Since Zappos CEO landed in downtown Las Vegas, anchoring his business headquarters and home there, its seems the young and trendy are following his lead. I never saw downtown Las Vegas in its previous heyday but I do remember the time when it fell out of favour with conventional tourists and was a haven for the biker set. The bikers are still there but the many multi-million dollar renovations of old hotels, rapid expansion of east Fremont St. with quirky art shoppes and restaurants, tells me they have company now. Juxtaposition of bikers, hipsters, retirees and adventurous suburbanites is making downtown a melting pot. And very interesting.
The Strip may still be a destination but it is no longer the only destination in Las Vegas.
I stayed at The Grand (previously Lady Luck) and the Mob Museum’s massive facade highlighted in purple light definitely caught my eye from the glass catwalk between towers.
Its not an homage to the likes of Gotti and Capone, rather its a detailed and fascinating chronicle of the battle between the law enforcement and organized crime in Las Vegas from the early days, as the gambling industry formed, up to present day. While the focus is on the history of that battle, interspersed are some interesting stories about Las Vegas’s past; Howard Hughes, Atomic testing, Hoover Dam and more. There are small bio’s of the 100 ‘most wanted’ including their origins and ultimate fates.
Its ironic and somewhat poetic that the museum is hosted inside the building where the feds prosecuted the mafia. Even more ironic is that one exhibit seats you in the wooden seats of the actual courtroom where cases were tried and you watch footage from those cases on three panels behind the judge’s podium. You might not have been alive when those cases went down, but now there’s a way to experience them.
Spread across three floors, most exhibits are equal parts text and video display. Some are more interactive, like the machine gun ‘tester’, which seems to attract college boys like a magnet. The displays are decently spaced and often compartmentalized in separate alcoves to minimize congestion.
You can easily spend 2-3 hours here if you interested in the history and you like to read, otherwise about 1- 1.5 hours should be fine. Fair warning, this museum is insanely popular and crowds here intensify significantly in the afternoon, causing cloggage at the more interactive displays and making navigation problematic. Best to go as early or as late as possible.