I guarantee everyone reading this knows the old saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – but is this age-old adage true? If the Neon Museum has anything to do with it, what happened in Vegas will actually stay in Vegas!
Adam and I love going to Hilton’s Elara in Las Vegas on our Adults Only trips and we try to visit at least once per year. Over the years we’ve dropped a pretty penny on multiple shows, buffet lines, drinks and tables so this year we decided to try something a little different.
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas was exactly what we were looking for! This two acre “Boneyard”, as it is better known, sometimes looks just as the name implies…a place where neon signs go to die. But it is much more than that.
This glimpse back into the infancy of Las Vegas is remarkable. Through the jumble of over 150 signs (7 of which are restored and light up), you can see The Strip in its heyday. The first restored sign, the Hacienda Horse and Rider, was installed at the intersection of Fremont St. and Las Vegas Boulevard in 2008 while the brick and mortar visitor’s center opened its doors at the current location (77o Las Vegas Boulevard North) in 2012.
When in comes to preserving the history of Sin City, the Neon Museum is top of its class. The visitor’s center itself is housed in the former La Concha Motel lobby. The museum offers hour-long, docent-guided tours every day of the week and has both daylight and evening tours available. I tried booking an evening tour two weeks out, however they were already full – plan on booking early to experience the magic of neon at night! We ended up with a mid-morning (I think it was right around 11a.m.) tour when the desert sun was already beating down upon us.
Because of the nature of the tours being outside, plan on heat…it is, in fact, a desert. The staff at the museum sell bottled water – from what I remember it was only about $1 – and will loan out umbrellas if you give up your driver’s license. Forget your pride and grab one. One woman was brought back in to the visitor’s center with busted knees after she fainted on the tour. Also, because of the broken glass and rusty metal, it is not recommended to bring small children. Just think – wobbly toddler face planting on a sign – not good.
Several of the most recognizable signs in Vegas are now housed at the Neon Museum including; Caesars Palace, Binion’s Horseshoe, the Golden Nugget and the Stardust.
The staff is extremely knowledgeable and we found it very interesting to see the changes in not only technology, but in public preference and trends from the 1930s to the present.
One of my favorite signs in the collection was this yucca sign (I am from Texas and think yuccas are just cool in general). The Yucca Hotel opened on Las Vegas Boulevard in the early 1950s and recently closed its doors in 2010. This YESCO sign exemplifies the workmanship needed to create these neon signs. Every bend in that beautiful flower had to be perfect…or they start all over again.
Another favorite in the collection is the Moulin Rouge sign. At first glance, you probably wouldn’t even realize that it belonged on this historic casino the way that the museum has it cleverly displayed depicting “in love”. This beautiful backdrop is absolutely perfect for pictures. If you plan on getting hitched in Vegas, this would be memorable!
On a historic note, the Moulin Rouge was the first desegregated hotel in Vegas and was very popular with black entertainers of the era. The short but vibrant life of the Moulin Rouge helped the civil-rights movement in Las Vegas.
So, thinking of all of the historic neon packed into this two acre plot of land, how could we even think of passing it by? It is definitely worth the trip (or a return trip in our case).
Have you been to the Neon Museum – which sign was your favorite?