I’d always wanted to visit the Neon Boneyard. While Neon has been slowly replaced on the Las Vegas strip, classic signage like those that appeared at the Flamingo, the Sands, the Stardust and everywhere else are still emblems of the city for me.
YESCO, the Young Electric Sign Company—the manufacturer who created many of Vegas’s most iconic neon signs—had at one time started collecting old signage from the 1930s and beyond as hotels were demolished and as LED and LCD screens began replacing neon and incandescent bulb signs. Eventually, the company donated its collection to the Neon Museum (established in 1996), and the Allied Arts Council has been adding to the museum’s collection ever since.
When I was in town last week, I took a cab out to old Las Vegas to visit the museum and take their docent-lead one-hour tour—which begins in the lobby of the old clamshell shaped La Concha Motel.
If you’re interested in going, here some quick tips:
- Reserve ahead: You have to take a guided tour and the times do sell out. I had originally hoped to go on the day I arrived, but the tours quickly booked up. In fact, at the time I went they required online pre-purchase.
- Consider combining your tour with a visit to old Fremont Street (where the first neon appeared in 1929), or to the Mob Museum. ($30 will get you a combo ticket to the two museums.)
- Skip the lights. They’re open 7 days/week and have day and night tours, but I think the museum seems to look best in some light (sunset is probably great). Only a few of the signs have been restored to working condition, so the lights at night are mostly spotlights.
- Check the site: Photos are allowed, but they have strict policies that you should read ahead of visiting. I actually emailed in advance to confirm I would have permission to share these.
- Drive or take a taxi: the cab ride is expensive, but the stretch of Las Vegas Blvd leading up to the museum from the strip is a bit sketchy (especially, I’m told, at night).
Finally, you can see how signs are constructed—and restored—on PBS’s Restoration Neon, if you’d like to learn more before visiting.