This week I continue a series of Picks of things to do in Las Vegas that don’t involve drinking or gambling. And for today’s Pick of the Week, we’re going to move off of the Strip and up to downtown Las Vegas. There, housed in the city’s old federal courthouse, is the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, colloquially known as the Mob Museum.
Let me state right up front that I have never had any interest in the mafia. I know some people are fascinated by it and love movies based in that world. Me…not so much. I’ve seen The Godfather films, which I can appreciate from a filmmaking standpoint (at least the first two), but nothing about them grabbed me. Also, I must admit that I have never seen a single episode of The Sopranos.
That said, I found the museum to be quite well done. It covers the history of organized crime in the United States, not just how it relates to Las Vegas. However, as you would expect, Vegas does get its due. There are three floors full of exhibits, several of which are interactive. One I particularly enjoyed uses one of the old courtrooms, one where congressional hearings on organized crime actually took place in the 1950s, as a multi-screen theater for a film about those hearings.
The museum is also home to a number of artifacts, including, creepily enough, a section of the brick wall where several men were murdered in the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago. There are also several costumes from mob-themed films and shows, including the aforementioned The Sopranos.
If you’ve had your fill of the Strip for a bit and want to do something different (and even educational) for several hours, the museum is worth your time. And when you’re done, you can walk the short distance to Freemont Street, which is just a couple hundred yards away. Freemont Street is home to several of the older Vegas casinos, including the Golden Nugget and Four Queens, both of which have appeared many times in TV shows and movies. A long section of Freemont Street has been covered with a large canopy containing a massive LED screen, which periodically shows videos set to music. While I wouldn’t call Freemont Street my favorite place to go, it will give you a taste of Las Vegas that’s very different from the Strip.
- Alan Decker
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