Lied Children’s Discovery Museum, Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Nevada State Museum, are some of the Las Vegas Educational Museums that are fun for the whole family.
While visitors to Las Vegas are frequently aware of the museums and cultural exhibits showcased in resorts and hotels they often miss other opportunities. Three museums worth a visit are the Lied Children’s Discovery Museum, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas. The first two museums are located on Las Vegas Boulevard, within a quarter of a mile of each other. Even though they are on the road better known as the “Strip,” they are well beyond the resorts and the historic Downtown section of Las Vegas.
Lied Children’s Discovery Museum
The Lied Children’s Discovery Museum tops the list. It is a pleasant surprise to find that Las Vegas actually has a Children’s Museum. The Museum has two floors, and enough activities on each to keep children of all ages occupied for at least a couple of hours. I was even more impressed after I visited the Children’s Museum in Nevada’s capital—Carson City. The Lied Discovery Children’s Museum has so much more to offer than the State Children’s Museum.
The Lied Discovery Children’s Museum consists of one hundred hands on exhibits about science, arts and humanities that teach as well as entertain. An everyday living section, where children pretend to pick a job, earn a paycheck, deposit savings in a bank and buy groceries, offers an opportunity to sample adult life. Another section of the museum lets children simulate what it is like to be physically impaired. A science tower with fiber optics and a weather station are also featured. Desert Discovery is an exciting new exhibit for children ages five and under and their families.
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
The Las Vegas Natural History Museum has five different galleries: Dinosaurs and Fossils, Marine Life, Africa Exhibit, Nevada Wildlife, and World Wildlife. There is also a “Hand’s-On” Discovery Room with interactive displays and live tarantulas, turtles, snakes and scorpions. Traveling exhibits are also on display from time to time. A recent exhibit entitled “Cats! Wild to Mild,” surveyed felines from around the world, from large wild cats to domestic pets. Highlights included dioramas featuring nineteen feline species including jaguars, lions, tigers, leopards, bobcats, and wild cats. Permanent diorama displays in the African Rooms and a large variety of native plants and animals including a small heard of elk in the Wild Nevada Room provide an up close look at animals large and small.
The Las Vegas Natural History Museum is also great for children, no matter what their age. Both of my children enjoyed the Marine Life Gallery. Painted in cool blue colors, looking up at suspended sea life, you feel as if you are under the sea. The highlight of this gallery is the 3,000-gallon reef tank. This open display features live sharks, stingray, and eels swimming about. One important note: this is not a touch tank! Fingers and hands could easily become lunch for a hungry little shark. The “Finding Nemo” jewel tank is another fun exhibit in this gallery. In it you will find the different species of fish featured in Disney’s animated movie of the same name.
Another interesting area is the Dinosaurs and Fossils gallery. The best part of this gallery is the 35-foot long Tyrannosaurus rex that lowers its head and roars when you push a button to activate it. A Triceratops, an ankylosaur with hatchlings, and a ferocious raptor give a further glimpse of the past.
Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
The Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas is located in historic Lorenzi Park, one of the oldest parks in Las Vegas. This museum is off the beaten path, tucked among housing tracts, about five or six miles north of the Strip. The museum is full of interesting displays such as one that depicts desert wildlife indigenous to Southern Nevada. The Earth Sciences exhibit hall features a full size, 48 foot, carved relief of Nevada’s state fossil the Ichthyosaur Shonisaurus popularis and a Columbian Mammoth—a resident of Nevada 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Fossilized rib bones and flipper of the largest Ichthyosar are on display.
Another gallery traces the presence of man in Nevada while a large exhibit is dedicated to nuclear testing in Nevada, including a variety of posters, cartoons, photos and newspaper clippings. The Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas even has a photo sequence following the 2.3-second collapse of a typical wood-frame house during a nuclear blast. And of course, there are displays about the casinos and the Strip. A photography exhibit shows highlights of some of the most notable neon signs in Las Vegas. There is also an area dedicated to the history of the Flamingo Hotel and its famous founder, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.”
The Nevada State Museum and Historical Society, too, has special exhibits on hand. A recent display was “Bats! Champions of the Night Sky.” This exhibit featured preserved specimens of 8 species of bats that live in Nevada. Additional Las Vegas museum information and pictures can be found at: Las Vegas Auto Museums. Unfortunately the Liberace and Las Vegas Elvis-A-Rama Museums have been closed so you will no longer find Elvis’ blue suede shoes in Las Vegas.
by Julie Engelhardt