This article is part of our Trip Report – It’s Vegas Week at Middle Age Miles!
Anyone who knows Philly and me well has a pretty good idea that we spend far too much of our non-travel time watching reality TV shows. One of our all-time favorites is The Amazing Race, and we’ll confess to watching way too much of The Bachelor as a guilty pleasure.
So when we were in Las Vegas recently to celebrate the 21st birthdays of some of the Middle Age Miles kids, there couldn’t have possibly been a better chance to visit a site that’s appeared on two of our favorite shows – and it looked very cool – the Neon Museum & Boneyard.
What Is the Neon Museum & Boneyard?
The Neon Museum and Boneyard is a collection of old, retired Las Vegas signs – neon signs and other lighted signs. It’s run by a non-profit organization “dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment.”
The Neon Museum and Boneyard opened to the public during 2012, and it now attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually. The main visitor center, an architectural curiosity with curved lines reminiscent of a sea shell, used to be the lobby of the old La Concha motel. The boneyard, which began as the storage ground of the old Young Electric Sign Company, occupies a little over 2 acres and contains hundreds of signs and partial signs from an assortment of Vegas casinos, hotels and other businesses.
Where Is the Neon Museum & Boneyard Located?
The Neon Museum & Boneyard is located just north of downtown Las Vegas, at the intersection of North Las Vegas Boulevard and McWilliams Avenue, at 770 N. Las Vegas Blvd. For us, it was about a 15 minute drive from the middle of the Strip (we left from the Bellagio).
Here’s a map showing the location of the Neon Museum & Boneyard in relation to downtown Las Vegas and, further south, the Strip:
Hours, Tickets & Tour Options
The Neon Museum & Boneyard is open 7 days a week, from 9:00 am until at least 11:40 pm. (Currently, the last time to purchase tickets is for a 1-hour guided tour that begins at 10:40 pm, but it may stay open later in the summer.)
There are 4 options for visiting the Neon Museum & Boneyard:
- A “General Admission” non-guided tour, which you can do during daylight hours
- A night-time 1-hour guided tour of the main boneyard
- The “Brilliant!” experience, a 30-minute show where signs in the northern boneyard (not part of the guided tour) are illuminated during a show set to music
- A Guided Tour + Brilliant! package
Standard adult ticket prices for the various options are:
- General Admission: $22
- Guided Tour: $28
- Brilliant! Experience: $23
- Guided Tour + Brilliant!: $42
Discounted tickets are available for seniors 65+, students, children 7-17 (6 and under are free), active military and veterans, and Nevada residents. Valid ID is required for all discounted groups other than children (and when we visited, they did check the Middle Age Miles kids’ college IDs). Other than that, we did not find any coupons or discounts to reduce the price for our visit (which I suppose isn’t too surprising considering it’s a non-profit organization).
There’s a decent-sized souvenir store at the Neon Museum & Boneyard, and they also have some drinks and snacks if you need them before or after your tour.
The Neon Museum & Boneyard on TV and in the Movies
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Middle Age Miles first found out about the Neon Museum & Boneyard through The Amazing Race. In the finale of Season 24, the Boneyard was the site of a clue box. Racers had just finished a task that required them to participate in a magic trick with David Copperfield at the MGM Grand, and the clue they received told them to search the Neon Boneyard for the box where they would find their next clue.
Now, we have to say, “searching” the Boneyard seemed a lot harder when they set it up on the Race. On the Race, the Boneyard seemed to be an endless maze of signs with numerous rows, twists and turns. It turns out that in reality, the Boneyard is only 2 acres, with 2 main aisles, very minimal twists and turns, and no place to get lost. “Finding” the clue box here must have taken no more than a couple of minutes, with no chance anyone would veer off-course.
Once the teams found the clue box, they were instructed to take a light bulb from the question mark sign (which you can see behind Connor in the picture above) and head to The Mirage, where they would face a much more challenging task of screwing 241 light bulbs into the “I” on top of The Mirage, several hundred feet in the air, and remembering how many bulbs it took. They had to recite the number of bulbs correctly in order to proceed.
Of course, we were then excited to see the Neon Boneyard re-appear on Season 20 of The Bachelor. Bachelor Ben Higgins and contestant Becca had a romantic dinner at the Boneyard, appropriately positioned right in front of the “In Love” sign. (The “In Love” sign is actually a makeshift combination of some pieces of the former “Moulin Rouge” sign.)
The Neon Boneyard has also served as a scene for two movies that we like at Middle Age Miles – the epic Tim Burton comedy Mars Attacks, and the always-good-for-a-laugh classic, Vegas Vacation.
Danny DeVito’s “Rude Gambler” character met his demise at the Neon Boneyard:
… whereas the Boneyard was the site of a much more festive scene in Vegas Vacation when Cousin Vicki danced atop the Lady Luck sign:
The Neon Boneyard has been in several other TV shows, movies and music videos, but those are our favorites.
Visiting the Neon Museum & Boneyard
For our visit to the Neon Museum & Boneyard, we chose an evening 1-hour guided tour. We certainly wanted to visit when it was dark and the signs would be lit up. And we weren’t sure that our attention span was long enough to do both the guided tour and the Brilliant! show.
I’m sure we would have enjoyed Brilliant!, but I think we chose well. For one thing, it was chilly on the December evening when we went, and we’d been out in the cold quite long enough by the end of the 1-hour guided tour. For another, we were hungry and ready to get back to the Bellagio for dinner. The timing of the evening/night tours is a challenge, as the visit requires a trip away from wherever you’re staying or playing, and an evening tour will always either interfere with dinner or keep you up late (and away from the action).
PRO TIP: Ticket sales for the Neon Museum & Boneyard open up about a month in advance. You can purchase tickets online at the Neon Museum website. You’ll definitely want to purchase your tickets in advance as tickets are limited and many if not all of the time slots will sell out ahead of time.
Our tour guide was a very enthusiastic and talkative college student who did a nice job giving us the history of the Boneyard and its signs. As we alluded to earlier, the Boneyard was smaller than we expected, just 2 acres. Thus, there’s not a ton of walking on the tour. But be prepared that you will be on your feet for the entire hour, walking on a loose-rock surface.
The other thing that was different than we expected was that not all of the signs were lit up. Some of the signs are fully lit and operational, but they’re definitely the substantial minority. I had visions of all of the signs being lit up in their full glory. It was actually a little disappointing that there weren’t more signs lit up. (Once you see them in person, you’ll have a better idea of the amount of restoration work it must take to bring a retired, broken sign back to life, which also helped me understand why many of the signs weren’t lit up.)
How About Some Photos?
You got it. Here’s a tour in photos of some of the most eye-catching signs at the Neon Boneyard:
Wrap-Up of The Neon Museum & Boneyard
In sum, the old signs here are very cool, especially the ones that still light up, and the Neon Museum & Boneyard is a fun diversion from the craziness and chaos of the Vegas casino scene. It was also a ton of fun for us to get to visit a place that we’d seen in some of our favorite TV shows and movies. Check it out if you get a chance.
Have you been to the Neon Museum & Boneyard? What did you think? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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