When I think about planning a trip to Las Vegas, museums are not the first thing that comes to mind. It’s the chiming slot machines, shows, pulsing lights, and steak dinners that get me excited. It’s reminiscing about times when I’ve hung out with family and friends late into the night, and wishing I hadn’t had those last two beers right before bed that puts a smile on my face.
But visiting a museum…? Is that something you do when you go to Vegas? If we are talking about the Mob Museum, then absolutely. Given the mob’s involvement with casinos throughout history, nothing could be more “Vegasy” than learning about the organized crime syndicates that at one point in time controlled many of the casinos there.
I’m a huge advocate of learning a little bit about the place you are visiting, and the Mob Museum is the perfect way to dive into not just Vegas history, but also how the mob started and spread throughout the United States.
The museum is very accessible, and a good size for a variety of interest levels. For those who want to read every placard and absorb every detail, you could easily spend half a day here. For those who are anxious to get back to their craps game or Blazing Sevens machine, you can take in the highlights in a couple of hours.
I don’t want to give away too many details from the actual exhibits and artifacts (you need to see these in person!) except to say that the exhibits are fun, interactive, and full of audio visual elements.
The museum doesn’t narrowly focus just on the mob. It spends an equal amount of time covering the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors that took down organized crime networks around the country. After all, their stories are intertwined at every step of the way. Consider this a history of law enforcement as much as it is a history of the mob.
One of my favorite things about this museum is that the building itself played a role in some of the legal proceedings against the mob. The Mob Museum is located inside a former federal courthouse and post office. In 1950, as part of a U.S. Senate investigation into organized crime, there was an important hearing held in the Mob Museum building.
Today the courtroom where the hearing took place is fully restored and one of the highlights of a visit to the museum. Sitting in this same courtroom and being able to watch a presentation about the investigation into the mob’s illicit business activities gives visitors a tangible connection to the story of organized crime that wouldn’t be possible had the museum been built somewhere else.
For someone who absolutely loves visiting Las Vegas, I love that the Mob Museum has given me some historical context regarding the mob’s involvement in the city. There is a ton a lore and urban legend surrounding the mob and Vegas. Some of it might have a nugget of truth, some of it is completely false, but the Mob Museum lays out the historical facts.
The Underground: Speakeasy and Distillery
If you’ve had your fill of history, it’s time to go down into the basement of the Mob Museum building and get your fill of a really cool prohibition style bar called The Speakeasy. Opened in 2018, the Underground contains both The Speakeasy bar as well as a working distillery. You can tour the distillery and sample their moonshine as part of the experience. Given the mob’s ties to illegal alcohol distribution during Prohibition, the Underground couldn’t be a more appropriate addition to the museum.
Accessing the Underground is part of your museum admission ticket, but if you want to visit the Underground on its own you can. You will need a password to get in, which can be found on the Underground’s Instagram page. Their most recent Instagram story has the current password. If facing the main entrance of the museum, the entrance to the Underground is located around the right side of the building on the northeast corner. You will be asked for the password at the door.
Otherwise, if you are already inside the museum, there are stairs leading down from inside the building lobby, just to the left of the elevators that go down to The Speakeasy and distillery.
The atmosphere and cocktails are fantastic and a perfect way to end a tour through the museum. Since bourbon is my drink of choice, I had The Marlow, which is a bourbon, sherry, blackberry, lemon, rosemary concoction that arrived in a bottle placed in a hollowed out book. From there you pour it into a glass prepared with ice and garnishes. I love the quirky presentation and attention to detail.
If the whole password thing seems a little “off putting” don’t let that stand in your way. Really, it just adds a little theatrics to the experience and is more fun than anything else. Service at the bar was friendly and quick. There is nothing pretentious or intimidating about this place. It will definitely be on my list of recommendations for anyone visiting Las Vegas. Cheers!
The Mob Museum Location
The museum is at 300 Stewart Avenue in downtown Las Vegas. The location is easily walkable from Fremont Street where most of the downtown casinos and hotels are concentrated.
For hours, parking, and ticket information, visit The Mob Museum website.