The Neon Spectacle of Las Vegas

Las Vegas became famous for its casinos that boasted glitz and glamor with big, brilliant buzzing neon signs. Sadly, these days many have switched to LED, and while some signs have had a second life at the Neon Museum, there is still plenty of neon to be seen in the wild. From the massive kicking cowgirl known fondly as Vegas Vickie, to the tiny motor courts of early Las Vegas, here is a glimpse at some of the amazing neon we saw while in Vegas.

A sign reads "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" and features a combination of bulbs, backlit plastic, and neon.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign, 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Designed by Betty Willis and installed in 1959, the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign has become an icon. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, it now has its very own parking lot, making it an easy and must-visit stop at the start of the Strip.

A massive neon cowgirl in a red, white, and blue outfit.

Vegas Vickie – Circa Resort & Casino, 8 Fremont Street.

While not part of the golden age of Las Vegas, as she was installed in 1980, Vegas Vickie is still an icon of the gambling desert town, even marrying Vegas Vic, the towering neon cowboy, in 1994. In 2017 she was taken down as Fremont Street made way for the new Circa Resort & Casino, but she was restored and installed inside, complete with her very own cocktail lounge and she even has a beer!

Neon stripes in blue and white bulbs.

The exterior of the 4 Queens, which reads "4 Queens" in vibrant bulbs.

Close-up of bulbs and neon that make up the entrance to a casino.

Fremont Street Experience.

A combo bulb and neon sign of a cowboy on a rearing horse.

Hacienda sign, intersection of S. Las Vegas Boulevard and E. Fremont Street.

Exterior of the El Cortez hotel and casino, with several neon signs. Atop the roof is a pink one that reads "El Cortez Hotel Coffee Shop & Bar Free Parking" one on the marquee outside reads "El Cortez" in blue.

A blade style neon sign features an arrow pointing downward to the building and reads "Gambling" in red neon, on the hotel it reads "Hotel" in white neon.

Pink neon reads "El Cortez Hotel Coffee Shop & Car Free Parking"

El Cortez Hotel & Casino, 600 E. Fremont Street. Operational.

The El Cortez was built in 1941 and they claim it was the first “major resort” in Las Vegas. The neon seen today was installed in 1952, and due to its unchanging facade, in 2013 it became the first hotel casino to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The casino is also home to the last coin slots in Vegas. This was a contender for us to stay at, but ultimately we selected the Golden Gate, perhaps on another trip we will stay here. I’m glad we didn’t stay this time, because it is currently undergoing some renovations.

A large neon sign reads "Ambassador Motel" below in white script neon reads "Llamas stay for free"

Ambassador Motel sign, 900 E. Fremont Street.

A building reads "Atomic Liquor" in white script. A neon sign jutting out reads "Atomic Liquor Cocktails" and on the side in red neon reads "Bar"

Atomic Liquor, 917 E. Fremont Street. Operational.

In 1945 Virginia’s Cafe opened on this site, and it became a hot spot for locals to watch the atomic bomb tests that were being done in the nearby desert. Taking inspiration from the tests, it became Atomic Liquor in 1952.

A large neon sign reads "Fergusons Downtown Motel" in pink neon. Smaller neon reads "Sorry No Vacancy Kitchens"

Fregusons Motel, 1028 E Fremont Street.

This motel sign always buzzes “no vacancy” because it’s no longer motel, but instead a unique shopping, dining, and live entertainment venue, a perfect example of repurposing while also paying homage to Vegas’ history.

A long two story Art Deco style motel features a large neon sign on the roof that reads "Motel Downtowner Apts"

Downtowner Motel 129 N. 8th Street. Operational.

A small neon sign reads "I.O.O.F. No. 108"

I.O.O.F. Hall, 150 Las Vegas Boulevard North.

A combination backlit plastic and neon sign of green and white. Diamond shapes spell out "Motel" in backlit plastic and below in white neon reads "Travelers" a marquee reads "Air Pool"

Travelers Motel, 1100 E. Fremont Street. Unsure of status. It did not appear to be open, but was well maintained.

A neon sign reads "Lucky Motel Air Conditioned TV" and has a small four leaf clover.

A long low motel building painted turquoise with yellow trim and red Spanish tile roof, with broken windows.

Lucky Motel, 1131 E. Fremont Street. Abandoned.

A Googie style sign painted orange, yellow, and blue reads "Las Vegas Motel" in neon.

A two story pink building stands at the back of a courtyard style motel.

A stenciled sign reads "No Visitors Allowed After 10 pm"

Las Vegas Motel, 1200 E. Fremont Street. Abandoned.

A red, white, and blue sign reads "Fremont Motel refrigeration No Vacancy" in neon.

Fremont Motel, 1210 E. Fremont Street. Abandoned.

A large ameba shaped sign painted two tone blue reads "Star View Motel" in neon and on the top is a star.

Overall view of part of the Star View, with the sign on the left and a single story motel off to the right with boarded up doors.

Star View Motel, 1216 E. Fremont Street. Abandoned.

A combo backlit plastic and neon sign reads "Peter Pan Motel" in backlit plastic, and a cartoon version of Peter Pan edged in neon but the details of which are backlit plastic.

Peter Pan Motel, 112 N. 13th Street. Abandoned.

A red and white neon sign reads "Las Gables Court"

A single story brick motel with peaked roofs over each doorway. Windows and doors are boarded up.

Las Gables Court, Intersection of N. 12th Street & E. Fremont Street. Abandoned.

Combination backlit plastic, neon, and bulb sign that reads "Lucky Lady" in backlit plastic, edged in bulbs, "Motel" in neon, and a neon horseshoe on top.

Lucky Lady Motel, 1308 E. Fremont Street. Operational.

A large blue arrow reads "Desert Hills Motel" in neon with three small starburst shapes in neon of red, blue, and yellow.

Desert Hills Motel, 2121 E. Fremont Street. Operational.

An ameba shape neon sign reads "Sky Ranch Motel" with a moon and stars on the top.

Sky Ranch Motel, 2009 E. Fremont Street. Operational.

A large tall neon sign reads "Safari Motel"

Safari Motel, 2001 E. Fremont Street. Operational.

A blue and white neon sign with a large arrow filled in with bulbs reads "Blue Angel Motel" and behind a large statue of a female angel wearing a blue dress stands tall.

Blue Angel sign & statue, intersection of E. Fremont Street & E. Charleston Boulevard.

A small blue neon sign has a sombrero on the corner made of neon and reads "El Sombrero Mexican Food Cafe"

El Sombrero Cafe, 807 S. Main Street, now Letty’s de Leticia’s Cocina.

A red neon sign reads "Bow & Arrow Motel No Vacancy" and features an animated bow and arrow made of neon.

Bow & Arrow Motel sign, in the median near the Neon Museum.

A combination backlit plastic and neon sign reads "Las Vegas" in backlit plastic and "Theatre" in neon that resides within an arrow pointing to the right.

Arches, large enough for cars to drive through, mark the entrance to the West Wind Drive-In.

Pink neon reads "Concessions" however the second S is broken.

West Wind Las Vegas Drive-In, 4150 W Cary Avenue. Operational.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Las Vegas Drive-In opened in 1966 with one screen, and expanded several times over the years to reach its current number of six screens.

Back of the Welcome sign, which reads "Drive Carefully Come Back Soon"

If you choose to visit and photograph these locations, please remember to be respectful. I always abide by “No Trespassing” signs and use my telephoto to get close-up shots.

Other Las Vegas Destinations

Burlesque Hall of Fame

Diamonds are Forever Filming Locations

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino

The Mob Museum

The National Atomic Testing Museum

The Neon Museum

Twilight Zone Mini Golf

Leave a Comment!