Iconic City Signs
The entire purpose of signs is to call attention, so when a sign becomes iconic and recognized worldwide, you know that it's something special.
From the Las Vegas sign to Penny Lane street signs, we're rounding up the most famous signs around the world, ordered alphabetically.
How many of these do you recognize?
Atlantic City Welcome Sign
Location: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Find it at: The Atlantic City Expressway overpass as you enter the city
Year put up: It's undergone several variations throughout the years, with the most recent being in 2015.
History: Atlantic City Sign
Atlantic City has been a popular destination for people from the northeast since the 1800s, but it didn't get its gambling and casino reputation until the 1970s.
While the exact year the now-iconic sign was put up is unclear, it probably became iconic after being featured in several movies that take place in the city, such as "Bounty Hunters" starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler.
The sign has been used for several tourism campaigns and has displayed different slogans, including a lewd play on words, "Atlantic City: Always Turned On," and "In one mile, you’ll be a million miles away."
In 2015, the iconic city sign was taken down after it was discovered that there was no permit for it. However, due to local outrage, it was promptly put back up even before the proper permits were given.
Beverly Hills Sign
Location: Beverly Hills, California
Find it at: Beverly Gardens Park
Year put up: 1930
History: Beverly Hills Signs
Synonymous with the rich and famous, Beverly Hills has been the cozy home of celebrities since the 1920s, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton resided here. Today, its residents include Taylor Swift, John Legend and Jennifer Lawrence.
Due to its status, even the city signs of Beverly Hills are iconic, with tourists sometimes trying to snap pictures of all 33 shield signposts. (Though in our opinion, if you've seen one, you've seen them all.) The most iconic sign, however, is the 40-foot arched sign at Beverly Gardens Park, which stands over a lily pond.
The sign was erected in 1930 when the park was extended for eight entire blocks and has been a popular tourist attraction ever since.
Broadway Street Signs
Location: New York, New York
Find it in: Along Manhattan and the Bronx
Year put up: Circa 1664
History: Broadway Street Signs
Though the year of the current design for the signs is unknown, there have been signs marking Broadway Street since 1664, the same year that the British took what is now New York City from the Dutch.
The British named this famous street Broadway Street because it was, well, broad. Though the name is not very imaginative, it is correct, as the street was originally a large, long trail made by the native Wecquaesgeek people. It is still one of the longest streets in the world.
Broadway Street didn't become world-famous until the 1920s and '30s when large theaters were built around it and when the name came to epitomize professional theater in New York. This is probably when the signs themselves also became iconic, particularly in the intersection of Broadway with West 42nd Street near Times Square.
Circus Liquors Sign
Location: Los Angeles, California
Find it at: The intersection of Burbank Boulevard and Vineland Avenue
Year put up: 1959
History: Circus Liquors Sign
What do you do if you have a liquor store and you want its logo to be a clown? Make the clown a 32-foot menacing statue that glows neon at night, of course!
The idea may seem strange, but it has helped the family that owns Circus Liquors put its business on the map, as this is now one of Los Angeles' most iconic signs. In fact, the evil-looking clown has served as the backdrop of several movies and music videos. This is where Alicia Silverstone's Cher gets mugged in "Clueless" and where the crime scene in Snoop Dog's video for "Murder Was the Case" happens.
Do you see a pattern here?
Chicago Theater Sign
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Find it at: 175 N. State Street
Year put up: 1921
History: Chicago Theater Sign
The 60-foot sign outside of the Chicago Theater is a landmark in itself. Recognized as the symbol for one of the city's most important entertainment venues and one of the country's best theaters, the sign glows with white, neon letters against a neon, red backdrop.
The Chicago Theater was originally built in 1921 as a movie hall but became a venue for live entertainment and events in the 1980s.
The sign was put up at the same time as the theater and has not changed much in its 100 years — probably because it became so iconic, there would be a national uproar if anyone tried to change its design. However, in 2011, Chase was allowed to put its logo on top of it to indicate sponsorship.
Churchhill Downs Sign
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Find it at: 700 Central Avenue
Year put up: 1875
History: Churchill Downs Sign
Churchill Down held its first horse race in 1875 and has stayed open ever since. The site of the Kentucky Derby, this horse-racing track holds the record for hosting the longest-running continuous sporting event in the U.S.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the sign that proudly displays the name of the track is recognizable to anyone in the horse-racing world as well as die-hard sports fans.
The sign was joined in 2009 by a statue in memory of Barbaro, a racehorse that won the 2006 Derby but tragically had to be put down shortly after for laminitis.
Domino Sugars Sign
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Find it at: Baltimore Harbor
Year put up: 1951
History: Domino Sugars Sign
Put up by the Domino Sugars company to mark its factory in Baltimore, this glowing yellow sign quickly became a symbol of the city and is beloved by locals. You'll find souvenir shops cashing in on the sign's popularity by selling trinkets and even T-shirts that replicate and display it.
The sign stood above the Baltimore Harbor, lighting up the city's skyline for 70 years, only shutting down its lights for a short time in the 1970s due to an ingoing energy crisis.
In February 2021, the Domino Sugars company announced that it would be taking down the sign and replacing it completely. The company cited rusting steel and deterioration as reasons for removing the sign. Being aware of its importance to the city, however, they plan on making its LED replacement as close to the original as possible.
Ebenezer Baptist Church Sign
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Find it at: 101 Jackson Street North East
Year put up: 1886
History: Ebenezer Baptist Church Sign
When Ebenezer Baptist Church was open in the late 19th century, it probably did not predict that it would become one of the most famous churches in America.
It was in this church where Martin Luther King Jr. saw his father preaching and where he himself preached from 1960 up until his tragic assassination in 1968. Because many of Dr. King's contributions to the civil rights movement happened while he preached to his congregation, the church is now a symbol of the fight for equality and is now part of Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.
The simple sign outside the church has also become iconic, with many people posing in front of it as they visit some of the places that were most important to Dr. King.
The Electric City Sign
Location: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Find it at: Downtown Scranton
Year put up: 1923
History: The Electric City Sign
You probably associate Scranton with "The Office" more than with innovation, but this quiet Pennsylvania city was once a pioneer of embracing a groundbreaking new technology called electricity.
When Scranton called itself "the Electric City," it wasn't exaggerating. In the 1880s, it was one of the first cities to have electricity and to use electric-powered streetcars. The sign was put up in 1923 to boast these accomplishments, and it used 1,200 lightbulbs just to show the rest of the world how far into the future they really were.
As you've probably guessed, the city didn't continue leading the way in innovation during the 20th century, and its iconic sign was actually turned off for several decades. However, it was revitalized in 2004 and then taken down and replaced with an LED sign in 2014.
Farine Five Roses Sign
Location: Montreal, Canada
Find it at: 950 Rue Mill
Year put up: 1954
History: Farine Five Roses Sign
The Farine Five Roses sign has been a fixture of Montreal since the 1950s. Before that, its place was taken by a sign advertising a different kind of flour.
The sign is famous not only for its distinctiveness in the Quebecois city's skyline but also because it was the humorous victim of a 1977 law that made French the province's official language. The law prohibited signs from using English unless the words were part of a brand name. Because of this, the sign had to drop the word "flour," which was placed at the end, keeping only the French word "Farine."
In 2007, the brand's parent company sold it to a competitor and shut down the sign since it made no sense for them to advertise it anymore. However, the shutdown only lasted a month, given the public uproar that followed. The sign can still be seen today, lighting up the Montreal sky.
Fisherman’s Wharf Sign
Location: San Francisco, California
Find it at: The corner of Pier 39 and Hyde Pier
Year put up: 1980s
History: Fisherman’s Wharf Sign
Made into the shape of a ship's wheel with a crab in the center, this sign is not just iconic, it's also beautifully designed.
Originally, Fisherman's Wharf sprung up during the California Gold Rush when fishermen decided this is where they would sell their fish to miners looking to strike gold. Later in the 1930s, restaurants opened around the wharf and the nearby Pier 39, using the freshness of the fish as a way to attract customers.
But it wasn't until the 1980s that the sign was put up as part of the city's initiative to revitalize the area into the commerce center and tourist attraction that it is today. It is now a popular photo spot for visitors of the Bay Area.
Location: Hollywood, California
Find it at: Griffith Park
Year put up: 1923
History: Hollywood Sign
It's hard to imagine Los Angeles existing without the Hollywood sign, one of the most recognizable signs in the entire world. Ironically, the sign wasn't put up by the city or by Hollywood executives but, instead, by a real estate company advertising its new development. Originally, it read "Hollywoodland."
Despite becoming a symbol of the city and a popular tourist attraction, the sign was abandoned and left to deteriorate for several decades. The deterioration was such, that in the late 1970s, Hugh Hefner decided to hold a fundraiser asking celebrities to "adopt" a letter for a mere $25,000. Alice Cooper and Andy Williams are among the people who forked over the amount.
In the end, the sign was brought back to life and will, hopefully, never be allowed to deteriorate again.
Kangaroo Warning Signs
Find it at: Everywhere in the country, but we recommend the Northern Territory
Year put up: Unknown
History: Kangaroo Warning Signs
It's not every day that a normal road sign becomes famous around the world. Of course, in the case of kangaroo warning signs, normal is a relative term.
These road signs can be found in pretty much every region of Australia, particularly outside of cities and near parks and preserves where wild kangaroos roam and may decide to cross the road.
Of course, this is completely normal for Australia, but for the rest of the world, the signs hold a quirkiness and are an immediate symbol of the country. Honestly, we wouldn't mind being known for kangaroos crossing the road.
London Underground Signs
Location: London, England
Find it at: Underground stations, fashion stores, nightclubs, etc.
Year put up: 1908
History: London Underground Signs
This world-famous city sign was originally designed by Frank Pick, who was a public relations manager and knew nothing of design. This may explain the simple yet effective style that has marked the London underground since 1908.
The sign was updated several times during the 20th century, particularly as it became more iconic, but the new designs mostly simplified and changed the font of the original, keeping its general aesthetic.
Perhaps because it symbolized modernity or maybe because it was connected to the literal underground, the sign has become a part of British pop culture and has been adopted by nightclubs, clothing brands and activist movements.
Mall of America Sign
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Find it at: 60 East Broadway
Year put up: 1992
History: Mall of America Sign
What could be a better symbol of the American Dream than a gigantic mall built in the place where a sports stadium used to stand?
The largest mall in the entire country, the Mall of America sees about 400 million visitors every single year — to put that into perspective, the entire population of the U.S. is around 328 million!
It's no wonder, then, that this is one of the country's most recognizable signs. Having been put up in the same year as the mall was built, it will likely stay up as long as the mall exists. We predict that will be a long, long time.
Midway U.S.A. Sign
Location: Kinsley, Kansas
Find it at: US Highway 50
Year put up: Unknown
History: Midway U.S.A. Sign
It is unknown exactly when this sign in the small town of Kinsley was put up. But we do know that in 1939, the sign made the town famous for being the halfway point between New York and San Francisco, which, as the sign says, are both exactly 1,561 miles away.
In this fateful year, both cities hosted different World Fairs, leaving everyone in the country to decide which one to attend. The Saturday Evening Post capitalized on this by featuring the sign claiming to be midway between the cities along with two cars going in separate directions. Suddenly, the entire country knew about Kinsley, which in turn capitalized on the publicity to attract tourists.
The sign used to be located within the town at the actual midway point. But people kept stealing it, so it was moved to the highway where it would be safe from thieves and have a better chance of attracting tourists.
Moulin Rouge Sign
Location: Paris, France
Find it at: 82 Boulevard de Clichy
Year put up: 1889
History: Moulin Rouge Sign
This Moulin Rouge sign is as unique as it is famous.
The cabaret venue is credited with inventing the can-can dance, was a favorite spot for bohemian artists like Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and has been featured in several movies, including an eponymous one starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
The sign and its accompanying red mill have been around since the Belle Epoque; however, the originals burned down with the rest of the building in 1915. Thankfully, the Moulin Rouge was rebuilt and reopened in 1921, and its sign continues to be an iconic feature of the Montmartre neighborhood in Paris.
Penny Lane Sign
Location: Liverpool, England
Find it at: South Liverpool
Year put up: Circa 1890
History: Penny Lane Sign
You know the song, but did you know the real street that inspired the 1967 Beatles classic was where John Lennon and Paul McCartney spent much of their youth? The famous pair would wait for the bus in the area surrounding the street and bond during the route. In many ways, Penny Lane was responsible for their closeness, which led to one of the best collaborations in music history.
After the song was released, the street became a tourist attraction. At one point, so many signs were stolen that the city decided to paint the name of the street on the walls instead. They eventually put the signs back, and now many streets display both a sign and a painted name. Hey, we don't mind a double Penny Lane photo op.
Pike Place Market Sign
Location: Seattle, Washington
Find it at: The Central Business District
Year put up: 1927
History: Pike Place Market Sign
The oldest continuously operating marketplace in the U.S., Pike Place Market has been providing fresh food to Seattleites since 1907.
The now-famous sign that graces its entrance was put up 20 years later and continues to be one of the most recognizable symbols of Seattle.
If you visit the market, you'll get a chance not only to see the sign but to also visit Starbucks' first store when it was still a small, local coffee shop. Imagine that!
Platform 9 3/4 Sign
Location: London, England
Find it at: Kings Cross Station
Year put up: 2005
History: Platform 9 3/4 Sign
Platform 9 3/4 in London's Kings Cross station is a rare case of a sign becoming famous before it actually exists. The whimsical sign comes from the much beloved Harry Potter series, which details how wizards catch the Hogwarts Express by running through the wall at platform 9 3/4.
Due to the worldwide popularity of the books and movies, Kings Cross station decided to bring the platform to life, complete with a trolley that looks like it's crossing into the wizarding world.
Until 2012, the platform was shuffled around due to construction and renovations at the station, much to the chagrin of tourists. Luckily, it is now a permanent fixture between platforms 9 and 10 and is a popular landmark in London.
Radio City Music Hall Sign
Location: New York, New York
Find it at: Rockefeller Center
Year put up: 1932
History: Radio City Music Hall Sign
Even if you've never had the pleasure to catch a show in New York's Radio City Music Hall, you've most likely seen its sign in too many movies to count.
The flashing vertical sign outside of the music hall in Rockefeller Center has been lighting up Manhattan since the 1930s and has been an official New York City Landmark since 1978.
The music hall was originally intended to be an opera house and was on the verge of bankruptcy in the 1970s, but it has managed to persevere. It is now famously the headquarters of the Rockettes.
Route 66 Signs
Find it at: Various locations throughout the Midwest and West Coast
Year put up: 1927
History: Route 66 Signs
Probably the most iconic highway in American history, Route 66 once connected the 2,400 miles between Chicago, Illinois, and Santa Monica, California.
The route, once called the Mother Road, is an integral part of 20th-century American culture, featured in movies like "Thelma and Louise" and "Easy Rider" as well as multiple books, including John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." Since the 1920s, the highway has been a symbol of freedom and counter-culture and has even inspired an entire clothing line.
Much of Route 66 was replaced in the late '80s by the Interstate Highway System, but you can still drive through parts of it and see its simple but iconic black and white signs.
Stomatol Toothpaste Sign
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Find it at: Slussenomradet area
Year put up: 1909
History: Stomatol Toothpaste Sign
This animated sign has been lighting up the Stockholm sky since 1909! The first of its kind in the country, the sign makes it seem as if toothpaste is being squeezed from a tube onto a toothbrush. It's a simple message that has proven timeless and effective.
The sign has changed locations throughout its more than 100 years advertising the Stomatol brand, and there have been periods in which it has gone dark. However, it can still be seen today and continues to use lightbulbs instead of neon tubes — a nod to its history and legacy.
Tio Pepe Sign
Location: Madrid, Spain
Find it at: Puerta del Sol
Year put up: 1936
History: Tio Pepe Sign
If your sharp eyes noticed that this is the only neon sign in Madrid's Puerta del Sol, it's because Tio Pepe is the exception to the rule.
When it was first put up in the 1930s, it was accompanied by several other flashing signs. Some were taken down when their companies went out of business, and some changed places, but those that were left were kicked to the curb in 2009 by a law prohibiting neon signage in the area.
The bottle, wearing a hat and holding a guitar while promising all of Madrid that its sherry is "Andalusian sun in a bottle" proved too charming to take down, so it was allowed to be the single exception to the new law. While we are all for protecting historic parts of cities, we are also happy that the lovable bottle was allowed to stay put.
Universal Studios Sign
Location: Orlando, Florida
Find it at: Universal Orlando Resort
Year put up: 1990
History: Universal Studios Sign
Universal Studios was conceived with the idea of bringing some of the company's most famous movies to life with thrilling theme park rides. Steven Spielberg collaborated with some of the original rides, which included a "Back to the Future" adventure in the DeLorean and a "Jaws" boat ride.
While the park has now expanded to include movies from other studios and is now most famous for its Harry Potter World, one thing has stayed consistent: its famous globe sign.
The large 3-D globe with the word "Universal" wrapping around it has been a feature of the park since it opened and is one of the most popular spots for tourists to take pictures.
Vegas Vic Sign
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Find it at: Fremont Street
Year put up: 1951
History: Vegas Vic Sign
When a sign is famous in a city known for its flashy neon signs, you know it's special.
The iconic giant cowboy set himself apart from all the other signs by waving his arm up and down, inviting people to come into the Pioneer Club with an audible, "Howdy partner!"
In the 1990s, Vegas Vic's arm stopped working, and the Pioneer Club closed down. But by then, the sign was just too important to the city to be removed. Today, his grin entices visitors to come into a souvenir shop.
Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Find it at: Southern end of the Las Vegas Strip
Year put up: 1959
History: Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Arguably the most famous welcome sign in the entire world, the Welcome to Las Vegas sign has been ingrained into pop culture for decades.
Its designer, Betty Willis, was inspired by the mid-20th-century Googie style, which was meant to imitate and celebrate technological advances and futuristic hopes. This, combined with Las Vegas' reputation as the Entertainment Capital of the World, explains the sign's flashy and quirky feel.
The sign certainly makes you think that the city you're about to enter will be as "fabulous" as it promises.
The White Stag Sign
Location: Portland, Oregon
Find it at: Skidmore/Old Town Historic District
Year put up: 1940
History: The White Stag Sign
As we've seen from previous entries, advertisement signs often become icons in their city. It is rare, however, for them to become the actual icon of their city.
The beautiful White Stag sign in Portland was originally used to advertise White Satin Sugar, being animated to gradually "fill up." It then served to advertise other brands, particularly White Stag Sportswear for 40 years.
The stag was designated a City of Portland Historic Landmark in the 1970s, the decade in which it also started sporting a red nose during Christmas. In 2010, Portland decided to officially take the symbol for itself, and for the last 11 years, the stag has been accompanied by the words "Portland, Oregon."
The Winking Owl Sign
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Find it at: Avinguda Diagonal 372
Year put up: Early 1970s
History: The Winking Owl Sign
This giant owl with large blinking yellow eyes has been looking over Barcelona for five decades. Located near La Sagrada Familia, the owl was created by Rótulos Roura, an advertising company known for creating striking, neon signs. (Go figure!) At night, the owl's eyes would open and close, to the delight and curiosity of the locals who came to love it.
This proved good for the owl in the 1990s when Spanish laws against light pollution ordered for neon advertisements to be taken down. (Yes, laws like the one that threatened Tio Pepe as well). Because of its status in the hearts of Barcelona locals, the owl was one of the few signs in the city that was allowed to stay up.
Even though Rótulos Roura closed years after putting up the worldless advertisement, the city of Barcelona now owns it and even restored it in 2011.
Wrigley Field Sign
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Find it at: 1060 West Addison Street
Year put up: 1914
History: Wrigley Field Sign
The Wrigley Field sign never even had to try to be famous. The stadium whose name it carries is the oldest park in the National Baseball League, and it is one of the most important baseball stadiums in the country, being home to the Chicago Cubs.
Even people who have never followed sports have most likely seen the sign at some point, given its appearance in film classics like "A League of their Own," "The Blues Brothers," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "My Best Friend's Wedding."