(Not so) Bright Lights, Big City
I guess I could call myself a bit of a Vegas veteran. In the last six years I have been there four times for business and pleasure and, minus the more illicit activities that supposedly stay there, I have done pretty much everything. I’ve Cirque de Soleil-ed. I’ve Wax Museum-ed. I’ve doubled down on an 11 (and lost). I’ve consumed copious amounts of neon-coloured, slushy, alcoholic concoctions from novelty-shaped glasses. I’ve vomited said concoctions and kept going. I’ve pretty much been there and done that Vegas-style. So when my wife and I decided to go back for a visit earlier this year with a few friends we wanted to look for different experiences. We’ve done the Strip and Freemont Street and experienced the city at a superficial level. It was time to delve a little deeper. And here are two fun, unexpected, can’t-miss activities for you next time you visit Sin City.
Neon Museum – I have always heard about the ‘sign boneyard’ in Vegas – a place where all the old signs went when they weren’t needed anymore. This is part the Neon Museum – a non-profit organization located in downtown Vegas dedicated to preserving city’s rich history and the iconic art form of the Vegas neon sign. According to their website, the Neon Museum’s mission is “to collect, preserve, study and exhibit iconic Las Vegas neon signs for educational, historic, and cultural enrichment.” The Neon Boneyard is part of their collection, which also includes the Fremont Street Gallery of actual lit-up classic signs, and the Neon Signs Project that displays iconic, Vegas signs along Las Vegas Boulevard. The Neon Boneyard houses countless out-of-commission signs, each with their own story that is revealed by a guide on the hour and a half tour. You’ll learn about the deep racial tensions that split the city, the crazy characters (that built the city and the artistry that goes into the neon sign. These signs are more than signs – they’re doorways into the people and places that built Vegas and, unlike some of the slushy-fuelled hijinks you get into at night, the tour is something you’ll never forget.
Keep your camera at the ready, as the Boneyard provides countless amazing photo opps, with every angle revealing something beautiful (the friendly and knowledgeable guides are also more than accommodating to wait and let you snap as many as you need).
For more information, to book a tour or make a donation, visit www.neonmuseum.org
Tip: if you aren’t doing your own driving, ask the tour guide to call you a cab at the end of the tour (they’re happy to do it). The Boneyard isn’t in the best neighbourhood, so you may not want to do too much walking around.
Pinball Hall of Fame and Museum – OK, I’ll admit, I did miss this ‘can’t-miss’ Vegas destination. Unfortunately we ran out of time on our last visit. But I have heard nothing but amazing things about it. If you’re into pinball, this is your Mecca – 10,000 square feet of pinball machines from the 50’s to the 90’s, all in playable condition. The museum is a non-profit organization committed to preserving pinball’s heritage, and all excess profits go to non-denominational charities. Bring a roll of quarters (or get change there) and throw your money in some machines that give you more than spinning reels. Open 11 to 11, seven days a week – find more information at www.pinballmuseum.org
So if you’re planning to join the masses of Canadians that flood Vegas year round, be sure to check out these two destinations and up the ante on your fun. See what I did there? Pretty witty huh?
On the Strip dining tip: If you haven’t had the opportunity, make sure you check out the Peppermill Restaurant. Located on the older end of the strip, near Circus Circus, this Vegas landmark captures all the classic cool of old-school Vegas. The food is well-priced, delicious and the portions are RIDICULOUS (the fruit plate is produce-section-sized, and comes with a loaf of banana bread). After eating, head to the connected Fireside Lounge for some outrageous cocktails. Open 24 hours.