Hidden Spots to Visit in Vegas
Some come for their chance at fortune. Others for the world-class entertainment. More than a few to eat like a king. Las Vegas has something for everyone. Even for the people who have no interest in any of that stuff.
This desert city has a history and culture that so unique, so odd, so downright fascinating, it would be a shame to come all this way and just gamble. So, cash in those chips, scalp the Cirque du Soleil tickets, and finish your buffet. It’s time to get to off the Strip and get to know the real hidden Las Vegas.
755 East Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Hours – Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m, Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Admission – $22 for Museum, Nuclear Testing Site Tour – FREE!
While many in Vegas are hoping for explosions of fortune, at the National Atomic Testing Museum, you’ll be learning about explosions of the nuclear variety.
In January 1951, the Nevada Testing Site (NTS) was established by the United States Department of Energy for the sole purpose of a site testing nuclear devices. The 1300 square mile site located in the middle of the Nevada desert is located only about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. When tests first started being performed, those staying in the high rise hotels of the burgeoning sin city were given a glamorous view of orange mushroom clouds billowing into the sky.
Throughout the mid-20th century, more than 900 nuclear tests were performed, each one full of danger and consequences. This Smithsonian-associated museum details those controversial tests, plus the men and women who helped make them happen. Additionally, it has exhibits on how the “nuclear age” influenced pop culture and the ever-mysterious Area 51.
If you are a planner and really “explode” for this stuff, you can actually visit the old Nuclear Test Site (now called the Nevada National Security Site) via a bus tour sponsored by the Department of Energy. While the bus tour is free and fascinating, the wait time to gain entry can be up to six months.
The Hand of Faith Golden Nugget
Golden Nugget Hotel
129 E. Fremont St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Hours – 24/7
Admission – FREE!
In the spring of 1980, Kevin Hillier of Wedderburn, Australia purchased a brand new metal detector. So, he took it out for the first time in search of scrap metal, cheap jewelry, and coins, you know normal things you would find with a metal detector. What he found exceeded even his wildest dreams. Buried only about a foot below the surface, and picked up by Kevin’s metal detector, was a 61 pound gold nugget. It was the largest nugget of gold ever to be found by a metal detector.
Soon after, Hillier sold the nugget to the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in DownLas Vegas for a cool one million American dollars. The Golden Nugget claims the “The Hand of Faith is the biggest golden nugget (still) in existence” and second biggest ever discovered. It’s still there today, in a case in a somewhat-hidden hallway near the front desk.
Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame
1610 E. Tropicana
Las Vegas NV 89119
Hours – Sunday – Thursday, 11 am to 11 pm, Friday & Saturday, 11 am to midnight
Admission – FREE! Machines cost 25 cents to 1 dollar to play
For those who don’t know, pinball used to be illegal due to it’s gambling connection. So, it only makes sense that in the city that has millions (billions?) of slot machines,it’s where the original gambling machine has it’s Hall of Fame.
The Pinball Hall of Fame, with it’s 10,000 square feet and over 200 machines on display, is truly a pinball wizard’s paradise. The history of pinball is widely represented, ranging from a machine (not quite pinball, but a early precursor) from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair all the way to a 2009 Stern manufactured CSI Vegas-themed machine. This is unlike any other collection in the world.
The best part, of course, is that all the machines are available to play! None cost more than a dollar and most are still it’s original price of a quarter. So, bring the kids, the grandparents, the friends, the neighbors, the new best friend you met at the Atomic Testing Museum, whoever and get ready to play some real mean pinball.
The Neon Museum
770 Las Vegas Boulevard North
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Hours – All guided tours are an hour long and are available seven days a week, but times vary on season
Admission – Day Tours: $18 Night Tours: $25
When Las Vegas first began turning into Sin City (due to the construction of the Hoover Dame), developers knew they had to advertise all the glitz and glamour properly – with all the brightness, colors, and majesty they could muster. So, they turned to a natural gaseous element, with the atomic number of 10 (for all those science nerds out there), to help them do just that. Neon.
The Neon Museum, a non-profit created in 1996, has made it’s mission to preserve, refurbish, and teach others about the very thing that has always given Vegas it’s distinctive light – Neon signs. In the “Neon Boneyard,” there are signs from Vegas’ early days in the 30s to when Sinatra & Elvis ruled the Strip to all the way up to today. Each one is considered art and with it’s own distinct story as it fits into the fabric of Las Vegas as a whole.
Even the visitor center is a relic of Vegas past. Formerly the lobby of the La Concha Motel, this distinctive shell-shaped and very 60′s style building was designed by famed architect Paul Revere Williams. It was saved from demolition in 2005 and moved to this location, as the entrance point to a Vegas that once lit up the sky.
For more information on all of these unique locations, please visit Atlas Obscura, the online guidebook to the world’s most wondrous places!
Matt Blitz is the person you want to take on a road trip with you. He knows every obscure, odd, and downright awesome stop to make while traveling America. Based out of Los Angeles, he’s written for CNN, Atlas Obscura, Nickelodeon, The Smart Set, and Today I Found Out. He will also insist on stopping at every diner and waffle house on said road trip.