The Neon Museum Las VegasJun 24th, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
I was able to check two major items off of my Stalking Bucket List while I was in Sin City this past March. First was seeing Britney Spears’ “ . . . Baby One More Time” costume at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Second was touring the Neon Museum Las Vegas. Both experiences definitely lived up to the hype.
I first learned about the Neon Museum – aka the Neon Boneyard, aka the Neon Graveyard – years ago while watching the 1989 New Kids on the Block documentary Hangin’ Tough. In the short, Donnie, Joey and the gang visit the Boneyard during a tour stop in Las Vegas. I have never been a huge NKOTB fan so I am not sure how I came to watch the documentary, but I vividly remember drooling upon seeing the Graveyard. I thought it was one of the coolest places I had ever laid eyes upon and had been itching to stalk it ever since.
You can watch the Hangin’ Tough documentary below. The segment filmed at the Neon Boneyard begins at 1:45.
Speaking of boy bands, do my fellow stalkers remember this gem? I was obsessed with this song for a good year – and I was in my mid-twenties at the time! But I digress.
When Hangin’ Tough was filmed in ‘89, the Graveyard was known as the YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) Boneyard and it was located at 5119 Cameron Street. YESCO was originally founded by Thomas Young in Utah in 1920. The company opened an outpost in Las Vegas in 1945 and went on to create some of the city’s most iconic signage, including that of the Pioneer Club, Golden Nugget, Glitter Gulch, Stardust, and the Silver Slipper. As casinos were torn down or signage replaced, many of the old signs were relocated to a vacant plot of land at YESCO headquarters. That land became known as the Neon Boneyard. It was not open to the public, but was used occasionally as a filming location.
In 1996, the Neon Museum was established to “collect, preserve, and exhibit neon signs, the classic Las Vegas art form.” The museum leased a 2-acre plot of land on Las Vegas Boulevard South to house the signs it had collected, many of which had been donated by YESCO. Tours of the site were given on a by-appointment basis.
When the La Concha Motel, which originally stood at 2955 Las Vegas Boulevard South, was set to be demolished in 2005, its owners donated its former lobby building to the museum to be used as a visitors’ center. The structure was dismantled in 2006 and reassembled the following year on the museum property.
The arresting shell-shaped building was designed by architect Paul Revere Williams in 1961. It was constructed out of concrete and glass, with wings rising 28 feet above the street.
The Neon Museum Las Vegas finally opened to the public on October 27th, 2012.
The facility’s sign makes use of several fonts and symbols featured in famous Las Vegas signs. The first N is modeled after the Golden Nugget signage, the E is a la Caesars Palace, the O is in the style of Binion’s Horseshoe, the final N is from the Desert Inn, and the star is a la the Stardust.
Besides restoring signs to feature in the Boneyard, the museum, along with the City of Las Vegas, has also restored various signs that are now displayed along Las Vegas Boulevard. One such sign is that of the former Silver Slipper.
The Neon Museum actually boasts two different graveyard sites as you can see below. The north one, named the Neon Boneyard North Gallery, is, I believe, used solely for photo shoots and is not accessible to the public.
Tours of the Boneyard, which last an hour, are offered throughout the day and night and run $18 a person. And, let me tell you, they are worth every penny!
With more than 150 signs on display, every inch of the place is just screaming to be photographed. I took over 200 pictures while there and have already bookmarked about 30 that I want to blow up and frame! And I am absolutely itching to go back for a night tour to see the signs lit up in all of their neon glory.
While the photos I took are pretty darn stunning (if I do say so myself!), none of them even mildly do the place justice. The Neon Museum is exponentially cooler in person! I cannot more highly recommend a visit!
A few things to keep in mind before embarking upon a tour yourself – the Graveyard is comprised of gravel pathways, so female stalkers should avoid wearing heels.
It is also HOT out there, so adjust your wardrobe accordingly. We visited the Boneyard in March and it was ungodly warm, so I cannot even imagine what it is like during the summer months.
Tours also sell out regularly, so I would highly recommend booking tickets well in advance.
Some of the tour highlights include a humongous skull that was formerly displayed on the Treasure Island (now TI) Hotel & Casino sign. You can see a photograph of what the sign used to look like here.
The skull is situated facing upward, which makes for some pretty cool aerial views of the Boneyard.
Also on display is the former Stardust Resort and Casino sign.
Measuring 216 feet in length and 27 feet in height, at the time of its construction in 1958 it was the largest electric sign in the entire world.
I was especially enamored of the sign from the Moulin Rouge Hotel, which opened to the pubic on May 24th, 1955 and shut its doors by November of that year, a scant six months later.
Both the YESCO Boneyard and the Neon Museum have been featured countless times onscreen. In the 1995 thriller Beyond Desire, Rita (Kari Wuhrer) took Ray Paterson (William Forsythe) for a brief visit to YESCO.
In the 1996 comedy Mars Attacks, Rude Gambler (Danny DeVito) meets his demise at the YESCO Graveyard after running there while trying to escape from Martians.
YESCO was also featured in the 1997 romcom Fools Rush In, in the scene in which Jeff (The Closer’s Jon Tenney) tries to convince Alex Whitman (Matthew Perry) to divorce Isabel Fuentes Whitman (Salma Hayek).
That same year, Audrey Griswold (Marisol Nichols) and Cousin Vicki (Shae D-lyn) attended a party at the YESCO Graveyard in Vegas Vacation.
The Lady Luck sign that Vicki danced on in the movie is visible below. Our tour guide informed us that Shae D-lyn did actually dance upon the actual sign during the filming of the scene.
By the time the Season 4 episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation titled “No More Bets” was shot in 2004, the Graveyard had been moved to its current location.
In the episode, the body of a murder victim is found at the Boneyard.
The body is found propped up against a large neon W, which is said to be a former part of the Whisky Town Casino sign in the episode. That W was not a prop, but is an actual sign displayed at the Graveyard, though I am uncertain of what hotel it actually came from.
The W is currently displayed behind the Stardust sign.
Though not immediately noticeable, our tour guide pointed it out during our tour and mentioned its appearance in CSI. Um, LOVE it!
The Boneyard was featured in The Killers’ 2005 music video for “All These Things That I’ve Done.”
You can watch that video by clicking below.
Anthony Bordain visited the Neon Museum in the Season 1 episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations titled “Las Vegas,” which was shot in 2005.
The Graveyard was the site of the 2007 music video for Jimmy Eat World’s “Big Casino.”
You can watch that video by clicking below.
Laura Pausini’s 2013 “Se Fue” music video, which featured Mark Anthony, was also shot at the Neon Graveyard.
You can watch that video by clicking below.
In the 2013 comedy Last Vegas, the Neon Museum was where Billy (Michael Douglas) told Diana (Mary Steenburgen) that he had only ever been in love once.
According to a Las Vegas Review-Journal article, the ending of the 2013 thriller Now You See Me was supposed to take place at the Neon Graveyard, but the production ran out of time and was unable to shoot the full sequence. The cast and crew did film on the premises for half of a day, but needed a good three days to complete the scene. Star Isla Fisher said, “It looked so good. I saw the footage. It’s so magical. You just wanna do a photo shoot out there and capture all the faded, rusted, old, incredible … you know, it’s like being in another world. Another era.” The footage that was shot was thankfully included as a special feature on the Now You See Me DVD.
For the scene, CGI was used to make the Graveyard appear as if it was located in the middle of nowhere.
The La Concha Motel has also appeared onscreen – it was there that Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone) rendezvoused with Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) in the 1995 drama Casino.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Neon Museum Las Vegas is located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North in Las Vegas. You can visit the museum’s official website here. I highly recommend purchasing tickets far in advance as tours sell out quickly and often.