Las Vegas Natural History Museum

The main hall of the museum.Photo by Osie Turner
The main hall of the museum.
Photo by Osie Turner

The summer can be a challenging time to plan outings with young children. With the year’s first excessive heat warning about to begin this Sunday and temperatures expected to reach 114 degrees or higher next week, the time for indoor activities is well upon us. One overlooked option for fun during the summer months is our own Las Vegas Natural History Museum. With large automaton dinosaurs, live creatures, and King Tut’s tomb there is plenty to entertain and enthrall curious young minds.

The museum, which is actually much larger inside than one would expect from the building, has quite a few exhibits that were quite impressive considering the inexpensive price of admission. In the Marine Life Gallery, for instance, there is a 3,000 gallon pool with live sharks and stingrays swimming around. It is very similar to the one found at the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, except you can’t touch the stingrays since they are sharing the water with sharks. The gallery also has some rare Moapa coriacea fish, which is native to and only found in Clark County.

The Burmese pythons enjoying their habitat. One is wrapped around the other giving the illusion that it is one extremely long snake.Photo by Osie Turner
The Burmese pythons enjoying their habitat. One is wrapped around the other giving the illusion that it is one extremely long snake.
Photo by Osie Turner

Safely behind glass, in the hallway leading from the Marine Life Gallery to the restrooms, two live Burmese pythons share a small pond. Each one is about ten feet or more in length which is impressive to see in person.

For your small dinosaur enthusiast, the dinosaur automatons will be an instant hit. A thirty foot T-Rex and equally large Triceratops are locked in an endless standoff in the Engelstad Family Prehistoric Life Gallery. A life-sized Ankylosaur, Troodons, raptor, and various other Paleolithic creatures are reproduced as well. Another exhibit features the Ichthyosaur, marine reptiles that used to swim here when the state was mostly underwater eons ago.

If you were wondering what happened to the exact replica of King Tut’s tomb that was at the Luxor hotel, you’ll be happy to know it is still in Las Vegas. In 2008, the casino decided to end the exhibit and donated all of the 500 items to the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. The collection was made in Egypt by artists and craftsmen to be a precise rendering of the funerary items from the tomb. It is one of only two such reproductions with the seal of approval form the Egyptian government and is valued at over three million dollars. The Treasures of Egypt exhibit also features a small Egyptian village recreation with a few hands-on displays of ancient tools used during that time.

King Tut's sarcophagus.Photo by Osie Turner
King Tut’s sarcophagus.
Photo by Osie Turner

Downstairs is all about Africa. They have a small tropical jungle room and scenes from the Serengeti as well as few pieces of tribal art are on display. The early man room is also pretty interesting; they have a wall display where visitors can compare the different skulls of early hominids and modern primates to those of humans.

For the summer, from June until September 11, the Ancient Rome exhibit will be housed at the museum. This one focuses on the inventions of ancient Rome and has a lot of hands-on displays that kids can use to get a feel of how the things worked.

The Ancient Rome exhibit.Photo by Osie Turner
The Ancient Rome exhibit.
Photo by Osie Turner

The museum does have a lot of replicas, recreations, and artistic interpretations, but it is still fun and educational. Mostly it is obvious what is real and not, but they could do a better job of specifying whether some of the bones are real or molds. The little ones will most likely not mind though, as they will be too busy exploring and taking it all in. Definitely a great way to beat the heat and get out of the house for an afternoon!

The metal sauropod sculpture outside the museum was previously the focus of one of our Vegas Eye challenges; check it out here!

The Las Vegas Natural History Museum is located next to the Old Mormon Fort on Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue. Its exact address is 900 North Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV, 89101. For up to date info on hours, fees, or new exhibits go to lvnhm.org.

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