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Let’s go to the Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum

Visiting the world’s largest collection of punk artifacts

I’ve seen a lot of cool punk stuff in museums. Because when I travel I’m always searching for alternative subculture: Vivienne Westwood’s bondage pants at the V&A in London, Icelandic bands in a former public toilet in Reykjavik and LA cowpunk in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame. I love seeing these artifacts preserved and celebrated, even if they are a tiny part of a huge collection.

The Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas is something else altogether.

Unlike any other exhibition out there, this was very much created by punks themselves—Fat Mike of NOFX and Warped Tour manager Lisa Brownlee are co-founders but there’s a whole collective behind the scenes. They’ve transformed a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in Las Vegas into the world’s first museum dedicated exclusively to the music and culture of punk.

When the Punk Rock Museum first opened some asked, “why Vegas? Wouldn’t this be a better fit for NYC or LA?” I, being from Canada, didn’t spend too much time debating that. I just wanted to go. So I jumped on a plane to Vegas pretty much just for this. (Thanks, low-cost airline Flair!)

I had a pretty good idea what to expect at the Punk Rock Museum—handmade gig flyers, live photography, album art, trashed guitars, studded leather jackets. It was all that and more.

Here are 11 things I learned at my first visit to the Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum. (I say “first” because I’m quite sure I’ll be back.)

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Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum display

The museum holds the world’s largest collection of punk memorabilia

What does 12,000-square-feet look like? How about room after room of galleries on two floors where you can spend hours. It starts with bold black and white photography of kick-ass punks like Alice Bag, Derby Crash and Poly Styrene. Continues with memorabilia from the roots of US punk, the UK explosion in the 1970s, 80s hardcore, the Warped Tour era, modern pop-punk, and more. And just when I though the story was coming to an end, there was another twist, with even more displays around the corner.

Joan Jett's studded leather jacket and Ramones Tshirt at the Punk Museum in Las Vegas
Joan Jett’s leather jacket and Ramones Tshirt

It’s more like a club house than a museum

As mentioned, the Punk Rock Museum was made by punks for punks. Which means you’ll get the most out of your visit if you already know something about the history. A big part of the joy is coming across remnants of scenes you were a part of, or the personal effects of artists you know and love. You might also bump into musicians you recognize either working there or hanging out.

I had a great conversation with someone who came from Boston and was genuinely stoked to find hometown punks Gang Green in the museum and told me all about them. I witnessed a father and son schooling each other on their generation’s bands. Basically, if you go in expecting typical museum displays with large-scale descriptions contextualizing everything you’re looking at, you’ll be out of luck. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn here—I learned a lot—but you have to work for it. If you want a more educational experience or don’t like to read much, the Punk Rock Museum has just the thing for that…

300x350 - Los Angeles to Las Vegas

You can take a tour with a real punk rock star

One of the coolest things you can do at the Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum is a tour the space with some of the most influential (and sometimes infamous) artists in the history of this music. Learn from people who were there and who witnessed or created so much of what’s on display here. As I’m typing this, upcoming guides include members of the Ramones, Offspring, Stray Cats, The Vandals, The Bags and more. Guided tours happen weekly, though not every day. They cost $100 and it’s best to check out the calendar to book your fave before they sell out.

Photo of Alice Bag of the Bags at the Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum
Alice Bag of the Bags, Photo by Ruby Ray

Women punk pioneers are everywhere

“For the first time in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, women were as important as the men”—an essay on display by Pleasant Gehman

OK, I already knew that. But I’ve never seen so many women artists represented in any gallery or museum not specifically created for that purpose. From the moment you walk in, through each and every era of punk, you’ll see evidence that women were making things happen. I especially appreciated seeing so many works by women photographers.  If you’re into that too check out the temporary exhibit My Shot, featuring work by Alison Braun, Marla Watson, Naomi Petersen, and Oginee Viamontes.

Showtime! You can catch a gig there

The weekend we visited the Punk Museum, Vegas punk band The Objex was playing a reunion show, the documentary Afro Punk was screening, and Chris Estrada was headlining a comedy show hosted by Fat Mike. Keep an eye out for surprise shows by big bands playing in town or local acts throwing release parties and such. Best way to check what’s on is their Instagram page.

There’s Canadian Content, eh

The Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum has a pretty American perspective on a global scene, heavy on California at that. (I’ve been told they plan to expand the collection as they acquire more from other countries.) But Canadians will find an entire wall of memorabilia from punk bands of the north: DOA and SNFU, of course, alongside the first punk band from Newfoundland, Da Slyme. Elsewhere in the museum I also spotted a poster of a gig with The Viletones, Dead Boys and the Poles from Toronto’s New Yorker club, sum 41 videos, and there’s a massive photograph of Chuck Comeau of Simple Plan diving into a festival crowd.

The jam room at the Punk Rock Museum
The Jam Room of the Punk Rock Museum

You can play Joan Jett’s guitar

The jam room is filled with instruments donated by punk musicians and visitors are welcome to play them. Sadly, I can’t play for shit, even in a punk rock sense. But I did ask to hold Joan Jett’s white Epiphone guitar, which made me want to take some lessons before I go back so I can make a ruckous with it.

Patti Smith was a Pin-up Star

One of my absolute favourite things at the Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum was the wall of fanzines. I have very fond memories of creating my goth zine the Ninth Wave in the 90s and have always been an enthusiastic reader of cut ‘n’ paste, hand-stapled music publications like Sniffin’ Glue, the OG punk zine.

I had a good laugh seeing full-colour teen magazines from the 1970s promoting punk icons as pin-up stars though. The cover of 1978’s Punk Rock Stars had Debbie Harry (“sex fantasies of a hot punk mama”) and Patti Smith (“the punk princess”) along with an etiquette list of punk dos and don’ts. Sadly, you can’t thumb through them because I really wish I could read those articles!

Black Punk Now photography exhibit at the Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas
Black Punk Now photography exhibit

Nostalgia is overrated

We spotted a Green Day single from 2023, and upstairs in the temporary exhibit Black Punk Now there were photographs from 2002 to 2023. Contemporary items on display prove this isn’t just a place for ancient history, and reflects that this music and culture is very much alive today.

You can get married there

Want to elope to Vegas but not an Elvis fan? You can get married at the Punk Rock Museum instead. On the second floor they have a small chapel and offer packages for different wedding sizes and budgets. We didn’t see any brides on our visit; the chapel was used as a memorial for musicians who have died. I found it quite touching, and again showing that this is more than a building with stuff to look at, but a place to build community and show respect to those who have come (and gone) before.

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Drinking The Fletcher at the Triple Down bar in Las Vegas
“The Fletcher” comes in a Pringles Can

There’s a Dive Bar on site

Before you leave, hit up The Triple Down, the Punk Rock Museum’s bar. It’s black. It’s covered in band stickers (already) and the menu is small and to the point. We were advised to try The Fletcher: rum and coke served in a Pringles can, named for Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise who drank it like that on tour. (I pictured the booze poured on top of the chips and thought that sounded pretty gross, but no, the chips are emptied out first and so you get a drink and a snack together!) It was a fun way to end our visit to the Las Vegas Punk Rock Museum so if you drink alcohol I recommend it!

I flew to Las Vegas just to see the Punk Rock Museum, because I knew I’d love it and I want to support the preservation and celebration of alternative subculture, by people who know it firsthand. I can tell this is just the beginning for this space and can’t wait to see it evolve and grow. If you’ve never been to Vegas, it’s a great excuse to get off the Strip and see another part of the city. If you always go to Vegas, same deal. There are many ways to leave Las Vegas poorer: the Punk Rock Museum made me feel richer.

Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas exterior sign

Know Before You Go

The Punk Rock Museum is located at 422 Western Ave in Las Vegas.. This is not on the Strip: it’s north of the major Strip hotels and south of the Downtown/Freemont Street area. Or, as the locals tell it, between the Arts District and I-15.

Drive or take a taxi. Public Transportation gets you pretty close, but it’s a 20-minute walk from the Strip where the buses let you off and, frankly, those buses suck and can’t be relied on. Also, our driver and a staff person advised us it’s not very safe to walk around in that area. As someone who cares about your safety, I say this is not a place to scrimp for a few dollars.

Hours are noon to 8pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday. Closed on Wednesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tickets to the Punk Rock Museum cost $39 USD for general admission (adults). Discounts for children ages 4-12 ($19.50 USD), Military ($35 USD) and locals ($20 USD, Monday-Thursday only, with valid ID). FREE admission on your birthday (with ID). Guided Tours are $100, check that schedule and buy in advance here. Regular admission tickets here.

Photos and videos are permitted—and encouraged!

Accessibility note: The Punk Rock Museum is two floors. The main floor hosts the majority of the collection. Temporary exhibits, the Wedding Chapel, Tattoo Parlor, and special events happen on the second floor. There is no elevator but they do have a Stair Lift.

Now go and have fun!

Recommended Read

My Punk Rock Life: The Photography of Marla Watsonis more than 250 pages of photos from her days shooting her fave punk bands in the early 80s. Black Flag, Minor Threat, The Dead Kennedys, The Misfits, The Damned, Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, The Vandals, Channel 3, The Adicts, Stiff Little Fingers, Shattered Faith, Fear, White Flag, Youth Brigade, Social Distortion, The Angry Samoans, Battalion of Saints, Redd Kross, 7 Seconds, Suicidal Tendencies, Descendents, Bad Brains, Discharge, UK Subs, The Clash, The Varukers, The English Dogs, T.S.O.L, The Lewd, Subhumans, Red Scare, Ill Repute, The Pandoras, The Blades, The Bangs, The Toy Dolls, Sin 34, GBH, The Dickies, DOA, and the list goes on! 

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