Unofficial Guides researcher Darcie Vance recently visited the Las Vegas Neon Museum; here is her report. The opulent, 2.27-acre outdoor collection of more than 200 vintage neon signs celebrates Las Vegas’s small-town, bright-lights era. Signs are stacked along pathways winding through a maze of metal sculpture, huge panels of lightbulbs, and yards of glass tubing. Among the huge classic structures are Sassy Sally’s facade of lights, Debbie Reynolds’s autograph, the Barbary Coast’s lavish B, and the graceful green-and-yellow flowering plant designating the Yucca Motel.
Each sign recalls the era when hotels and motels outdid each other with extravagant signage. The glory days of the now-departed Dunes, Moulin Rouge, Stardust, Sahara, and Desert Inn, for instance, are captured via their signature marquees; even the name of the museum itself is spelled out in capital letters from the famous hotels. The visitor center is vintage as well: the former lobby of the La Concha Motel, a midcentury-modern structure, was transported from its previous location next to the Riviera Hotel.
Because the signs are big and the acreage to display them is small, the Neon Museum is going vertical for its upcoming expansion, with the neon arranged on towers. The project, expected to be completed in early 2020, will nearly double the museum’s size, incorporating the site of the vacant Reed Whipple Cultural Center. From October 2019 through February 2020, the museum is also hosting an unprecedented installation of filmmaker Tim Burton’s idiosyncratic artwork, as previously exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
The Neon Museum can be viewed at one’s own pace or by joining a guided tour. The museum is open during the day as well as at night. During the 1-hour guided tour, guests will hear the history and back stories for all of the signs that are on display. Darcie Vance joined a tour during the day, but she returned at night for a self-guided visit. It is easier to discover the intricate details of the vintage neon signs during the day, but at night you get to see the signs the way they were designed to shine.
We think it’s worth paying more for a guided evening tour, which intertwines docents’ commentary with the colorful history of Las Vegas; tours held after dusk also show off the museum’s fully restored neon signs—including the recently refurbished Hard Rock Cafe guitar—with the remainder of the collection illuminated by spotlights.
For an additional charge, the museum also offers a 30-minute show Brilliant! that includes music and light projection to narrate the history of Las Vegas.
Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on most days, tickets are $22 for general admission and $17 for kids ages 7–17, seniors, students, military, and Nevada residents; free for kids 6 and younger. Hour-long guided tours are $28. Tickets for Brilliant! are $23 each. A combo ticket can be purchased for $42. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office (based on availability). The Neon Museum is located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard. For more information call 702-387-6366 or visit the website.
Touring Tips: Day guests are on their own for a self-guided tour; the brochure doesn’t provide much guidance, so ask about the irregularly scheduled free gallery talks. The museum is about 3 minutes away from the Mob Museum; you might consider taking advantage of combo tickets that give access to both attractions. The museums, together with a visit to Fremont Street, are perfect for your discovery of Downtown Las Vegas.
Due to broken glass and rusty metal, daytime visits are best enjoyed by visitors ages 10 and up. Night tours are recommended for visitors ages 12 and up.
For all there is to see and do in Las Vegas, check out The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas by Bob Sehlinger and Seth Kubersky.