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These Las Vegas museums shine light on area’s colorful past

Updated May 18, 2023 - 10:05 am

While Las Vegas is known for its entertainment options, it also boasts some lesser-known museums that highlight its unique history.

Here’s a look at some of the museums in Las Vegas that tell the unique story of Las Vegas and show its history.

Mob Museum

300 Stewart Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89101; opened in 2012

As long time residents of Southern Nevada know, Las Vegas had its Mob era during which many of the prominent hotels and casinos were run by less than perfect figures. This era has inspired movies like the 1995 film “Casino” and the Review-Journal’s “Mobbed Up” podcast series. It also helped Las Vegas establish a connection with the long history of organized crime in America and paved the way for the Mob Museum to be placed in downtown Las Vegas.

But this museum doesn’t just focus on organized crime in Las Vegas. It has exhibits on the birth of organized crime in the U.S., the prohibition and bootlegging era and the methods law enforcement used to bring down mobsters. The museum also features a 1920s themed bar called The Underground and hosts several educational talks and events in Las Vegas throughout the year.

The Mob Museum operates out of the former federal post office and courthouse and has a fully restored 1950 courtroom where past criminal proceedings took place.

The Mob Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. while The Speakeasy is open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday – Wednesday and 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. from Thursday – Sunday. themobmuseum.org

Atomic Museum

755 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV, 89119; opened in 2005

Just 65 miles north of Las Vegas sits the Nevada Test Site where the U.S. government spent just over four decades testing nuclear weapons. The Nevada Test Site was operational from 1951 to 1992 and 928 nuclear tests were held at the site, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Atomic Museum, located near the Strip, has exhibits that highlight the history of the Nevada Test Site and the overall history of nuclear weapons and technology in the U.S.

The Atomic Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., although the museum doesn’t let people in after 6 p.m. www.atomicmuseum.vegas

Neon Museum

770 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89101; opened in 1996

As it looks like the Tropicana’s days could be numbered as a new Las Vegas baseball stadium is proposed for the resorts location, it’s important to remember that Las Vegas has undergone a lot of transformations, especially when it comes to the resorts on the Strip. Over the years, many iconic resorts have been demolished, including the Stardust, the Aladdin and the Desert Inn.

But as older resorts go away, many of their iconic neon signs are preserved at the Neon Museum, which is located near downtown Las Vegas. The museum collects and can restore old neon signs at its boneyard, which is an outdoor exhibition of over 250 old neon signs. The museum also features special exhibits and has put several of its restored signs throughout Las Vegas.

The museum offers nighttime tours of its signs and the hours of operation depend on the season of the year. From May 1 – Aug. 31 the museum operates 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.; from Sept. 1 – Oct. 31 it operates 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; from Nov. 1 – Feb. 28 it operates 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.; from March 1 – April 30 it operates 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. www.neonmuseum.org

Punk Rock Museum

1422 Western Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102; opened 2023

The Punk Rock Museum is one of Las Vegas’ newest museums that celebrates the history of Punk Rock through artifacts and mementos of the bands and artists that shaped the genre. The museum is located next to Interstate 15 near the Las Vegas Arts District.

The exhibits at the museum are laid chronologically by the era of Punk music starting in the 1970s and going through the 45-plus year history of Punk Rock. The museum offers guided tours so people can learn the full backstory of its exhibits but also offers general admission tickets.

Punk Rock fans can also tie the knot and get married at the museum’s chapel, which opened in April.

The Punk Rock Museum is open daily from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. www.thepunkrockmuseum.com

NOTE: This article has been updated with the correct name for the bar at the Mob Museum.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.

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