Vegas wouldn’t be Vegas without its oversized lighted signage adorning every hotel and shop. Towering over 12 feet in height the neon lights of yesteryear have sadly been replaced by more friendly LED lighting. However, if you head to downtown you can still admire the artwork of some of the most iconic signs of the past at The Neon Museum. Part history, part art, this is a completely awesome graveyard.
At the Neon Boneyard, you get to wander around two-acres of the world’s largest collection of neon signage. The unrestored collection features more than 200 rescued signs from some of the city’s most celebrated properties dating from the 1930s to the present day. Some of the renowned architectural landmark signs include:
The Neon Museum visitor’s centre is located inside the historic La Concha Motel Lobby and outside lies the remains of its signage, fading in its glory. The distinctive shell-shaped building was designed by the acclaimed architect Paul Revere Williams, who was the first African-American to become a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923. The curvilinear La Concha Motel Lobby is a striking example of Mid-Century modern design characterised by Atomic and Space Age shapes and motifs. This signage bears a resemblance to its white exterior.
Opening originally as the Golden Slipper, the Silver Slipper Casino was once part of the larger Last Frontier Village, a western themed development. The Silver Slipper is most fondly remembered for its iconic rotating shoe – which you can now see outside the entrance of the boneyard. In 2009, the sign was restored and installed on Las Vegas Boulevard as part of the National Scenic Byway.
the moulin rouge
The Moulin Rouge opened on 24 May 1955 and was the first integrated hotel casino in Las Vegas. Until that time almost all casinos on the Strip were totally segregated. The Moulin Rouge sign was designed by Betty Willis, creator of the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign. Each letter was drawn freehand, which was how signs were designed at the time. She used a Parisian-style font. The casino closed its doors in November 1955.
When the Moulin Rouge sign was brought to the Neon Museum, it had to be mounted onto a frame for stabilization. The ‘In Love’ portion happened to fit perfectly and had proven to be a popular draw for wedding, tour and special event photo shoots.
The Stardust Resort and Casino operated at 3000 Las Vegas Blvd. South from 1958 until 2006. Designed by Paul Miller of AD-ART sign company, the 188-foot high super pylon sign was installed in 1968. The Stardust sign is fondly remembered for its towering cloud of stars hovering in the desert sky as part of the roadside spectacular.
The Ugly Duckling Car Sales sign originally stood at Sahara Avenue and Boulder Highway and cheerfully greeted car buyers from both sides for a short period of time in the 1990s. Now, he cheerfully greets museum goers in the Neon Boneyard.
a Shamrock from fitzgerald’s
Today’s present day D Las Vegas hotel and casino was called was called Fitzgerald’s between 1987 and 2012. During this period, the resort had a ‘luck of the Irish’ theme, and this shamrock neon sign comes from those days. In the background you can see the old Riviera sign and a lonely ‘E’ to the right probably came from the Frontier.
book a tour
The Neon Museum offers one-hour-long tours, which should be booked in advance at http://www.neonmuseum.org. We visited in the summer months where tours only run in the morning and late evening due to the heat and tickets were sold out already on the day. However, for a small donation, they let us wander around a small portion of the outside area without a guide.
Located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, this is a good side tour if you are already downtown at the Freemont Street Experience.