Where Classic Vegas Signs Go to Die: The Neon Graveyard
Have you ever wondered where all those vintage Vegas casino signs actually end up? Just 6 miles off The Strip, a place known as the Neon Graveyard exists purposely for this exact reason. The Boneyard as it is referred is the place where these flashy neon signs go to rest, basically a 2 acre junkyard for vintage signs in the middle of the desert.
What a wonderful idea to preserve all these classic signs with nowhere else to go, so we can all remember how Vegas used to be before all the new casinos with LED technology started invading The Strip.
The Neon Museum is a quirky non profit attraction dedicating to preserving these classic signs. Today, Vegas is so modernized with fancy chef restaurants, modern 5 star resorts, top knotch shows, high end buffets, newer LED technology, with more glitz and glamour overtaking The Strip year by year.
Sadly, only a few remainders of the old-school Las Vegas can be found here and there. Visiting the Neon is similar to browsing around a flea market, where everything once old and discarded, is now again new, exciting, and considered valuable & vintage.
While all these modern upgrades have made The Strip more gorgeous and a more popular than ever vacation destination for everyone (not just gamblers), it also means that Vegas has lost a little something that made it so special in the past. As more and more old time casinos are demolished and others are consistently remodeled and upgraded, much of the novelty in Sin City has also been lost.
For anyone longing to experience the old days of Vegas, the Neon Museum is definitely for you! The Neon Museum is one of the few remaining places in Vegas where you can still feel that classic old-fashioned Vegas vibe. It’s like stepping back into history, regardless of whether your first Vegas visit was 30 years or 30 days ago.
History buffs and old time Vegas visitors will definitely want to take a break from the excitement of all The Strip action to walk amongst all these vintage neon casino signs. As soon as you start strolling past 100’s of discarded signs in the Neon Boneyard, you will be hit with a sense of nostalgia for the days of Vegas long gone.
The Stardust, Lady Luck, Fitzgeralds…all these iconic signs will take you on a trip through memory lane. It’s really crazy to think how much The Strip has changed in just a few short decades. Really, even if you go back just 10 simple years (my first time visiting Vegas), you will notice how much has changed.
A brief history of the Neon Museum
The Neon Museum began collecting these iconic signs back in 1996. YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) donated many of their signs. Neon signs began lighting up the desert in 1929 with the Oasis Restaurant. Today, the Neon Museum’s extensive collection includes more than 200 vintage signs. While you can still explore some of these old fashioned neon signs on Fremont Street, this area is super congested all the time and has evolved into a more party like atmosphere.
At the Neon Museum, you can explore classic Vegas history in a quieter setting. Plus, you get the bonus history lesson and prime photo opportunities as the tour is limited to just a few dozen people at a time. The guides here are fantastic, very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Vegas in general. They seem to love their jobs and it makes the tour much more fun for tourists! Ask any questions you like – your guide is sure to have an answer!
Many of these neon signs are much bigger than you would expect, with the Stardust sign (pictured in the cover photo) towering at 188 feet tall and 96 foot wide! The oldest sign in the graveyard is The Green Shack, formerly a Fremont Street restaurant which opened in the 1930’s.
My 5 favorite signs from the Neon Collection
Critics hated it, but it happens to be one of my personal favorites. Count me as one of the few who can re watch it over and over again. The fantastic “Vegas Vacation” with Chevy Chase is such a fun cheesy 90’s flick – one that gets even better with each passing year. Who remembers the scene with Vicki dancing atop the Lady Luck sign, followed by Audrey climbing up and exclaiming “I’m starting my vacation!” while the catchy 90’s favorite “Ready to Go” by Republica blasts in the background?
Seeing this classic sign is such a memorable sight for fans of the movie! This scene was actually filmed in the old YESCO boneyard. YESCO was a sign manufacturer that would store these old signs in their “boneyard,” named as so as the various parts were used for other projects.
The Fitzgerald’s shamrock is another one of my personal favorites. I love shamrocks and St. Patrick’s Day, so I had to get my picture next to this one. The entire luck of the Irish theme at Fitzgeralds was pretty creative, however, in 2012, it was replaced by the more modern D casino on Fremont Street. While the main portion of the sign was sold on eBay, some of the pot o’gold and shamrock was donated to The Neon Museum.
The lamp from the old Aladdin casino is another really cool sign housed at The Neon. The Aladdin opened in 1966 and was later rebranded in 2007 as the popular Planet Hollywood Casino & Resort. The Aladdin had a really unique Arabian theme, and luckily the Neon Museum was able to save this historic lamp sign. On an interesting side note, the wedding of Elvis and Priscilla Presley took place in a private ceremony in the Aladdin back in 1967.
This bright yellow duck must have really stood out back in the day – it’s head even sticks up over the gate as youd drive by the museum! Looking around the boneyard, you will notice that the colors red and yellow are used quite frequently because they really stand out amongst everything else. This particular duck was not used for a casino sign, but rather for a used car dealership. Talk about a catchy advertisement! Pretty crazy really as we do not see anything like this anymore today!
I love the Yucca motel sign for several reasons. First of all, I love the Southwestern design theme which incorporates a native desert plant. Second, it shows how much intricate details were put into each of these signs. The Yucca motel was built in 1950 and demolished in 2010. It’s ironic how such a work of art was created for what later became known as a seedy, dirty Vegas motel!
More amazing classic neons!
Binion’s Horeshoe opened in 1951 on Fremont Street. In 2004, it was replaced by Binion’s Gambling Hall. Founder Benny Binion is most famous for having invented The World Series of Poker. Next to Binion’s poker room, you will find a table signed by all the greats like Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, and Phil Hellmuth.
In 2011, the modern SLS casino (which stands for style, luxury, and service) replaced the classic Sahara, which at one time hosted big acts like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and the Beatles. The Sahara opened in 1952, making it the 6th casino built on The Strip.
The last sign you will view is the old-fashioned Tropicana. The Tropicana was one of the classic, most well-known Strip hotels. In fact, it was the first resort I’ve ever stayed at in Vegas! I loved the classic tropical inspired theme back in the day. The Tropicana was one of the few casinos that has been remodeled several times without being completely demolished. Unfortunately, the Tropicana was sold in 2015, so who knows what will take its’ place?
The La Concha Motel (1961-2004) was designed by Paul Revere Williams, one of the first prominent African American architects.
Daytime vs. nighttime tours
These vintage signs are best viewed at night during the hot season due to the unbearable daytime heat (no shade whatsoever), however, both daytime and night tours are available, so you can easily squeeze this hour long tour into whatever time slot works best for you. Nothing really tops seeing these classic signs lit up just as these were in the good ol’ days. Unfortunately, just a handful (7 to be exact) of the signs are lit up.
This is because restoring the signs is a very costly process, and only a limited number of signs can be plugged into the electrical grid. Spotlights are used to highlight the remainder of the signs, so they still look great. Walking around the graveyard without the blazing desert sun shining upon you is just another reason to consider a night tour. You will be given an umbrella for use on the day tour, unfortunately it does little during the brutal summer season!
Why you should take time off The Strip to visit The Neon Museum!
In short, any history buffs and old time Vegas fans will want to take some time to step away from the congestion, glitter and glam for a tour of classic Vegas at the Neon Museum. In terms of iconic Vegas attractions, the Neon Museum is basically as good as it gets. At just 19-26 dollars a tour, it really is a steal, not to mention a better value, more educational, less stressful, and more memorable than throwing all your money away at the casino.
At least at the Neon Museum, you will walk away with some cool photo souvenirs as opposed to empty pockets! Add in a bit of feel good nostalgia and the opportunity to learn a bit more about the history of Vegas signs, as well as the city in general – not a bad deal at just 20 bucks a person!
The memories of these old casinos linger on at the Neon Boneyard regardless of how many new casinos have and will continue to replace these old treasures in upcoming years. As we move forward in time and Vegas becomes more and more modernized & upscale, these old time treasures will never be forgotten thanks to the Neon Graveyard!
Location, Pricing, and Tour Info
The Neon Museum is located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North Las Vegas, NV 89101. It’s about 6 miles and a 15 minute or so drive off The Strip. Plan for about 30 bucks for a taxi cab.
Daytime tours are $19, while night tours are $26. For obvious reasons, night tours book out more quickly, so plan in advance!
Viewing these signs is available by tour only. You must reserve a spot in advance for these tours. Book your Neon Tour. Tours sell out quickly, so book online in advance of your trip!
Special photography tours are offered once a month. Call (702) 387-6366 for details.
Oh, and they have a really cool gift shop with some great old time memorabilia including a fantastic book on the history of the Neon signs.
Book a night tour if visiting during the summer season. It’s just too hot to enjoy the signs during the day!
If visiting in the daytime, wear sunblock and sunglasses. Bring with a water bottle. Use one of the complimentary umbrellas- you will definitely need it! There is absolutely no shade here and it is brutal. Try to reserve the earliest morning tour, if possible.
Pick up a free map of locations of the 9 additional old time Neon signs around town which you can explore at your own leisure. One of these, the Silver Slipper, is right across from the museum. If you are looking for something free and interesting to do, it’s worth looking into.
If you are also planning to check out Fremont Street, you may want to combine Fremont & the Neon as Fremont is just a short way’s away, and thus, taxi fare will be cheaper.
You can only take photos for personal use and no video recording is allowed. No tripods, additional lens, selfie sticks, or backpacks can be brought along for the tour.
Discounts are available for Nevada residents – bring your ID for 5 bucks off. Additionally, you may be able to find a promo code or deal online.