Leave it to Las Vegas to add some special and unique pizzazz to its educational landmarks. Since 1991, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum has served as a downtown oasis for tourists and locals seeking a learning adventure that is fun, quirky, and unlike any natural science center you'll encounter on your travels.
Situated between the Neon Museum and Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park in the Cultural Corridor, the museum transports visitors back in time through two floors of prehistoric and wildlife exhibits. As you self-guide through an impressive collection of taxidermy dioramas and life-size replicas of dinosaurs and Egyptian tombs, you will discover details about the challenging, desert landscape that surrounds this city of lights.
Nevada's Prehistoric Exhibit
Visitors will encounter presentations of Nevada's prehistoric past, including Leonardo, a 23-foot long mummified dinosaur who is so well preserved, researchers have been able uncover the texture of his skin, his internal organs, and even his last meal.
Meanwhile, the 35-foot long Tyrannosaurus Rex has the power to make any age group jump when it begins to roar. You can also size yourself up against the equally vocal triceratops, ankylosaur, and creepy eyed, "twisted claw" deinonychus.
Like most exhibits throughout the building, the displays here have been wired with buttons; push these for informative commentary and mood-setting sound effects.
The "Treasures of Egypt" Gallery
This gilded, main-floor gallery began as a ticketed attraction at the Luxor Hotel & Casino until it was gifted to the museum in 2010. The multi-million dollar recreation of King Tutankhamun's actual tomb in Luxor, Egypt—plus hundreds of artifacts from the burial chamber—are so accurate they have been authorized by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The best-known among the 500 pieces include a golden throne, golden shrine, chariots, and an outer sarcophagus from the pharaoh's tomb.
As you pass through the dimly lit corridors of this 4,000-square-foot exhibit, you'll also see cabinets filled with replicas of ancient treasures that provide an uncommon insight into life and death during the young pharaoh's reign.
In the African Rainforest exhibit, you can peer into a vignette of a jungle setting—upgraded with lightning and a rainy thunderstorm—inhabited by a menagerie of birds, reptiles, and mammals. Featuring more than 90 exotic and domestic species from the continent’s lower region, the African savannah exhibit likewise includes such indigenous animals as a lion, Cape buffalo, crocodile, leopard, rhinoceros, and lechwe.
Bighorn sheep, coyotes, and kit foxes take center stage in the Wild Nevada Gallery, which showcases the plants and animals found in the Mojave Desert through computer animation and interactive exhibits. Other towering displays feature bears, antelope, big cats, deer, and bison.
On the weekends, guides also permit a close, safely monitored view of some of the smaller—and fully alive—critters, including snakes, spiders, and creepy crawlers. Tarantulas, scorpions, and lizards remain protected behind glass.
The Marine Collection
In the marine exhibit, you'll find a 3,000-gallon tank full of colorful, live sea dwellers. Look overhead to see life-size recreations of different whale and shark species hanging from the ceiling. Visitor can see the staff feed sharks and stingrays every Saturday at 2 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
Encouraging the next generation of curious researchers is an important element of the museum's mission; behind the scenes, the building hosts an important working facility staffed by a full-time team preserving and storing artifacts and fossils discovered across the state.
In the Young Scientist Center, children can dress up as paleontologists, microbiologists, and marine biologists to get a feel for a future career in life sciences. While they're here, they can dig through sand to uncover fossils, skulls, and mastodon teeth.
Fun Facts Visitors Can Learn
Exhibits at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum showcase a lot of facts and figures about the denizens of each room. Visitors will learn things such as:
- Viperfish have such sharp, long teeth, if they were to close their mouths with their teeth inside, they would pierce their brains.
- The male humpback whale can mimic other whale songs and sing for up to a half hour at a time.
- Whales tend to their kind; they will push a sick or injured friend to the surface so it can breathe.
- Dolphins are mammals and part of the whale family.
- Sharks lose teeth when they eat, and replace as many as 25,000 teeth in a lifetime.
- Snakes eat the equivalent of their body weight in one year.
- Underneath all that white fur, polar bears have black skin.
- The panda is not part of the bear family, but are a member of the raccoon family.
- Penguins mate for life, and both parents take care of their young.
- Giraffes can grow to more than 18 feet tall.
- Wooly mammoths grew as tall as 14 feet and weighed as much as 10 tons. Their tusks not only protected them, but attracted mates.
Hours and Admission
The Las Vegas Natural History Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On New Year's Day and Easter, the museum opens at 11 a.m. It closes on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Unless there is a school group visit, the museum never feels crowded; early arrivals may have whole exhibit rooms to themselves.
Admission to the Las Vegas Natural History Museum is $12 for adults; $10 for senior citizens, members of the military, and students; and $6 for children between the ages of three and 11. Children who are two years old or younger are free.
How To Get There
The museum sits less than five miles north of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard at Washington Avenue, next to Cashman Field. The best way to get here is by driving or hailing a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. If you decide to drive, there are plenty of parking spaces outside the building.