Monday, October 19, 2009

The Neon Sign Boneyard and Luv It Frozen Custard - Las Vegas

Sin City
On this trip to Vegas, I had something I've never had before...
City Center Motel
A ride. On one of his recent trips, James connected with Tracy, a friend of a friend with a kick ass Mini Cooper convertible. It really doesn't get much better than that for tooling around Vegas.
Stardust
I'd read about the neon sign graveyard, and Tracy was game for the trip - but I wasn't sure how to go about visiting. After a little research, I discovered that they have a website, and are in the process of setting up a real honest to goodness museum that will be open round the clock in the near future. For the time being though, you have to make an appointment in advance and pay $15. for the tours which are given at least twice a day.
Golden Nugget
We weren't sure if we could get into one of the tours (I didn't receive a response to my email inquiry and they didn't answer the phone) but we decided to take our chances and just show up. We got lucky, but I would not recommend this approach. The people we replaced showed up after the tour started - so if they'd been on time I think we would have been out of luck.
Vegas Neon Sign Boneyard
When I did receive an email from them later that afternoon (on Friday) they were booked until Wednesday, so definitely make your appointments as far in advance as possible. They're staffed with volunteers, so it may take them a day or two to respond to your inquiry. At $15. though, it's well worth the wait and the price of admission.
Binion's Horseshoe
The sign "boneyard" as they call it consists of two fenced in areas chock full of enormous old signs in various states of disrepair. It's a very popular spot for fashion and wedding photo shoots, and some of the areas are sort of "arranged" with that in mind. It's a lot of fun to photograph, but it wasn't easy to get shots without people in them during the tour. We kept falling behind and missing the commentary for the sake of a good picture, but the tour included lots of interesting Las Vegas history.
Neon Museum Sign Boneyard
I love how the signs look juxtaposed against the dirt and weeds growing right around them. It has this great air of decaying grandeur about it.
Neon Museum Sign Boneyard
This W shows the rungs maintenance workers used to have to climb to replace the bulbs in the signs. Apparently this sign appeared in an episode of CSI Las Vegas - with a dead body hanging on it.
W
This El Cortez sign was one of my favorites - not as flashy as some, but I love the script and the washed out turquoise color.
El Cortez
Some Stardust stars - I remember these...
Stardust Stars
This turned out to be one of my favorite photos with all the shadows and colors. Brad Pitt was supposedly photographed in this spot.
Las Vegas Neon Museum Sign Boneyard
The plan, ultimately, is to have visitor's center housed in the La Concha lobby, a distinctive modern curvilinear concrete structure which has been moved to the corner near the sign lots. They're also restoring several of the most iconic signs and objects and installing them on posts in the median above North Las Vegas Boulevard. The Silver Slipper has been installed just in front of the museum, and the waving cowboy is just down the street, near downtown. It's great to see these icons restored as decorative objects and it's exciting to see such passion about a modern decorative art form in the staff. When it's open, I think the museum will really be something to see.
Neon Museum Sign Boneyard
After the almost two hour tour, it was hot and we were parched and hungry - so I persuaded Tracy to help me find the Luv It Frozen Custard stand. It's actually about halfway between the Strip and the boneyard, just off Las Vegas Boulevard near the Stratosphere.
Luv It Frozen Custard in Las Vegas
They have a huge list of rotating flavors, but make only a few each day. On the day of our visit, Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Lemon and Pumpkin were available. After tasting almost all of them, I chose Vanilla and Lemon, and Tracy chose Chocolate and Pumpkin. Their frozen custard is made fresh daily, and it's softer, creamier and a little bit richer tasting than ice cream - but has less fat and sugar. It's not quite as soft as soft serve, but close. It has no air whipped into it and no ice crystals, making it fantastically smooth. It's actually a little bit unusual in this part of the country (it's more common in the Northern Midwest) which makes it worth a trip if you're in the area. They also make sundaes - the most popular of which is the "Western" - fresh custard covered with warm caramel and hot fudge, topped with salted pecans and a maraschino cherry.

Vanilla and Lemon Luv It Frozen Custard in Vegas
The Lemon Custard was a delight, with that bright yellow color and distinctive flavor I remembered from childhood. (I used to get it at Baskin Robbins ages ago, but I haven't seen it in a while.) The Vanilla was also a perfect specimen, creamy and rich with true vanilla flavor.

We already have another trip planned next year - we're driving to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and stopping in Vegas both coming and going. Don't think it hasn't already occurred to me that with our own car, the possibilities for off-strip dining are limitless. I may very well eat nothing but frozen custard and Thai food the whole time!

The Neon Museum - Sign Graveyard
821 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 387-6366

Luv It Frozen Custard
505 E Oakey Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 384-6452

8 comments:

  1. So I have to go to Vegas to find frozen custard on this side of the country, eh? I had plenty when I was in Wisconsin and can't stop thinking about it. The neon sign graveyard looks awesome! Didn't Bourdain's Vegas episode have a few shots of it?

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  2. Thanks for this post Alice - it served to remind me to try and book a place on the tour when we are in Vegas in November. I just put in my request. You never know, I might just try the ice cream too.

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  3. Great post and fabulous pics, Alice! I love the Boneyard and can't wait for La Concha to be at the entrance. It was such a funky building. But I haven't had Luv-It in ages. I've got to take my children down there.

    PS. Next time you are in Vegas let's definitely try to meet up.

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  4. Alice, I have to say that your photography looks fabulous! And of course I feel very fortunate indeed to be mentioned in your blog - I feel a bit "almost famous!" My only regret is that you didn't use the photo of you licking the custard...I think that your readers would have liked to see that! Love, Tracy

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  5. omg that is so cool - the neon sign boneyard! i live for stuff like that! thanks for showcasing your photos of your foray into the boneyard!

    i've never had frozen custard before...i just back from a trip to the midwest and one of the chains there, culver's, is known for their frozen custard. unfortunately we didn't try any, instead opting for their fried cheese curds (tastes better than it sounds).

    next time we're in vegas, i'll definitely check out that neon sign place! thanks! : )

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  6. Those sound like worthwhile side trips indeed! Wish I could have had my engagement pictures taken in that boneyard. The possibilities!

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  7. Hi Alice - It's kinda funny that you mentioned, sort of, LOS. It was one of the waiters at LOS who reocmmended Luv-It too us. After having my share of frozen custard in Madison, I thought the version at Luv-It was less "eggy" and not as dense.

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  8. Marie - I'm not sure how it compares to the E. Coast versions (see Kirk's comments below) but it was pretty darn good. I'm sure it probably was included in Bourdain's Vegas episode. I keep forgetting to tape that show.

    Sam - you will love it!

    180/360 - I would love to meet up - let's definitely do that next time!

    Tracy - mwah!! thanks so much for taking me around. I had such a great time with you. Congrats on your big win!!

    caninecologne - Cheese curds & custard? I'm pretty sure I would have had both!

    Heidi - that would be cool. If you google it a lot of examples come up!

    KirkK - that is funny. I should get some recommendations from you for dishes to order next time at LOS - I think they give us the gringo treatment. Not that I'm complaining - the food was delicious! (See you at Ba Ren!)

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