It seemed like a whimsical, kitschy idea: Take a look at some of city’s the less heralded museums, halls of fame and funky attractions. Places that might be wilting in the big shadows cast by the Mob Museum, the Pinball Hall of Fame, the Atomic Testing Museum, the Neon Museum, the state and county museums. And there certainly were moments of whimsy and kitsch. But there were also a few eye-opening moments in unexpected places — who’d have guessed we’d be knocked over by the scouting museum? Sure, you’ve probably heard of some of these spots, but if you’re aware of them all, give yourself a local-knowledge merit badge.
International Scouting Museum
2915 W. Charleston Boulevard #2
Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment
Highlights: An international collection of scouting uniforms, a military uniform worn by the founder of modern scouting, Robert Baden-Powell. Wow. We did not expect the unmarked door on an otherwise unremarkable professional center to lead to such a dense treasure trove of scouting memorabilia. Executive Director James Arriola said the computer database contains more than 100,000 items. About 10-15 percent are on display at any given time. Cramming all that into 2,000 square feet requires the efficient use of drawers and display cases. The sheer number of trinkets — badges, medals, patches, insignia, pins and sashes — can seem a bit overwhelming. But it’s neatly organized by date and country. The collection is extensive and includes items from more than 200 countries. As interesting as it is to scouting enthusiasts, the museum also holds some intrigue for geography and history buffs. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into Dr. Robert Lynne Horne, the museum’s founder and practitioner at the psychiatry practice next door. He knows every inch of the collection, and has a story for almost every item in the museum. His tale of two scouts brought together in battle nearly brought tears to my eyes. Horne has an enthusiasm for scouting that not only inspired the museum, but also led to its incredible growth. The museum will move into much larger quarters in October, growing to 13,000 square feet. Success is its own reward, sure, but Horne and his crew deserve a round of merit badges for passion and persistence. But then they’d have to find a place for them in an already crowded collection.
Is it visit-worthy? Yes. The museum is a must-see for anyone who was ever serious about scouting. And for the rest of us, it’s a pretty amazing collection of curiosities, and a testament to single-minded passion.
3785 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Open daily, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Highlights/lowlights: Bad news first: World of Coca-Cola Las Vegas has been gone for 12 years now, and it isn’t coming back. The short-lived museum, which was only open from 1998 to 2000, housed Coke history, memorabilia, and the famous “around the world” soda-tasting room — the undisputed highlight of the tour, where drinks from several countries were served. But that’s the good news: You can still sample international pop at the Coca-Cola store, and you can still ride the Coke-bottle elevator. Basically, the best parts of the experience are still there. The property is solely a retail space now, but there’s a soda jerk on the second floor that serves various drinks, including the fabled “around the world” tasting, which is the most popular request, judging by the number of groups hovering over trays of it. The 16-flight soda tasting ($7) comes with a legend to guide you through the countries. Bright yellow Inca Kola tastes like piña colada and comes from Peru. Stoney Tangawizi from Tanzania is an intense — and intensely refreshing — carbonated ginger. Kinley Lemon of England is salty, and you’ll swear that China’s Smart Watermelon is Jolly Rancher juice. Sunfill Mint of Djibouti is flat, and reminiscent of watered-down Scope, and Beverly from Italy is … something you’ll have to taste for yourself.
Is it visit-worthy? Absolutely, and bring friends. “Around the world” alone would be no fun. Besides, one tasting serves enough to satisfy three or four.
The Chuck Jones Experience
2880 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
$10-$15 for Nevada residents.
Highlights/lowlights: You came for the original drawings and paintings, and you won’t be disappointed in their numbers. But you’ll stay for the interactive animation room, where you’ll make your own old-school cartoons. The only letdown? It’s only 10,000 square feet. A staggering amount of creative works and memorabilia pack the small-scale exhibit over at Circus Circus, an unlikely home for the ultimate Looney Tunes gallery. Lots of nostalgia for those of us who grew up watching Bugs and crew flex their wit every Saturday morning, while life-sized statues of the characters demand kiddie photo ops.
Is it visit-worthy? This exhibit would be a must-see in New York or Los Angeles, let alone Las Vegas. Meep-meep your way over there.
Burlesque Hall of Fame
Inside Emergency Arts
520 Fremont Street #120
burlesquehall.com, (888) 661-6465
Open noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, until 10 p.m. on the first Friday and second Saturday of the month.
Donation or purchase suggested.
Highlights: A burlesque sock puppet and topless photos from the 1960s.
It’s easy to find the Burlesque Hall of Fame, one of the original tenants of Emergency Arts. Just walk into The Beat and turn left. It’s the pink one — a glassed-in area the color of nipples.
This museum is small but mighty. The entire history of burlesque, from its murky 19th-century origins on the minstrel circuit to its vaudeville heyday, postwar decline and modern rebirth, are all on display.
Executive Director Dustin Wax inherited the collection from burlesque legends Jennie Lee and Dixie Evans. He organized it into a timeline. “We’re looking at the history of burlesque in America. It really is a uniquely American art form, just like jazz and baseball.” Don’t worry; there’s enough flesh on display to keep it titillating.
Is it visit-worthy? Yes — if you’re in the neighborhood. A spin through the collection will only take 20 minutes. Best to save your visit for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in early June, when you can see vintage and modern performers. Burlesque is a living art meant to be enjoyed in person.
Sports Hall of Fame
Las Vegas Club
18 E. Fremont Street
Always open. Free.
Highlights/lowlights: Black and white boxing photos from the 1930s. Michael Jordan UNC jersey. Lowlights? Literally the low lighting.
This sports collection is strewn throughout the lobby of the Las Vegas Club, near Tinoco’s, which recently closed. It includes NFL jerseys, boxing photos and a collection of World Series bats from 1946-58.
The collection has some unique items that might appeal to the hardcore sports fan. But the Hall of Fame is poorly lit, and some of the displays are a little ragged. One of the World Series bats had fallen off of its peg. A collection of neat boxing photos couldn’t be seen in the low lights. Still, the image of boxer Lou Nova with two black eyes and a towel wrapped around his head still sticks with me. It’s an interesting image of an obscure fighter. Pretty neat, if that’s your thing.
Is it visit-worthy? Not unless you really like sports and happen to be in the area immediately surrounding the Las Vegas Club.
The Erotic Heritage Museum
3275 Industrial Road 369-6442
Open Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, noon-10 p.m., closed Monday
$15 general admission, $10 for locals, military and seniors, 18-plus
Highlights/lowlights: The Erotic Heritage Museum has a little bit of everything, but its main focus is the American sexual revolution, says art director and curator Dorian Gomez. The museum is a mix of art, history, humor and porn, ranging from tasteful to crass. In the main room sits the featured exhibition, which changes every couple of months. Currently, it’s costumes and props from the porn parody Star Wars XXX. The museum is heavy on artifacts but light on interpretation, so it’s more like browsing a collection than signing up for a history lesson. Save for a few timelines and the Wall of Shame, which chronicles misdeeds of various villians, there’s not much reading to be done, so visitors can browse at any pace.
Is it visit-worthy? Yes. The museum holds lots of events, as well.
Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum
McCarran International Airport
5757 Wayne Newton Blvd.
Always open. Free.
Highlights/lowlights: If you’ve been to the airport, you’ve likely seen this collection, though you might not have known it. What looks like a cluster of information kiosks is actually the museum, which follows aviation from Southern Nevada’s first flight in 1920 to the modern McCarran. The museum brings viewers back to the days of the first endurance flight records; when casinos flew guests in free from L.A.; when the Hoover Dam trumped Las Vegas as Southern Nevada’s main attraction. There are real gems hiding among the sometimes redundant artifacts.
Is it visit-worthy? Yes — the next time you have to go to the airport anyway.
Inside the Venetian
3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South
www.madametussauds.com/LasVegas, (866) 841-3739
Open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
$12.98 through Labor Day (Sept. 3) for locals. Regular admission is $25.95 for locals.
Highlights/lowlights: A charming wax replica of Shaquille O’Neal. A disappointing house of horrors. The Vegas branch of the London wax museum doesn’t consider itself as a museum. It’s an attraction with more than 100 wax figures. The statues have real human hair and hand-painted eyeballs. Katy Perry’s figure is more lifelike than her last album.
Madame T’s has a great collection of Vegas entertainers, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Elvis and Celine Dion.
Visit worthy? Locals can bring up to seven guests. Great for the People-reading pop-culture addict in your life.