Do you, like me, travel around the world to discover art, culture and good food? Are you excited to find hidden pockets of culture? I have found many in my travels – and many more that are inspiration for future travels. One of the biggest surprises I have found is that there are so many things to do in Las Vegas that have nothing to do with casinos or gambling. Las Vegas is a mecca for art, culture, and entertainment.
Top 10 Las Vegas Cultural Attractions
The Neon Museum
If you really want to delve into the history of Vegas, this museum should be on your itinerary.
Each of the nearly 150 signs in the Neon Museum’s collection offers a unique story about the personalities who created it, what inspired it, where and when it was made, and the role it played in Las Vegas’ distinctive history. In addition, the Neon Museum collection chronicles changes and trends in sign design and technology through artifacts ranging from the 1930s to the present day.
The Neon Museum is actually a three-part project – The Neon Boneyard which is an outdoor museum, the Las Vegas Sings Project, a collaboration between the Neon Museum and the City of Las Vegas, and the Downtown Gallery.
“In 2009, the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard between Sahara Avenue and Washington Avenue became one of only three urban streets in the United States to be named a Federal Scenic Byway by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Las Vegas Signs Project, a partnership between the Neon Museum and the City of Las Vegas, aims to install restored signs from the museum’s collection along this area in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.”
The Downtown Gallery (Fremont Street at Las Vegas Blvd) and the Las Vegas Signs Project (located on Las Vegas Blvd. between Sahara and Washington Street), feature 15 electrified and restored signs installed as public art throughout the downtown area. These restored signs include the Aladdin’s Lamp, The Flame Restaurant, the Chief Court Motel, Andy Anderson, the Nevada Motel and the Dots Flowers. These signs are available for viewing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
And if that’s not enough, the Neon Museum Visitor’s Center is housed in the historic La Concha Hotel, an important mid-century design by Paul Revere Williams.
The Bellagio Fine Art Gallery
Currently at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art – Way Out West, by Andy Warhol, featuring more than 60 pop culture paintings that span twenty years. Andy Warhol was a social media guru long before the digital revolution. His art was heavily influenced by his background in graphic design. He remains an inspiration to social media butterflies, artists, designers, and creatives of all genres. Even if you’re not familiar with Warhol’s art, you’re probably familiar with this quote: “Everyone’s famous for 15 minutes.” If you didn’t know before who said it, now you do.
Fiori di Como at The Bellagio
Who doesn’t like Dale Chihuly’s colorful and graceful glass sculptures? Fiori di Como is a huge glass sculpture in the lobby of the Bellagio Hotel, comprised of over 2000 hand-blown glass flowers! There is also a small gallery selling other works by Dale Chihuly.
The Mob Museum
Want to learn more about Vegas’ dark history? This is the place. Featuring history and artifacts associated with names like Al Capone, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Sam Giancana, J. Edgar Hoover, and housed in the building where the biggest mob trial in history was held, this place might be the number one stop on my list. I like anything a little quirky and the lure of the bad boys beckons.
The Volcano at The Mirage
The Mirage opened on the Strip in 1989. Since then, the Volcano has had a couple of updates. The latest, from 2008, features percussion sounds overlaid with actual volcanic eruptions. I’ve included it because it really is spectacular (spewing 54 foot high flames and smoke), and the closest most of us will ever get to a volcanic eruption. The website for the Mirage says the show begins at 7:00 pm nightly and repeats every hour. Get there early and stake out your space. It’s free and on the Strip.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit at The Luxor
For those of you who can’t get enough of the Titanic, the exhibit at the Luxor has original artifacts plus a recreation of the grand staircase, and many of the rooms with custom furnishings to copy the exact fabrics.
Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil has eight permanent shows in Vegas. I’ve seen five of their shows and I have loved them all. For sheer entertainment and production value Cirque cannot be beaten. Comedy, music, drama, wardrobe – you name it, Cirque du Soleil has it. Check the website for locations and show information.
World-Class Circus Acts at Circus Circus
It’s Free! Need I say more? Circus Circus is one of the original hotel/casinos on the Strip.
The Smith Center
The Smith Center is a cultural haven in Vegas offering art exhibitions, theater performances, live music from jazz to classical, and everything in between. Currently, the musical Billy Elliot is showing there. Upcoming shows include Ira Glass, Olympia Dukakis, Celtic Woman and, Frank Abagnale, to name but a few. Do check the website for information on upcoming events.
The Springs Preserve
If you want to get completely off the strip and out in nature, check out the Springs Preserve. Here you will find permanent and traveling exhibitions featuring wildlife, art, fashion, and even photography workshops. There’s something for the entire family here and you can stash your gear in a locker, rent strollers, bicycles, or enroll the kids in a week-long summer camp.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, Las Vegas is an easy drive for a weekend getaway. Or grab a cheap flight on Southwest Airlines.
There you have it. A great selection of not so usual cultural attractions. Viva Las Vegas!