Las Vegas is a city that has been constantly changing and reinventing itself ever since Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo in 1946. New bigger and better hotels and casinos are built every year. Standing in the way of this growth where the old casinos and hotels. The old buildings are torn down with little regard for their historical significance or architectural merit. Sometimes the destruction is celebrated in spectacular fashion, blowing them up on television as the crowd cheers. Adorning these old buildings were signs. Not just average signs, but large neon signs that many consider works of art. Many of these neon namesakes got dealt a losing hand and went down with the buildings. Fortunately, some people thought the signs should be saved, and chipped in to save them. The result of these enlightened citizens is the fabulous Neon Museum in Las Vegas. Located on the north edge of town, just past the famous Fremont Street, the museum is a glowing beacon of history at end of a very modern Las Vegas Blvd. Everything about the Neon Museum is cool, including the fantastic googlie clamshell roofed lobby. Once the lobby of the LaCuncha Hotel, the Paul Williams designed structure was rescued, dismantled, and reassembled and now serves as the gift shop and visitor center of the Museum. This place is coolest spot in the desert as far as I’m concerned.
I lit up with excitement as I got out of the car at the museum parking lot and started to look around. Giant old signs peeking out above the high walls containing the outdoor “boneyard” of neon signage peeked my anticipation as I walked into the lobby. I was greeted by the super-friendly staff, and perused the gift shop full of retro-cool items and interesting books on old Las Vegas history and architecture. To see the museum’s collection, you must book a guided tour. My group had about twenty people, and it was easy to see and hear everything, with plenty of room to take photos. Our tour guide Janet was as colorful as the signs themselves, aglow with tales of old Las Vegas and the histories of each sign. She made the hour-long tour fun, informative, and very illuminating. There are over 150 rescued signs in the collection, displayed over a two acre outdoor neon sign wonderland. Some of the most famous and recognized signs ever made are here. Names like The Stardust, The Frontier, The Sahara and The Tropicana are gone from The Strip, but live on at the museum. Lesser known, but equally interesting signs are an urban history buff’s dream to see all gathered in one spot. Most of the signs are in original, un-restored condition, and have a lovely patina. A few have been restored and are functional, including the original sign from the LaCuncha where the lobby came from. The museum also has nine restored vintage sign art installations on the nearby streets, seven of them are on Las Vegas Boulevard, close by. For anyone that loves vintage roadside America artifacts, seeing this place is a must. For information on the Neon Museum and booking a tour, check out the Museum’s website at NeonMuseum.org, or give them a call at 702-387-NEON (6366). The Neon Museum is located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, in Las Vegas, NV.