Put simply the Neon Museum is a sign graveyard, stacked full of amazing neon signs, some in working order and some not. Located about 15 minutes car ride from Vegas (we recommend a taxi) in an area locals describe as 'not that desirable' this is definitely a more random Vegas find.
One key point to note is that you NEED to book ahead, and not just a day ahead. When we went to look at tours a week ahead of our visit the only time available for the week we were staying in Vegas was at 2pm on Sunday. The evening tours, when some of the working signs are turned on can be booked up months in advance.
The other thing worth noting is that there is no roof and therefore no shelter so if you go on a boiling hot day bring water and a hat. The museum provide sun umbrellas and a free water fountain but it is worth being prepared. The signs reflect the heat so for the hour tour prepare to get hot!
Each tour is guided, this is for a number of reasons. Firstly the signs are dangerous, some are massive - like stories high massive, some have rusty sharp edges or broken light bulbs. Secondly the guide provides context, history and some really interesting information about the signs and how they came to be in the graveyard.
In our short trip we learnt about how different signs were used, how different colour neon effects were created, how the use of neon has changed over the year and our guide gave an interesting back story of Vegas. Did you know that Elvis only played in Vegas once in heyday because his promoter had set up a gig in a club but when the youths, that loved Elvis, turned up the bouncers ID'd everyone and sent them packing. Elvis's audience was so small he thought the town hated him and he didn't come back....for years! Strange when you think of Viva Las Vegas being synonymous with the place.
Our group covered the age range of 31-65 and we all loved it and learnt something. While some of us were a little more distracted with photos others were engrossed with the stories. The rest of our tour group was made up of a range of people all their to see something different.
Opening in 2012 the Neon Museum is:
'The nearly two-acre campus includes an outdoor exhibition space, known as the Boneyard, which features more than 200 signs, seven of which are restored, a visitors' center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby and the Neon Boneyard North Gallery which houses additional rescued signs and is used for weddings, special events, photo shoots and educational programs.'
There is history in everything, even the check in lobby is interesting, it is set up inside the La Concha Motel lobby that was moved to the location in 2006 to save it from demolition. Originally it was built on the strip. This is the story of a lot of the signs. Originally signs were built for hotels or businesses on the strip or around Vegas but as they have been replaced the signs have been gifted to the museum. Sometimes by the venues or in most cases by the sign companies - it turns out renting signs was more common that buying them due to the cost.
In fact the cost of making a bespoke sign actually put a company out of business - the sign was this duck.....the company a car wash who had spend $250,000.....on A SIGN!
This sign had to be dis-assembled as it was too big..... any guesses on what it originally said?
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Have you been? What did you think?