Las Vegas Neon Museum Opens to Public, Illuminates Colorful History

by  Blane Bachelor | Oct 26, 2012
Aerial view of the Las Vegas strip
Aerial view of the Las Vegas strip / f11photo/iStock

Las Vegas isn’t exactly known for its museums, but one open-air offering that may just change that is the über-awesome Neon Museum, which is set to open to the public this weekend with a new visitors center and an expanded tour schedule.

The museum, which is the result of the hardworking efforts of a local nonprofit that rescues and restores old signs, will soon offer 12 daily guided tours of the neon relics that represent Sin City’s bygone eras. The collection is full of colorful marquees and characters that once adorned casinos, hotels, and nightclubs but were eventually removed for renovations and upgrades.

Dozens of these iconic signs, including one from the Stardust Lounge, now reside in the museum's outdoor Neon Boneyard, helping keep the rich history of this iconic city alive. Previously, tickets to this offbeat attraction were quite tricky to come by, and the new tour itinerary is a welcome way to open this treasure trove of neon delights to a bigger audience.

From October 27 through November 3, seven tours will be offered daily, on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. From November 5 through December 31st, that number will be bumped up to 12. Admission is $15 for adults. Even with the expanded offerings, however, demand is pretty high, and reservations must be made online – no walk-in appointments given – as far in advance as possible.

In addition, the museum will unveil its $1.5 million visitor center, located in the old scallop-edged lobby of the La Concha Motel, this weekend. The property, which is now on the National Historic Register, was another rescue from the scrap heap by the nonprofit. In its reincarnation, it provides an excellent introduction to the attraction, showing photographs of the signs in their once-lit glory.

The nonprofit organization that runs the museum has been collecting the old signs since the late 1990s as a way to preserve a slice of Las Vegas’s richest history. The 100-plus sign collection is constantly changing, as new signs arrive from newly imploded or remodeled hotels, and old ones are repaired, restored, and then put back on display, either in the Boneyard itself or as part of a downtown art installation around the Fremont Street Experience and along parts of Las Vegas Boulevard.

The dozen-plus electrified, restored signs include such notable gems as the Hacienda Horse and Rider, prancing down a median amidst the never-ending swarm of limos and taxis, and the original Aladdin's Lamp – an enticing incentive for a stroll when your gambling money runs out.

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