The Las Vegas Neon Museum – A Trip to the Boneyard

With Super Bowl LVIII invading Las Vegas, Madge thought it was time to revisit one of her favorite blog posts – The Las Vegas Neon Museum.

Madge isn’t much of a gambler. In fact, she would rather put $200 down on a pair of shoes rather than lose it at the craps table. However, Mr. Madge did have an upcoming business trip to Las Vegas and there was that one item on the bucket list – The Boneyard, now called The Neon Museum.

The Boneyard

Madge had heard about it for years, the place where old Las Vegas signs went to die. Once just a salvage yard of the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO), the business responsible for most of Las Vegas’ iconic signs, it became known as the “Boneyard”, a place for spare parts. But as more and more of the original 50s – 60s casinos and hotels met the wrecking ball; a dedicated band of locals were determined to keep this part of Las Vegas history alive. Slowly money was raised and once YESCO donated their yard the Neon Museum was born. 

Las Vegas Neon Museum

The Early Years

The museum did not open regularly in its early years. Visitors could make group tour appointments well in advance. Now, after moving the spectacular La Concha Motel lobby building to the site and restoring it to full doo-wop glory it’s a full-fledged museum which is how Madge, Mr. Madge, and friends found themselves there at the 10:00 am opening clutching their tickets and blinking in the bright sunlight.

Las Vegas may be the only city in the world whose history can be traced through its signs. Since the Neon Museum is still literally a boneyard covering over two acres, guided tours are a requirement to safeguard guests and to make sure the bones aren’t pilfered by over-eager collectors.   Madge recommends getting there for an early tour since it’s all outside and it’s the desert.  Our guide was a vivacious volunteer who had relocated from New Jersey in the 1990s (practically a native) and was full of fun facts and trivia.

Our Tour

We began Las Vegas Neon Museum welcome center, the magnificent La Concha Motel lobby.  The museum rescued the building when the old motel was torn down. Paul Revere Williams, a ground-breaking African American architect, designed the motel in an architectural style called Googie, or Doo-wop, a subset of Modernism. Googie was influenced by space age and atomic images and examples of the style are still stunningly futuristic. This was the world of the flying car and the Jetsons. The origin of the term Googie comes from a West Hollywood coffee shop, Googies, designed by famed modern architect John Lautner. The name stuck after a 1952 article in House and Home by Douglas Haskell.

1960s La Concha motel Postcard
original La Concha sign
Original La Concha sign. Note the C in the logo mimics the roof arch.
A remnant of a Caesars Palace sign is in the back.

The museum ticket counter is modeled after the original hotel check-in as you can see in these before and after photos.   There’s a small yet wonderful gift shop where we had to buy a T-shirt.  After pursuing the gift shop’s other wonderful offerings we were off on tour.

Neon museum ticket desk

Here’s the oldest sign in the collection, from a restaurant and cocktail bar near the Hoover Dam construction site circa 1931.

Las Vegas Boneyard oldest sign

Algiers Motel sign from the 1950s amidst the decorative rubble.

1950s Algiers Hotel neon sign

Binion’s Horseshoe was owned by Benny Binion.  whose family operated the downtown casino from its opening in 1951 until 2004 when it sold to a large gaming company.  

According to our guide, Benny was a real innovator and his casino was the first to offer free drinks to keep gamblers in their seats.

He also installed a display of one million dollars in the casino, which became a tourist attraction and yet another excuse for gamblers to stay put and play the slots. Binion’s is still in business and so is the million!


At first, the sign placement at the boneyard seems haphazard, but as you work your way through, the alleys and tableaus create a real sense of place.  Most of the signs have not been restored or electrified since it can cost up to $100,000 to get just one in working order.

sign boneyard Museum alley

The Golden Nugget, also downtown, is one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas.  It opened in 1946 and is where casino magnate Steve Wynn got his start.  Here’s one of the many iterations of that casino’s signs.

Golden Nugget casino vintage sign

If you were a kid in the 1950s or  60s you might have begged your parents to drive by the local business with a giant fiberglass man standing watch.  In my hometown, he held tires for an auto shop. These humongous statues were affectionately named Muffler Men.    

Here’s one that once stood outside a Vegas pool hall.  If you are a fan of kitsch, Madge recommends a road trip to Atlanta, Illinois home of the American Giants Museum.

giant muffler man sign

Even small businesses felt they needed neon bling to compete for attention.  A confident trailer park named itself after one of the biggest casinos.

vintage Las Vegas wedding chapel sign

Of course, our tour would not be complete without a vintage Las Vegas Wedding Chapel sign.  (Marry in Vegas, divorce in Reno).  We love this whole collection including the Fox Theater and a fabulous Modern Cleaners sign. 

Las Vegas wedding chapel sign

Another sign alley,  What a visual treat.

Neon Museum vintage sign Alley

We found the bits and pieces just as fun as intact signs.  Here’s an incredibly large “O” from an old hotel sign.  Madge imagines a sign that dwarfs the hotel.

Letter O sign

This neon duck has just excitedly found a neon cocktail!

neon Duck vintage sign
neon Cocktail glass

A lamp from the former Aladdin Casino.  Nowadays, the building houses a Planet Hollywood (sigh).  On the right, a vintage postcard showing another version of the lamp back in the casino’s Rat Pack heyday.

Aladdin casino lamp

Mr. & Mrs. Madge with another Middle Eastern delight, the Sahara Casino,

Sahara casino vintage sign

The Frontier, built in 1946, was the second oldest casino on the strip after the Flamingo, Bugsy, Siegel’s joint. This sign probably dates back to the 1960s.  The New Frontier was demolished in 2007

The Tropicana opened in 1957 and is still in operation located at Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue.  Hilton, operating since its opening in 1957, is scheduled to close the Tropicana in April 2024 and demolish it in anticipation of the Oakland As baseball team’s relocation to Las Vegas.

tropicana casino las vegas

The Neon Museum Grand Finale

The sun really started to beat down as we rounded the final curve, and then we saw it; the museum’s pièce de résistance – The Stardust.

original stardust casino sign

Opened in 1951, The Stardust was conceived and built by Tony Cornero, who died in 1955 before construction was completed. John Factor (aka Jake the Barber,  a Prohibition-era gangster), half-brother of cosmetics seller Max Factor, Sr., acquired and completed the resort’s construction. He then leased the casino out to a company controlled by mobster Moe Dalitz.

When the hotel opened, it was the largest hotel in Las Vegas and had both the largest casino and swimming pool in Nevada.   The Stardust sign became a symbol of mid-century Las Vegas with its galactic imagery and Googie font.

To the right is a close-up of the Stardust “S” in the Googie font alongside another icon – Liberace.  The Stardust sign is one of the few completely restored and electrified.  It really must be something at night.

stardust casino vintage postcard

On November 1, 2006, the Stardust officially closed after operating continuously for 48 years It was imploded on March 13, 2007.

Our tour was now over and though a sweaty mess, we stood in the hot sun taking it all in one last time. Here were the remnants of the glamorous Las Vegas of old. The Vegas of our movie memories.  There were echoes of Bugsy Siegel and the mob, Sinatra and the Rat Pack, the ravishing showgirls, and the lounge comics, all the danger and excitement now vanished from  “The Strip” and lying amongst the dead neon.

Today’s Vegas is LED and The Sphere, but give me neon baby!

If You Go

The Las Vegas Neon Museum

  • 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North
    Las Vegas, NV 89101
  • (702) 387-6366

All signs shown are copyrighted by the Neon Museum or original sign owners.

Love & Hats Madge


Here’s hometown Vegas rockers The Killers and their 2005 hit “All These Things That I’ve Done” partially filmed at the boneyard.

Comment Below


  1. Thanks for sharing. Can’t believe anyone was willing to toss away this important piece of kitsch architectural history. Would love to see it, probably would melt

  2. Fascinating. I hitchhiked through Vegas in the late 1960s and was fascinated by the signage. The local police were not fascinated by a 16 year old girl walking down the strip. I’ve never went back. Loved all the photos. Love your blog Madge…keep em coming..

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