So you’re in Las Vegas, and you’re wondering what to do during the daytime. Or at least in the afternoon, since you’re most likely sleeping it off until noon. You could go strolling through the upscale malls or wander through the casinos. But there are such malls in every large city, and frankly, one casino floor filled with slot machines looks like any other one. There are the usual group tours to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, plus ones to Valley of Fire State Park and Red Rock Canyon, which are indeed worthwhile (wear hiking boots if you’re going to any of the “wilderness” areas).
As I mentioned last time, the thing to do is get the heck off The Strip and check out the more “off the beaten path” places.
Two blocks north of Fremont Street is the Mob Museum. The official name is “The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement”, but in our “tl;dr” age, the short version is used. Except that it makes it seem like the entire museum is about the “classic” “Hollywood” type mob – the gangsters celebrated in movies. Sure, the museum does have a lot of that sort of stuff. But they have an equal amount of material covering those like Elmer Irey and Joe “Donnie Brasco” Pistone, who worked on the side of law enforcement to bring down the mobsters.
They also have a few things on organized crime today, which has gone global. There’s the Yakuza in Japan, the Zetas in Mexico, and the counterfeit goods pouring out of China. One exhibit I liked was of local interest; it covered cheating in casinos. One display showed you security camera footage – you were tasked with spotting the exact moment when the cheating happened. They also have a booth where (if you have a story to tell) you can sit down and record your “My Brush With The Mob” tale. A few of the tales are played on a loop next to it – the guy who had to repossess a car from a mob boss, the woman who when she was a little girl unsuspectingly delivered messages….
One other local museum of interest is the National Atomic Testing Museum. Yes, there is such a museum! Back in the 50s, bomb tests were held close enough to Las Vegas so that a short trip to the edge of town would give you a fine seat to watch the mushroom cloud rise. The museum has a lot of artifacts from the era – geiger counters, ID badges, miscellaneous equipment, models (at least I trust they are models) of some of the nuclear munitions we developed… A fascinating look at a very strange era of history.
If you do go Downtown to check out the Fremont Street Experience, head further east past Slotzilla to “Fremont East“. It’s got a “bohemian – beatnik” vibe going on, with a lot of little shops, art galleries, and entertainment venues. Get away from chain coffee with a nice cup (and nosh, too!) at The Beat Coffeehouse and Records – which also happens to be the home of the Burlesque Hall of Fame.
It’s discovering places like these that makes return visits worthwhile. Each time you go, you realize there was something you didn’t get to see….
Next time – a very different sort of tour and the one place you MUST go to for dinner….