Neon, the Mob and Atomic Testing
Nobody expects Las Vegas to be “average” in any sense of the word; the entire valley was in fact developed to be EXTRAordinary from the get-go. But that doesn’t mean reality escapes us entirely, especially when it comes to our museums. They may be quirky, but they tell some very true tall-tales about real life here in the neon desert.
Neon Museum and Boneyard
It’s a bit of a mystery why the Neon Museum is also called a boneyard, but it’s likely because some of the iconic neon signs from yesteryear are down to their “bare bones,” lying like skeletons in somewhat tangled heaps of bulbs, wires and twisted metal in the hot desert sun. However, many of the 200-plus rescued signs from the strip’s neon glory days are just as fabulous as they were in the 1930s through 80s, including the original Stardust sign with its enormous Atomic Age lettering stretching over 188 feet, making it one of the largest freestanding signs ever made at the time. Head over to the museum itself on Las Vegas Boulevard and Bonanza, or go on a treasure hunt to find nine of the twinkling treasures scattered along medians on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Hint: the Silver Slipper sign is closest to the museum, and the Hacienda Horse and Rider is near Fremont Street.
The Mob Museum
There are a few things at this museum you won’t find in standard history books, that’s for sure. The Mob Museum on Stewart Avenue doesn’t hold back on the sometimes-gory details of infamous mobsters of yesteryears. It covers organized crime all across America, including the notorious 1950-51 Kefauver Committee hearings held in the same former federal courthouse now housing the Mob Museum. Interactive attractions expose myths, mysteries, murders and shootouts but the bad guys don’t get all the glory; law enforcement heroes share the spotlight here. Check out more than 1000 items used by the likes of Al Capone, Charlie Luciano, Tony Spilotro and a slew of others, including the barber chair where mobster Albert Anastasia sat and a 1920s Abercrombie & Fitch leather valise with a false bottom for hiding flasks of liquor in the days of Prohibition.
National Atomic Testing Museum
You don’t need a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum for this one: it actually happened. For almost four decades, scientists used the Vegas Valley as a nuclear testing ground just 65 miles outside the city, conducting 928 nuclear tests. The Atomic Testing Museum on East Flamingo Road tells it all, with film and photos of people in the 1950s throwing “mushroom cloud” parties to view massive nuclear plumes rising over the desert horizon. Just look for the sign stating ““Hotel Fremont Atomic Lookout”, and you’ll get the picture. Check out interactive displays and actual equipment used onsite, and then test your own radioactivity (for a little peace of mind.) There’s also an Area 51 display for out-of-this-world activity in the deserts of Nevada.
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