Vegas is a crazy place and not my choice of destinations, honestly. To me, it’s a city that tries so hard to be other places (New York, Paris, Egypt, Italy) that it ends up being its own unique thing that lacks any authenticity.
I was wrong.
Several days around tens of thousands of colleagues drove me to seek solace off the beaten path of The Strip. After the conference ended Thursday, I bee-lined to Downtown Las Vegas to hit up a brewery until the sun went down. Then the magic happened.
The Neon Museum sits just across the highway from downtown in a drastically more peaceful part of Vegas. They collect and preserve some of the most iconic vintage Las Vegas signs, saving relics from the 50s and 60s “doo wop era” so close to my heart. My hometown of Wildwood, NJ is (or… was) home to the largest concentration of mid-century architecture famous its atomic and space-age themes, including lots and LOTS of neon. My childhood was bathed in a neon glow. The Neon Museum in Vegas actually sells a book about Wildwood in its gift shop. We are somewhat sisters, I suppose.
And while we have a small tribute to the demolished past in our Doo Wop Museum and tiny neon garden, it’s nothing compared to the amazing work the Neon Museum is doing in the desert..
The visitors’ center is the rescued lobby of the former La Concha Motel and now it serves as a gateway to the past.
Inside the lobby you’ll find a pretty great gift shop and the meeting area for the tour. My guide was super fun and knowledgeable. She told us stories of Las Vegas history and signage over the course of an hour as we walked a long slow loop through broken glass and buzzing electricity.
There’s a second part of the experience – The Neon Boneyard. If you add the Brilliant Experience to our tour, you can access this place and I highly recommend going after dark. In this yard, most of the signs no longer work, but they’re brought back to life through projection mapping in a 40 minute show set to music that transports you back in time to Elvis’ Las Vegas.
Elton John even made an appearance! For me, seeing and hearing these signs come back to life was an especially emotional moment. I can’t believe I didn’t discover this place two years ago when I took my sister to Vegas for her birthday. She would have loved it.
So if you’re in Vegas, please PLEASE seek this place out and support them. I know you’ll appreciate it and you’ll be helping to preserve something so special.