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Iconic Las Vegas Signs at the Neon Museum Boneyard

Neon Boneyard

Neon Boneyard from http://www.markwu.info

One of the must-sees on the itinerary of our US road trip in 2011 was the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas, partly because I’m a neon and history fiend and partly because I’m not much of a gambler or glitzy show watcher.

Therefore I had to find alternatives for our visit to Sin City and this seemed a great way to learn a bit more about the history of the place, and get an insight into what the predecessors of the MGM Grand and New York New York looked like.

And of course, the neon signs, being so important to draw tourists in off the Strip, are impressive pieces of work.

The Neon Museum

When we visited, the La Concha motel lobby, removed in bits from the Strip and reconstituted alongside the boneyard, wasn’t in use: but it’s since opened up as a beautiful visitors’ centre. This iconic building (you may have noticed it in the film Casino) has been beautifully restored and events are now held regularly in the Boneyard, including weddings on Valentine’s Day.

The museum has already restored some of the old neon signs, and you can take a self-guided tour of ten of those in the Fremont Street area. Many of the rest will be restored and mounted along Las Vegas Boulevard, which will be a fantastic sight. Some unfortunately are just too far gone to restore to working order but even those in the worst condition will still be of use. There’s a plan to construct an entrance sign made up of lettering from more than one sign.

The museum is a fantastic organisation who have done a great job saving neon signs that are no longer viable (LCD and LED signs are much cheaper to make and run and can be seen during the day). And they keep the history of Las Vegas alive, a city which mostly obliterates and builds over its past.

Neon Boneyard signs

Here are some of the stories behind the signs:

Ugly Duckling Car Sales sign, Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Ugly Duckling car sales was a franchise that specialised in selling cars to those who would otherwise have difficulties finding finance to do this. The franchise has since closed down, and the company has now changed their name to DriveTime. Hence no more Mr Ducky. I’m not entirely sure in whose view this duckling is ugly, mind you! There’s a view of the sign in situ on this great web page

Laundrette sign, Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
I haven’t been able to find out anything about the company behind this sign. If anyone has any information, please let me know. As you can see, however, the design of the sign means that in the dark you would have a cute animated shirt waving its arms about!

Binion's Horseshoe sign, Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Benny Binion was a convicted murderer and mobster and came to Vegas in 1946. His Horseshoe casino was popular due to the high limits for bets. And he was the first to get rid of the sawdust on the floors and bring in plush carpets and free drinks for patrons.

Lido de Paris neon sign. Neon Boneyard Las Vegas.
The Lido de Paris girls arrived in Vegas in 1958. There’s a great photo of them scoffing hot dogs on this Early Vegas page. According to that site “The Lido Girls set a Las Vegas trend, followed by the Beauties of Japan, Hawaii, the South Pacific, the Mambo Showgirls of Havana and the Carnival Women of Brazil.” The Lido was replaced by a new show, Enter the Night, in 1992.

Sassy Sally sign, Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
Sassy Sally’s was a strip joint. The sign showing Sassy Sally herself, wife of Vegas Vic (they were actually married by a Vegas minister) is back up in Fremont Street and part of the Neon Museum self guided tour (along with Vegas Vic). (Photos of both of them here.
Sally’s leg no longer kicks up (I’ve read that it never did work, really) and Vic’s arm no longer moves.

Neon Museum details (Updated Jul 10 2013)

It’s advised to register for one of their tours beforehand – they run seven days a week and the number of days per week fluctuate through the year, and they’ve introduced evening tours during the summer months (we’re hoping to go on one on our next trip this year). Full information on how to do this can be found on the Neon Museum website

The museum is situated about 20-25 minutes’ walk from Fremont Street. Bear this in mind if you’re planning on walking on a hot day, and think about taking the taxi or car instead. Take plenty of water as you’re out in the open.