309 S. Valley View Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89107
Free with Springs Preserve Admission
A 13,000 square-foot interactive museum that looks at the history of the state of Nevada, from ancient fossils through the 20th century including a look at Las Vegas and gaming. The facility's exhibits include information on geology and the geography that formed the region, flora and fauna, Native American influence, early settlers in the frontier days, Hoover Dam, the Atomic Age, and the modern resort era.
A couple of miles north and west of The Strip on the grounds of the Springs Preserve.
It's sort of free, kind of. Entrance to the Nevada State Museum is included in the $18.95 (adults) ticket prices of the adjacent Springs Preserve so visiting it won't cost you anything extra.
A combination of the two facilities seems like a great way to spend a morning, especially if you have kids with you.
The facility is small and fairly cursory in scope but still a good effort and worth a short visit if you are already planning on going to the Springs Preserve, which you should.
Las Vegas and the state in which it resides are rich in history but for some reason there have been few efforts to preserve, display, and celebrate that history. Maybe it's the slot machines - they can be distracting.
The Nevada State Museum on the campus of the Springs Preserve takes a small step toward rectifying that with a beautiful facility full of exhibits that trace the evolution of the Silver State, its geology, its flora and fauna, and its people. That it is only a small step is a bit disappointing but one worth noting anyway.
The main gallery is about 13,000 square feet, which sounds big until you realize that even the smallest of Strip casinos is about five times that size. You could fit a dozen of these into the same space taken up by the slot machines and table games at Aria Las Vegas, so when trying to cram thousands of years of history into such a compact space the best you can hope for is a cursory overview.
The exhibits are set up more or less chronologically, with ancient times greeting you; archeological artifacts like a mammoth skeleton and a big prehistoric fish offer some size and scope. Discussions of plate tectonics explain how the region was formed and various fossils show the animal, vegetable, and mineral goings on of the times.
The Native American influence is examined briefly with some interesting videos before moving into the early settler days and how the gold, silver, and copper mining efforts helped bring more people to the region. Chinese and Basque immigrants are also given their due.
The state's role in the World War II efforts are reviewed before the whole thing ends in the more modern casino era with displays of old slot machines, gambling memorabilia, and a big wall of showgirl costumes. A 50s era film about the city that runs on a loop is a kick.
And that's pretty much it. There is a secondary gallery that houses rotating displays of various art and the like - the day I visited it had some high-def photography of Las Vegas and other Nevada scenery.
The relatively small amount of floor space would probably be less noticeable if there were more opportunities to engage with the exhibits. Interactivity is the key word among museums these days with most investing heavily in things you can touch, feel, and play with. Although there are a few such displays - one lets you move a magnifying glass over fossils for a better look and another allows you to adjust a computer generated timeline to show how the region was formed - for the most part there is just a lot of standing and reading. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you, it just doesn't provide the kind of short-attention-span experience that most people crave these days. If you can find a way to spend more than 30 minutes here, you're a better person than I am.
Taking the Nevada State Museum on its own, I wouldn't recommend making a special trip just to visit it. The good news is that it is located right next door to the stunning, incredibly interactive and engaging Springs Preserve facility, which is worth making a special trip for. Even better news is that admission to the Springs Preserve includes admission to the Nevada State Museum so you can do both without spending any extra dough.