The 40 Best Neon Signs in Metro Phoenix

Widely considered to be the most famous neon sign in the Valley, the “Diving Lady” at the Starlite Motel in Mesa.EXPAND
Widely considered to be the most famous neon sign in the Valley, the “Diving Lady” at the Starlite Motel in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Vintage neon signs have become a rare and treasured thing in the Valley. In fact, local preservationists estimate there are only around three dozen old-school illuminated displays still in operation around metro Phoenix. And that number gets smaller every year, says local historian Marshall Shore.

“There are so few [vintage] neon signs left now that it's become a scarce commodity,” he says.

It's a far cry from 70 years ago, Shore says, when neon signs were a staple of businesses along major thoroughfares and highways around the Valley (as well as in other cities nationwide) during the art form's boom in the 1950s, which coincided with the growth of car culture.

“Neon really encapsulates a certain era when cars were heavily on the rise, people were traveling faster than ever before, further than they've traveled ever before, and didn't know what was around them,” he says. “So you had to have a sign that was bigger, bolder, brighter than your neighbors to attract the attention.”

Neon’s made a bit of a comeback in recent years. Since 2014, a number of Valley businesses have re-embraced the art form and use neon signage, including a slew of spots in Gilbert's Historic Heritage District. Over at Uptown Plaza at Camelback Road and Central Avenue, most of the restaurants and shops feature neon.

Local artist Sue Meyers of Bend-A-Light Studio, who has created signs for such downtown spots as Valley Bar and the Hotel San Carlos, says that neon has a certain appeal over lighting like LED.

“When you put them next to each other, LED is going to be the brightest crayon in the box, but neon is known for its glow, which I think is what really attracts people, that glow that it emits, which you're not going to get from anything else,” she says.

You can see for yourself by checking out the following list of the best and brightest neon signs, both new and old, currently in operation around the Valley.

Downtown Phoenix jazz joint The Nash.
Downtown Phoenix jazz joint The Nash.
The Nash

The Nash

110 East Roosevelt Street, 602-795-0464

The purple neon spelling out the name of this Roosevelt Row jazz joint adds an extra aura of cool to the place. It’s the brainchild of local architect Shawn Kaffer, who also designed The Nash and its logo. According to Joel Goldenthal of Jazz in Arizona, the nonprofit arts organization behind the venue, the sign fits the vibe of The Nash like a glove. “We collectively [decided] it would be a cool look for the sign,” he says. “Neon goes with the bebop era of jazz in the '50s since there was a lot of neon back then at jazz clubs.”

Copper Star Coffee in central Phoenix's Melrose District.EXPAND
Copper Star Coffee in central Phoenix's Melrose District.
Benjamin Leatherman

Copper Star Coffee

4220 North Seventh Avenue, 602-266-2136

Caffeine junkies aren't the only thing buzzing at this popular Melrose District coffee joint housed within a remodeled midcentury service station on Seventh Avenue. Starting at dusk, Copper Star Coffee's triangular neon sign, which oozes as much retro cool as its neighborhood or the establishment itself, glows with blue and yellow light and entices passers-by into making a pit stop for a high-octane beverage.

The entrance to Valley Bar.EXPAND
The entrance to Valley Bar.
Benjamin Leatherman

Valley Bar

130 North Central Avenue, 602-368-3121

The neon sign perched above the alleyway entrance to downtown Phoenix’s Valley Bar is admittedly of a minimalist nature. Created by artist Sue Meyers of Bend-A-Light Studio, it simply spells out the name of the establishment in glowing red neon. Nothing more, nothing less. It accentuates the gritty feel of the Valley Bar’s front door and is elegant in its simplicity.

The circa-1980s sign at Groggy's in Mesa.EXPAND
The circa-1980s sign at Groggy's in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Groggy's Bar and Grill

2207 West Main Street, Mesa, 480-969-7648

Groggy's in Mesa hits up passers-by with the hard sell via its circa-1980s sign, which sums up the neighborhood bar's mix of food, fun, spirits, and billiards while being adorned with a vintage-looking cocktail rendered in radiant neon. It's acted like a boozy Bat-Signal for barflies over past few decades for anyone in the mood to get as plastered as the cartoon frog located underneath.

The neon signage at StarFighters Arcade in Mesa.EXPAND
The neon signage at StarFighters Arcade in Mesa.
Google Maps

StarFighters Arcade

4840 East Jasmine Street, #102, Mesa 602-513-9532

Retro is the name of the game at this throwback geek destination. Inside, you’ll find a mix of classic arcade games and pinball machines, as well as a collection of vintage toys and ‘80s flicks being screened. The circular signage at StarFighters is just as nostalgic as the rest of the offerings, as it combines pinup art ringed by a neon rendering of the arcade’s name. Owners Michael Lovato and Steve Thomas commissioned Mesa artist Larry Graham to craft the piece along with neon versions of Pac-Man and the spaceship from Galaga decorating the walls of the place.

Desert Flame Gentleman's Club in Mesa.EXPAND
Desert Flame Gentleman's Club in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Desert Flame

11145 East Apache Trail, Mesa, 480-984-1400

This Mesa topless bar’s towering sign features the silhouetted figure of a curvy female lying in repose, which not only tempts potential clientele but also upholds a longstanding tradition of neon being used at strip joints. “Signs like that go way back to the era where you would have a gentleman's club that would have a neon sign out front,” Shore says.

Duke Photography in midtown Phoenix.EXPAND
Duke Photography in midtown Phoenix.
Benjamin Leatherman

Duke Photography

2810 North Seventh Avenue, 602-265-2605

Despite the midcentury origins of his namesake midtown Phoenix photo studio, the late James Riley Duke didn't warm up to neon until well after the art form’s golden age had passed. In 1999, the professional photographer commissioned a new logo for the business — which has been snapping senior portraits, prom pics, and modeling headshots for decades — and also spruced up it exterior with a new sign. Its teal and yellow color palette, as well as its signature crown, reflect Duke's lifelong hobby of raising peacocks.

The Shamrock Farms sign along Interstate 17.EXPAND
The Shamrock Farms sign along Interstate 17.
Benjamin Leatherman

Shamrock Farms Dairy

2228 North Black Canyon Highway, 602-272-6721

Valley natives and longtime residents are probably well-acquainted with this Interstate 17 landmark that towers over the Shamrock Farms Dairy along the freeway just north of McDowell Road. The ovoid sign ringed with twinkling bulbs and populated with neon lettering has been giving the time and temperature to passing motorists for several decades now, not to mention shilling the company's selection of wholesome dairy products.

The Roadrunner Restaurant & Saloon in New River.EXPAND
The Roadrunner Restaurant & Saloon in New River.
Benjamin Leatherman

Roadrunner Restaurant & Saloon

47801 North Black Canyon Highway, New River, 623-465-9903

Most roadrunners have a tendency to quickly dart out of sight. The one bolted to the roof of this western steakhouse and saloon out in the hinterlands of New River will be easier to spot, probably because it's both enormous and trimmed in bright red neon. Heck, you might even spy its crimson glow while driving after dark along the northbound Interstate 17 nearby.

The Wagon Wheel Building in the Melrose District.EXPAND
The Wagon Wheel Building in the Melrose District.
Charles Barth

Wagon Wheel Building

706-712 West Montecito Avenue

The owners of this historic Melrose District shopping plaza dropped a considerable chunk of change in 2005 to refurbish, restore, and rewire its sign, to the tune of around $3,500. It was worth every penny, as its one of the liveliest signs in the neighborhood because to its constantly spinning pinwheel of individually colored neon spokes that create a rainbow dervish of motion and light that shines out in the darkness. 

The neon sign for famed Mesa dive bar the Hambone.EXPAND
The neon sign for famed Mesa dive bar the Hambone.
Benjamin Leatherman

Hambone Sports Bar

903 East Main Street, Mesa, 480-833-9839

Don't let its “sports bar” moniker fool you, the Hambone in Mesa is a dive, pure and simple – and a long-running one at that. In fact, booze pigs have been stopping by to take a drink or shoot some stick for generations as it's been a mainstay of Main Street for more than 50 years. And the Hambone's jaunty and colorful neon-lit sign, featuring a dapper porker raising a toast, has been there since the first round was served.

The Liquor Wheel on McDowell Road.EXPAND
The Liquor Wheel on McDowell Road.
Benjamin Leatherman

Liquor Wheel

3445 East McDowell Road, 602-273-7200

The rise of car culture in the Valley during the midcentury era brought with it an increase in businesses geared towards motorists, including drive-thru establishments like this long-running McDowell Road business. Liquor Wheel’s been around since the ‘50s, and has stayed largely unchanged (save for the fact its proprietors now offer auto title loans and buy gold), even sporting the same red and blue neon that trims the roof of its chalet-style structure and forms the glowing letters of its classic sign.

The sign for Melrose Pharmacy.EXPAND
The sign for Melrose Pharmacy.
Benjamin Leatherman

Melrose Pharmacy

706 West Montecito Avenue, 602-277-4714

Befitting of its home in the circa-1930s Wagon Wheel Building, the sign at Melrose Pharmacy utilizes Art Deco lettering and is made from repurposed materials. It also offers a vintage vibe. The building’s former owner Kurt Stickler researched plaza and lollipop-style signage from the era when creating it along with local neon artist Sue Meyers. “It's one of my favorites, and not because I helped make it,” she says. “[Kurt] did everything old school from the fabrication of the letters to the color of the neon. It's great.”

The Roadrunner Motel in Mesa, one of many historic motor courts that sprung up along Main Street back in the 1950s.EXPAND
The Roadrunner Motel in Mesa, one of many historic motor courts that sprung up along Main Street back in the 1950s.
Benjamin Leatherman

Roadrunner Motel

2066 West Main Street, Mesa, 480-834-8040

It's been a long, hard road for this old bird. During its heyday more than 50 years ago, the Roadrunner was one of a host of squeaky clean local motor hotels steeped in the sort of Southwestern kitsch that tourists ate up with a spoon. These days, its swimming pool is now a cement slab surrounded by scattered weeds and there's a comfortably shabby vibe to the whole place. Its charming sign, however, still looks great after all these years (even if the plastic roadrunner placard is a little faded), particularly under the cover of darkness when it’s all lit up.

Glenfair Lanes in Glendale.EXPAND
Glenfair Lanes in Glendale.
Benjamin Leatherman

Glenfair Lanes

6110 North 59th Avenue, Glendale, 623-937-9225

The circular neon displays adorning the front entrance of Glenfair Lanes in Glendale pretty much sum up what the place is all about: booze and bowling. One features a tipsy cocktail glass while the other consists of a bowling ball knocking over a pin. Both feature pink and blue hues and provide a distinctly retro vibe.

The Harkins Valley Art in downtown Tempe, which first opened in 1940.EXPAND
The Harkins Valley Art in downtown Tempe, which first opened in 1940.
Benjamin Leatherman

Harkins Valley Art

509 South Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480-446-7272

Having opened way back in 1940, the Valley Art on Mill Avenue has achieved the rarefied status of being Arizona's oldest cinema still in operation today. It's not the theater's only claim to fame, as it also boasts Tempe's largest neon sign. Sitting atop a similarly enormous marquee, its neon-lined letters were one of the historic elements at the movie house that were gussied up during a $1 million restoration in 2011.

Hobe Meats in midtown Phoenix.EXPAND
Hobe Meats in midtown Phoenix.
Benjamin Leatherman

Hobe Meats

6044 North 16th Street, 602-604-2333

After local butcher Bret Pont bought Hobe Meats from its founders in 2009, he kept things pretty much the same at the long-running Phoenix shop. That includes its neon sign, which Pont says dates back to the establishment's opening in 1962 and still features its original glass tubing. A pair of enormous plaster statues of steers, which Pont purchased from the now-defunct Pinnacle Peak Patio in Scottsdale, alongside the sign helps it stand out even more.

The red and yellow neon signage adorning the Central Avenue location of Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles.EXPAND
The red and yellow neon signage adorning the Central Avenue location of Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles.
Benjamin Leatherman

Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles

1220 South Central Avenue, 602-340-1304

The chicken is definitely badass at Lo-Lo's location on Central Avenue — and we aren't necessarily referring to the deliciously deep-fried yardbird being served inside. There's also the restaurant’s icon of a muscled-up rooster rendered in red and yellow neon that’s part of its signage outside.

The neon-drenched sign for Lenny's Burgers on Glendale Avenue.
The neon-drenched sign for Lenny's Burgers on Glendale Avenue.
Lenny's Burger Facebook

Lenny’s Burger

2545 West Glendale Avenue, 602-347-1188

Neon and fast food restaurants have always gone together like burgers and fries. Both experienced a significant boom period in the ‘50s and were intertwined for decades. In fact, the first-ever McDonald's franchise was built near the intersection of Central Avenue and Indian School Road in 1953 and was wrapped in glowing neon, including its signature golden arches. So when the owners of the homegrown Lenny's chain remodeled their Glendale Avenue location several years ago, it seemed fitting they spruced up its amusing sign and exterior with an array of glowing, gas-powered lighting.  

The New Hong Kong Restaurant on Indian School Road.EXPAND
The New Hong Kong Restaurant on Indian School Road.

New Hong Kong Restaurant

2328 East Indian School Road, 602-954-9118

The sign outside this Arcadia-area Chinese restaurant is quaintly vintage. Its curious shape tends to attract the eye, as does the fact that certain neon letters always seem to be on the fritz, humorously resulting in the name of the place being rendered as “Ho Ko.” Part of us hopes the owners never fix it, allowing us a personal chuckle every time we drive past.

Melrose Vintage's colorful signage.EXPAND
Melrose Vintage's colorful signage.
Benjamin Leatherman

Melrose Vintage

700 West Campbell Avenue, 602-809-2055

Wendy and Diane Christensen, the mother-daughter duo behind this Melrose District boutique specializing in shabby chic vintage and antique items, had the neon on the store’s boutique's elegant-looking sign, which is historic in its own right, restored to working order in 2015.

The circa 1960s signage at Chandler Liquors.EXPAND
The circa 1960s signage at Chandler Liquors.
Benjamin Leatherman

Chandler Liquors

554 North Arizona Avenue, Chandler, 480-963-5100

Drivers cruising past Chandler Liquors might find it a little difficult to keep their eyes on the road, considering this attention-grabbing distraction up on the store's rooftop that dates back to the early '60s. Boasting a cascading array of incandescent lights that swoop up, over, and around into a neon explosion, it's definitely one of the more unique-looking signs in the Valley.

Liberty Market in downtown Gilbert.EXPAND
Liberty Market in downtown Gilbert.
Benjamin Leatherman

Liberty Market

230 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert, 480-892-1900

Downtown Gilbert's Heritage District has become a hot spot for neon signage over the last few years. Long before restaurants like Oregano’s or Zinburger embraced the art form, the landmark Liberty Market was bathed with pink and green light from the gas-filled glass tubes adorning its building and picturesque marquee. Designed in 1958 by the late Mae Ong, who owned the business with her husband, the neon has survived the decades and the property's transformation into an eatery by restaurateur Joe Johnston in the late 2000s. Its a gorgeous reminder of the Gilbert of yesteryear. 

The Arby's along Thomas Road and 38th Street.EXPAND
The Arby's along Thomas Road and 38th Street.
Benjamin Leatherman


3826 East Thomas Road, 602-957-0135

You don't have to be a fan of Arby's (or even fast food in general) to appreciate the throwback flair of the enormous sign outside of its location on Thomas Road near 38th Street. Like the restaurant itself, the glowing hat-shaped monolith has been around for going on five decades and is the only one of its kind in Arizona. It's undergone a few cosmetic tweaks over the years, including adding the phrase “Drive-Thru” along the brim of the hat, but has remained largely unchanged since its debut in the late 1960s.  

Cheese 'n Stuff's vintage sign.EXPAND
Cheese 'n Stuff's vintage sign.
Benjamin Leatherman

Cheese 'n Stuff

5042 North Central Avenue, 602-266-3636

This historic Central Avenue delicatessen, which first opened in 1949, is topped by an equally vintage globe-shaped sign. Its as old as the spot itself and was created by the late Leonard Christensen, a renowned local sign maker. In 2014, his son, Dane Christensen, did Cheese 'n Stuff’s owner Stan Zawatski and refurbished the neon elements of the sign. And he reportedly did it for free. We’re sure his pops would’ve been proud.

Mellow Mushroom's location in downtown Tempe.EXPAND
Mellow Mushroom's location in downtown Tempe.
Benjamin Leatherman

Mellow Mushroom

740 South Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480-967-6355

The sign at Mellow Mushroom’s location along Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe is both colorful and playful. Depending on who you ask, it also may or may not be a sly wink to the pizzeria's stoner-friendly shtick, as the cartoon-like mushroom mascot boasts some droopy eyes. In other words, the neon isn’t the only thing that might be buzzing here.

SideBar in downtown Phoenix.EXPAND
SideBar in downtown Phoenix.
Benjamin Leatherman


1514 North Seventh Avenue, 602-254-1646

When SideBar owner Josh Parry wanted to install a vintage-inspired neon sign back in 2009 to help accentuate the retro swank of his CenPho drinkery and lounge, he certainly did his homework. “I really wanted something with that old-school touch to go with our mid-century modern feel, so I went back and looked up a lot of old, vintage signs from that era with that classic cocktail feel to them,” he says. The result is the striking, vertically oriented creation situated above SideBar's front door boasting a tipped martini glass that perfectly embodies all the tippling that occurs inside.

The signage for this historic Trava-Leers Motel along Main Street in Mesa.EXPAND
The signage for this historic Trava-Leers Motel along Main Street in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Trava-Leers Motel

836 West Main Street, Mesa, 480-962-8936

Adorned with cursive-like neon and topped by a trio of Space Age-style cones, the signage for this historic mid-century motel along Main Street in Mesa features style and charm to spare. “It's adorable,” says local midcentury guru Alison King. “There's something about that white script that's so charming and very sweet. It makes it look very friendly and inviting to visitors. It's just this invitation to come by and check it out.”

Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert, one of many businesses in the town's Heritage District sporting neon signs.EXPAND
Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert, one of many businesses in the town's Heritage District sporting neon signs.
Benjamin Leatherman

Joe’s Real BBQ

301 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert, 480-503-3805

Restaurateur Joe Johnston's popular barbecue spot in Gilbert is not only big on sumptuous and smoked meats, it's also big on history. Inspired by Texas 'cue joints from the 1940s, its housed in a former Depression-era market, sports an interior mural celebrating the town's agrarian heritage, and is laden with antiques and ephemera. Another nod to the past can be seen in the lively and spirited neon sign hanging from the second floor that looks like it fell out of a time warp. A waft of smoke playfully forms part of the lettering while an animated golden arrow invites hungry diners inside to sit for a spell and dig into a plate of pulled pork or a mess of ribs.

The cowboy-themed Circle RB Lodge along Main Street in Mesa.EXPAND
The cowboy-themed Circle RB Lodge along Main Street in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Circle RB Lodge

6547 East Main Street, Mesa, 480-985-9923

Many a midcentury motor lodge along Main Street in Mesa or the Apache Trail plays off Arizona's Wild West past, including this ranch-style roadside stop from the Eisenhower era that features Spanish casitas and an illuminated buckaroo that helped bring in weary travelers. According to local historian Douglas Towne in a piece he wrote for the Society for Commercial Archaeology, “wranglers were common inanimate barkers used to entice tourists. One of the most talented is the neon cowboy at the Circle RB in Mesa whose giant lasso forms the sign's boundaries.”  

Barrio Queen Restaurante y Tequileria in Gilbert's Heritage District.EXPAND
Barrio Queen Restaurante y Tequileria in Gilbert's Heritage District.
Benjamin Leatherman

Barrio Queen

388 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert, 480-634-5025

Both the Scottsdale and Gilbert versions of high-style Mexican restaurant Barrio Queen feature a Day of the Dead-inspired logo of a regal-looking katrina. The latter spot, however, utilizes it in far more flashy fashion as it's been transformed into a magnificent animated neon sign created by Valley design firm Trademark Visuals and reigns over the town's Heritage District, at least in terms of its pizzazz.

The neon signage for Ziggie's Music.EXPAND
The neon signage for Ziggie's Music.
Benjamin Leatherman

Ziggie’s Music

3309 North Third Street, 602-266-9622

The family behind this 93-year-old music store and studio in midtown Phoenix earned cheers from local historic preservationists and neon lovers alike in 2013 after they had the establishment's aging and weather-beaten sign expertly restored. And they did it with the donations of around two-dozen contributors from both the U.S. and U.K. (including rock 'n' roll legend Al Casey, who once gave guitar lessons at Ziggie's), each chipping in whatever they could to cover the costs of returning the sign to its glowing glory. 

Downtown Phoenix's legendary Hotel San Carlos, which has sported two neon signs for several decades — one along its canopy awning and another six-story blade-style.EXPAND
Downtown Phoenix's legendary Hotel San Carlos, which has sported two neon signs for several decades — one along its canopy awning and another six-story blade-style.
Benjamin Leatherman

Hotel San Carlos

202 North Central Avenue, 602-253-4121

Over its 92-year lifespan, this famed downtown Phoenix hotel has undergone myriad modifications and upgrades to keep up with the times, like the extensive renovation to its exterior in the mid-1950s. Downtown had gone gaga for neon around then, and the Hotel San Carlos followed suit by transforming the blade sign ran that crawled up the side of the six-story building into an electrified marquee spelling out the hotel's name in illuminated block lettering. Its canopy awning was also replaced with a metal overhang and another neon sign. Both exist to this day and have become trademarks of the hotel.

The Hiway Host Motel in Mesa.EXPAND
The Hiway Host Motel in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Hiway Host Motel

1260 West Main Street, Mesa, 480-964-3570

The staff at the Hiway Host in Mesa aren't exactly certain of when the Main Street motor lodge opened its doors to weary travelers. Its distinctive and quaint sign, however, is clearly steeped in mid-century kitsch of the 1950s, from its playful lettering to the starburst on top. It's worth checking out when cruising along Main Street, even if all the neon isn't working at that particular moment.

The New Windsor Hotel was built in 1893.EXPAND
The New Windsor Hotel was built in 1893.
Benjamin Leatherman

New Windsor Hotel

546 West Adams Street, 602-254-8694

There's a lot to love about the New Windsor. For starters, this grand old dame is more than 125 years old and is one of only a handful of Victorian-era buildings left in Phoenix, which makes it both historically and architecturally significant. Tucked away in one of the sleepier portions of downtown Phoenix, it stands out from a rash of boring and blighted buildings, largely due to its pink and teal paint job and all the jazzy neon just above the front door. The blade-style sign was installed during a 1935 renovation that also added a third floor to the property, which now serves as low-cost housing for senior citizens.

We're not alone in our fondness for the place, as Towne and other local preservationists are also big fans. “The sign that does it for me is the New Windsor Hotel. It’s not just the huge, two-colored vertical sign on the front facade, but the additional neon lighting above the hotel’s entrance, including the 'air-cooled' message in cerulean blue,” he states. “It’s the most evocative place in Phoenix to be transported back in time to the 1930s.”

One of two historic signs adorning the Walgreens location at Seventh Street and Dunlap Avenue that feature the drug store chain's name rendered in crimson-colored neon.EXPAND
One of two historic signs adorning the Walgreens location at Seventh Street and Dunlap Avenue that feature the drug store chain's name rendered in crimson-colored neon.
Benjamin Leatherman

Walgreens Pharmacy

8911 North Seventh Street, 602-944-9635

This particular Walgreens stands out from any of the drugstore chain’s other Valley locations because of its stylishly vintage exterior. A pair of signs with the drug emporium chain's name rendered in crimson-colored neon adorn the building, with one perched atop a lattice-like facade of Superlite-style faceted brickwork and a smaller version running along the side of its canopy.

King digs the signage and enjoys how it “blazes red at night” and it's still in good condition, among other reasons. “Seeing the same word interpreted two different ways in two different scales [is great],” she says. “The lovely brick backdrop is also really unique and is also part of the experience.”

The fiery-looking neon sign of the historic and iconic Sunland Motel in Mesa.EXPAND
The fiery-looking neon sign of the historic and iconic Sunland Motel in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Sunland Motel

2602 East Main Street, Mesa, 480-833-1713

Despite our oftentimes contentious relationship with the sun, the blazing celestial object and the overabundance of light and heat it casts our way ultimately define the Valley. And it's brought countless millions to these parts over the decades, starting around the time that the original owners of the Sunland first flipped on their signature neon sign in the '50s.

“Visitors to Arizona often made the journey because of the mild climate making the sun a powerful image used to symbolize the state,” Towne says. Hence this motel's theme, which juxtaposes nicely with nearby Starlite Motel, home of the famed Diving Lady. “The fiery orange-red neon lighting [of] the Sunland Motel sign in Mesa was in stark contrast to its legendary neighbor, which features an oasis theme,” Towne says.

Close to ASU, Jerry's was Tempe's first drive-thru booze hut.
Close to ASU, Jerry's was Tempe's first drive-thru booze hut.
Andrew Pielage

Jerry's Drive-In Liquors

1217 South Rural Road, Tempe, 480-966-8655

As you're probably aware, college kids have a thing for drinking. Hence all the scores of liquor stores around Arizona State University's Tempe campus that Sun Devils have flocked to for ages. And from the 1950s onward, students of legal drinking age has been pointed in the direction of Jerry's thanks to the large arrow equipped with twinkling lights on its neon sign. Local historian Marshall Shore is a fan. “That's an amazing sign,” Shore says. “The fact it's very original and that it dates back to that era of, 'Hey, here's a big arrow that shows you that Jerry's Liquor is right this way.'” 

The “Diving Lady” at the Starlite Motel in Mesa.EXPAND
The “Diving Lady” at the Starlite Motel in Mesa.
Archie Tucker/Flickr

Starlite Motel (a.k.a. the “Diving Lady”)

2710 East Main Street, Mesa, 480-964-2201

Fans of neon culture and local historic preservationist crowd applauded in 2013 when this towering animated neon sign, which depicts a bathing beauty taking a high-dive plunge into a pool, located at the Starlite Motel in Mesa was restored after being toppled by a thunderstorm three years earlier. Widely considered to be the most famous neon sign in the Valley, dubbed the “Diving Lady,” debuted in 1960 and has become both a local landmark and cultural touchstone for longtime residents, as well as a beautiful remnant of a bygone era.

Courtesy Chevrolet's iconic sign.EXPAND
Courtesy Chevrolet's iconic sign.
Benjamin Leatherman

Courtesy Chevrolet

1233 East Camelback Road, 480-359-1354

The Camelback Corridor wouldn't look the same without the ever-present sparkle, glitter, and glow provided by the iconic and historic sign at Courtesy Chevrolet being a part of the street's skyline. Built in 1957 when the auto dealership moved to its present location, it has a significant mid-century modern flair with its arrow-shaped design, an emphasis on twinkling lights, and rounded edges, making it very much a product of its era. A flashy tableau of hundreds of shimmering and winking lights are contained within the letters, each of which is outlined in cerulean neon.

According to the staff at the dealership, the sign has undergone some changes in recent years, such as replacing its mechanical flashers and incandescent bulbs with LEDs, in order to make it more energy conscious. The dealership staff also conducts routine inspections and maintenance on the sign, both to keep things in good operating properly and to ensure the towering sign is structurally sound. Good thing, too, since monsoon thunderstorms have dealt a few tragic blows to many historic signs around the Valley over the years.

Editor's note: This article was previously published in December 2015 and has been updated.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.