If you're planning on driving to the Hoover Dam -- or want to travel back in time -- the Clark County Museum is one stop you don't want to miss.
Located on Boulder Highway in Henderson (about 35 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip), the museum is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But that's what makes this experience so authentic -- and fun! The museum consists of two parts: A vast outdoor area with historic homes, a "ghost town" and old trains and an indoor exhibit showcasing a physical timeline of Nevada from ancient times to present. And for only $2 a person, you're definitely getting your money's worth.
The museum's Heritage Street takes you through a time warp. Not only will you forget you're in Vegas, you'll feel like you traveled back 100 years. The tree-lined streets provide ample shading on hot summer days and the manicured lawns and rabbits hopping around add a pleasant touch.
Explore five fully-furnished houses ranging from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Built in 1912, the Beckley house is a California bungalow-style house that was once located on Fourth Street in downtown Las Vegas. At the time, it cost only $2,500. The Beckley house was the last pioneer home in the area and moved to the museum in 1979.
Built in 1931, the Goumond House was glamorous for its time. The mint green walls and pastel-colored interior give you an idea of the style of the era. The bathroom even features colored toilet paper (remember those?). Also in the Goumond House, you'll see a room filled with old TVs and record players from the 1950s.
Just steps away, the Candlelight Wedding Chapel was once located on the Las Vegas Strip across from the Riviera hotel. Built in 1966, celebrities who were married in this chapel include Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta, to name a few. The chapel closed in 2004 and was relocated to the Clark County Museum in 2007. The chapel is fully furnished with pews, flowers and mannequin couples. You can even browse through wedding albums featuring couples who tied the knot in this chapel.
Donald W. Reynolds Print Shop is a replica of what you would have seen in the 1890s. The shop includes gigantic machines, including a national paper cutter, also known as the "guillotine cutter." This machine was capable of slicing through a four-inch thick pile of newspaper. This cutter was also used for books and magazines.
You'll also see a fully furnished trailer home, trains and historic vehicles. If it's not too hot, you can take the Mojave Desert Trail, which includes a ghost town with a blacksmith shop and a jailhouse.
Once you're finished venturing outdoors (or if you opt to come here first), the museum is like a history book coming to life. Instead of reading and flipping through multiple pages, you'll enjoy choosing the exhibits you want to explore.
Read about ancient geography in Nevada and see a model of dire wolf, an extinct breed that once roamed the valley 10,000 years ago. You'll also learn Nevada used to be home to Columbian mammoths, ground sloths, American lions and even camels. This section of the museum also includes history about mysterious petroglyphs (rock art) found on nearby canyon walls. The museum also presents in-depth history about Southwest Native American tribes (like the Anasazi, Mohave and Pauite) and tools they used for survival.
As you walk further into the museum, the time jumps from ancient Native American times to mining and pioneer days. Around this area, you'll also see an old gas tank, mannequins wearing women's fashions from the 1960s, a penny slot machine, a roulette table and retro Las Vegas hotel memorabilia.
Speaking of Vegas, we decided to save the best for last: The final exhibit in the museum showcases tons of trivia on Las Vegas, including resorts that made history, like the Stardust, the Sands, Moulin Rouge and the Dunes. For instance, did you know in 1965, the 24-story Dunes tower was the state's tallest structure? The property also had the tallest free-standing sign at 185 feet. This area also features posters of Wayne Newton and magicians Siegfried and Roy in their early days. While you're here, read about the many hotel implosions on the Strip.
The Las Vegas Strip began with the El Rancho hotel in 1941 and with the opening of the Flamingo hotel five years later, the Strip veered away from its Western frontier origins to the sleek, modernized resorts we see today.
The gift shop has a variety of unique items for sale, including books and handmade Native American dolls. There's even an outdoor patio featuring benches and a fountain for a peaceful place to relax.