The Boneyard, part of The Neon Museum’s two-acre campus, showcases nearly 150 historic signs that have decorated Las Vegas
Published March 2014

5 Best Attractions of Old Las Vegas

Discover the history and intrigue of the boulevard and beyond

BYJoAnna Haugen
Regardless of when you may have visited Las Vegas, chances are there’s a new show, restaurant, or nightclub that’s been introduced since you last set foot in Nevada’s most famous city. Known for creating spectacles that are bigger, brighter, and fancier than before, it also has a reputation for favoring new attractions over old — with seemingly little regard to historic value.
 
Yet, Las Vegas has a colorful, storied past that can, in fact, be found among certain cultural sites and tributes, allowing visitors to unearth the Vegas of yore.
 
1. The Neon Museum
In Las Vegas, hotels and local businesses often attract customers with glitzy neon signs. These signs have become so synonymous with the city that a local non-profit organization, The Neon Museum, has taken on the task of collecting, preserving, studying, and exhibiting otherwise discarded signs. Guided tours (reservations highly recommended) wander through the museum’s outdoor exhibition space known as The Boneyard. This is where guests can see nearly 150 signs dating back to the 1930s. Highlights include a lamp from the former Aladdin Resort & Casino (now Planet Hollywood), a giant skull from Treasure Island, original branded signage from Caesars Palace, and the famed Stardust sign.
 
It’s also worth noticing the visitors’ center at The Neon Museum, which is housed inside the historic La Concha Motel lobby. Originally constructed next to the Riviera Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard, this curvilinear building designed by Paul Revere Williams is a nod to atomic and space age motifs. Additionally, The Neon Museum has helped restore vintage signs, including the Bow & Arrow Motel and The Silver Slipper, throughout downtown Las Vegas, which can be viewed as public art and visited on self-guided tours any time.
 
2. The Mob Museum
Las Vegas has deep ties to organized crime and the mob. Instead of hiding behind its history, The Mob Museum spares no details about what part organized crime played in shaping Las Vegas as well as the rest of the world. The museum follows a sequential pattern, covering the intricate details of the twisted stories built around money laundering, murder, and conspiracy theories. This is a brutally honest museum, exposing the people involved and law enforcement tasked with managing the mob’s activities. One-of-a-kind artifacts, photographs, theater presentations, and detailed interactive exhibits bring these stories to life.
 
The Mob Museum is located in Las Vegas’ former federal U.S. Post Office and courthouse, which is where the seventh (of 14) Kefauver hearings took place in 1950. Named after U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver, these hearings marked the exposure of organized crime and the beginnings of federal prosecution by investigating the mob’s influence in the gaming industry. While visiting the museum, guests can actually sit in the courtroom where this controversial proceeding took place.
 
3. Golden Gate Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas’ oldest hotel, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, opened in 1906, when guests could pay just one dollar for room and board. Though there was no air conditioning at the time, it was considered a high-class establishment with large rooms and electric lighting. The Golden Gate witnessed much history pass through Las Vegas — the Depression and building boom of the Hoover Dam, mob activities, and the introduction of The Strip — and guests can still get a glimpse of those bygone days when they visit. In the lobby area, a showcase cabinet displays the first telephone used in Las Vegas and a bottle from Prohibition that was found in the hotel’s wall during a recent remodeling project. The hotel’s new luxury suites and overall update have a fresh, contemporary feel blended with styling that preserves its historic character.
The Mob Museum is one of Las Vegas’ few remaining historically significant buildings and is included on the National Register of Historic Places
The Mob Museum is one of Las Vegas’ few remaining historically significant buildings and is included on the National Register of Historic Places
Las Vegas’ oldest hotel, The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, opened in 1906 and was originally named Hotel Nevada
Las Vegas’ oldest hotel, The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, opened in 1906 and was originally named Hotel Nevada
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