Lifestyle

12 Weird and Wonderful Museums to Visit in Las Vegas

Experience Sin City's one-of-a-kind art scene with the best art museums and galleries.

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

If you want to see the Declaration of Independence or the Mona Lisa, look elsewhere. Las Vegas museums are all about cool stuff like the mob, casinos, atomic bombs, and sex. You know, everything that built this town. After you’ve finished with the all-you-can-eat buffets and the best big-name residencies, get a true feel for Sin City history and culture with a visit to the coolest, weirdest, and most fascinating museums in Las Vegas today.

Photo by Eric Kabik
Photo by Eric Kabik
Photo by Eric Kabik

Gene Simmons KISS World Museum

Rio
When Gene Simmons moved out of his Beverly Hills mansion, he needed a place to store his memorabilia from over the years, so he worked out a deal with KISS by Monster Mini Golf (an indoor course dedicated to the rock band) and put it on display as an official museum in a separate, 3,000 square-foot room. Walls of gold and platinum records line the entrance with anything and everything on display, from an officially licensed KISS coffin to costume pieces and original negatives from album covers. You’ll also see personal items like Simmons’ high school diploma and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame award. Even more of this stuff is in storage, so expect some items to be rotated in and out every six months or so. The team behind the museum and golf course also operates a KISS-themed wedding chapel with a Gene Simmions impersonator available to lead a ceremony.
How to book: It’s $11.99 to either play golf or tour the museum, or $20 to do both, when booking online. Wedding ceremonies begin at $400.

Photo by Bettina May
Photo by Bettina May
Photo by Bettina May

Burlesque Hall of Fame

Downtown Arts District
Learn everything you could possibly want to know about fan dancing and tassel twirling at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. The exhibit dates back to the ’50s when it was developed as a private collection connected to an Exotic Dancers Union in California, but has been a presence in Las Vegas since 2010, first on Fremont Street and now in the fast-growing Downtown Arts District. The museum packs a lot into just 2,000-square-feet, celebrating the saucy and scandalous art form as well as the personalities behind it. You’ll see photos, vintage posters, sheet music, and a fair amount of costumes, although some were removed during the pandemic and are now gradually being reintroduced. A temporary display on Asian-American performers runs until at least the end of the year. Expect a tour to last up to 45 minutes. Many of the guides are performers themselves. The Burlesque Hall of Fame also provides classes, promotes shows, and hosts an annual four-day celebration at the Orleans casino.
How to book: General admission begins at $15 with tickets available online. Tours are limited to six people at a time.

Photo courtesy of Diana: The Exhibition
Photo courtesy of Diana: The Exhibition
Photo courtesy of Diana: The Exhibition

Diana: The Exhibition

CityCenter
Maybe you’re sentimental over the recent loss of the Queen-or you just love royal gossip-but either way, Diana: The Exhibition is more than a tribute to the late Princess of Wales. It touches on the history and culture connected to the British monarchy, while reserving the spotlight for one of its most fascinating figures. The exhibit begins at the moment most of the world discovered Diana-the “Wedding of the Century” to Prince Charles. You’ll see an accurate recreation of the dress and an actual slice of wedding cake before moving on to spaces dedicated to Diana’s handwritten notes (including a signed, store-bought card with her face on it), divorce, fashion, family members, and the events surrounding her untimely death. Don’t forget to stop by a selfie station for a photo alongside Diana in her infamous “revenge dress.”
How to book: Tickets begin at $36 and are available online.

The Mob Museum
The Mob Museum
The Mob Museum

Mob Museum

Downtown
Everyone says Vegas was better “when the mob ran the town”-and it’s probably true. Maybe. Decide for yourself at the Mob Museum (more formally known as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement). It occupies the former Downtown courthouse where notorious crime figures were prosecuted, and the exhibits focus on the best (or worst, depending on how you view it) crime figures in history, from Vegas favorites like Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro to mafia kingpins like Al Capone and Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Learn about FBI wiretaps, weapons of choice, and how to skim money like the pros. You’ll also see a hunk of wall riddled with bullets from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a vintage electric chair prop, and a gas chamber chair from the Nevada State Prison. The Mob Museum is also home to The Underground, a basement-level speakeasy with a distillery for moonshine and a few exhibits of its own that pay tribute to the Prohibition era.
How to book: Museum tickets begin at $29.95 online. Admission to The Underground is free after museum hours. Enter through a secret side entrance after scoring the daily password on the museum’s Instagram stories.

Atomic Museum
Atomic Museum
Atomic Museum

National Atomic Testing Museum

Off the Strip
Watching atomic bomb explosions used to be a spectator sport in Las Vegas, with mushroom clouds visible from within city limits. However, much like the Hoover Dam, the Nevada Test Site for nuclear weapons developed an industry that helped build modern Las Vegas, a message that’s clear with a visit to the National Atomic Testing Museum. Between 1951 and 1992, nearly a thousand atomic bombs were detonated in the Nevada desert (but don’t worry, most of the fallout drifted to the folks in Utah). In addition to historical nuggets about the Manhattan Project, World War II, and the Cold War, you’ll learn about the presence of nuclear weapons in popular culture, especially in Vegas where the Atomic Age promoted tourism. Highlights include a piece of the underground tunnel from the test site and an interactive movie theater that simulates what it’s like to watch a nuclear bomb test in person from a few miles away, complete with an ominous countdown, bright lights, wind, and shockwave rumbles.
How to book: Tickets begin at $24 and are available online.

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

The Neon Museum

Downtown
Las Vegas is defined by the iconic imagery found in the colorful neon signs and marquees at hotels, casinos, and other businesses over the years. Many of them are preserved (and in some cases, restored with fully functioning lights) at the Neon Museum and its outdoor Neon Boneyard. It’s divided into four sections: the Strip, Downtown, motels, and small businesses. The museum offers self-guided general admission in the afternoon and 45-minute guided tours in the evening in either English or Spanish. You’ll learn the history behind the signs, including how the Moulin Rouge was the first racially integrated casino and Binion’s Horseshoe changed the game (literally) by adding carpets to the floor and seats in front of slot machines. The most fun piece in the collection may be a giant pirate skull from Treasure Island that faces the sky. Look for it on Google Maps, where it smiles at you in satellite mode. The North Gallery has a mural paying tribute to lesser-known Vegas figures and Brilliant! Jackpot, a show that uses lights and music to reanimate non-operational signs.
How to book: General admission begins at $20, with visitors encouraged to buy tickets in advance.

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

Hollywood Cars Museum

Off the Strip
This mammoth warehouse collection features nearly a hundred vehicles from film, television, and pop culture. Most are authentic originals, but a few well-crafted replicas by an in-house auto shop are displayed as well. You’ll see beat-up stunt cars from the Fast & Furious movies, a 1963 Volkswagen from the Herbie the Love Bug series, and the only known remaining drivable Batmobile from Batman Returns. Cars from classic action shows like Knight Rider, Starsky & Hutch, The A-Team, and Hardcastle and McCormick (remember that one?) are featured in all their macho glory. Everything was curated by real estate mogul Michael Dezer, a James Bond fan who made sure 007 was well represented with the flying car from The Spy Who Loved Me and a micro-jet from Octopussy. The museum also includes an entire wing dedicated to the cars and memorabilia of Liberace, and it’s hard to find anything more Vegas than that-except for the car from The Hangover, which is also on display.
How to book: Admission is $20, cash-only with an ATM on site.

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

Erotic Heritage Museum

Industrial Corridor
Definitely an X-rated attraction, the Erotic Heritage Museum takes a raunchy approach to education. Exhibits range from semi-serious topics like the evolution of the peep show to a playful look at the potential for sex on other planets. You can actually hop on a device billed as the world’s largest sex bike, in which multiple people pedal at the same time while seats vibrate. For a museum hyper-focused on graphic imagery, from international artwork to flat-out pornography playing on video screens, there’s a surprising amount of informational text on the walls, with topics that include Darwin, the G-Spot, and presidential sex scandals. There’s also a theater that hosts the Las Vegas residency of Puppetry of the Penis.
How to book: General admission tickets are $24. Puppetry for the Penis tickets begin at $39.99.

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

Pinball Hall of Fame

The Strip
The Pinball Hall of Fame may have a new location on the Strip, but remains one of the few Las Vegas attractions with both free parking and free admission. The collection has grown dramatically over the years, with more than 450 machines on display in a warehouse-like setting. Most of the games are playable when not under repairs or in the process of being restored, which is all done by an in-house team. The older models are 25 cents to play while the newer ones are a little more. The place is a nonprofit, so any revenue leftover from regular operations is donated to charity. Even if you just wander around, it’s a fascinating collection of games with the oldest dating back to 1933. The designs alone are a journey through pop culture, from Superman and The Creature From The Black Lagoon to Star Wars, Family Guy, and even Metallica. A few arcade games are thrown into the mix too, including contemporary classics like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero.
How to book: Just walk on in.

Springs Preserve
Springs Preserve
Springs Preserve

Springs Preserve

West Valley
Just west of Downtown, the Springs Preserve packs 5,000 years of Nevada history inside one incredible campus that over-delivers with exhibits and interactive attractions. Hike or bike on three miles of trails or ride a train to Boomtown 1905, an authentic recreation of a Vegas streetscape from the city’s initial growth period. Two traditional museums are also on site. The Nevada State Museum features showgirl exhibits alongside towering fossil displays while the Origen Museum has cool astronaut stuff, live animal exhibits, and a simulated flash flood. There’s also a botanical garden, butterfly habitat, and a solar-powered home designed by UNLV students for a competition.
How to book: General admission tickets begin at $9.95 and are available online.

Photo courtesy of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Photo courtesy of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Photo courtesy of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

The Luxor
Although promoted as a casino attraction, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition certainly qualifies as a museum with its deep collection of relics recovered from the doomed ocean liner. Some materials stored in leather luggage are in pristine condition, but what really sets this exhibit apart from similar collections is “the big piece,” the largest chunk of the ship’s hull ever recovered. Along the way, you’ll also experience recreations of the outdoor deck and the elegant staircase made famous in James Cameron’s Titanic movie. The exhibit also scores points for having an exceptionally dedicated staff that clearly cares about the people involved in the Titanic’s tragic story.
How to book: Tickets begin at $32 and are available online.

Friends of Nevada Southern Railway
Friends of Nevada Southern Railway
Friends of Nevada Southern Railway

Nevada State Railroad Museum

Boulder City
The Nevada State Railroad Museum preserves the former Union Pacific branch that supplied the government workers who built the Hoover Dam. The outdoor museum features a small fleet of vintage locomotives and is the only place in Southern Nevada where people can actually take a ride on a full-size passenger train. Trips are only offered on weekends, although guests are welcome to come by and explore the equipment for free during the week. You can also play engineer and actually drive a locomotive (complete with the most powerful diesel engine ever designed by General Motors) for a mere $250. The track is five-miles long and a round-trip journey usually takes about 40 minutes. Make sure to check out the Vanderbilt family’s personal passenger car from 1894, considered one of the world’s most luxurious travel accommodations at the time-and still probably a step-up from the average Vegas motel today. The museum also serves as the starting point for the Rail Explorers tour of self-pedaled vehicles, one of the most fun things to do in Boulder City.
How to book: Tickets begin at $10 per person. Pick them up at least 15 minutes prior to departure time from the ticket office. No advance purchases are available. However you can browse prices and order tickets for Rail Explorers online.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Rob Kachelriess¬†has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than eight years. In addition, his work has appeared in¬†Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and¬†Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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