Las Vegas is not for everyone, but I have to admit that I have a secret love for this city (well, not so secret now). We have been a few times over the years and there is always something new to see and do.
On our last trip I thought it would be fun to visit the Neon Museum in the Downtown area. I am so glad we visited, as it was one of our highlights this time around.
Firstly, you cannot just walk around on your own here, you have to book a guided tour, which lasts 1 hour. It is best to book in advance online, and also note that the evening tours are slightly higher in cost than the daytime tours. We actually arrived early for our booked tour and we were able to join an earlier tour, so if you cannot book in advance you should still be able to get onto a tour if you just arrive at the museum.
Secondly, not all the neon signs are working, in fact, out of the over 200 sign 11 are working. This is due to the fact that restoration of these old signs takes a lot of money, time and dedication. However, all the signs are lit up with spot lights, so don’t fret!
The museum’s entrance, visitor center and gift shop are located inside the historic La Concha Motel lobby. The shell-shaped building was designed by architect Paul Revere Williams and is a striking example of Mid-Century modern design characterized by Atomic-and Space Age shapes and motifs. The motel lobby was originally constructed in 1961 on Las Vegas Boulevard South (next to the Riviera Hotel). In 2005 it was saved from demolition and in 2006 moved to its current location.
The building, as well as the Stardust sign in the yard, did immediately remind me of the cartoon series “The Jetsons”, which is from the same era.
The guided tour was very entertaining and informative. Our guide was just fantastic, she had previously worked at the Mob Museum down the road, so knows Las Vegas and its history very well. She was also very accommodating to people with cameras, recognizing that we wanted to get photos of the signs without people in it, so she said “as long as I can still see you, you’re okay”. Be aware that there are not many benches in the yard, so be prepared for standing and high heels are a no-no as the paths are gravelled.
All in all I can highly recommend visiting the Neon Museum as it really brings to live some of the history of the hotels, most of which have long gone.