The bartender at Las Vegas' brand new Punk Rock Museum popped open a can of Pringles, tipped all of the chips out into a plastic basket and then filled the can with a rum and Coke.
The $14 drink (it comes with the chips) is called the Fletcher, named for its creator, guitarist Fletcher Dragge from the skate-punk band Pennywise.
Welcome to museum hopping — Las Vegas-style.
On a recent getaway, my husband and I quickly tired of slot machines and decided to explore Sin City's nerdier side. It turns out there are plenty of Las Vegas museums and art installations worth a gamble.
And many of them happen to have a signature cocktail.
Vegas' newest museum
Our first stop was the Punk Rock Museum, which opened April 1 downtown. NOFX frontman Fat Mike has transformed a 4,000-square-foot antique store next to a strip club into a showcase for decades of memorabilia and music history, bringing in fellow musicians as investors.
One of them is Minneapolis punk veteran Erik Funk, the Dillinger Four guitarist and former co-owner of the legendary Triple Rock Social Club, which closed in 2017. That's how the nightclub's sign — which hung for nearly two decades above Cedar Avenue as a beacon for punks on tour — ended up at the Punk Rock Museum.
The sign now has a prominent spot on the wall inside the small, dark bar next to the gift shop. When we visited, a piece of pink tape was stuck to it with the word "down" scrawled on it. Turns out, the museum's bar is named the Triple Down, after the Triple Rock and the beloved Vegas dive bar the Double Down Saloon. That's where we saw someone drinking the Pringles can concoction.
We also took in display walls full of show fliers, zines and so, so many beat-up leather jackets, DIY T-shirts and ripped clothes with stories to tell — like the red jacket worn by Johnny Thunders on the back cover of the first New York Dolls album, or a frayed pink and black striped sweater belonging to the Damned's Captain Sensible.
The place is layered with memorabilia, with screens showing bootleg VHS concert videos, a re-creation of the garage space in Hermosa Beach, Calif., where Pennywise practiced, and the couch that Kurt Cobain slept on while producing the Melvins' "Houdini" album. There's also a jam room, a tattoo studio and a wedding space. As we wandered, we spotted Louiche Mayorga from Suicidal Tendencies giving a guided tour. The roster of musician tour guides shifts each month. (1422 Western Av.; thepunkrockmuseum.com.)
A grocery store like no other
The next day we headed to Area 15, a giant bunker of a building a few minutes' drive from the Strip. Inside, the trippy, black-lit marketplace is anchored by a huge permanent art installation called Omega Mart, created by Santa Fe, N.M.-based Meow Wolf and designed by hundreds of artists.
Our timed tickets gave us access to what first seemed to be a small, brightly lit convenience store. The signs and products were seriously surreal, though (stacks of canned "Emergency Clams," "Nebula Loaf" for sale in the deli department). A message about a movement to "free the source" crackled suddenly over the loudspeaker.
What looked like a fridge full of soda was a hidden door, one of many "portals" that led us through a mysterious factory, around an office and into a stunning canyon transformed by colorful, psychedelic projections. There's a story line that you can try to follow, about a business called Dram Corp and the family behind it, cosmic energy and an ancient civilization. We just took it all in, crawling through tunnels, finding mirrored rooms and happening upon playable sound installations like a laser harp. There are also slides and a hidden cocktail bar called Datamosh. (3215 S. Rancho Drive, #100; area15.com.)
A 'neon boneyard'
Our next stop was the sprawling, largely outdoor Neon Museum, where hundreds of old, discarded signs fill a several-acre "boneyard." The nonprofit works to salvage and restore these once glitzy remnants of Vegas' history.
We visited during the day, wandering through the yard and listening to an audio tour on our phones. It was an intriguing way to learn about the city's history, through signs like the one that advertised the 1950s Yucca Motel, with its charming, spiky desert flower in lights, or the reassembled red Moulin Rouge sign from the city's first racially integrated hotel and casino, which opened and closed in 1955.
Evening tours — which are led by guides and showcase the lit-up restored signs — are popular and often sold out. The museum also offers helicopter tours and hosts an "augmented reality" show called "Brilliant!" (770 Las Vegas Blvd. N.; neonmuseum.org.)
Mobsters and moonshine
Before we flew home, we wandered along the LED-covered blocks of the downtown Fremont Street Experience, seeing some of the city's old-school neon signs that are still in operation.
We watched zipline riders soar above us, dodged creepy street performers (there was not only a Chucky, but an Easter Bunny and that terrifying clown from "It") and turned off at N. 3rd Street to visit the Mob Museum.
Created in 2012, the museum is housed in the old post office and courthouse that held the infamous Kefauver hearings in 1950 — when casino bigwigs like Moe Sedway from the Flamingo Hotel had to answer questions about their ties to organized crime. That courtroom was one of the most fascinating stops in a place where we also listened to wiretapped conversations, took in a gory wall of "greatest hits" photos and spotted sunglasses worn by Bugsy Siegel, the legendary mobster who helped develop the Las Vegas Strip.
They also offer a few "experiences" to visitors. We passed over the crime lab and firearm training simulations for a tasting tour in the functioning moonshine distillery, next door to the museum's speakeasy.
As we tasted spirits made in-house, we took in a tour all about life during Prohibition — and the mobsters who made the most of it. (300 Stewart Av.; themobmuseum.org.)