If your tots think museums are dull, dry and boring, give them a big shock with a visit to a museum that will light up their faces.  Literally!  The Museum of Neon Art (re)opened with a new home in Glendale on February 6, and it’s a bright addition to LA’s museum landscape. Bring the littles and let them bask in the glow of this piece of the city’s history, artistry and the fascinating world of electric art.

claytonneonphoto: LeTania Kirkland

A Brief History
Founded in 1981, MONA was originally located downtown.  After several relocations (Universal Citywalk, Grand Hope Park, Historic Core) the museum was shuttered for several years and as of this month has a permanent home in Glendale.  Now kids and parents can bask in the glow of the history and craftsmanship of this fascinatingly different art form.

The Tour Begins Outdoors
Before you walk into the museum you begin the tour. The infamous neon “diving woman” sits atop the new shiny building. Also along the walkway leading to the main lobby is the Clayton Plumbers Sign. The original was too damaged to travel to the new location but the recreation is still a treat. At night, the leaky faucet releases glowing neon water droplets.

neonclocksphoto: LeTania Kirkland

Step Back In Time
One inside the fun continues in the main lobby. Peer up onto the towering west facing wall for the exhibition “It’s About Time” and see a collection of neon clocks from the work of artists Curtis Stimpson, Larry Albright and Eric Evavold. There is also a small photo exhibition of photos of 20th century neon signage in Glendale taken by photographer Glenn B. Ward.  And (whether you like it or not) the main lobby houses the gift shop. There you will find a collection of t-shirts, trinkets and custom neon gifts.  Yes, the kids will want to light up their rooms.  Just remember, it’s the start of their career as art collectors!

neonartphoto: LeTania Kirkland

Down The Rabbit Hole to a Neon Wonderland
The museum’s main gallery is housed in one large room that includes vintage neon signs, original neon art pieces and moving sculptures. Kids get a kick out of basking in the old and new. You’ll have a chance to explain what the Van De Kamp Bakery is (do you feel old?) when they see the glowing blue sign. And they will have the chance to explain modern emotion to you when you take in the huge wall of neon emojis. The museum is on the small side, but there is just enough to keep the kids engaged, without getting antsy or bored.

neonpinsphoto: LeTania Kirkland

Educate Yourself
The museum also houses a workshop. Here you can take a peek through the glass windows and watch neon artists at work as they teach beginning and advanced neon crafting classes. You just may spark a new interest in your young explorers that will glow.  Er, grow.

outdoorneonphoto: LeTania Kirkland

Go Cruisin’
MONA also hosts monthly Neon Cruises. Join other neon enthusiasts for a tour through Downtown and Hollywood to absorb the glowing lights of classic movie marquees, contemporary neon signage and the other sparking lights that our city has to offer. This is a three hour tour that begins at 7:30 p.m., so it’s something you would want to save for the older kids or a unique date night activity.

neonhowdyphoto: LeTania Kirkland

Admission, Parking and Other Gotta Know Info

The museum is fascinating for kids (and grownups) of all ages, but if you’re visiting with young toddlers who like to touch things, be sure to carry them or keep them strapped into strollers. The neon signs have exposed bulbs that can get very hot and there are unprotected plugs/outlets. For fingers that can’t stay away, you might want to ensure they can’t touch.

Admission is $8 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. There is paid meter parking available in a public lot right behind the museum. However, if you aren’t pushing a stroller or dragging a reluctant toddler and can walk an entire half block there is 90 minutes free parking on 120 Maryland Ave. Keep in mind that MONA is directly across the street from The Americana. After you’ve taken in enough of the museum, walk across the street for lunch, shopping or a free ride on the Americana tram. Currently the museum is open with limited Winter Hours of Friday & Saturday from noon-7 p.m. and Sunday from noon-5 p.m. If you head out in the evening hours the MONA coupled with the nearby Alex Theatre and the lights of the Americana will give you a full dose of neon treats.

neondiverphoto: Karol Franks via Flickr

Museum of Neon Art
216 S. Brand Blvd
213-489-9918
Online: neonmona.org

What local museum lights you up?  We’d love to know in the comment section!

—LeTania Kirkland