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Nostalgic Roadside Neon Signs of the Southwest United States

Updated on June 25, 2013

The "Sign" is Part of "Design" - Beautiful Rustic Neon Signs are Classic

I grew up with signs. Although they were outside, they are very nostalgic to me.

In my hometown in Ohio, I used to stand outside the theater marquee and watch the neon lights and flashing colors. I don't remember many other neon signs other than that theater and the local drive-in, both owned by the same company.

Taking trips with my Father and Mother to other states exposed me to further neon and I was fascinated.

I was a child who always looked for treasures. I used to dig in old dumps along the creeks (where people disposed of their garbage years ago) and found many old things. These things kept my imagination busy. I loved looking at them and thinking about their history.

In the past twenty years or so, old objects have become part of decor. Whether using just photos of the objects or the objects themselves, many modern designs utilize these objects.

Neon signs, whether lit or unlit and weathered, are very popular and I have put many images of them in this website. By traveling in the Southwest United States, you don't see a lot of color as most things are pale or pastel. These pops of color show their beauty in contrast to the desert backgrounds.

The sign that is on the Rabbit Ears Motel in Steamboat Springs Colorado, below, is one of my favorites and I am highlighting it.

Please take a journey into the Southwest with me and to keep you interested, I have included some participatory fun.

Flickr Commons

Rabbit Ears Motel in Steamboat Springs Colorado

Rabbit Ears Motel
Rabbit Ears Motel
Route 66
Route 66

Route 66 and other fun Neon Locations

If you are nostalgic, this is the place to go!

Almost everyone knows the story of how Route 66 was built to cross the continental United States.

A cool portion of the route goes through Northern Arizona and the city of Flagstaff. It has hundreds of little stores, restaurants, hotels and souvenir locations that remind you of time gone by.

Many of the original buildings still exist and if you love to take photos, this is a nostalgia lover's photographic Eden.

I have been there many times and although I have seen it, I always seem to see or find something new.

While Flagstaff is not the only city that Route 66 passes through, many traveled here because of its proximity to the Grand Canyon. You know, that big hole in the ground that Nik Wallenda just walked a tightrope over?

Take a trip to Route 66 with me through the lens of my camera, as well as other Southwest locations, where the neon shines brightly!

Flickr Commons

Nat King Cole - The Original Route 66 Recording Artist

Despite the television show recording and soundtrack of the 1960's, Nat King Cole originally recorded this in 1946.

In later years, Natalie Cole also sang along with her Father on a a dubbed recording.

Route 66 - Nat King Cole - 1946 - Get your Kicks! - A Soundtrack for your Visit

Neon Colorado

On a trip to Colorado, I discovered the sign above of the "Rabbit Ears Motel" and the "Space Age Gas Station" below.

Space Station Gas in Steamboat Springs Colorado

Space Station Gas
Space Station Gas

Looking for those old Signs in Person? - This adventure guide will tell you where many of them are located!

Route 66 Adventure Handbook: Turbocharged Fourth Edition
Route 66 Adventure Handbook: Turbocharged Fourth Edition

I live in Arizona and the old Route 66 comes right through Flagstaff.

If you are looking for old neon signs, nostalgic places and other really cool vintage icons, you need to take a trip using Route 66.

This adventure book tells you where everything is. Take a trip to old Route 66!


Using Signs as part of your Design - Tips for using old Signs in your Home Decor

Although you may not want to put an old object such as a sign in your home, you may be surprised how they can give your decor a character and charm that nobody else has.

Here are some simple tips to use when putting signs in your home or incorporating them into your design.

  • Don't overdo it! You can one or a few signs into your decor but you probably don't want your wall covered in them.
  • Use signs that have a meaning to you. Many times, you can find a sign of a product that you loved growing up or even one with your name on it.
  • Don't repaint your signs; leave them with the original patina. It gives them character.
  • Learn about your sign. Every sign tells a story. I love doing research on historical objects and can only imagine how many people have seen it or used them.
  • Find signs with color that blend with your design. I wouldn't put a neon sign into a pastel decor.
  • Match the sign with your decor. The textures and colors can enhance your design.
  • Be original. I once saw a person use road signs as a back splash in their kitchen decor.

Neon Arizona

Since I live in Arizona, I have seen many neon signs in person.

These signs are all over Arizona and although most are in the Phoenix or Flagstaff Route 66 area, there are several in remote areas of Arizona.

You will be driving along and one will appear out of nowhere. Bring your camera!

Old Barn Advertising in Flagstaff Arizona

Cow Advertising on Barn
Cow Advertising on Barn

Old Monte Vista Hotel Sign in Flagstaff Arizona

Old Hotel Sign in Flagstaff Arizona
Old Hotel Sign in Flagstaff Arizona

Pueblo Hotel and Apartments in Tucson Arizona

Pueblo Hotel and Apartments
Pueblo Hotel and Apartments

The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook Arizona - "Have you slept in a Wigwam lately?"

wigwam motel
wigwam motel

An Iconic Dairy Queen in Mesa Arizona

Dairy Queen in Mesa Arizona
Dairy Queen in Mesa Arizona

Photoshop Tutorial - Turning a Daytime into a Nighttime Photo

If you don't know which type of photo you like the best, why not try both?

This easy Photoshop tutorial will help you turn a daytime into a Nighttime photo.

Neon Utah

Utah doesn't have as much neon however, every once in a while, a true gem will appear in front of you.

Modern Shoe Repairing Sign in Provo Utah

Modern Shoe Repairing Sign Provo Utah
Modern Shoe Repairing Sign Provo Utah

Neon Texas

Texas is big and has many neon signs.

There are so many, in fact, it could warrant a website of its own.

Doc's in Austin Texas

Doc's in Austin Texas
Doc's in Austin Texas

It's Raining; Please stop taking Photos and go inside to leave a Comment

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    • fotolady49 lm profile image

      fotolady49 lm 

      5 years ago

      A super cool idea for a lens. I love neon signs...there is something captivating about them. Bookmarked!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Just couldn't resist shouting this with a FB like and G+.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I really, really wanted to choose cryptonite but went for accuracy. What nostalgic fun you have created here, its all part of history and, speaking of that....I was a little surprised that it wasn't Coke that had neon, I learned on this step back in time history lesson! :)

    • senditondown profile image


      5 years ago from US

      I can hear the familiar "buzz" of the lights...Bold and bright, the original (and sometimes only) marketing strategy of these businesses. Memories of a much more innocent time.

    • tvyps profile imageAUTHOR

      Teri Villars 

      5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @NibsyNell: You are always so sweet. I will trade some of my heat for some of your rain. ha!

    • NibsyNell profile image


      5 years ago

      I love neon signs so much! Especially through the rain like in the picture above! :)

    • tvyps profile imageAUTHOR

      Teri Villars 

      5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Scarlettohairy: Phoenix? That's where I live! Too hot to go out and look at signs now, however.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Fantastic photographs! I love old signs - you can probably tell from my avatar!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love old neon signs! There are a few near me here in Phoenix that I've photographed.

    • iamraincrystal profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 

      5 years ago from Manila Philippines

      Love your raining photo! ^_^ Wow I must admit I've never paid attention much to signs before. After reading your lens, I think I will be more interested in them. ^_^

    • PaigSr profile image


      5 years ago from State of Confusion

      Its scary how now a days most kids will only recognize the neon signs because they were in the movie Cars. But I do remember. So thank you for some great pictures to add to my memories.

    • tvyps profile imageAUTHOR

      Teri Villars 

      5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      @Northerntrials: That's actually pretty cool. Using another one of your senses to experience them. Thanks for the visit and comment!

    • Northerntrials profile image


      5 years ago

      I like the sound of a neon sign. I've stayed in a few motels with old neon signs and stayed awake listening to the buzz and pop. Cool lens.

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      I, too, enjoy those old signs, some more especially so. This was a fun and informative jaunt.


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