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5 Unique Las Vegas Museums

Make time for learning in Las Vegas.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Unique Las Vegas Museums

Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoa

At the Casa de Shenandoa, you can view Wayne Newton's car collection and memorabilia from his life and career.(Courtesy of Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah)

Museums typically don’t make the list of things to do in Las Vegas, but Sin City has a number of worthwhile educational attractions. As noted by Kelly Messina, senior director of leisure sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, there are several museums that “pay homage to Las Vegas’ unique and interesting past that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.”

To curate your cultural sightseeing, U.S. News consulted some of the city's local experts for the top museums for learning in and about Las Vegas.

The Neon Museum

If you’re a first-time visitor to Las Vegas, Melinda Sheckells, editor-in-chief of Vegas Seven magazine, a weekly Las Vegas lifestyle magazine, says you must “go to The Neon Museum and see our rich visual history of signage because that is something that is so distinct and part of the DNA of the city.”

The museum’s outdoor exhibition space, known as the Boneyard, features a collection of more than 200 historic neon signs, including seven restored signs that light up at night. Architecture buffs will also appreciate the shell-shaped visitors center, originally constructed in 1961 to serve as the old La Concha Motel lobby. Designed by acclaimed African-American architect Paul Revere Williams, the structure was saved from demolition and moved from its Strip location to the museum, which is located just north of downtown.

Tickets are available online up to one month in advance and often sell out. Day tours are $19 and night tours are $26. Discounts are offered for seniors, students, members of the military, veterans and Nevada residents. Parking is free. The museum's collection is outdoors, so dress and hydrate appropriately. Given that there's broken glass and rusty metal on the grounds, the museum advises against bringing children younger than 10.

The Mob Museum

The Mob Museum(Courtesy of The Mob Museum)

You could spend a day exploring The Mob Museum’s three levels of criminal history, featuring interactive exhibits, hundreds of artifacts and stories about law enforcement and members of organized crime – including Al Capone and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. One of the grimmer displays is the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wall, which provided the backdrop for the 1929 assassination of seven gang members in Chicago and has the bullet holes to prove it. “It’s on par with the Smithsonian in the level of detail it offers,” says Carol Styles, concierge at The Venetian Las Vegas and The Palazzo Las Vegas.

If you purchase tickets online, admission is $19.95 for adults. Children 10 and younger are free. Discounts are offered for seniors, members of the military, law enforcement, students and Nevada residents. The museum also offers several combination tickets, including one with The Neon Museum, and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The National Atomic Testing Museum

“Because we’re so close to the testing site of Nevada, I think that The National Atomic Testing Museum is a really unique museum to see,” says Patrick Ritschard, chief concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. Exhibitions explore the history of nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site and the broader implications of nuclear weapons. It lets you see firsthand a large nuclear reactor used to develop the nuclear rocket. The museum also features other peculiar (and sometimes scary) artifacts such as the Backpack Nuke and pieces of both the Berlin Wall and the World Trade Center.

Located just a short drive from the Strip, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. General admission is $22 for adults, $16 for youths 7 to 14 and free for younger children. Discounts are offered for seniors, members of the military, students and Nevada residents.

Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah

Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah(Courtesy of Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah)

Casa de Shenandoah may not be a traditional choice, but the 52-acre estate of Mr. Las Vegas himself provides plenty to see and experience. At the property's museum, you can check out singer Wayne Newton's impressive car collection and memorabilia from his life and career. And while you're there, you can snap a picture of yourself sitting in the pilot’s seat of Newton’s old private jet.

There are a few tour options available. For $59, you can see the museum, visit the estate's exotic animal habitat where you can meet a capuchin monkey, and tour the actual mansion and the barn where Newton keeps Arabian horses. Discounts are offered for seniors, children and members of the military. The visitors center opens at 9:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday. Reservations are encouraged.

Discovery Children’s Museum

If you’re in town with kids, you'll be happy to know that the Discovery Children’s Museum is a top-notch cultural diversion for tykes. “It is a good place for kids of all ages to go,” says Doug Ward, former chief concierge at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and Delano Las Vegas. Located downtown in Symphony Park, the three-story building features nine themed exhibition halls full of things for kids to explore. Kids rave about the boardable pirate ship, complete with costumes, and the Water World exhibit, which, in addition to air-blowers and floating balls, includes a model of the Hoover Dam, so even the tots can learn about Vegas.

Hours vary by season. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. General admission is $14.50, and babies younger than 1 are free.

To experience more of what Las Vegas has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

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