The Neon Museum is dedicated to the restoration, maintenance, and continued cultivation of the neon history of Las Vegas. Through housing and restoring a wealth of Vegas neon signs, the museum has spent more than 20 years preserving a huge part of the city’s history from being lost, and today, a great deal of those gigantic neon signs are installed in various parts of the city, delighting thousands of people every day. This so-called boneyard accommodates a number of Vegas neon signs still waiting for restoration, and visitors, especially photographers, can enjoy the great opportunity of capturing a piece of the history of Las Vegas on film.
Appropriately located at the east end of the Fremont Street Experience, the Las Vegas Neon Museum offers outdoor walking tours, as well as boneyard tours and photo opportunities. Many of the restored signs have been installed on Fremont Street, including Aladdin’s Lamp, at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard at the Fremont Experience; the Hacienda Horse and Rider, at the same intersection; Andy Anderson, originally the mascot of Anderson Dairy, now located at the corner of Fremont Street and 4th Street; the Red Barn, on Neonopolis, near the Experience; and the Nevada Motel, near the same location on Neonopolis.
The Vegas Signs Project
In 2009, the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard between Sahara Avenue and Washington Avenue became one of only three urban streets in the United States to be named a Federal Scenic Byway by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Las Vegas Signs Project, a partnership between the Neon Museum and the City of Las Vegas, aims to install restored signs from the museum’s collection along this area in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.
In 1996, the Caballero on a Palomino sign from the Hacienda Hotel (also known as the Horse and Rider) was the first sign restored and installed as public art as part of the Fremont Street sign gallery at the corner of Fremont St. and Las Vegas Blvd. Today, it joins eight other restored neon signs currently on display as part of the Las Vegas Signs project: the Silver Slipper, the Bow & Arrow Motel and Binion’s Horseshoe were installed in 2009 near the La Concha Visitors’ Center at the McWilliams Avenue intersection; Society Cleaners, the Lucky Cuss Hotel and the Normandie Hotel were added in 2012 at the Ogden Street intersection. Atomic Liquors was installed at Garces Street and Las Vegas Boulevard and the Landmark Hotel sign was installed on paradise Road near the site of the imploded casino. The Red Barn sign, most recently featured as part of the Downtown Gallery, will be installed as part of the collection at a later date.
Neon Museum at Night
For many years, a wealth of old Vegas neon signs were being stored in a back lot at YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company; about 30% of the signs at Neon Museum are from YESCO), the original manufacturer of many of the Las Vegas signs. During the 1990s, these ancient wonders were moved to another dusty lot, which is their current location, awaiting visitors and restoration. Also awaiting restoration in the same location is what used to be the La Concha Motel lobby; now it is anticipated that this will someday become the Neon Museum Visitor’s Center.
In recognition of their historic and artistic value to the Las Vegas community, local businesses, private donors and various organizations have generously donated all of the signs in the Neon Museum’s collection. As a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization, the Neon Museum does not purchase signs for preservation, but maintains a growing roster of venues that have promised signs to the Neon Museum should the properties be demolished. In addition, the Neon Museum supports and collaborates with local businesses taking measures to preserve, rather than replace, vintage neon signage.
Neon Museum Boneyard
Visiting the Vegas neon signs within the boneyard gives visitors an idea of the massive dimensions and the amount of work necessary for constructing such monstrously complex billboards, which when installed in their appropriate locations must seem to the multitude of passers-by to be just a few lights twinkling among the vast brightness of the Strip. The appreciation for the craft is always heightened for those tourists who pay a visit to the giants that wait for the loving hands of restorers at the Las Vegas Neon Museum.
Neon Museum Stardust
Outdoor and boneyard tours are only available with advance reservations; however, visitors who simply wish to view the signs that have been restored by the Neon Museum can find a list of installed signs and their locations available on the museum’s web site. Outdoor tours are offered every day of the week 10am – 8pm. The schedule changes slightly depending on the season so check their website.
Neon Museum Building
Paying a visit to the Las Vegas Neon Museum, or at the very least, visiting the restored and installed neon signs along and around the Fremont Street Experience is an ideal attraction to include on the list of things to do in Las Vegas. Encountering beautiful relics of this lively city’s history, from signs of still existing establishments to those of buildings that have burned to the ground, is something that will provide unique memories of a Vegas vacation.