Museums in Las Vegas

When you think of Las Vegas you think of gambling, showgirls, casinos, Cirque du Soleil, drinking and hookers. But Las Vegas actually has lot more to offer the culturally minded soul as the city is full of museums that range from the standard natural history museum to a pinball museum and everything in between. The museums in Las Vegas are truly plentiful and full of information and wonderful artifacts.

Liberace Museum & Foundation

The Liberace Museum & Foundation in Las Vegas was founded in 1979 by Liberace himself. The museum houses many of the performer’s favorite possessions including jewelry, antiques, apparel items, pianos and his custom car collection. The museum features two sections, one is packed with pianos and cars, a full blown explosion of extravagance. The other section is dedicated to costume and jewelry collections, a recreation of Liberace’s Palm Springs bedroom and an awards gallery. A collection of photographs, press clippings, mementos and memorabilia is available to students and researchers upon special request.

Nevada State Museum & Historical Society

The Nevada State Museum & Historical Society is located downtown in Lorenzi Park and features permanent exhibits which display the natural and anthropological history of the region. The highlights of the museum include a 190 million year old ichthyosaur fossil, a Paiute Indian exhibit and displays with pioneers and modern day inhabitants. The museum is rather small but you can extend your visit by taking a walk through the beautiful Lorenzi Park grounds.

Atomic Testing Museum

The Atomic Testing Museum is constantly under development and has been since its inception in 1997. The permanent exhibits show the history of the world through the Nevada Test Site and its programs. There are narratives from people involved in the Nevada Test Site, artifacts, environmental recreations, interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations to bring the message home. The Nevada Test Site was the country’s principal nuclear weapons testing facility from 1951 to 1992. The Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation was established to apprise the public of what happened during nuclear testing, the affects at the time and the current repercussions.

Las Vegas Natural History Museum

The Las Vegas Natural History Museum works to educate visitors about the natural sciences of the past and present. The museum opened to the public in 1991 with a diversified collection of wildlife and prehistoric exhibits. Many of the original exhibits were on loan but since then the museum has been able to collect its own multimillion dollar, world class collection. The collection isn’t simply limited to American southwest and desert inhabitants but reaches from Nevada to Africa, desert to ocean and from modern times all the way back to prehistoric. The interactive exhibits bring the museum to life for visitors and ingrains a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Neon Museum

Las Vegas’s Neon Museum was established in 1996 to collect and exhibit neon signs, claiming they are the classic art form of Las Vegas. More than 150 signs populate the museum and tell the story of Las Vegas through these garish displays of advertising. You can currently visit the neon museum by taking a self guided walking tour any time in the outdoor downtown gallery. The tour begins at the Neonopolis and extends down to 3rd Street. But most of the Neon Museum’s collection sits in their “boneyard”, a three acre storage area with more than 150 historic, non-restored signs. Guests can view the signs close up and personal. In the upcoming future the museum hopes to have the La Concha Motel lobby restored to serve as their visitor’s center.

Museum of Natural History at the University of Nevada Las Vegas

The University of Nevada Las Vegas’s Museum of Natural History  or the UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum and Xeric Garden is located only miles from the famed Las Vegas strip and features exhibits relating to the cultures and native wildlife of the American Southwest, Mesoamerica and the surrounding area. In the museum you will discover Native American textiles, pottery, basketry and jewelry, ethnographic material from Guatemala and Mexico, artifacts from the cultures of pre-Columbian Latin America and an irrigation system that helps provide for desert plants.

Pinball Museum and Hall of Fame

The Pinball Museum and Hall of Fame was established by the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club in an effort to display the world’s largest pinball collection. The games belong to one individual, Tim Arnold, and range in vintage from the 1950s to the 1990s. In the Pinball Hall of Fame all of the pinball games are available to play with any machine older than the 1990s priced at 25 cents a game and the newer models at 50 cents. It’s a fun adventure for everyone in the family and all proceeds go to charity.

Lied Discovery Children’s Museum

The Lied Discovery Children’s Museum opened in 1990 and has become an important educational outlet for children in Las Vegas. More than 1.6 million people have visited the museum and schools use it often for field trips. The 22,000 square foot museum features both permanent and temporary exhibits that give children a hands on learning experience with the arts, sciences, humanities and a deeper understanding of early childhood. There are sections that encourage interaction between children and adults, giving you both a chance to create memories and learn something about the world around you.

Lost City Museum

The Lost City Museum in Overton Nevada displays artifacts excavated from Pueblo Grande de Nevada where the Anasazi Indians once lived. The area was threatened by Lake Mead so excavation began to salvage what they could. The Lost City Museum building is created in the pueblo revival style and constructed of sun dried adobe bricks. Ongoing research and archaeological digs continue in the lost city today and special public programs are held throughout the year if you’re interested in learning more about the dig itself.

In addition to these full fledged museums, many of the casinos are adding museums of their own to highlight certain eras, artworks, collections, and oddities. Some of these museums are ever changing or on temporary loan so check often to see if there’s something in town that appeals to your cultural side.

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