Museum Monday: Real Bodies at Bally’s, Las Vegas

Close up view of the head and torso of a human body on display at Bodies at Bally's in Las Vegas

Outside of studying anatomy or working in the medical field, there are few opportunities to see the real inner workings of the human body. We can learn about the ways in which our bodies work, view diagrams and imagine what it all looks like inside. We might feel our muscles ache or our tummy rumble, press on our skin to sense the hardness and dimensions of our bones, or recoil in horror – perhaps with a tinge of fascination – at a gruesome injury. But there’s no comparable experience to seeing it all on display at a museum like Real Bodies at Bally’s

This compact museum inside Bally’s hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip presents more than 20 preserved real human bodies, plus over 200 anatomical specimens. Through 11 galleries, visitors view and explore the remarkable complexity of the physical human body. Artistic installations and accompanying signage cover anatomy, physiology and diverse cultural perspectives on life and death. Each successive room focuses on a different system or theme of the body. For example, Rhythm is dedicated to the heart and the almost 100,000 miles of arteries, capillaries and veins connected to the organ. Move shows the dynamics of the human muscular system via bodies in active poses like throwing, twisting, running and jumping.

A human heart held by a prop hand on display at Real Bodies at Bally's, a museum in Las Vegas

Real Bodies at Bally’s states its mission is to “explore the complex inner workings of the human form in a refreshing and thought-provoking style.” And thought-provoking it is. Visitors are all made aware that these are genuine human bodies, and everyone will have their own unique reaction to the reality of the displays. There’s surely some dismay, mingled with awe, and the reminder that we all share the same basic structures inside our own mortal selves. You’ll be blown away by the intricate entanglements of all the parts of us, from wiry ligaments and delicate capillaries to leathery skin and lean red muscle, all working together to support every moment of our existence. It’s humbling that human bodies appear so very tough, and so very delicate at the same time.

A human body split vertically on display at Real Bodies at Bally's, a museum in Las Vegas

It’s peculiarly easy to dissociate from the fact that the bodies on display are real, and to casually peruse them like any other taxidermy. Human muscle really does resemble more familiar animal flesh. An entire digestive tract mounted on the wall calls to mind those ancient wineskins fashioned from goat innards. The astonishing artistry of the displays also distracts from their grisliness. An extracted pancreas and duodenum could be weird creatures from the deep sea, while a bronchial tree dyed ruby red looks like the prettiest of coral specimens. A less poetic comparison that comes to mind is the “Operation” board game. 

A human heart with attached veins dyed red and blue on display at Real Bodies at Bally's museum in Las Vegas

This museum is comprehensive, with plenty of informative signage to take in, but an average visit takes only about an hour. Real Bodies at Bally’s is open to all ages, however parental guidance is advised, and there’s no denying that this museum doesn’t appeal to everyone. There’s no censorship of full genitalia on some bodies, nor the reality that these are real, deceased, dissected humans on display. Some visitors might wish to skip the Beginnings gallery, where fetal and embryonic specimens are on display. You can read the museum’s statements about the sources of its bodies in their FAQ.


REAL BODIES at Bally’s

Bally’s Las Vegas

3645 Las Vegas Blvd S

Lower Level, Suite A1-A3

Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 777-2782

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