Viva Nerd Vegas! Geek Out at These Museums [Summer Travel 2018]

Photo by Matt Griebel

If you’ve read a dead-tree edition of the OC Weekly, you know we’re no strangers to sleaze. Hell, we love it! As such, our lowbrow tastes are well-represented in a city such as Las Vegas. But rather than give you a run-of-the-mill walk-through of the Strip (and to compliment Hellcat Hamby’s own coverage of Sin City), we’ll do like real nerds and tell you about some great museums to check out while you’re there. Don’t worry, they’re more or less of the sleazy variety—so you can still get that sensationalist buzz, but through an educational lens. Hooray for learning!

Photo by Matt Griebel

The history of American crime, gangsters, godfathers and the mafia has been pretty well-illustrated in 20th-century cinema and true-crime television specials, but this museum unpacks it all in an interactive, nuanced way. Its website states, “All the Dirt. All in One Place,” and the museum, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, features heavy exhibits on organized crime and its history in not only Nevada, but also the rest of the U.S. using documents, historical ephemera, multimedia displays and comprehensive diagrams explaining some of the grittiest crime hits. Cooler still is the museum’s Underground, a basement that features a bar and distillery where you’ll get a vivid re-enactment of Prohibition-era speakeasies and a chance to wet your whistle. 300 Stalwart Ave., Las Vegas;

Photo by Bettina May

This titillating museum showcases a thorough examination of the defining icons of the art of burlesque in order to preserve its legacy and encourage future generations of showgirls (or showboys). Via thousands of pieces from classic costumes, props, sheet music, magazines, photographs, books and personal items, the lives and careers of major burlesque dancers, comics and other tease performers from Las Vegas, vaudeville and beyond are lovingly portrayed with dignity, awe and respect. It’s also where you’ll find Dita Von Teese’s giant martini glass. 1027 S. Main St., Ste. 110, Las Vegas, (888) 661-6455;

Host of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Zak Bagans opened his own museum that plays host to a cadre of unholy objects, many of which scared the living heck out of me during a daylight tour. The museum is densely packed with haunted dolls, funeral memorabilia, scary clowns and circus toys, puppets, and death objects—including the chair used to give Michael Jackson his propofol injections, Truman Capote’s prescription-pill bottles, the cauldron Ed Gein used to boil skin, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s death van, a haunted Peggy Doll that will curse you if you look into its eyes, and a Dybbuk Box that carries an evil spirit. Guests must sign a waiver of liability upon admission.

Even creepier (if that’s possible), the museum is located inside a sprawling mansion built in the 1930s that belonged to Cyril Wengert and his family. Many of their supposedly haunted paintings are hanging on the walls. 600 E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, (702) 444-0744;

Photo by Bettina May

More interesting than a museum dedicated to making whoopee is its origin story: The Erotic Heritage Museum was started by Harry Mohney, owner of the Deja Vu strip-club chain, and Reverend Ted McIlvenna, who started Glide Foundation in 1963 in San Francisco to provide outreach and health services to LGBT youth. McIlvenna, whose main studies have crossed into human sexuality, also happens to be owner of a large swath of porn, artifacts and erotic ephemera from decades’ worth of accumulation. So the two merged their respective smut collections, providing a well-rounded and educational base for people of every age, sex, gender, race or religion to learn about sex, in terms of being a base desire as well as its functions for physical and emotional health.

Exhibit-wise, expect to see plenty of ancient artifacts from various civilizations—erotically charged paintings, vases and sculptures—as well as contemporary toys, pornography, art, films and the world’s largest sex bike! 3275 Sammy Davis Jr. Dr., Las Vegas, (702) 794-4000;

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