Madame Tussaud began crafting wax likenesses in 1770s Paris, and a sense of history clings to her wax museums around the globe today—according to the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventurers, the location is haunted by unsettled spirits. By day, the collection of wax sculptures fills the serene exhibits with characters ranging from daredevil Evel Knievel (complete with his original Harley Davidson and good-luck teddy bear) to Lady Gaga and Whoopi Goldberg. A Hugh Hefner figure, wearing the Playboy magnate’s signature smoking jacket, reclines on a bed, and a nightclub-themed section of the museum honors Las Vegas’s entertainment history with a waxen Elvis and Wayne Newton.
Velvet ropes no longer cordon figures off from the public, granting guests up-close-and-personal photo ops. Madame Tussauds Las Vegas honors its spooky roots with special late-night Scream events, a shriek-inducing tour through a maximum-security prison set interspersed with ghoulish wax figures and live actors.
The 8,000-square-foot National Atomic Testing Museum, located just off the Strip, unveils the fascinating history of the famed Nevada test site. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum has a growing collection of permanent and special exhibitions. Boots quake as visitors experience a simulated atomic blast, and another exhibit details the Manhattan Project, the U.S.'s massive undertaking to create the first atomic bomb. Firsthand accounts of nuclear tests put museum-goers in the shoes of blast eyewitnesses; there's also a poignant exhibit that includes a 6-foot I-beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The museum volunteer tour guides act as exhibit interpreters, encouraging hands-on exploration and teaching how to divide atoms using nothing more than a good set of kitchen cutlery.
Recently featured in Maxim, Las Vegas Mob Experience escorts history hounds through a 26,000-sq.-ft. journey through the rise and fall of early Vegas mafiosi and their lasting influence on the city. This highly interactive exhibit takes visitors close-up to hundreds of artifacts, including photographs, home movies, and furniture that once belonged to organized-crime figures such as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, a creator of the Flamingo Hotel, and Meyer Lansky. Actors dressed as apparitions of the gangsters themselves tell firsthand stories while guests slink through back alleys, secret lairs, and other vignettes, including the Ellis Island docks and immigration rooms, a speakeasy, police station, and more.
While the name would suggest a tribute to the underworld, The Mob Museum details both the history of organized crime in the United States and pays homage to the law enforcement agencies that worked together to end the Mob‰Ûªs rule in Las Vegas. It's set in an historic 1933 building, which was first a U.S. post office and later the federal courthouse that was the site of the 1950 Kefauver Committee hearings on organized crime. A dozen exhibits throughout the 41,000-square-foot, three-story building utilize high-tech theater presentations, interactive demonstrations, such as The Fire Arms Training Simulator (FATS), used to train law enforcement agencies at every level; and actual artifacts that include the wall from the 1929 St. Valentine‰Ûªs Day Massacre in Chicago and personal belongings of Al Capone, Charles ‰ÛÏLucky‰Û� Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Ben ‰ÛÏBugsy‰Û� Siegel, Frank ‰ÛÏLefty‰Û� Rosenthal, Tony Spilotro and John Gotti.
Opened in 1991, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum presents a collection of wildlife, historical, geologic and prehistoric exhibits. Nine galleries fill the two-story building with lifelike replicas of extinct and present day fauna, including animals that once roamed the area that is today known as Las Vegas. The Marine Life Gallery features a vast assortment of sea life, with full-sized whales hanging from the ceiling, an interactive display of sounds from several species of oceanic creatures and a pool filled with live baby sharks and sting rays. In another area, dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and Ichthyosaur transport visitors back to the time before humans walked the earth. And not far away is Treasures of Egypt, a 4,000-square-foot monument to King Tut’s tomb, which houses more than 500 replicas of the boy king’s burial chamber.
The connection between art and sexuality goes all the way back to the Renaissance and earlier, but it's never been explored quite so earnestly as it is at the Erotic Heritage Museum. Far more than a collection of blush-inducing artifacts, the EHM is a testament to the power of eroticism as a force in shaping popular culture. The museum's collection encompasses everything from sculptures and mannequins to posters and magazine covers. The building itself was remodeled in recent months, and it now features new exhibition rooms and a forcefield designed specifically to block calls from Mom, who wants to know how you're spending your day.