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The Nevada State Museum shows you the history and events of a state unlike any other in the Union.
It has always embodied the true essence of 'maverick', even when that wasn't such a cool thing to be.
You'll get a good understanding of that spirit and its wild west nature when you tour this museum.
Nevada, officially called the Silver State, had quite the unusual path to statehood, and it seems that's the way Nevada has rolled ever since ... very unusual like.
Considering its history, its full name really should be the 'Maverick Silver State'.
Its unusual like ways is what brought forth one of the most unique of all cities not only in America, but the world.
The good news is that getting to see this place is something that Vegas is known for ... a good deal. That's because you get entrance for both the Springs Preserve and the Nevada State Museum all in one.
If you can give it 7 hours to take in both the Springs Preserve and the Nevada State Museum, then you'll enjoy a great day here.
If not, seeing both on this website should make it easier for you to decide if you only have time for one, because each of these has a lot to offer.
You'll want to give the Nevada State Museum at least a 2 to 2.5 hours to fully enjoy it.
The Springs Preserve can easily have you spend 4 hours there since it's larger and has more features to it.
Although some try, I believe you end up cheating yourself by trying to see both of these in 5 hours or so. You end up having to rush around while skimping on some really good stuff.
What I recommend is to choose the one you want to spend the most time at, then use whatever leftover time you have to catch parts of the other.
Any of these choices is keeping in mind that part of having an enjoyable day here includes having lunch at their Cafe, so you want to allow about 30 minutes into your time plan for that.
If you get to Vegas more than once a year, get the yearly pass and you'll be able to really get the most out of both of these places.
If you're a local, definitely get the yearly pass. There will be many festivals and events you'll want to check out once you get to know more about them. Especially if you're looking for different things to do with the kids.
You'll find the Nevada State Museum within the Springs Preserve on the northern part of the grounds.
As you enter the Nevada State Museum, you'll first see the Museum Gift Shop and then the main lobby area.
As you walk in further, you'll find the permanent section of the Museum is to your left and the smaller visiting exhibit area to your right.
As you enter the permanent section, you’ll meet the fossilized remains of Christopher the Mammoth.
Other fossils nearby are Molasses the Shasta Ground Sloth, Iris the Ichthyosaur and a horse with no name - the prehistoric Pacific Horse.
The Museum is laid out chronologically without being confining, meaning you can follow its very well displayed sections and themes on Nevada's history in order, yet jump over to another section or interest with ease if you want.
It begins way back when Nevada was part of an ocean. Besides the fossilized remains of large prehistoric creatures, you'll see fossils of the vegetation and little critters of that time period.
From there it progresses on and you'll see the changes to the land and animals over time.
You’ll see a large selection of mounted animals up close that are native to our areas today.
Throughout, there's interpretive boards detailing info on the animals and their specialized abilities and adaptations.
Having seen a number of these in the wild, I was impressed with the quality of these displays.
The mounted animals have been very well done and what you see is very much what they would look like if you came across one out in our desert areas.
Another section traces the earlier history of explorers and fur traders that made their living trapping and selling furs of the various animals within the state.
Nevada's wealth of minerals is a key part of the heritage of our state.
Its boom and bust history is highlighted within the Mining section of the Nevada State Museum.
It's rich with the many different aspects mining affected and transformed during the state's early years.
There's various sections that feature Nevada's many different towns along with when and how they came into play into the state's development.
One special section on the Comstock Lode fills you in on one of the richest silver mines that has ever been found. It was an immense discovery and started a rush that brought prospectors and many others from all around the world.
At first prospectors were finding gold near the surface and chucking out all kinds of muddy rocks and dirt surrounding it.
When someone realized it was actually huge chunks of silver they had been tossing aside, word got out and the rush was on.
Discoveries in other parts of Nevada had settlements and towns spring up pretty much overnight.
Some survived while many eventually turned into ghost towns after the mines played out. If you're a fan of ghost towns, you're in the right state because Nevada has plenty of 'em to explore.
The Mining section in the Nevada State Museum is stocked with the many items and tools that were critical to the industry during those days.
A nearby section has a cool display of historical papers, documents and memorabilia related to the mining business as well as other related artifacts.
It highlights all kinds of items of interest as it delves into the different aspects of life and the people back in the mid to late 1800’s.
Various spots feature those who came to work the mines, stake claims, became merchants, cowboys, ranchers, politicians and more.
Many people aren't aware that along with South Africa and Australia, Nevada is still one of the biggest producers of gold. Copper is another metal its also a top producer of.
You'll see the many other precious metals and minerals found within the state and the displays highlighting these are top notch.
In the same area it features the railroads that were a crucial part of settling the west and the role they played in our state's history. It even has a virtual segway, an individual hand-pumped rail car, that has a video sync'd to it.
Nearby you'll also see interesting features on Abraham Lincoln, Emma Nevada and John C. Fremont among others, and their connection to the Silver State.
The Nevada State Museum showcases the State's embrace of gambling, prize fighting, quickie marriage & divorce and legalized prostitution that set its identity as the State of Vices.
That's the 'maverick' I referred to in the opening section.
It was by no means 'cool' back then, as it earned Nevada a sullied and much lower reputation than any other state.
But guess what? People just kept on coming and coming.
No other state even came close to what Nevada had decided for itself. It all started up north in Reno, but it was in Las Vegas where it really blossomed, eventually becoming famously known the world over as Sin City.
These displays feature the early days of the 'peculiar industries' in Reno, then moves on to early Las Vegas.
There's info on Hoover Dam, the Nevada Test Site and of the notable people back then and then moves it up to more recent times.
Although there is a good size section on Las Vegas, it hardly goes into the subject of the Mob. Instead, it covers a wider spectrum about the city, which I found was a good choice.
The Mob story is well known and better done in many other places, like our own downtown Mob Museum. The Nevada State Museum instead focuses on many other interesting facets in the city's history.
One example is the back wall. It's a floor to ceiling display area of some of the extravagant and risque costumes worn by the showgirls that graced the stage shows of Las Vegas.
By today's standards they no longer stand out as much, but they certainly did in the time periods they were introduced, which was the 1950's on up through to the 80's.
Back then, Las Vegas was the only place in the U.S. where you'd see spectacular large scale productions featuring some of the most beautiful topless performers unlike any other during those days.
That's what gave it the 'wow' factor even Paris couldn't match. The Las Vegas versions of shows imported from Paris were out-sized extravaganzas nobody could compete with except other Las Vegas venues and they ran for decades.
Although it continued for a while after the 80's, it became a dwindling draw as the times and interest changed.
The Las Vegas section is full of one of a kind artifacts including handbill's from famous Strip shows, memorabilia of all kinds from iconic resorts, and a section on Hollywood and the city.
There's sections dedicated to the business and social leaders of that time and their influences on Las Vegas.
There are things you'll see here that you won't see too many other places, if at all. I found that the Nevada State Museum did a really good job of filling in areas that really haven't been done very much in too many other places.
My first time here I easily spent 2 hours in the permanent part of the Museum and wished I had at the very least another half hour or so.
That day my time was getting short so I moved on to the visiting exhibit, but eventually made up for it on my next visit.
I ended up doing an hour in the visiting exhibit, which I'll also briefly cover, because I wouldn't be surprised to see it return.
The visiting exhibit had more than a few surprises for me and I honestly didn't think I'd get that much into it, but it really pulled me in. Whomever is in charge of curating things at the Nevada State Museum did a great job with this one also.
One thing most people don't realize is that Las Vegas was actually a small town with a huge name until the mid to late 1980's.
My page 'Las Vegas - Understanding the City' goes into more detail about that and many other things that have made the growth of this city so unlike others.
It's had disadvantages and challenges that I think few people are even aware of or have given much thought to. In true context, Las Vegas is actually quite a young city.
Older, more mature cities have big museums as well as other large and varied social venues which have taken a long time to develop. But that's something a relatively young city like Las Vegas is still growing into.
By comparison our institutions won't be as big as what you may be used to. Those of you visiting from larger cities will feel our State Museum is much smaller than what you expected, but looks can be deceiving.
Nevada's history has been very active and dense ... and there's one thing I can pretty much guarantee you.
Few places in the world rival the incredible history of Reno, Las Vegas and so many other cities that represent the character of Nevada.
This state is jam-packed with places and events of human interest, intrigue and a wild west nature unlike any other during its relatively short existence.
I'm pretty confident there's many surprising things about Nevada you aren't yet aware of ... and it's a truly remarkable, one of a kind history.
That's the reason to come see the Nevada State Museum. It will show you why and how Nevada has always been so genuinely different.
That heritage is the reason why a place like Las Vegas, unique in all the world, was able to thrive and prosper ... and still resonates around the world to that little maverick streak in us all.
I won't go too much into the visiting exhibit I saw on my last visit because I don't know that it will be there when you visit. If by chance it is, you'll be surprised how much it will pull you in.
The subject of this exhibit was a 150 Years of Communications in Nevada, and I didn't expect much when I read the theme. I figured 'oh well, I'll poke around a bit and then head to the Springs Preserve'.
An hour later I was still immersed in this exhibit. It covered the full historical range of communications as it related to Nevada specifically, and the rest of the country in general.
One incredible piece of history was how the State Constitution for Nevada was transcribed so that official Statehood could be established. It's something I had never heard about before seeing it here.
This exhibit was full of classic vintage items of communications, and then some. It covered everything from rock art to the first computers. It had displays of telegraphs, typewriters, phones, cameras, early visual toys and machines, film cameras, old radio's, TV's and many other gadgets.
And not just one, but a variety within each category. I remember my parents using the same expandable accordion camera, Polaroid Instamatic and the little box camera I saw here.
I saw things I hadn't seen since I was a kid and had pretty much forgotten about until I saw them again in this exhibit.
By mere chance, for a time I got to work on an early model Apple Computer and it was a real kick to see one of those displayed here.
Some of you may remember the 'View Master' as a kid - a viewer you'd stick a round cardboard disk into that held little squares of film on a particular theme or subject, and there were dozens of themes.
You would push down a lever to advance each frame that the viewer magnified and the colors were fantastic in these little things. My buddies and I would trade disks after seeing them enough times to save on having to buy more of them.
This visiting exhibit at the Nevada State Museum had a huge array of so many things that are just too numerous for me to try and even go into more detail about here.
Instead, I will conclude this section with something that really caught me off guard.
Superman's phone booth!
One of the most iconic phone inventions ever, that used to be everywhere for the longest time. The one and only aluminum phone booth.
I was reading and looking at displays as I turned a corner and saw the booth and was shocked - not just at seeing it but also at my reaction to seeing it.
I felt like I had run into an old friend that I hadn't seen in forever, and a whole bunch of memories came flooding back seeing this icon from my youth.
It held me there, reminiscing on so many things I had almost forgotten about, of times and events that I had in or around this phone booth. I stood there like a little kid just smiling and staring at this old friend for a good 5 minutes.
It was the most unexpected, strangest and best of surprises which not only made my day ... the memories resurrected by that booth stayed with me for weeks.
My day at this exhibit ended in the most unexpected way and the pleasure was all mine. I have the Nevada State Museum to thank for that. With the quality of both the exhibits here, there's a good chance your day here could bring you the same.
If you want a keepsake of your visit here, remember you can get memento's at their Gift Shop, which you probably saw right in front of the complex as soon as you entered the Museum.
At minimum, give yourself at least 2 to 2.5 hours to have enough time to enjoy and explore both sections of the Nevada State Museum.
And remember if you get hungry, your entrance ticket is for both the Museum and Springs Preserve so no worries ... just head on over to the Cafe, which I definitely recommend as part of a great day out here.
The address for the Springs Preserve is 333 South Valley View Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89107.
Getting here is easy because you just need to connect to Valley View, which runs north-south, head north on it and a little past Charleston Blvd, you'll see it on your right.
From the Strip, take either Flamingo, Sahara or Charleston Blvd west to Valley View Blvd and turn right heading north. About 2 miles past Charleston Blvd., you'll see signs for the Springs Preserve which will be on your right, across the street from the Meadows Mall.
Take note that Valley View does not run between Tropicana and Flamingo, so you need to get to Flamingo if staying in the south Strip area.
Another option from the south Strip is to take I-15 to Charleston Blvd, exit to head west, then turn right on Valley View. About 2 miles up you'll see signs for it on your right.
From Downtown, take 95 North/Reno (it heads west before turning north to Reno) to Valley View, exit heading south and about half a mile down you'll see signs for the Springs Preserve.
From most Strip locations, it’s basically a 20-25 minute drive in moderate traffic this way. From Downtown it's a 10 minute drive.
Clink on this link - The Springs Preserve - to see my page on it if that's your main interest.
For info on all else, visit the Springs Preserve website. This includes info on the Nevada State Museum since it's in the northern section of the grounds at the Springs Preserve.
The Nevada State Museum and Springs Preserve is a refreshing change that's a great option whenever you're ready to spend your day in a whole different way before hitting the great nightlife on the Strip.