Las Vegas 2012 (Day 2)
In the morning we got up bright and early (well, 9am—we’re not crazy) and headed downtown. We had an appointment to tour the Neon Museum Boneyard, a collection of donated signs that tell the story of glitz gone by. From the Stardust to the Moulin Rouge, this collection of eye-catching neon from casinos and motels past sits on a couple of urban acres awaiting restoration. Those signs that are restored—Aladdin’s Lamp, the Red Barn and others—dot the downtown landscape. The Boneyard (located within a 15-minute walk of Fremont Street) is now only available to tour by appointment with a volunteer guide. The Museum is in the process of finishing a Visitors Center next door which, in its spirit of restoring and remembering, will be housed in the former La Concha Motel lobby designed by African American architect Paul Revere Williams in the early 1960s.
The trek through the artfully staged outdoor collection was filled with amazing pop art and fun tidbits about Las Vegas’s first air-conditioned theater (cooled with an ice block and fan), rumors around Howard Hughes’ paranoia over a Silver Slipper and tales of segregation strife in the entertainment capital. We highly recommend a trip to The Neon Museum Boneyard, especially after they open the new Center . . . hopefully this summer. For now, make sure you make advance reservations as we saw several groups of curious tourists drop in without pre-registration only to be turned away. (And if you can’t make it, check out our photos here.)
For happy hour, we made our way back to The Strip and to Excalibur to check out the new Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer, which is located in the former Sherwood Cafe and meant to draw in Southern rock fans the way Margaritaville suckers in Parrotheads. The place is decorated to look like a Texas Roadhouse, a bit strange since the band is originally from Jacksonville, Florida. There’s also a dearth of legitimate items belonging to the band (we anticipated the place might loaded with memorabilia and resemble something like a Hard Rock Café, but most of the memorabilia is confined to the gift shop and not on the walls). But with happy hour pricing on the beers at the bar we sampled the light Lynyrd Skynyrd lager that Coors has made exclusively for the joint. And the cocktails (drinks with names like “Simple Man” and made with their own special bacon-infused vodka) created by a mixologist bartender who really knew her liquor were quite tasty. The food looked pretty good (the brisket was recommended) and there’s a live stage for music.
For the evening’s entertainment, we had tickets through our Southwest Vacations package for Criss Angel’s Believe, a magic show he puts on with Cirque du Soleil. (In our defense, we’d already seen every other Cirque show offered.) We went in anticipating the worst, and it certainly met our expectations. Cirque du Soleil clowns start the show off with a comedy routine (we like the feature player called Maestro) before Angel appears and starts making things disappear. He’s awfully fond of putting someone in a box (like one of his two scantily clad assistants) and making them disappear. We didn’t really get some of the tricks – why pretend to saw a woman in half if you’re not going to put her back together and show us that she is okay? Anyway, Angel didn’t have much rapport with the audience and the segment involving the participation of a teenager from the crowd was embarrassingly awkward. On the way out, we overheard one patron remark that the show was “highly mediocre” and we wholeheartedly agree.
Tip: If you’re into history, pair up your nostalgic outing to old school Fremont Street and The Neon Museum with a trip to the National Atomic Testing Museum and Tropicana’s Las Vegas Mob Experience. And coming soon: The Mob Museum (formally The National Museum of Organized Crime& Law Enforcement) is set to open in February.