In a city that contains replicas of an Egyptian pyramid, the Eiffel Tower and New York’s Coney Island, calling something “weird” might seem a bit redundant. After all, Las Vegas has built its fortune on the over-the-top, the extraordinary and the shocking.
So it only makes sense that even the slightly more educational attractions in the city lean toward the unusual end of the spectrum. Sure, there are some quite serious and thought-provoking museums scattered throughout the area, which in and of itself has a rich and fascinating history, but the vast majority of Sin City’s museums veer toward the unusual — or even the downright weird.
When you begin to plan your holiday in Las Vegas, think about taking a break from the casinos and the clubs and visiting one of these truly unique exhibits.
Pinball Hall of Fame
Today’s video games might be incredibly realistic experiences with life-like graphics and complex rules, but once upon a time, arcades were packed with pinball machines, which arguably required as much skill and strategy as the modern computerized games. You can recapture those days at the Pinball Hall of Fame, which features more than 100 classic pinball games, all restored to their original condition. And this isn’t some stuffy “don’t touch” type of museum — most of the pinball games are still working and able to be played for just a couple of quarters.
The Neon Museum
Perhaps no other city in the world has as much neon as Las Vegas — the Strip is literally a blinking, blaring, shining light show at all times of day. But have you ever wondered what happens to all of those signs when resorts close or are remodeled? There’ a good chance that they end up at the Neon Museum. Housed in the former La Concha Hotel lobby, the Neon Museum visitor’s centre offers a look at the historical significance of Vegas’ neon signage, offering visitors an education in the scientific and design principles of neon signs, as well as its role in the city’s culture. But the real highlight of the museum is the Neon Boneyard, which is the final resting place for many of the city’s old neon signs. Here you can explore the hundreds of pieces, many of which date back to the earliest days of the city.
The National Atomic Testing Museum
The only national museum in Nevada, the National Atomic Testing Museum offers a look into the U.S.’s atomic testing program from the 1950s, which took place in the nearby Nevada desert. The museum combines scientific and technological exhibits with history — here you can see a model of the original “nuclear family” that was used in testing and view the Walt Disney cartoon explaining atomic energy that was shown in schools. The museum also houses some important historic relics, including a beam from the World Trade Center site in New York and piece of the Berlin Wall.
The Mob Museum
There’s no denying Las Vegas’ roots in organised crime, and that history is brought to life at the Mob Museum. Housed in a former federal courthouse of all places, the Mob Museum explores not only the role of organized crime in the development of Las Vegas, but also in U.S. history as a whole. Through exhibits featuring one-of-a-kind artefacts and themed environments (including the courtroom where actual government hearings related to organized crime took place) you can learn more about the men who skirted the law – and the law enforcement professionals who tried to catch them.
The Auto Collections
With so many high-rollers in Las Vegas, it only makes sense that there would be some incredible cars on display – and there are, at the Auto Collections. A combination museum and used car lot (many of the vehicles on display are for sale), the Auto Collections offers the chance to see cars from television and movies, rare vehicles and even a few that were once owned by celebrities. Located on the fifth level of the parking garage of the Quad Resort and Casino, the Auto Collection is constantly changing, as vehicles are sold and new models brought in. For an auto enthusiast, this might be the only chance to ever see some of the world’s most notorious cars.
So while you probably don’t visit Las Vegas with the intent to learn, if you spend a little time at one of these museums, you’re bound to discover something you didn’t know before — even if it’s that you could have been a pinball wizard.
About the Author: Julie Simmons is a blogger who loves to explore unusual, off-the-beaten-track places wherever she travels.