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.