Want to get a feel of what Las Vegas was like in the early days of the post-war boom? How about when the city was run by organized crime, or when Atomic Tourism was actually a thing? No place in Las Vegas can take you back to those eras like a visit to the Neon Boneyard where every recovered sign tells a story.
What is the Neon Museum/Neon Boneyard?
Neatly tucked away on the outskirts of downtown Las Vegas you will find the Neon Museum and the Neon Boneyard – a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing Las Vegas’s iconic signs of yesterday. From an outsider’s view, it seems like a collection of junk however cheerful and enthusiastic staff are on hand to prove otherwise. A visitors centre containing interesting tidbits about the museum and old Las Vegas sits next to the Neon Boneyard, the museum’s impressive collection of historic signs.
Touring the Neon Boneyard
Seeing the Neon Boneyard can only be done through a 1-hour guided tour. When we arrived and saw the small yard I couldn’t help but think what I would do with the remaining 45 minutes as an hour seemed excessive. I was so very wrong. Our tour guide Paul was turbo informative and talked from start to finish, adding interesting facts and tidbits behind the history of each sign as well as the owners and properties they represented. Simply wandering the Neon Boneyard on your own would not be enough. Hearing the stories and facts behind each piece is fascinating and engaging.
As Paul talked I couldn’t help but feel like I was transported back in time to the golden age of early Las Vegas. The signs resting in the Neon Boneyard not only shaped how Las Vegas is lit up today, but how the rest of the world advertises as well. Many signs in Las Vegas were the world’s first in some category or another and even the building that houses the visitors center and gift shop has a story. Once the La Concha Motel lobby, this building is known as one of the best-preserved examples of 1950’s Googie architecture and is right at home next to the Neon Boneyard.
Signs in the Neon Boneyard date back to the 1930’s and include pieces from the Stardust, Caesars Palace, and The Moulin Rouge Hotel. The Neon Boneyard also includes several pieces that don’t light up like a giant skull from Treasure Island and my personal favorite, a pool playing cowboy from Doc ’N’ Eddy’s Pool Hall.
Step Back in Time at the Neon Boneyard
Never before have I appreciated Las Vegas for what it is and for what it was. A visit to the Neon Boneyard and Neon Museum has shed new light on a city that I had all but written off. If you are tired of the fake scenery and people of the Las Vegas strip head to the old part of town and visit the Neon Boneyard. I can guarantee old will become new again and Vegas will never look the same.
Good to Know
- Visit the Neon Boneyard at dusk for better picture lighting and cooler temperature.
- Book ahead. Tours fill up and there is nothing around the museum to kill time at if you have to wait for a spot.
- Night tours at the Neon Boneyard are offered but at this time only a few signs light up
- Bring water. One hour in the sun with little shade is the norm.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you walk quite a bit. The boneyard is small but slow-moving.
- Renting a car can save you money, even for the day. The Boneyard has free parking and a return cab to the strip can run ~$50.
- There’s a discounted ticket available combining the Boneyard with the nearby Mob Museum
What say you?
Have you been to the Neon Bone Yard?
Let’s hear it!
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