At first glance, the piles of discarded signage appear to be heaps of scrap metal and broken light bulbs, but look beyond the “trash” and you’ll find a treasure trove of Las Vegas history at the Neon Museum. Established in 1996, the Neon Museum’s Boneyard is the place where old Las Vegas signs come to die … and be admired. Despite the fact that everything in Las Vegas is bigger, better, newer and brighter than what came before, the Neon Museum preserves and protects the signs that chronicle Sin City’s history, and, in the process, it has become a popular destination for people who want to reminiscence, remember and learn about Las Vegas’ early days.
The Neon Boneyard consists of more than 150 signs across three acres. These signs represent a cross section of hotels and sites that are no more (Stardust, Binions Horseshoe) as well as those that have simply undergone redesigns and rebranding.
An old Caesars’ Palace sign sits next to an oversized skull that used to belong to Treasure Island. An old genie lamp brings back memories of the Aladdin. Dice with dusty red neon tubes mingle with wedding signs that likely acted as a backdrop in somebody’s photos. And then there are nondescript signs for generic motels, dry cleaners and diners, though I’m sure in their heyday, these signs had a story to tell as well.
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Visiting the Neon Boneyard takes a bit of planning. You can not casually wander through the Boneyard. Rather, tours are given Tuesday through Friday at noon and 2:00 p.m. and on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. You must reserve your spot at least one week in advance because tours frequently sell out. Same-day appointments and walk-ins are not accepted. A minimum $15.00 donation is requested.
Also, it’s important to note that photography for artistic or commercial use is strictly prohibited, and the museum is very serious about enforcing its photography policy. No backpacks, tripods or additional camera equipment is permitted on any tour, and those hoping to do a photo shoot must go through an application process.
All that said, the hassle to get in on one of these tours is completely worth it. A lot of people say that Las Vegas’ history is destroyed every time another building is imploded, and, in a way they are right because Sin City is about moving into the future. But the city does have a rich past, and those who are interested in taking the time to learn about it will be greatly rewarded with a visit to the Las Vegas Neon Museum Boneyard.
Photo credit: kandyjaxx