Bucket List: Las Vegas, Nevada

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Las Vegas is the quintessential locale for the epic bachelor party or weekend away with your girlfriends. It’s the place you go to let loose, lose a little money, and remember to forget the things you did while you were away. A playground for the 21 and over crowd, it’s also historically been the place to catch famous acts ranging anywhere from the Rat Pack to Celine Dion and everything in between. Although gambling and live entertainment are the major draws to the city (and should be experienced), there are a number of other interesting places in the city to visit to break up all the shows and gambling you’re going to be doing.

National Atomic Testing Museum

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Flickr Photo: © iwishmynamewasmarsha – Atomic Bomb Film

As an affiliate to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., there’s no better place to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Atomic bombs and radiation than the National Atomic Testing Museum. Although the museum will probably lack the mutant insects that were made famous in 1950’s horror movies (Check out Mothra and Them! if you don’t know what I’m talking about), you will get a glimpse back in time thanks to a few exhibits that will teach you how to survive the atomic age, and cover the history and development of the atomic bombs used in WWII. If you want to experience the real thing (or as close to it as you should ever get) be sure to check out the simulated atomic bomb blast while you’re there!

Ethel M Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden

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Flickr Photo: © Liza Lagman Sperl – Ethel M’s Classic Collection

If you LOVE chocolate then there’s no better place to visit during your trip to Vegas than the Ethel M Chocolate Factory. Built to accommodate those interested in a self-guided tour, if you come on the right day you can watch chocolatiers and machines craft everything from creme and peanut butter filled chocolates to their famous pecan brittle through large glass panes. After you buy whatever your little chocolate loving heart desires, be sure to head outside and check out Nevada’s largest cactus garden. With over 300 species of cacti and plants on 4 acres, the garden was designed in the English style and features flowering plants from both the Southwest, Australia, and South America.

Mob Museum

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Flickr Photo: © Illusive Photography – Vegas Pay-Out

When I think of Las Vegas, I think of a city built on organized crime. Although organized crime might not run the strip anymore, the Mob Museum (or the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement) is the perfect place to experience the cities infamous history and is located in the former federal courthouse where the Kefauver Committee hearings on organized crime were held in Las Vegas. Along with preserving the courtroom where these trials took place, you’ll also get to see the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as well as exhibits on everything from the myths movies have told us, an in-depth look at how Las Vegas became mob central, and profiles on the most famous mobsters of all time.

Neon Museum

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Flickr Photo: © Paul Gorbould – Sassy Sally Alley

By far the coolest museum on the list in my opinion, the neon museum is where the classic neon lights of the Las Vegas strip have ended up. Housing old neon signs from some of the most iconic hotels, casinos, and restaurants in Las Vegas both past and present, this museum is full of the art and design of the golden age of neon sign making. Although most of the signs have not been restored to working order, they’ve been placed at ground level along the outdoor paths at the museum in order to make them easier to see. If you opt into taking a night tour, the dramatic and colorful lighting used will provide a whimsical and unforgettable view of the old Las Vegas strip, and will help you imagine the grandeur and creativity of these unique works of art.