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Vegas Kitsch and the Neon Boneyard

welcome-to-las-vegas-sign

The neon signs of Vegas have illuminated the dark skies of the dusty Mojave Desert for decades. Glimmering, shimmering and beckoning they seduced weary travellers into hotels, motels, bars and casinos and became iconic symbols of the city.

Nowadays Las Vegas hotels are their own advertisements; the skyline and roller-coaster of New York New York, the dancing fountains of the Bellagio and the sleek curve of The Wynn do the enticing that the neon signs used to.

But what happened to the iconic Vegas signs that once graced the buildings and boulevards of Sin City? Well, they’ve re-grouped and are gathered in all their paint-peeling, broken-bulb, glory at the Neon Museum of Las Vegas.

Neon Letters

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas

The Neon Museum, a non-profit making organisation, is retirement home to over 150 of the kitschest, iconic neons from the 1930s to present day. And like all relics they have a story to tell.

Even the visitor centre is a piece of history; in a previous life it was the space-aged shaped La Concha Motel lobby built in 1961 in the Googie style of architecture. It was saved from demolition and moved to the current site in 2006 and became the gateway to the ‘boneyard’ an outdoor storage lot where the lost and forgotten neon signs of Vegas languish in the coolest of curated collections.

If you are looking to bring the Vegas feel back home with some cool red neon signs for yourself, then check out Neon Mama.

La Concah Neon Museum Visitor Centre

The Neon Boneyard

We were shown around the boneyard by Carrie, our guide, on a one hour tour. Not only do you get to see the bleached out, rusting signs and fallen letters up close but you’ll get a mini history of Vegas as you go. Tales of the Rat Pack and the Mob, hotel history, casino kings and how Vegas bloomed in the desert and grew into the city it is today. So, come take a stroll with me through the Boneyard…

The Neon Boneyard, Vegas

Vintage Vegas Hotels

The Stardust Hotel sign was a symbol of the city back in the ’60s. It was visible for 60 miles which isn’t surprising seeing as there were 975 bulbs in the “S” alone. Stardust held the accolade for tallest neon sign – every time a new taller neon came on the scene they just added another star and topped it.

stardust sign Vegas

The Sahara Hotel which closed in 2011 was a rat pack favourite and saw Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, and Judy Garland pass through its doors. The building is now the luxury SLS Las Vegas hotel which opened last year.

sahara neon sign

The pool player who cued up on the roof of Doc ‘N’ Eddy’s Pool Hall.

Pool Play signage

“Wedding Information” – Vegas is the USA elopement and quickie divorce, capital – this sign would have pointed you in the right direction.

Neon Signs Boneyard

The Neon Urban Gallery

When you’re done in the Boneyard take a stroll down Las Vegas Boulevard and see eight classic signs which have been restored and are part of the museum’s Urban Gallery (The Las Vegas Boulevard Signs Project) one of only three Urban National Scenic Byways in the US. Binion’s horseshoe, The Silver Slipper, The Hacienda Horse and Rider and 5th Street Liquor Store amongst them. Check the tour route for more information.

The Silver Slipper was designed by Jack Larson and built by Young Electric Sign Company (Yesco) around 1950.  It stood in the grounds of the Last Frontier on Las Vegas Boulevard on the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall.

silver-slipper-neon-sign

The Hacienda Horse and Rider can be found by the entrance to the Fremont Street Experience where there’s a whole street dedicated to an evening light show with a roof canopy featuring 12.5 million lights and 550,000 watts of sound.

The Hacienda Horse Rider

The sign for the Neon Museum itself is made up of different fonts and typography from some of the most famous neons. The word neon is made up of the ‘N’ from The Golden Nugget, the ‘E’ is from Ceasar’s Palace, ‘O’ is from Binion’s Horseshoe and the final ‘N’ celebrates the Desert Inn.  Many of these signs can be found in the Boneyard.

Visiting The Neon Boneyard

The Neon Museum Boneyard is only available to the public through one of their hour-long guided tours.  It’s an outdoor collection and was very hot while we were there – there’s no shade so take a hat, water and sunblock. More information and on-line booking here

Where

770 Las Vegas Boulevard North
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Tel: (702) 387-6366

When

Tours are available seven days a week and tour times vary based on the season.

How Much

Advanced ticket purchase is recommended as tours often sell-out. Ticket prices for day tours are $18 for general admission; seniors 65+, students, active military, veterans and Nevada residents are $12

PIN IT!

The Neon Boneyard Park

Just a note – we paid full price for our entry into the Neon Museum and loved it. If you’re visiting Las Vegas it’s a ‘must do’. 

Jean Kendall

Friday 8th of January 2021

I was wondering if they have the neon signs tour in the evening? This would be a wonderful tour to do with all the signs lite up. Thanks

Suzanne Jones

Friday 8th of January 2021

Hi Jean, Yes they do have evening tours - I wish we'd had time for one. I'm not sure what the current situation is due to Covid restrictions so do please check.

Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi

Saturday 21st of November 2015

This is going *straight* on my to visit list!

Suzanne Jones

Sunday 22nd of November 2015

Good girl!

Johanna Bradley

Friday 23rd of October 2015

Some of my lady friends spent a week there recently and I would have loved to be able to afford it (and it clashed with a Polish wedding :) ). They rode in the desert and helicoptered in the Canyon (sigh!) but there was no mention of this place, which looks great fun. Thanks for sharing, Suze. Happy weekend!

Suzanne Jones

Friday 23rd of October 2015

I loved it Jo - especially with my work background I found the history of the hotels where the signs came from really interesting. You too Jo, thanks for dropping by :)

Kathryn Burrington

Wednesday 21st of October 2015

I couldn't imagine a more fitting setting to learn about the history of Vegas, it's quirks and curiosities. I'm sure there is many an intriguing tale to tell.

Suzanne Jones

Thursday 22nd of October 2015

There's a lot more to Vegas than gambling and shows and the Neon Museum was one of my favourites :)

Taylor Hearts Travel

Sunday 9th of August 2015

Vegas is on my list. Definitely hope to visit this place when I go!

Suzanne Jones

Sunday 9th of August 2015

Oh you must - it's vintage Vegas at its best :)