A few weeks back, I saw a special feature on “The Today Show” about the Neon Museum in Las Vegas. A lot of locals and visitors already knew about this place, and it has been a popular place for music videos and photo shoots for a whil. I love old Las Vegas and the history of the city so I really wanted to make a visit to the Neon Boneyard. Fortunately, I was going to Las Vegas with my mom and she was a perfect companion for checking it out.
The Neon Museum is pretty close to the Fremont Street area. If you’re staying on the Strip, I think the Deuce bus actually goes all the way to the museum but we decided to get on the bus early in the morning and stop at the Fremont Street Experience to grab some breakfast. We got on the bus at 8:15 AM in front of Paris casino and we were in the Four Queens casino by 8:45 (our museum tour was at 10:00). After breakfast, we took a quick taxi ride to the Neon Museum since we were advised that the walk was not too enjoyable (and it was already pretty hot). When you go to the museum, you do need to be prepared: everything is outdoors, there is little shade, and it’s particularly warm when you’re walking around all the signs. Bring water and wear sunscreen and a hat if you burn easily. They do have water bottles there, too, and you can get one with a small donation.
Our tour guide led the group into the boneyard area where we first encountered signs from smaller local businesses. These included hotels, motels, casinos and a dry cleaner. Even though they weren’t for the big casinos and hotels, they still were very creative and ornate. It seems like everyone wanted some bling for their business.
We continued on and made our way to the bigger, more well-known names of casinos and hotels. Along the way, our guide gave us background information on the sign designers and a company that manufactures a lot of the signs in Las Vegas. This same company, Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO), also repairs signs and has teams that go out every night checking signs to see if they need bulb replacement or repairs. If they spot a sign in need, they will contact the business and offer to repair it for them (for a fee, of course). Since no one really wants to climb up on a really high ladder in the desert heat to try and repair their own sign, they will often just have YESCO go ahead and fix the sign. It seems like a pretty good way to drum up business.
The boneyard features signs from Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, the Stardust, Lady Luck, the Golden Nugget, the Desert Inn, the Liberace Museum and many others. I think my favorite signs here were everything from the Stardust (the stars and diamonds, the letters and the “Lido” sign). Sassy Sally’s and Binions had really big signs that were fun to see up close. The little dry cleaning guy, the swinging lady, the ugly duckling and the “House of Lords Steakhouse” were really nice, too.
In front of the museum is the refurbished silver slipper from (you guessed it) the Silver Slipper. Our tour guide told us a story of how when Howard Hughes was staying at his hotel, the Desert Inn, he could see the spinning silver slipper outside his window and he thought that it was peering straight into his window (he feared deeply for his safety). So, Hughes called up the folks at the silver slipper and asked if they would stop the slipper from spinning. They refused so Hughes did what he liked to do: he bought the Silver Slipper, filled the shoe with concrete and made it stop spinning forever. We also learned that the Silver Slipper was originally called the “Golden Slipper” because there already was a Silver Slipper in Las Vegas when it opened. Once the other Silver Slipper shut down, they reclaimed the name and the corresponding spinning footwear. They also have some signs erected off-site along Las Vegas Boulevard and on Frement Street. It was kind of fun to track these down and see if we could spot them.
The boneyard itself is very picturesque and was even more interesting than I had hoped. It was very clear why it is so popular for photographers (you can inquire about doing a photo shoot by clicking here). Even if you just want to go for a regular visit, you will need to book a few weeks in advance because the tours do sell out and they don’t allow walk-ups without reservations. It was well worth the $15 admission and since the signs on display are on a rotation, I would definitely return for another visit.
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