Las Vegas wouldn’t be nearly as intriguing without its history of Mafia involvement, but the mob’s history in the city is a complex one—and even precedes Vegas as a resort town. But the Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas, which opened a few years ago on the anniversary of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, has one of the most comprehensive timelines and collections of mob memorabilia anywhere, thanks in part to the cooperation of some old Vegas family members.
Housed in the former federal courthouse where such landmark cases as the 1950 Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime were held, it was officially named the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, but museum officials had to give up when people insisted on calling it the Mob Museum, and the name stuck.
Among its showpieces are a piece of the bullet-ridden wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, interactive exhibits on wiretapping, and real weapons used by mob hit men. You can virtually fire a real “tommy” submachine gun, the preferred weapon of Prohibition-era gangsters, sit in a replica electric chair, and take part in a lineup.
On the horizon: Since organized crime didn’t end in the 1960s, on September 1 the Mob Museum is adding a display devoted to the recent uncovering of the $150 million FIFA bribery scheme, breaking down the kickbacks and match-fixing associated with what the chief of the IRS’s investigative division called “the World Cup of fraud.”
Where to Eat
The museum is a mind-bending, three-story history lesson, so you’ll need some sustenance after your trip. Arrive in the morning and allow at least two hours for the exhibits, then have lunch at the brand-new Siegel’s 1941 in El Cortez (incidentally, the longest continuously running casino hotel in Vegas, which opened in 1941). A remake of the beloved old Flame diner, it is named for its early mafioso owner.
Sit in one of the red power booths (back to the wall, of course), and try the Meyer Lansky Burger (a massive pile of pastrami, Swiss cheese, house made cole slaw, pickles and Russian dressing on ciabatta) or one of the most authentic Cuban sandwiches you’ll get outside Miami.
Walk it off along the Fremont East entertainment district. If your stomach can handle it, don’t miss SlotZilla, whose two-level zipline shoots you right out of a 12-story-tall slot machine flanked by 37-foot-tall showgirls.
All that shooting, wiretapping, eating and zip wiring would land anyone in need of treatment. Luckily, there’s a new bar, lounge and restaurant for that: Therapy, on Fremont Street, opened by Chef Daniel Ontiveros, most recently executive chef of David Myers’ Comme Ca in Cosmopolitan.
The menu serves creative comfort food like a chicken and red velvet waffle slider and oxtail-filled empanadas with harissa lime crème in an vast, industrial-chic space. With a day like yours, though, you’ll need liquid therapy in the form of one of its signatures, the “Fuhgettaboudet,” made with Captain Morgan, Malibu, tropical juices and a bit of raspberry. That should take the edge off nicely.
Looking for more on things to do in Las Vegas? Read T+L’s Las Vegas Guide.
Andrea Bennett is the Editor in Chief of Vegas Magazine, and covers the Las Vegas beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @AndreaBennett1.