Amazing Places

The Neon Museum Is the Neon Sign Graveyard of Las Vegas

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When you think of Las Vegas, you think of one thing: gambling. Wait, make that two things: gambling and stage shows. Wait, no, three: gambling, stage shows, and giant, fancy hotels. Er, hold on. Let's just say that Las Vegas has a lot going on. And wherever you're headed in Sin City, chances are it will be near the base of a giant neon sign. But if it's just the city's iconic signs you're after, there's only one place to go: the Neon Museum.

Lots of the Lights

Let's face it. When it come to Las Vegas, even the history is pretty gaudy. In fact, that's a big part of the appeal. So it's only appropriate that right on Las Vegas Boulevard, right in the shadow of the Silver Slipper sign, you'll find the final resting place of more than 260 iconic pieces of signage. Step right in, it's the Neon Boneyard. Make sure you plan ahead, though — this part of the museum can only be accessed as a part of a one-hour guided tour. While you stroll through this colorful, artificial garden, you'll find some of the original, massive fixtures that once advertised Caesar's Palace, Binion's Horseshoe, the Golden Nugget, and Stardust. They aren't just a part of the city's brightly lit history — there also prime examples of masterful design. No wonder the park is a favorite destination for photo shoots and special occasions.

The thing about the Neon Museum is that it's not just about remembering the signs that have been taken down. It's also about preserving and restoring the historic signs that are still standing. The Urban Gallery is the "living" portion of the museum's collection, and you can see it shine in all its glory 24 hours a day. Come in from the north on Las Vegas Boulevard and the first sign you'll see is the restored Binion's Horseshoe glowing high above you. Next is the Silver Slipper (wave at the museum as you go by!), the Bow and Arrow, the Normandie, and the Lucky Cuss. The final part of that particular stretch is dominated by one of the most famous signs of all, the Hacienda Horse and Rider — it's 40 feet (12 meters) tall, stands on a pole that's another 24 feet (7 meters), and it was the first sign the museum ever acquired.

Going Googie

The signs in the Neon Museum's collection are obviously a major part of Las Vegas history. But so is the actual building that houses its lobby. Designed by Paul Revere Williams, the first documented black member of the American Institute of Architects, it's a space-age structure that epitomizes what was known as the Googie style. Think "The Jetsons" — lots of swooping geometric shapes, bright and bold colors, massive glass windows, and shining steel and chrome. Williams earned the nickname "Architect to the Stars" as the man behind the residences of Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, and Barbara Stanwyck. Of course, Williams wasn't designing a museum visitor's center. The sleek, symmetrical building used to be the lobby of the La Concha hotel, and it was only saved from demolition in 2005. Obviously, they had to preserve the hotel's signs for permanent display as well.

Las Vegas Isn't Las Vegas

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Paradise, Nevada is an unincorporated place. 00:27

  2. Casino's opened up just outside of Las Vegas to avoid city taxes. 01:56

  3. The county created the officially unofficially incorporated created place known as Paradise to prevent Las Vegas from annexing the land. 02:49

Written by Reuben Westmaas May 4, 2018

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