Do you and your family love science and engineering? Are you visiting Las Vegas but you are looking for an off the strip fun and educational family experience? Are you interested in learning more about the Nevada Test Site and its importance during the Cold War?
If so, visiting the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas is for you! This unique museum is a must visit for families with kids of all ages. Buddy and I visited during a recent family road trip to Las Vegas, and we loved it! Here are 4 great reasons why families should visit the National Atomic Testing Museum Las Vegas. It is a great visit for tourist and locals alike!
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The National Atomic Testing Museum provided us with free tickets for our visit, however all views and opinions expressed in this post are our own and based on our first-hand experiences.
The National Atomic Testing Museum is located at 755 E. Flamingo Rd in Las Vegas, Nevada, just a short drive East off the famous Las Vegas Strip. The museum, which is a Smithsonian Affiliate, is open Thursdays through Tuesdays. Onsite parking is available. If you are planning your visit, check out the website for the most up-to-date information.
Fun fact! The National Atomic Testing Museum is one of 37 national museums created by the U.S. Congress and enacted by law. They are the only museum of this kind in the state of Nevada.
Another fun fact! The Cold Warrior Archives are housed on the second floor of the National Atomic Testing Museum. Unfortunately, the archives are not open to the public but more information about the collections are online.
4 Great Reasons Why Families Should Visit the National Atomic Testing Museum
1. The museum is family friendly
There is something for visitors of all ages at the National Atomic Testing Museum. Adults, teens, and children interested in science, engineering, and modern history will enjoy learning from the museum’s many exhibits. The museum provides guests the chance to see photos and films of nuclear test detonations from the two eras of nuclear testing – the atmospheric period (1951-1963) and the underground period (1963-1992).
A few topics that you can dig in to at the National Atomic Testing Museum include:
- The history of the Nevada Test Site and its impact on Las Vegas and Nevada
- The ins and outs of underground nuclear testing
- Detailed information about the Manhattan Project and its impacts on the survivors of Hiroshima
- How the Atomic Age influenced pop culture
- And much more!
The National Atomic Testing Museum provides an up-close look at an important part of modern history.
When we visited on a Tuesday morning in July, there were families of all ages at the museum. From older parents with adult children to moms with littles.
Regarding families and teens, Buddy says, “My favorite thing about the museum was literally almost everything. It was a good museum. Yes, if you are a teenager interested in nuclear testing and nuclear devices in general, you should visit this site.”
I loved that there were a lot of films and video exhibits at the museum. The films and images kept Buddy engaged during our visit. Also, there were many hands on exhibits. Buddy and I especially enjoyed testing out different materials with a Geiger counter.
2. The National Atomic Testing Museum has excellent docents
The docents at the National Atomic Museum were incredible! Their knowledge about the history of the Nevada Test Site is second to none! If your family has questions about the exhibits, nuclear testing, or anything else when you visit the museum, find a docent, and ask!
During our visit, we spoke with Michael, a former Nevada Test Site employee who also worked for a year in the infamous Area 51! Buddy was thrilled to hear what he had to say about his time at Area 51. But I was more interested in hearing his stories and learning from him the history of the Nevada
When we chatted with him, Michael broke down the specifics of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site sharing:
- number of weapons and rocket engines tested at the site over specific periods of time
- specific areas on the map, recalling which tests took place where and when
- the meaning behind the names of places such as Jackass Flats
- the different government tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site
- and showed great enthusiasm in Buddy’s interest in nuclear science
Michael was a gem! It was such an incredible experience learning about the history of the Nevada Test Site from someone with personal experience and a deep knowledge of the site.
If you have a question during your visit to the museum, ask your nearest docent! You may find a gem!
Buddy says. “I learned from the docents that some of the nuclear bombs were atmospheric and some of them were tested underground. It was a big thing. It was a lot to process, and I am still processing it in my brain.”
3. You will learn a lot of unique facts
If you had to guess what industry was the economic backbone of Las Vegas and Nevada in the mid -1900s – the industry that built Las Vegas- what would you guess? Would you have guessed gaming and tourism or nuclear testing?
Well, the correct answer is nuclear testing! This is one of many fascinating facts you will learn at the National Atomic Testing Museum.
History buffs will love learning how Las Vegas history and the the Cold War are intertwined in interesting and curious ways. At the museum you will learn about the Las Vegas Miss Atomic Bomb Pageants. And you will also learn about atomic bomb viewing parties that took place on the roof tops of casinos. These elaborate Las Vegas parties were complete with special occasion atomic cocktails.
And visitors interested in engineering will love learning about innovations made in big hole drilling because of underground nuclear testing.
For me, the most intriguing thing I encountered at the museum were the JCPenny mannequins. The mannequins on display are the original mannequins used at Nevada’s Atomic Test Site to determine the impact of a nuclear explosion on fabrics like rayon and nylon. The journey of the mannequins from the Nuclear Test Site to their exhibit in the museum is interesting!
Buddy says, “The number one thing I recommend people to see in the museum is the video, the ground zero video. That’s where they have a thrilling presentation with steam, lights, and strobes. The film is about a nuclear blast, and it gives you a lot of contexts about what is going on during a blast and the history of the Nuclear Test Site. So, I liked that. The video was very thrilling.”
4. It is a great way to beat the heat
Let’s face it! Las Vegas is in the desert, and it is hot! But you can visit the cool air-conditioned National Atomic Testing Museum in the middle of the day when the sun is high, and the heat is intense. This is a great way to beat the heat! And enjoy a fun and educational family friendly experience in Las Vegas.
Also, if you are staying on the Strip and and your family needs a break from the constant hustle and bustle, spending an afternoon in this unique museum is a nice change of pace during your travels.
We visited in June when the average daily temperature was 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 Celsius)! It was way too hot to walk the strip and do a lot of the fun family friendly outdoor activities in and around the Las Vegas area.
We visited the National Atomic Testing Museum on a Tuesday arriving at 10:30am. And we stayed at the museum until 1pm spending 2.5 hours on site. I must admit that we are science and history buffs, so the average family may spend less time at the museum. In general, 1-2 hours is a good estimate of how much time you will need at the museum. Because the museum closes at 3pm, a visit after lunch is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Las Vegas.
Pro tip: If you go east on Flamingo Road from the National Atomic Testing Museum, there is a Blueberry Hill Family Restaurant about a 5-minute drive down the road. The diner serves breakfast all day and is a great place to grab a bite before heading to the museum. After Buddy and I visited the museum, we stopped there for lunch, and it was delicious! (Foodie travelers, check out Restaurant Round-Up!)
Bonus Tips for families visiting the National Atomic Testing Museum
Get your tickets early!
We recommend getting your tickets in advance. Although you can purchase tickets at the door, it is better to purchase them online ahead of time just in case the museum is especially crowded, or even sold out, on the day you plan to visit.
Check out the online resources
Also, if traveling with Middle Schoolers, check out the resources on their website. The National Atomic Testing Museum has a Middle School Worksheet and Answer Key for the big kiddos to complete during their visit. I forgot to print one out for Buddy prior to our trip, and he is the perfect age for this activity!
Even if you can’t visit in person, we encourage you to check out their online resources! There are many resources including activities for parents and teachers to engage students in nuclear science activities either during the school year or over the summer. Buddy enjoyed reading through the Spot-On! Section after his visit to learn more about as he called it “nuclear devices in general.”
“I do recommend people visit; you will learn a lot. I learned a lot about how the whole nuclear thing works and how the history was conducted and how the Nevada Test Sites we built and done. It was a good experience.”
We did not film a Movement Postcard at the Museum because we did not feel like it was appropriate, and videos are not allowed inside the Museum. However, we are sharing a Movement Postcard from nearby Death Valley instead! Check it out!
If you haven’t had the chance to visit the National Atomic Testing Museum, we highly recommend adding it to your list of family-friendly places to go in Las Vegas.
The museum provides an educational experience that is both fascinating and informative. It is a great place to learn about the history of nuclear testing and its effects on Nevada, Las Vegas, and our world. And it is a great to visit for tourists and locals alike.
Have you been to the National Atomic Testing Museum? If so, was your favorite exhibit? Let us know in the comments below!
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