For a city with as much history as Las Vegas, you hardly ever see it. Almost nothing on the strip is older than about 30 years. Even downtown the older buildings have had their facades replaced so many times you often can’t tell the difference between a 10 year old building and a 90 year old building.
That’s where the Neon Museum — better known as the Boneyard — steps in. They’re a non profit that’s collected many signs from casinos that went defunct, changed names, etc. and put them on display. In a few cases the signs have been restored to their former glory.
Although the museum is technically open during the day, you want to get a ticket for the night tour. The signs that still work are wired up and glow brightly in the night sky. But better yet, the tour guide explains the significance of the businesses they represent; stories about old motels, the dry cleaner who was responsible for Liberace’s outfits, and the insane way 100+ foot tall signs were maintained before those pesky OSHA laws went into effect. (I was just about ready to faint at that last one.)
The signs range in age from a little before World War II all the way up to a few years ago. One of the newest signs in their collection is the Hard Rock Cafe’s 80 foot tall sign shaped like a Gibson Les Paul guitar.
Not all of the signs in their collection are at the museum. Several of them are in the street medium on Las Vegas Boulevard in a deal they have with Clark County, so you may very well see part of their collection without ever visiting.
My recommendation: If you’re interested in the history of Las Vegas it’s worth a brief stop. The tour is only about 45 minutes, but by taking the tour you’re supporting their preservation efforts in a city that’s not interested in its own history.