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7 Under-the-Radar Museums in Las Vegas

These lesser-known collections house some of Sin City’s weirdest and most wonderful artifacts.

Memorabilia at the Gene Simmons KISS World Museum
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Vermont travel writer Jen Rose Smith covers adventure, remote places, and traditional cuisine from a home base in the Green Mountains. Her articles have appeared in National Geographic Adventure, American Way, Nexos, Condé Nast Traveler, Backpacker, AFAR, Rolling Stone, USA Today, and Outside Online.

Most visitors don’t come to Las Vegas with museums in mind, but they might be missing out. Sin City museums house quirky exhibitions on everything from haunted puppets to burlesque artistry and atomic testing, and exploring them is a great addition to any Vegas trip. Whether you’re drawn to offbeat history, Hollywood cars, or even the rock band KISS, these seven under-the-radar museums showcase a wacky side of Las Vegas culture.

1. National Atomic Testing Museum

An exhibit in the National Atomic Testing Museum.
Learn about the history of nuclear tests.Foto: Kit Leong / Shutterstock

Discover Nevada’s most radioactive history.

One of the most significant nuclear test sites in the United States—a place where underground and atmospheric tests were conducted up until 1992—is located just 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Las Vegas. Thousands of photographs, artifacts, videos, and scientific reports at the National Atomic Testing Museum document decades of experiments. A replica of the test site’s Control Point shows where countdowns took place prior to each historical detonation.

Don’t miss: Simulations of an above-ground nuclear test in the Ground Zero Theater.

2. Neon Museum

A collection of retro signs at Vegas' Neon Museum
See retro signs from Vegas' past.Foto: Smeerjewegproducties / Shutterstock

Where the bright lights of bygone Las Vegas still glitter.

Once upon a time, brightly colored signs for the Desert Inn, Flamingo, and Desert Sands defined the Las Vegas skyline. Today, those retro signs live on at the Neon Museum, a collection of salvaged art that is also known as the “neon boneyard.” The museum’s wheelchair-accessible outdoor viewing area has more than 250 unrestored signs, with the oldest ones dating back to the 1930s. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the city’s early years.

Don’t miss: Rotating special exhibits featuring modern neon artists and private collections.

3. Burlesque Hall of Fame

A photo exhibit in the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.
Explore the roots of this sultry art form.Foto: Burlesque Hall of Fame / Tripadvisor

Delve into burlesque’s risqué artistry.

Old-school, feathers-and-sequins flair prevails at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, the world’s only museum dedicated to burlesque history. Thousands of costumes showcase the artistry of clothes designed to entice, from sparkly, animal-themed pasties to glittering headdresses and countless colorful tassels. Other highlights include the personal effects of Gypsy Rose Lee; fans used by Sally Rand; and a massive collection of flyers advertising burlesque shows, which chart the history of an ever-changing genre.

Don’t miss: A giant, rhinestone-studded martini glass big once used as a prop by dancer Dita von Teese.

4. Pinball Hall of Fame

A selection of pinball games at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
Get your quarters ready.Foto: Kit Leong / Shutterstock

Play your favorite vintage pinball games.

With claims to the world’s largest collection of pinball machines, the Pinball Hall of Fame is an enthusiast’s dream. Its huge collection of pinball games spans decades—the oldest is from the 1930s—and it also has arcade classics like Skee-Ball, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders. The all-ages museum is free and every game is available to play. Bring cash to change into quarters in the onsite machines; here, you can still play pinball for just a couple of coins.

Don’t miss: The 1934 Rockola Jigsaw pinball machine that’s the collection’s oldest artifact.

5. Gene Simmons KISS World Museum

From posters to a KISS-themed pinball machine.Foto: Kiss Monster Mini Golf / Tripadvisor

Rock-and-roll history with a side of mini golf.

It doesn’t get more Vegas than this. The private collection of KISS bassist and frontman Gene Simmons is now a museum, part of a sprawling, KISS-themed attraction that also includes a blacklit rock-and-roll mini-golf course and wedding chapel. Inside the museum, you’ll find signed copies of every KISS album, along with band members’ guitars, cars, drums, and stage props. You can even see Gene Simmons’ high-school diploma. An on-site gift shop contains every imaginable item of KISS merch.

Don’t miss: Vintage videos of interviews with band members.

6. Hollywood Cars Museum

Festively painted cars in the Vegas' Hollywood Cars Museum
Famous cars from cinema and beyond.Foto: Hollywood Cars Museum / Tripadvisor

See vehicles you know from the silver screen.

Sometimes, the car is the star. This sprawling Las Vegas car museum showcases vehicles that have appeared in films, ranging from the Back to the Future Delorean to the Lotus Esprit submarine car that Roger Moore drove in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Also on display is a 40-foot (12.2-meter) pink convertible limousine sporting a heart-shaped hot tub that appeared in the television show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and even a jet-black Batmobile.

Don’t miss: The 12-foot (3.7-meter) high, American flag–painted Roller Skate Hot Rod built for designer Marc Jacobs.

7. Zak Bagans' The Haunted Museum

The welcome sign for Zak Bagans' The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas
A museum for spooky fun.Foto: JMOF / Shutterstock

Prepare to be scared.

Rumor has it that the 1938 Tudor revival Wengert Mansion is haunted—so it’s fitting that the sprawling landmark now houses Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum. Inside, more than 30 rooms showcase a truly creepy array of artifacts including Bela Lugosi’s haunted mirror; the possessed Peggy the Doll; and a rocking chair linked to a grisly murder. All visits to the museum are guided, including the extra-eerie after-dark ghost tours, which are conducted by flashlight.

Don’t miss: The basement. According to local legend, this part of the house is the site of paranormal activity linked to “dark rituals.”

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