Neon signs of diving ladies, waving cowboys and martini glasses once welcomed travellers along main streets and highways across Canada and the United States. Now the art form is being revived and signs are being rescued and restored as part of our architectural heritage. Relive neon’s glory days on a tour in one of these cities.
Download the Museum of Vancouver’s Visible City app and take a neon walking tour of Granville Street and Hastings-Chinatown. Learn the history of the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, the Orpheum Theatre and other city hot spots through photos, videos and stories told by locals. Don’t miss the museum’s permanent exhibit of 53 signs.
Take a walk through the Neon Boneyard, where more than 150 old-school signs have been rescued from long-forgotten hotels, wedding chapels, diners and motor lodges. Floodlights and restored originals light up the yard on the newly added night tours, and a refurbished, atomic-age motel lobby houses the new visitor’s centre.
Cruise through the largest concentration of original neon signs in the world aboard an open-topped, double-decker bus. The Museum of Neon Art’s three-hour Neon Tour through Chinatown, Downtown and Hollywood includes neon pagodas, theatres, studios and the legendary hangouts of the stars. Tours run June to September and on special occasions.
Follow Highway 80 into downtown Tucson for a driving tour of 30 rescued icons. Look for the new 30-foot-high saguaro welcome sign, space-age neon at the Flamingo Hotel, mid-century modern at the Tucson Inn, Southwest deco at the Arizona Motel and the diving lady at the Willard Hotel. Download the map at preservetucson.org.