by Babs Delay
Las Vegas is known for many things: monolithic hotels, fine dining, the strip and Cirque du Soleil shows. And, of course, the iconic glittering neon signs—visuals that are unique to this part of the West. As old hotels have been replaced by new giants, much of that scintillating signage we all knew and loved has been taken down and stored on a desert lot that's been turned into a museum.
The Neon Museum's Neon Boneyard collection opened to the public in 2012, featuring 2 acres of 200 historic signs—only seven of which have been restored. Inside the visitor's center on 770 Las Vegas Blvd., there are smaller signs and a kitschy space used for weddings and special events. The cool thing for devotees of this old art form is that you can take an hour-long guided tour, and it's open for reservations seven days a week.
If you don't have time, you can see other signs on a self-guided tour that includes a gallery of iconic electric logos from the Lucky Cuss Motel, the Bow and Arrow Motel, the Silver Slipper, Society Cleaners, Binion's Horseshoe, the Normandie Motel, the Hacienda's famous horse-and-rider sign, the Landmark and Fifth Street Liquors. Tickets are $19, but you can upgrade to one that includes the Mob Museum collection.
In South Salt Lake, you might notice that the Ritz Classic bowling pin is being removed from the old bowling alley at 2265 S. State. The giant sign was about to topple, due to rust and neglect, and is being recycled at a metal dump. But a new one exactly like it will soon go up in its place as part of the signage for 285 residential units that will replace the old Ritz Classic.
We don't have a neon museum in Utah, nor do we have good laws that protect the signs either, although private citizens and the city are working together to protect the classic old glass artwork. Think of signs still standing or removed just in Sugar House—Nu-Crisp Popcorn, Salt Lake Costume Co., Stark Steering, Tampico and the Granite Furniture Sputnik. The owner of Rainbow Neon Sign Co. in South Salt Lake is working with citizen preservationists to restore some of our electric history. Look up from your phones when you're taking your next Lyft or Uber at night—there's history all along our urban skyline. Did you know the Walker Center sign changes color to tell us the weather?