Ten must-see museums in Vegas

Mosey down to these Vegas museums

While Las Vegas may not be a metropolitan city, many are surprised at just how much history, culture and other unique attractions you can find in town. With a number of museums and educational exhibits both on and off the Las Vegas Strip, you’ll learn a lot and have fun trivia to share with your friends back home. We selected 10 must-see destinations, ranging from animation and art museums to mobster-themed and science-related attractions. It might be a lot to see during your stay, but wouldn’t it be great to say you saw them all?

1. Mob Attraction Las Vegas: If you’re on the Strip and have time to kill in the afternoon, Mob Attraction Las Vegas at Tropicana gives you an insider’s look at the mob, along with an entertaining interactive experience. In addition to personal artifacts from the mob members’ families, you’ll have a blast talking with the actors throughout the attraction. These actors add to the experience by making you feel like you’re a part of the mobster scenarios. Virtual tour guides throughout the attraction include James Caan, Frank Vincent and Tony Sirico.

Located inside Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. Photo credit: Claude Monet, "Grainstack (Sunset)," 1891. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection.

2. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art: The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art  features work from famous artists borrowed from internationally known museums, as well as private collections. From now through January, 6, 2013, enjoy “Claude Monet: Impressions of Light.” The showcase features 20 pieces by French Impressionist Claude Monet. Noteworthy pieces include “Grainstack (Sunset),” seen at right, and “Morning on the Seine, near Giverny.” Visitors can also enjoy the monthly “Art & Wine: A Perfect Pairing” on the second Wednesday of each month. The event pairs wines from Bellagio’s cellar with artwork featured in the gallery’s current exhibition. Tickets are $38 ($30 for BGFA members). Guests must be at least 21 years old to participate. The next one is Sept. 12.

3. Penske Wynn Ferrari Masarati: Located inside Wynn Las Vegas, Penske Wynn Ferrari Masarati is the only factory-authorized Ferrari dealership in the state. These cars may cost as much as a mansion, but they’re certainly fun to look at. The first floor features two rows of cars with a spacious walkway. Plus, the natural lighting makes you feel more comfortable. On the lower level, you’ll find an even bigger collection. In addition to Ferraris, you’ll also see Masaratis and Indy 500 cars. You can also sit and take a picture inside a Ferrari. Picture packages vary and are available for purchase.

If you’re more into the old-school, visit The Auto Collections inside Imperial Palace. Car models include Rolls Royces, Corvettes, Volkswagen Beetles, Impalas and more.

4. Chuck Jones Experience: If you’re a fan of “Looney Tunes,” the 10,000-square-foot Chuck Jones Experience at Circus-Circus is one you don’t want to miss. You’ll be sure to get your Bugs Bunny fix.  My favorite is the little black and white kitten who hung out with the big bulldog. Brush up your history with trivia about Chuck Jones, the animator behind the legendary cartoons. You can also walk next to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tazmanian Devil and Elmer Fudd in the “How Do You Measure Up?” exhibit. Toward the end, create your own sound effects and voiceovers for a cartoon. Take a piece of the experience with you: The gift shop includes souvenirs of characters like Yogi Bear, The Flintsones and Peanuts.

If you’re coming to town this weekend, Ron Campbell, animator of Sesame Street, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and more will be available for a meet-and-greet, live art demonstrations and tutorials from Friday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 12.

5. Da Vinci The Genius: Open now through Oct. 15, Da Vinci The Genius inside the Venetian includes full-scale interpretations from his sketches. Da Vinci was not only an artist, but a musician, sculptor, inventor and architect as well. One of the most compelling exhibits in this museum is “Secrets of Mona Lisa.” Every mystery or unanswered question you had concerning this picture may just be answered (in case you were curious about her missing eyebrows).

Off the Strip

6. Pinball Hall of Fame: This may not be your traditional museum, but that’s the reason why you should visit Pinball Hall of Fame. If you’re an ’80s baby like me, this is something you’ll greatly appreciate. In fact, I still have my original 8-bit Nintendo, as well as my Tetris game. We’re all familiar with how long it took to blow the dust out of the cartridges to get them to work!  There’s something about playing Tetris at Pinball Hall of Fame that is so much cooler. Plus you don’t have to worry about waiting forever to get the game to work!

At Pinball Hall of Fame, you can play this, other retro arcade games and of course, rows and rows of pinball machines. Recognized as the largest collection of pinball machines in the world, you’ll have more than 200 pinball and arcade machines to choose from, both retro and modern-day models. Even if you’re not much of a gamer, looking at all the vintage pinball machines alone is entertaining.

The National Atomic Testing Museum is sure to blow your mind.

7. National Atomic Testing Museum: A trip here will definitely be the bomb.  If you’re a history buff, then National Atomic Testing Museum is right up your alley. The 10,000-square-foot museum has everything from interactive displays to short films and fun gizmos and gadgets you can toy with.  If you want a simple understanding of an atomic bomb, there’s a Disney film that helps break it down. The pop culture showcase is a lot of fun. You’ll see items like includes a Kix cereal box that once contained a toy atomic bomb ring, Atomic Fireball candy, a “Superboy” comic book, a “Peanuts” comic strip and much more. Books include “Survival Under Atomic Attack” and “Atomic Cocktails: Mixed Drinks for Modern Times.” Before you go,  make sure to test your own radioactivity.

Fans of “Roswell” and “X-Files” will also enjoy the museum’s Area 51 exhibit.

8. Mob Museum: Designed by the same team who brought you Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, downtown’s Mob Museum provides rich history about the mob. A trip to this museum is like walking through the pages of a history book all about the mob. Learn about mob history in not only Las Vegas, but the rest of the world. You can even read history about the Yakuza gang in Japan.

For fans of the “good guys,” the Mob Museum includes detailed history of FBI  investigators. You’ll even get to see a wire tap machine and listen in on old recordings. Another highlight includes the historic courtroom that held actual mob trials. There’s also a station where you can test your shooting skills. Fans of mob flicks can plop on one of the couches in the museum’s theater and enjoy famous clips from the movies at the end of the tour.

9. Neon Museum and Boneyard: They say one man’s trash is another one’s treasure.  While  the buildings may be long gone, the Neon Museum and Boneyard preserves these historic  signs that once lit up the city.  Available strictly by appointment, you’ll have an entertaining time walking by all the different signs in the three-acre Neon Boneyard.  Visitors need to call  (702) 387-NEON to schedule a tour. Tours tend to sell out, so plan ahead a week or two in advance. Tours last about an hour.

One of the many signs found at the Neon Museum and Boneyard.

If you are in the Fremont Street Experience area, keep your eye out for signs such as the Aladdin Lamp, Dot’s Flowers Sign and The Hacienda Horse and Rider, to name a few.

10. Lied Discovery Children’s Museum: Last but not least, we can’t forget about the kids. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll have fun tinkering with all the interactive stations at Lied Discovery Children’s Museum. The 22,000-square foot facility is considered one of the biggest children’s museums in the country. If you remember playing “house” as a kid, you’re going to wish this museum existed during your younger years. Not only do they have a fully furnished house for the little ones, but they also have a grocery store where they can shop, place items in a cart and check out. There’s even a bank in this area.  If we could rewind time back to 1986, I’d be here all day.

On the upstairs level, pose in front of a green screen, which will take a picture of your shadow. Music fans can toy with an interactive station that allows you test multiple instruments at once and even sing inside an in-house radio and studio. In addition, there are also plenty of temporary exhibits. That’ll be your reason to bring the kiddos back.

No matter what your interests may be, a trip to one of these Vegas museums will be sure to enlighten.



Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.