean Martin Dr UNIT 905, Las Vegas, NV 89118, USA
Phone +1 702-330-4225

The city’s original Liberace Museum closed in 2010, but several of the sequin-bedazzled Vegas icon’s famous automobiles went on display as an extension of Vegas’s Hollywood Cars Museum. There’s the crystal-studded 1956 Rolls Royce Phantom V Landau that Liberace once drove onto the Radio City Music Hall stage, the 1961 Rolls Royce Phantom V Sedanca de Ville (the only one ever built, and covered with etched-mirror tiles), and the star-spangled Bicentennial Rolls Royce, a 1952 Silver Dawn used for the “Liberace Show ’76.” The 5,000-square-foot garage is one of the best ways to capture the performer’s Vegas heyday. While you’re there, don’t miss the Delorean from "Back to the Future," cars from the "Fast and the Furious movies," and lots of other cinematic car stars.

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The 10 Best Museums in Las Vegas