If you do only one touristy thing in Las Vegas, make it the Neon Museum. Founded in 1996, the two-acre “boneyard” is home to more than 200 original signs, including classic marquees from Caesars Palace, Binion’s Horseshoe, Stardust, and Golden Nugget. To see the vintage beauties up close, you have to take an hour-long guided tour with 20 to 25 other guests. That sounds obnoxious, but our guide was enthusiastic and knowledgable and the groups are staged far enough apart that if you hang back a little, you can snap photos of the signs without some guy’s dad jeans bombing the frame. Some of the pieces have pretty crazy stories, too, which you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Billionaire playboy Howard Hughes, for example, was convinced that the neon high heel located in front of the museum was equipped with spyware!
And snap away you will—though most signs in the collection are rusty and missing bulbs, they’re all showstoppers. Seven have been fully restored; come nightfall, the rest are illuminated with ground lighting. Day tours run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and cost $19; night tours go from 5 to 7:30 p.m. and cost $25. (For Instagram nerds, the best lighting is usually between 5 and 6 p.m.) Whatever time you book, do it as far in advance as possible, especially if you’re angling for a spot on an evening tour or one of the popular monthly photography tours. The latter costs $75 and allows hobbyists to lug in tripods and extra lenses. Click here for the schedule and to purchase tickets.
FYI: There are another 60 or so signs—including the Palms Casino Resort, Lady Luck, and New-New York—hanging out in the so-called North Gallery, a walled area adjacent to the museum’s parking lot. It costs an extra $5 to explore this ancillary space; request the add-on when you sign in for your tour.
Lastly, pay attention to the Neon Museum’s shell-shaped office and gift shop. It’s the former entrance to the famed La Concha Motel and a prime example of Googie architecture. Miraculously, the mid-century marvel was broken into eight sections, moved across town, and reassembled here. It’s so cool, it almost steals the thunder from the neon itself. Almost.
770 Las Vegas Blvd. N., Las Vegas, NV; 702-387-6366.