Las Vegas has loads to delight every type of vacationer: incredible dining, unique attractions, sumptuous spas, and the most fascinating museums you’ll find anywhere. While many of the city’s prime cultural institutions remain undiscovered by visitors, we’re here to introduce you to these hidden gems.
A veritable mecca of the lost arcade art, Pinball Hall of Fame’s unassuming exterior gives no hint to the multicolored glow of the more than 200 machines that ping and ding that welcomes visitors into this 10,000-square-foot space. Pop culture touch points like Ghostbusters and Space Jam mingle with quirky offerings like Dr. Dude and His Excellent Ray, drawing visitors of all ages looking for a radical dose of nostalgia. All the machines – some dating back to the 1950s – are owned by Tim Arnold, a former arcade operator and member of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club. The nonprofit, volunteer-staffed museum donates a portion of its revenue to charity. For a handful of quarters, you’re promised a uniquely memorable gaming experience playing the world’s largest pinball collection.
Those looking to pay their respects to the hotels and casinos of retro Vegas can kneel before the likes of the Stardust, Fitzgerald’s and Riviera signs at this colorful, two-acre attraction featuring more than 200 neon wonders originating as far back as the 1930s. Neon’s newest mural (across from the Neon Boneyard) is “From the Land Beyond Beyond,” by Las Vegas artist James Stanford. The 154-foot mural spans the south wall of the museum’s newly acquired Reed Whipple building, and celebrates Las Vegas’ iconic landmarks, including the Stardust Resort & Casino. Can’t make it there in person? You can visit the museum from anywhere with the 360 Virtual Tour.
You can fool your friends into thinking you had a Vegas celebrity run-in with a selfie next to one of the frighteningly lifelike doppelgängers at Madame Tussauds in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian Resort. While the museum has locations across the country – and the one that started it all is across the pond in London – Vegas has bragging rights as the home of the first U.S. outpost. It’s studded with more than 100 wax renderings of stars including Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus and DJ Steve Aoki, along with Vegas legends like Elvis, Wayne Newton, and Siegfried and Roy.
Formerly a natural history museum, Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art does double duty as both a fine art gallery and a lively community gathering place at UNLV. The exhibition space is broken up into four spaces – East Gallery, West Gallery, Window Gallery and Center Gallery. On any given day, you might see a nationally acclaimed artist giving a free lecture, a socially distanced workshop, or an inclusive community event. Rotating art exhibitions, ranging from paintings and tapestries to ceramics and sculptures, enlighten visitors while exploring themes such as culture, identity and power. While the museum accepts donations, admission is free. The museum is currently open to the public by appointment only.
One of the newer “museums” in town is also the scariest: It’s half oddities collection, half haunted house, and 100% eerie. And now, with reduced capacity, the spooky spaces feel that much more ominous. The museum is housed in a 1938 Tudor mansion, reportedly the site of dark and demonic happenings in the 1970s. Owner Zak Bagans, a paranormal investigator and host of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, has created a spine-tingling, sensory experience that showcases his incredible trove of macabre treasures. Tour guides clad in all black lead visitors through 30 rooms furnished with frights such as possessed dolls; the dybbuk box (a wine cabinet reputed to be the most haunted object in the world); and the staircase from Bagans’ documentary, Demon House. With scream-worthy surprises lurking around every corner, don’t be alarmed if you experience unexplained aches – you’ll join the ranks of visitors who attribute temporary physical ailments to the unsettled spirits that dwell here.
Put on your sunglasses and enter the world of Bulger, Bugsy and Baby Face Nelson. Each floor of this three-story former post office and city courthouse, built in 1933, is dedicated to a different era of criminal history, with exhibits that tell the tales of both ruthless mafiosos and the unlucky souls who got caught in their crosshairs. A courtroom experience allows visitors to witness the drama of the 1950’s Kefauver hearings through video reenactments and trial footage, and the new Global Networks exhibit drives home the broad impact of organized crime today with a 17-foot-wide touch-screen wall. Even the docents here fully commit to the part, donning fedoras and suits. Don’t miss The Underground exhibit, including a basement speakeasy, where you can sample moonshine distilled on site and buy hand sanitizer made and bottled on site in the museum’s distillery with 80% denatured alcohol.