A few years ago, when my wife and I were about to head off on a long Las Vegas weekend, some friends of ours recommended we check out The Neon Museum. We’d both been to Vegas a number of times over the years (we even did our bachelor/bachelorette stuff there just prior to our wedding), but neither of us had ever even heard of the place. (I’m guessing few reading this have either.)
As stated on their website, The Neon Museum is a non-profit organization “dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment.”
In other words, the museum’s organizers work to get their hands on retired neon signs that used to brilliantly grace the front of iconic Vegas hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Then, they fix them up and put them on display for patrons.
We were intrigued by the premise, so we checked it out.
The museum’s campus is about a mile and a half northeast of Old Vegas, and it’s almost entirely outdoors. The only building is the visitor’s center which is located inside the lobby of the old La Concha Motel.
Here’s what the motel looked like back when the La Concha was still operational:
Pretty cool, huh? The motel’s gone, but the facade remains, and its retro-futuristic design serves as the perfect veneer for what has become one of my very favorite Las Vegas attractions.
The Neon Museum is a brilliant and beautifully organized boneyard honoring Vegas’s distinguished past. Each sign (along with a very knowledgeable staff) tells its own unique story, from small, area motels…
… to historically significant, big league establishments…
… to the huge guitar Nicolas Cage crashed an airplane through…
… to some straight-up fun stuff…
That’s my brother above (the one on the left — *ba-dum-tshh*). These shots were taken from the trip we went on last week.
When my wife and I previously went, we took the general-admission, self-guided tour (which is only held during the day). It was plenty impressive, so I wasn’t too terribly upset that the night-time tours were already sold out that weekend. Still, I wanted to see what I had missed, so when I was planning the brothers getaway, I made sure to order nighttime tickets in advance.
And boy, am I glad I did.
To be clear, not all of the signs in the museum still have functioning neon lights, but those that do look freakin’ amazing… especially that close up.
The above pics are part of the evening guided tour, but there’s a third tour that’s really more of a show (and a good one at that). It takes place every half hour or so from 9pm to 11pm at the museum’s “North Galley,” which is across the street. It’s outside as well, but walls hide it from public view. Inside the walls, impressively choreographed light projection is used to breathe life into unrestored signs, along with archival footage and music from the era of Sinatra and Liberace. It’s another great tribute to Vegas’s history, and it’s very impressive.
Video wasn’t allowed, but here are a couple of stills:
The Neon Museum isn’t a place you want to try walking to if you’re out and about in Vegas. It’s not particularly close to either strip, and the surrounding area isn’t in the best part of town. So, if you don’t have a car, an Uber or Lyft is a great option.
Also, if you’re looking for some Vegas merchandise that isn’t super cheesy or touristy (which is no easy task), the gift shop in the visitor’s center delivers. Seriously! They’ve got all kinds of great stuff, including the “La Concha” shirt I picked up my first time there. In fact, the shirt once prompted a conversation with comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (who it turned out was also a fan of the museum).
I bought a few more shirts this time around, including one featuring that silly duck character pictured above. That fellow was actually the mascot for “Ugly Duckling Rent-A-Car” a few decades back.
The Neon Museum doesn’t do Vegas-scale advertising, so they rely on social media and word-of-mouth to generate interest. If you’d like to help them with that effort please check them out on Facebook and Instagram, and also share this week’s newsletter. They’re a hidden gem that more people should know about.
Have a favorite Las Vegas attraction that isn’t particularly well known? Let me know about it in an email or in the comment section below.
Obligatory Dog Shot
When little brother figures out where your new napping spot is.
“Sooner or later when you say I love you, you're gonna realize some of my lies are true.”
Think about those lyrics long and hard, folks. I certainly put my time in on it when I was a kid, and thought Huey Lewis was the coolest dude on the planet. So cool, in fact, that after I fell in love with Sports and the Back to the Future soundtrack, I went back and bought the band’s earlier stuff, including their self-titled debut album from 1980.
In addition to Huey and the gang’s mega-hit songs in the mid 80s, they were also well known for their amusing videos. Their earlier videos were funny too, including for this album, but they appeared to have absolutely no budget whatsoever other than the hourly rate of the camera person and video editor (who I assume were the same person).
Regardless, the music is what’s important.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!