Under its $70 million LED canopy, the pedestrian-only Fremont Street Experience, which ignited Downtown’s revival in 1995, remains a hot draw for its vintage casinos, outdoor programming and horizontal SlotZilla zipline experience.
From the Atomic Age to superstar entertainers, the rich history of Las Vegas comes alive at unique area museums.
Born Wladziu Valentino Liberace in 1919, Liberace first played Las Vegas in 1944 at the Last Frontier. Over the next four decades, the flamboyant entertainer played sold-out residencies at the Flamingo, Riviera and Las Vegas Hilton before his final two-week run at Caesars Palace in 1986, one year before his death.
Opened by Liberace himself in 1979, his namesake Vegas museum once drew more than 100,000 visitors a year before closing in 2010. Now the sequined superstar is back, on two fronts. In March 2016, Clark County gave his former residence, the Liberace Mansion, historic designation. Located between the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and McCarran International Airport, the house will reportedly be available for tours, events and other programs.
Then, in April, the Liberace Garage debuted at the Hollywood Cars Museum in Vegas. Opened two years ago, the museum features a world-class collection of cars from the movies and TV, including five James Bond vehicles.
In collaboration with the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, which maintains Liberace’s brand and estate, the permanent exhibition of automobiles from Liberace’s stage acts includes the red, white and blue Rolls convertible that he flew out of via high-wire cables during his 1976 bicentennial shows at the Hilton, and the 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V from his Hilton act, featured in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra with Michael Douglas as Liberace.
Along with tours, the venue also offers an event stage, featuring one of Liberace’s pianos.
Between 1950 and 1951, millions of American television viewers were captivated by a different spectacle entirely—the Kefauver Committee hearings on organized crime. Exposing mob influence in gaming and business for the first time, the hearings included a stop in Las Vegas, where they were held in the city’s federal courthouse.
Today, the original Kefauver courtroom is the centerpiece of the Mob Museum, or more fully, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. Housed in the former Depression-era courthouse and post office, the museum features three floors of interactive exhibits on organized crime, with rental options that include the courtroom and full buyouts.
Close to the UNLV campus, the Smithsonian-associated National Atomic Testing Museum showcases 70 years of nuclear history, with experiences including the simulation of an above-ground blast, among other options.
The ultimate Las Vegas cultural attraction is Springs Preserve—the city’s original water source. Located west of Downtown Las Vegas, the 180-acre site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features exhibits, galleries, hiking trails, live animal shows and botanical gardens.
Also home to the 70,000-square-foot Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, the site is run by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, the agency that manages the city’s water and promotes conservation—which are equally keys to both the future of Las Vegas and the past.