Museums and Movie Sets: a Backstage Tour of Las Vegas

As Culture Trips insider guide will show, there is more to Las Vegas than bright neon lights and 24-hour casinos
As Culture Trip's insider guide will show, there is more to Las Vegas than bright neon lights and 24-hour casinos | © Gavin Hellier / Alamy Stock Photo
Lucy Thackray

Want to find out where Casino (1995) was filmed or visit a gory gallery dedicated to monsters? This expert-led experience reveals Sin City’s cultural side.

Beneath the veneer of neon signs, towering fountains and 24-hour hedonism, Las Vegas has a rich cultural heritage. From the mobsters and movie stars who frequented its hotels and casinos during the 1950s golden age to the legacy of the Paiute Tribes throughout Nevada, the city is a goldmine of ebullient entertainment, including world-class, only-in-Vegas residencies that are alone worth the flight, and cut-above cultural diversions. “Las Vegas invites artists to believe that anything is possible, to dream bigger and to lose their inhibitions,” says John Block of the Park West Gallery at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

The result is a city break where you can start the day at a surreal outdoor “graveyard” of giant neon signs, journey to see Paiute petroglyphs etched into the nearby Valley of Fire State Park and return to catch a show from the likes of Elton John or Lady Gaga. With that in mind, we’re showcasing three Vegas cultural experiences with an entertainment-hub hotel, all bookable right here on Culture Trip.

 Total Recall (1990), Casino (1995) and Transformers (2007) have all used the Valley of Fires incredible backdrop |
 The Little Church of the West is on the US National Register of Historic Places |
The Neon Museum collects, preserves and exhibits iconic Las Vegas signs |

Where to Stay: the Hotel…

1. NoMad Las Vegas

Casino Hotel

NoMad Las Vegas
Courtesy of NoMad Las Vegas / Expedia

Nudging up against the top entertainment venues along the city’s glitzy Strip, the NoMad is a grown-up boutique spin on a Las Vegas hotel. “The Strip is a great place to start,” explains John Block. “There are curated museums and art installations up and down this stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard. At Park West Gallery alone, you’ll find nearly 1,000 works of art, ranging from originals by icons like Salvador Dalí, Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso to works by contemporary artists like Peter Max, Mark Kostabi or Las Vegas native Michael Godard.” To complement your gallery hop, the NoMad’s rooms and suites – some with colorful area rugs, freestanding bathtubs, crystal decanters and Carrara marble sinks – feel like the elegant digs of an art collector, while the tranquil pool terrace, complete with Moroccan vibes, is sure to inspire your creative juices. It’s in an excellent location for visiting quirky museums and historical landmarks, and if you’re able to splash out on the Suite Royale, you’ll have a private library lounge, with its aubergine-hued pool table, perfect for nightcaps or unwinding with a good book.

What to Do: the Experiences…

2. Downtown Las Vegas Night-time Walking Tour


It goes without saying that Las Vegas really comes alive after dark. Alongside its famous scenes – those signature neon marquees, the illuminated (and choreographed) Fountains of Bellagio, the bright-light casinos – streams a steady flow of quirky human traffic: just-married brides, exhilarated gamblers, streetside buskers and even the odd A-lister. Acquaint yourself with the living, breathing spectacle on this locally led tour that scopes out atmospheric Fremont Street, where you can learn about the history of America’s hedonism capital.

3. Valley of Fire and Lost City Museum Tour


Just north of Las Vegas is the Valley of Fire State Park, a flame-red desertscape that’s sacred to Nevada’s native Paiute people. On this tour, you’ll uncover its otherworldly rock formations – so alien that they’ve served as backdrops and even stood in for other planets on many a film set, such as Casino and Star Trek Generations (1994), respectively. Afterward, you’ll explore the Lost City Museum, where you’ll learn about Nevada’s historic Ancestral Puebloan people, who lived in the area around 300BCE, and see artefacts found in this ancient site.

4. Special Guided Tour of Monster Museum with Tom Devlin


One of several quirky museums in the area (also check out the Mob Museum for some vintage gangster tales), Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum is a riot of eerie costumes, masks and prosthetics. A 30-minute drive outside of Las Vegas, it’s an absolute must-see for anyone intrigued by the art of sci-fi, makeup and special effects. Take a tour with Tom himself – the museum founder and a special-effects makeup artist – to learn how movie monsters are brought to life.

Our methodology

Culture Trip compiled these recommendations based on insights from our global community of travel experts and local insiders, combined with search data from millions of users around the world to understand interest in these destinations.

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