Long before the lights of the Strip blazed the way into history and attracted millions of tourists a year, Clark County was filled with life surrounding the desert landscape. Evolving from a time when animals roamed freely long before human inhabitants to a time when many Native American cultures cultivated the lands through farming and forging. The progress of adapting to the climate in Clark County soon fostered in those seeking their fortunes through mining. From there it was just a matter of time before the exploitation of the lands yielded what we all know today.
There to educate tourists and locals alike of the transition from humble beginnings to the million dollar city and all that surrounds is the Clark County Museum. Located in Henderson, Nevada, some 20 minutes from the bright lights of the strip, the Museum serves as a living time capsule of all things you could ever want to know about the area.
I managed to find my way there after realizing I was only a short distance from where I happen to be at the time. Located just off of Boulder Highway it is tucked back in what appears to be a residential space, but when I arrived I quickly realized part of the appearance of residential space was in fact a time warp of homes and landmark buildings move into the area to display the progression of the area throughout time through the actual homes of former residents.
Entering the main building to pay ($2 for adults and $1 for those under 18), the pleasant and informative staff equipped me for a travel in time through the exhibit hall and outdoor spaces with maps and instructions.
Within the Anna Roberts Park Exhibit Center, a timeline of hands on exhibits walk you through the history of Clark County with vivid displays and sounds to recreate the feel of the wild west and all that it had been and become. Moving forward the exhibitions of the modernism of the area unfolds introducing the bread and butter of much of the community, gambling and how it made a difference on the landscape of what once was a farming community.
I must say the camps which once were the settlement of Vegas area a far cry from that of the modern day suites you visit and find your whims in currently. It all happened because of a gamble of few which thought the settlement would one day be grand and small fixed tents were assembled to create the first “Las Vegas”. Many thought it would flop, however the gamble paid off and began the boom of the 40s ushered in the founding of the official Strip.
Of those Casinos founded in the 40s only one remains in tact by name, the Flamingo, a central fixture now known for their indoor garden space which allows free roaming flamingos, ducks and turtles to provide an oasis amidst the hot desert sun of the strip. I had been there only a few days prior on another adventure and checked out the sight, a beautiful waterfall filled garden with koi fish and plenty of spaces to look on and be at peace amidst the bustle of all that around you.
I moved through the changing exhibit area, which changes approximately 4 times a year before leaving for the outdoor spaces. At this time it was focusing on World War 1 and the contributions made by those in the Clark County area to the efforts.
Outdoors the homes collected from around the county each tell a unique story, many with vocal sensors triggered when you walk in the door to tell about the inhabitants, others with scannable codes providing extended amounts of information about each structure. The interaction of each of the homes I found to be very exciting and the vast difference told a story of evolution of people and times.
Two of my favorite structures on the premise were the Wedding Chapel, one of 16 featured chapels on the Strip in the 1970s. This chapel made the Los Angeles Times when on Valentines Day of 1982 they hosted 150 weddings in the single day. They went on to break their record in 1987 when in a 24 hour period they hosted 450 weddings in true Vegas style. But like all good things, in 2005 it saw its final day and it was closed, later relocated in 2007 to the property of the Clark County Museum. From that point, since no records from the site remained in tact, the Chapel has become one of the most interactive points of interest as visitors which have been married discover that their chapel is forever immortalized by the museum and submit their wedding information for eternal record to the museum.
My other favorite happens to be the only non-historic building on property, the Printing Press. Built to resemble an original print shop of the 1900’s the equipment stored within has run some of the most infamous headlines of the area during the 50s and beyond. When modernization began the pieces became obsolete and were retired to the museum with some of their now 65 plus year ink in tact and still damp to the touch.
After taking a stroll down Heritage Street, I ventured across the street to another portion of the property, this lined with transportation methods, a ghost town and a small nature trail. On the warm outdoor day it was a perfect setting to enter these structures, take time out on the trail to walk the short trail. On a warm day I would suggest bringing a bottle of water along as the only spaces to stop for hydration or restrooms is in the main building.
Featured portions of ghost town include a blacksmith shop, jail, toll station and general store. Unlike the buildings on Heritage Street, many of these are not as explorable as they were closed at the time I was visiting or under renovations. These do back up to the trail which has various signs of differing types of vegetation. The entire trail at a normal pace took around 8 minutes to walk and was a bit more rugged than the normal walking path with loose sandy gravel instead of hard packed or paved terrain.
All in all the experience at Clark County Museum was one very pleasant. Because I always am interested in the history of the areas I explore, I felt like it was a perfect stop in getting to know my surroundings. Items of interest for all ages abound and for those with children specifically they do have an outdoor classroom area and also provide activities such as scavenger hunts for a little extra fun on their visits.
I personally spent about 2 hours at this site, however I did this solo so I can easily see how if traveling in a group or with children you could allot up to 4 hours on site checking everything out in the outdoor spaces. If you are not interested in being around a large crowd I would suggest calling ahead to make sure you are not visiting during one of the numerous tours provided to area youth, sometimes these can make navigating the indoor space especially a bit more difficult.
Hours of Operation: 7 Days A Week 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Address: 1830 South Boulder Highway - Henderson, NV 89002