They’re informally called “Instagram museums”—storefront spaces, usually located in tourist-heavy spots, that are sectioned off into multiple rooms of immersive art pieces and splashy backdrops. They’re not the kind of museums you’d visit to savor art without once reaching for your phone; rather, they’re designed for the camera, to satiate those “who want to take pictures of themselves in a museum, without going to a traditional museum,” as Sophie Haigney opined in a 2018 New Yorker piece.
Las Vegas is home to several Instagram museums, including the Linq’s Museum of Selfies, Town Square’s Selfie Wrld and the recently opened Museum of Dream Space at the Palazzo. (They outnumber Vegas’ “traditional” art museums by a considerable margin.) But really, this entire city is an Instagram museum, filled with art pieces, striking backdrops and natural wonders that look amazing both in selfies and in shots with no people in them at all.
You can point your phone most anywhere in the Vegas valley and find a ’Gram-ready shot. Even our sky changes from one minute to the next, trying on cloud formations and jet trails all day long. But if you’d like to Instagram this city in a way that truly captures its eccentricity, individuality and beauty, we recommend starting with these 12 spots.
“Big Rig Jig” by Mike Ross
Knitted together from two full-sized tanker trucks, Ross’ massive metal sculpture has traveled a long way to reach the courtyard at Fergusons’ Downtown. It made its debut at Burning Man in 2007, then traveled to England in 2015 to appear in Banksy’s temporary “theme park” installation, Dismaland. More than anything else on this list, Big Rig Jig demands to be photographed on its own. You can selfie with it, but it’ll upstage you every time.
Sculptures at Area15
Area15 contains a number of interactive art installations—Wink World, Museum Fiasco, Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart—that aren’t Instagram museums per se, but if you want to use them that way, no one’s gonna stop you. The experience and retail complex also hosts a number of spectacular sculptures you can shoot free of charge, most notably Bart Kresa and Joshua Harker’s giant projection-mapped skull named “Shogyo Mujo” and the silver nekkid couple of Michael Benisty’s “In Every Lifetime I Will Find You.”
“Snowball” by Jesse Carson Smigel
Good kitty! Smigel’s 10-foot-tall bust of a friendly cat, recently refurbished, is a must for anyone in need of a tongue bath—which, come to think of it, is just about everyone. You’ll find “Snowball” in the 18b Arts District, at the corner of First Street and Coolidge Avenue. And you’ll find him to be accommodating of nearly whatever weird photo idea you have in mind.
“Seven Magic Mountains” by Ugo Rondinone
Good news: Rondinone’s vibrant land art installation, located just off I-15 at the edge of the Jean Dry Lake Bed, will be with us for at least another year, according to a representative for the piece. (The artist reportedly wouldn’t mind if “Seven Magic Mountains” remained in place indefinitely, but the final say goes to the Bureau of Land Management, which issued a permit for the parcel on which the piece sits.) In short, you’ve got all of 2022 to shoot these colorful boulders—by themselves, as a portrait backdrop or however you like.
Vegas Vickie at Circa
Glitter Gulch’s 25-foot-tall kicky neon cowgirl moved off of Fremont Street some years back and took up residence inside the lobby of new Downtown resort Circa, where she overlooks a cocktail bar named for her. The camera absolutely loves her, and you will, too. There may be no more poetic meeting of new Vegas and old than the union of these two giants.
“W3-Dimensional” by Felipe Pantone
Pantone created this busy Downtown mural for the 2016 Life Is Beautiful festival and added its solar-powered neon accents the following year. It has carried on through three festivals since, an impressive feat considering that LIB’s street art curators Justkids swap out most of the murals from year to year. It’s in rough shape right now, but it still impresses—and when you use it as a selfie background, it makes you look like 1980s icon Max Headroom.
The Fountains at Caesars Palace
Evel Knievel jumped over them on New Year’s Eve 1967 (and Travis Pastrana, above, duplicated the feat in 2018). Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor idled around them in the 1970 movie The Only Game in Town. And just last year, Absinthe’s Gazillionaire took a dip in them for a Las Vegas Weekly cover. The fountains in front of Caesars Palace are a Vegas classic that makes anyone and anything—from motorcycle to movie star—look almost impossibly classy, day or night. See also: the Mirage’s volcano … while you still can.
Peppermill’s Fireside Lounge
No, not the jewel-toned diner with the Tiffany lamps. The Peppermill’s cool, neon-lit Fireside Lounge, with its low-slung booths, sunken fire pit and cocktail servers dressed in evening gowns, is unique to this town, and perhaps this galaxy. (A friend once described the wonderfully kitschy bar—50 years old this year—as “a wedding reception from Star Trek: The Next Generation.”) Martin Scorsese shot part of Casino here. It’s more than good enough for your Instagram feed.
Alleyways of the 18b Arts District
There are so many photogenic street-level murals in the alleyways of the 18b that it’s hard not to pull out your phone and grab a few shots while you’re walking to your car or waiting for a reservation. Couples come here to do wedding photos—that’s how fun and surprising this art can be. You can find treasure most anywhere, but if you don’t want to wander too far from Esther’s Kitchen, get a photo of/with the trio of stylistically diverse murals by Heather Grace Toledo (@heatherbeethyname), Jorge Betancourt Polanco (@bypolanco) and Shan Michael Evans (@shan.michael.evans), painted on the side of Freed’s Dessert Shop.
Red Rock Canyon scenic overlook
What more is there to say about this spectacular view? It’s what we point to when snobbish out-of-towners play the “But Vegas is so artificial” card. It’s as delicious to the eyes as chocolate is to the palate, and it’s practically in our backyard. Shoot it at magic hour, from the free scenic overlook located between the entrance and exit of the Red Rock scenic loop on SR 159.
The star attraction here, Instagram-wise, is the giant Easter Island-style Moai head that once sat in front of the Stardust’s Aku Aku Poynesian restaurant and bar. Created by Eli Hedley, the artist who carved the tiki heads for Disneyland’s Adventureland (and whose grandson, Bamboo Ben, is a noted tiki artist himself), the Moai now serves as a sentinel for a geese pond. Get a selfie with him sitting on your shoulder, like a parrot. Then get some more shots of the 55-year-old Sunset Park, a true urban oasis.
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