If you’re interested in the history of Las Vegas, the Neon Museum should be on your list of things to do and see when visiting the city. The Neon Museum is an attraction that dedicates itself to the collection and preservation of historic Las Vegas signs. It’s a living museum that’s definitely worth a visit for all lovers of vintage Las Vegas. It’s like a giant picture book of Vegas history.
Is the Neon Museum Worth Visiting? The Neon Museum, founded in 1996, is home to a large collection of historic Las Vegas signs from hotels, casinos, businesses, and attractions that no longer exist. This family-friendly destination is just a short trip from the Strip and is worth visiting for all travelers to Vegas.
The Neon Museum is the historic soul of the city known for its bustling nightlife and casinos. If you’ve been visiting Las Vegas for decades, the signs will bring back fond memories of past trips. If not, you’ll recognize many of the vintage signs from old movies about Las Vegas.
Table of Contents
- 1 Is the Neon Museum Lit Up at Night?
- 2 How Long Is the Neon Museum Tour?
Is the Neon Museum Worth Visiting?
The 200,000 people who visited in 2018 think so. Rob McCoy, Neon Museum president, and chief executive officer says that annual visitors are up 58% year-over-year.
Of the visitors who reviewed the museum on TripAdvisor, 89% rate the site Excellent or Very Good. And on Yelp, more than 1,200 reviewers have rated the museum for an average of 4 out of 5 stars.
The tourist spot has a lot to offer when you feel like a break from the Strip and hanging out in casinos.
The main attraction at the Neon Museum is known as the “Neon Boneyard”. In the 2.62 acre outdoor boneyard, you’ll see signs from old Las Vegas businesses and casinos. You can opt for either general admission or take a guided tour.
In both cases, when you purchase tickets they will be for a specific time. In this way, the facility can make sure that the walkways in between the signs don’t become overly crowded.
With general admission, you can walk around the neon boneyard yourself to check out all the retro signage. You’ll have about an hour to walk around and museum docents are on hand to answer any questions you may have.
Guided tours and specialty programs are also available (website).
Is the Neon Museum Better During the Day or at Night?
While it might make sense that the Neon Museum would be better at night than during the day, there are actually some good reasons to go during the day.
First off, let me say that the signs in the yard are spectacular both day and night and you won’t be disappointed either time you go. That being said, the big benefit of visiting during the day is that you’ll be able to see more signs.
As restoration is a slow and expensive process, not all areas of the boneyard are lit up at night and you will definitely be able to see many of the signs better during the day.
Nighttime at the Neon Museum is remarkable because well … the lights!
So I have a recommendation. If your schedule permits, the best option for you would be to try and schedule your tickets for a late afternoon visit right before sunset so you’ll get to see the signs both during the day and lit up at night. These time slots fill up, however, so it would be a good idea to get your tickets online ahead of time.
Is the Neon Museum Lit Up at Night?
As I’ve mentioned before, not all the signs are lit up at night. In addition to the costs of restoration, lighting up all the signs would be cause for a shocking electric bill and as a non-profit organization, the museum doesn’t have unlimited resources.
There are, however, many spectacular signs that are lit up at night.
The Silver Slipper from downtown Las Vegas, for instance, is one that is great to see at night. The one-hour tour at night includes signs from Fremont Street and the downtown area. The tour guide will share with you the history of each of the signs as well as any particular stories associated with the sign.
The signs that you may have seen in pictures and movies can be seen for real. At night, they look extraordinarily pretty, especially the Original Golden Nugget Sign or the Pirate from the Treasure Island sign. You will be amazed by their enormous size.
The museum has worked tirelessly to restore many of the signs to working order so you can see them in all their lit-up glory. Obviously, it requires an enormous amount of time and money to get these signs working again so many of the signs do not light up.
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Brilliant at the Neon Museum
The cool thing is that the museum has designed a light show called “Brilliant” at night that uses lasers and projectors to shine images and archival footage onto the signs in an area of the outdoor boneyard where the signs don’t light up by themselves. In this way, these inoperable signs can come alive and bring “old Vegas” to life. Admission to this area requires an additional entry fee (see below).
Along with the lights, the museum also immerses you in a 360-degree audio soundtrack that further enhances the vintage Vegas feel.
The lights turn on haphazardly on each sign with no specific order. This adds an element of surprise and wonder to the show – you never quite know what to expect. This show lasts approximately 25 minutes.
Why is the Neon Museum Worth Visiting?
This short trip from the Strip is very much worth visiting because:
- It’s a piece of living history: The neon signs will transport you back in time and give you a feel for old school Las Vegas.
- It is a family-friendly attraction: This attraction will entertain visitors of all ages and is a great place to take the kids or extended family.
- It’s pretty affordable: As you may be aware, not all places in Las Vegas can say that 🙂 Also, your entrance fee will help the museum maintain and restore these signs for future generations.
- Signs are grouped by location: They have grouped the Neon Museum signs by original location. For instance, all the signs from the downtown area are grouped together. This really gives you a sense of how Vegas was and is laid out.
- The tour is no longer than an hour or two: Depending on which ticket option you choose. You can check out a fun cultural and historical site of Las Vegas and be back on the Strip or downtown in no time.
What to Expect: Highlights from the Neon Museum Tour
Taking a tour is an excellent option as it will give you the most information and backstory about the signs. Here are a few of the highlights you’ll see on the tour:
- Binion’s Upside-Down Horseshoes: An upside-down horseshoe is perceived to bring bad luck. The history of the Binion upside-down horseshoes relates to the story of how Benny Binion employed this bad luck symbol to his advantage, by forcing his patrons to walk under them to enter his gaming establishment.
Fun fact: This Vegas Casino owner (Benny Binion) was the first to put carpet on the floor of a casino and serve complimentary drinks to his clients.
- The Treasure Island Skull: – This skull was the centerpiece of the sign outside what is now called TI (Treasure Island). This artifact is so huge that it is visible from Google Earth. Now this discarded prop is a popular spot in the boneyard for taking an iconic Las Vegas selfie.
- The Green Shack Sign: – This sign attracts fans of the 1930s. Back in the day, it invited laborers who moved to Las Vegas (to work on the construction of the Hoover Dam) for cocktails, steak, and chicken. The restaurant closed in 1999, and its signature location was demolished in 2005.
The only thing that remained were the two signs, the one you can see at the Neon Museum and another at the old, empty lot paying tribute to a business that time passed by.
- The El Portal Original Sign: – This sign is from a theatre located on Fremont Street and was the first building in Vegas to install air-conditioning. The building that was once an oasis in the desert is now converted to an Indian Arts and Craft store.
- The Moulin Rouge: – This sign is a reminder of a couple of the legends of Las Vegas, Nat King Cole, and Sammy Davis Jr., who founded The Moulin Rouge, a Vegas Casino that allowed patrons and performers of all colors and races to party into the early morning hours without discrimination.
Even though the original structure burned down, the sign is preserved at the Neon Museum thereby keeping its history alive.
- The Fitzgerald’s Coin: – This property has gone through quite a few name changes. Operating from 1987 to 2012 as Fitzgeralds Hotel and Casino it now is in operation as the D by Derek Stevens, a visionary from Fremont Street. The property was also previously known as Sundance in the early 80s. Names change but the sign survives.
The sign, showing a pot of gold, used to hang above the entrance to the casino.
These are just a few of the highlights that stand out at the museum. There is a myriad of other signs that symbolize different aspects of the history of the Las Vegas Valley.
How Did The Neon Museum Get it’s Start?
The motivation behind the museum started with the iconic sign from the Sands Hotel and Casino. After the hotel closed in 1995 the sign was scrapped due to its huge size and the inability to store it anywhere. After that, it was realized how important the old signs were artistically and historically.
The Neon Museum was born in 1996 in partnership between the City of Las Vegas and the Allied Arts Council of Southern Nevada. Their goal is to preserve these cultural relics.
Las Vegas Neon Museum timeline:
- The Neon Museum rebuilt and placed the Hacienda Horse and Rider sign on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street, marking its official launch in 1996. Initially, visits to the growing collection were through appointments, and only 12-20,000 attended that year.
- The historic La Concha motel lobby building was donated to the museum in 2005. This is now the museum’s current headquarters and visitor’s center.
- This refurbishment of La Concha was so costly that the museum invited outside investment and was able to raise several million dollars. $6.5 million was raised and invested in the headquarters, visitor center, a park, and a 15 major signs renovation project.
- The destination was marked as a National Scenic Byway in November 2009 when the museum installed the Silver Slipper sign near the visitor center, along with two other classic signs installed along Las Vegas Blvd.
- The museum finally opened to the paid public in 2012, where attendance rose to 60,461, far exceeding the initial forecast of 45 to 50,000 visitors that year.
How Long Is the Neon Museum Tour?
You’ll be at the Neon museum between an hour to an hour and a half depending on if you’re taking a tour, just doing general admission or if you are also planning to see the Brilliant (see more about “Brilliant” above) lightshow. You may have to walk a lot in the graveled sand, so it’s best to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Neon Museum Cost
|General Admission||Brilliant||Aged 2 & Under|
Unfortunately, there are no discount combination tickets for both General Admission and Brilliant. These will have to be purchased separately.
You can purchase your tickets online here in advance by choosing from available time slots. Just showing up at the museum may or may not get you inside. It depends on availability so it’s always best to get tickets ahead of time.
Neon Museum Hours
The Neon Museum of Las Vegas is open 7 days a week.
|Monday||9am to 10pm|
|Tuesday||9am to 10pm|
|Wednesday||9am to 10pm|
|Thursday||9am to 11pm|
|Friday||9am to 11pm|
|Saturday||9am to 11pm|
|Sunday||9am to 11pm|
Can I Take Pictures at the Neon Museum?
The museum has a clearly spelled-out policy about photography and video. You can read it in full here. Basically, you are welcome to take photos for personal use, but not for promotional or business purposes. So, if you just want to take photos for yourself – go for it!
The best way to go about getting some great photos at the Neon Museum without running afoul of their camera policy is to leave your DSLR in the hotel and use your mobile phone. You’ll capture some great images and no museum personnel will question you.
If you really want to capture the beauty of the signs with your best camera gear, the Neon Museum hosts photo walks several times a month. This is your chance to use a tripod and all your lenses to create the images serious photographers really want. Images taken during photo walks are still for personal use only and the walk must be scheduled ahead of time here.
The outside lots are filled to the brim with signs, and great photo opportunities abound!
How to Get to the Neon Museum
The Neon Museum is located at: 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North (opens google maps).
If you are driving yourself, you can find nearby parking at the Cashman Center next door. If you don’t have a car, there are several ways to get to the museum including by bus, taxi or Uber. We’ve written a complete guide to getting around Las Vegas without a car. You can read it here.
The Neon Museum is one of the top cultural stops on any trip to Las Vegas. Young or old, day or night you will surely enjoy your visit.
Some Common Questions Regarding the Neon Museum
Can I get a private tour of the Neon Museum boneyard? Yes, the museum offers private tours. You can contact [email protected] for availability and cost.
Can I bring pets to the Neon Museum? Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) only trained service animals that perform tasks for disabled individuals are permitted at the Neon Museum.
How long in advance can you purchase Neon Museum tickets? Tickets can be bought online and are usually available up to a month in advance.