For decades, Las Vegas has occupied a singular place in America's cultural spectrum. Elvis impersonators, showgirls and neon lights are some of the most familiar emblems of Las Vegas' culture, but they are only part of the story.
In recent years, Las Vegas has secured its place on the cultural map. From the highbrow to the kitschy, you can bet on the destination to deliver a well-rounded dose of art and culture.
Unique Las Vegas Culture
Visitors can immerse themselves in the cultural offerings that are unique to Las Vegas and learn more about this gaming capital and its place in history.
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (The Mob Museum) is an interactive museum presenting a bold and authentic view of organized crime's impact on Las Vegas' history and its unique imprint on America and the world. The exhibits, programs and experiences offer multiple perspectives and provide a contemporary, engaging, challenging and educational experience. The $42 million museum is located in the heart of Downtown's urban core and housed in the former federal courthouse and United States Post Office. The museum opened on February 14, 2012.
Focused on preserving one aspect of Las Vegas' vibrant history, the Neon Museum is a collection of classic neon signs from the 1940s to present day. The collection currently features 11 refurbished, vintage neon signs on display downtown at the Fremont Street Experience. The Neon Museum has recently opened and houseshistoric signs, currently displayed on a 3-acre outdoor site called the Boneyard. Part of the new museum includes the historic La Concha Motel Lobby.
The non-profit Lied Discovery Children's Museum will relocate to a 58,000 square foot building located in Symphony Park downtown. The museum will change its name to Discovery Children's Museum and will continue to provide interactive, hands-on exhibits and programs when it re-opens in 2013.
The Springs Preserve opened in 2007 on a 180-acre historic site commonly known as "the birthplace of Las Vegas." The Preserve features historic museums, galleries, outdoor concerts and events, educational and play areas for children, the future Nevada State Museum, an interpretive trail system, a botanical garden and more.
The National Atomic Testing Museum is a repository for one of the most comprehensive collections of nuclear history. The current collection includes thousands of rare photographs, videos, artifacts, scientific and nuclear reports and data and one-of-a kind scientist collections from the Nevada Test Site, the Cold War, and nuclear and radiological science and technology.
The Erotic Heritage Museum is a 24,000-square-foot space featuring permanent exhibits designed to preserve wonders of the erotic imagination as depicted through the artistic expression of love. Guests can explore the vast array of socio-cultural perspectives including a special emphasis on the unfolding of the American Sexual Revolution of the 20th Century.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition showcases authentic artifacts recovered from two and one-half miles below the surface of the North Atlantic. Unique to the exhibition at Luxor Hotel & Casino is the crown jewel of the Titanic artifacts, the largest piece ever recovered - the ‘Big Piece." This 30-ton piece of the Titanic's starboard hull took nearly two days and more than 40 hours to install in this blockbuster exhibition. In addition, visitors can view more than 20 never-before-seen artifacts including gaming chips, passenger personal papers and decorative sections from Titanic's famed Grand Staircase.
BODIES...The Exhibition at Luxor Hotel & Casino showcases more than 275 body specimens. These real human bodies have been meticulously dissected, preserved through an innovative process and respectfully presented, giving visitors the opportunity to view the beauty and complexity of their own organs and systems. In addition to providing an up-close look inside our skeletal, muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems, the Exhibition encourages healthy lifestyle choices by serving as a wake-up call.
Art for Art's Sake
In 1998, Steve Wynn surprised many when he decided to open an art gallery in his $1.9 billion hotel-casino, Bellagio. Art critics were skeptical, but the public applauded his efforts when the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art opened and launched Las Vegas to the forefront of the art scene. With eyes glued to this emerging art center, other reputable art institutions started looking toward Las Vegas. The result: fine art galleries located in the resort corridor, featuring revered masterpieces by celebrated artists.
Fine art in Las Vegas is not confined to the resorts, however. Other galleries thrive elsewhere in town, and serve as gathering points for artists and art aficionados alike. Several notable venues and events make the roster of must-see activities for art buffs visiting Las Vegas.
Those who claim there is no culture in Las Vegas need look no further than the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Each year, UNLV features theatre productions, musicals, art exhibits, jazz, classical and chamber music concerts, ballets, opera, lectures, dances and other worldly entertainment.
The campus' performing arts venues, such as the Judy Bayley Theatre, Artemus Ham Concert Hall and the Black Box Theatre, feature entertainment of all kinds, including performances by the acclaimed Nevada Ballet Theatre, the Las Vegas Philharmonic and world-renowned musicians. Some of the ongoing series include The Charles Vanda Master Series, showcasing the best in classical music and dance; The Best of the New York Stage, featuring acclaimed Broadway, cabaret and jazz performers; The World Stage, devoted to international music and dance; and the UNLV Visiting Artist Lecture Series, which features nationally and internationally acclaimed artists discussing their work.
Theater All Around
Las Vegas is making a name for itself as a place to see great theater. High profile, star-powered shows and touring musical productions continue to make stops in Las Vegas, where they play to packed houses.
Many of the performances on the Las Vegas Strip are among the best and most innovative in the world, from the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil (seven resident productions) and Blue Man Group (Monte Carlo) to Broadway productions such as "Jersey Boys" (Paris) and the newly announced "Rock of Ages" (The Venetian).
The Las Vegas musical theater scene benefits from the presence of the Showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. The 7,000-seat performing arts center is the Strip's only mid-sized entertainment venue and is home to cultural and popular entertainment including national tours of highly acclaimed Broadway musicals.
Community theater has also received attention from Southern Nevada's residents and visitors alike. Groups such as the Las Vegas Little Theater, the local summer stock company Super Summer Theatre, the Rainbow Company Children's Theatre, as well as local academic institutions UNLV and the Community College of Southern Nevada present plays and musical productions featuring local and up-and-coming talent. The City of Las Vegas also features a comprehensive cultural arts program with events scheduled throughout the year.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a public/private partnership that has become the centerpiece of cultural life in Las Vegas offering a blend of performances by resident companies as well as first-run touring attractions. The 4.75-acre cultural complex features inviting lobbies with beautiful balconies, refined acoustics and a tastefully landscaped plaza linking surrounding hotels, restaurants, shops and offices in downtown's 61-acre urban development, Symphony Park. Home to the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall and the Boman Pavilion, The Smith Center broke ground in May of 2009 with a ceremonial carillon bell casting and ringing and opened on March 10, 2012.