From an atomic museum to a sci-fi center, Vegas has lots of nerdy attractions.
IT practitioners soon will be heading to Las Vegas for Interop ITX and a packed week of educational sessions, keynotes, checking out new technology, and networking. There will be so much learning, special events, and fun activities that you probably won't have too much time left over.
But if you do find yourself with some spare time, and want to explore outside the casinos, we've got some ideas. Vegas is, shall we say, a unique place in more ways than one. Beyond the gambling and glitzy shows, there are several places in Sin City that have a special appeal for IT geeks. You can check out atomic artifacts, play vintage pinball machines, play a CSI, and much more during your time in Vegas.
Check out these geeky things to do if you have a little downtime in the desert.
It's da bomb!
The National Atomic Testing Museum, located just off the Strip, is home of one of the world's largest collections of nuclear history. The museum boasts more than 12,000 materials and artifacts relating to atomic testing, the Nevada Test Site, the Cold War, and nuclear and radiological science and technology. It also features an exhibit devoted to Area 51 that explores the facts versus the myths surrounding the place.
(Image source: National Atomic Testing Museum)
The Pinball Hall of Fame is not technically a museum, but the personal collection of one man, and includes more than 1,000 machines with 150 available for the public to play in a Las Vegas storefront. The collection features games from every era and on every theme, but emphasizes those from the 1960s to '80s, otherwise known as the golden age of pinball. It also includes some electronic arcade games. At a quarter or 50 cents a pop, your money lasts longer here than the casino.
(Image source: Pinball Hall of Fame)
The Sci Fi Center is a comic and collectibles store in the front, with a small screening room in the back for movie showings and live performances. One reviewer on Yelp described the indie center, the creation of one man, as "an almost geek Eden." Patrons might see anything from old sci-fi movies to cult classics like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," to a live version of "Night of the Living Dead" where the audience gets splattered with fake blood and brain matter.
(Image source: The Sci-Fi Center)
The successor to the old Star Trek Experience in Vegas is CSI: The Experience. A little more blood and guts, but more science! You'll play CSI's latest recruit, examine bullet casings and hair while you investigate three different murders at fifteen different "stations" where you will learn more about CSI the show and CSI the job. Who doesn't want to figure out whodunnit? CSI: The Experience is conveniently located at the MGM Grand.
(Image source: MGM Grand)
For IT pros interested in civil engineering, the Hoover Dam is a must see. Located about 30 miles outside of the city, visiting the dam requires a car trip, bus tour, or -- for the very adventurous -- a helicopter ride. Once there, you can take a tour of the dam and the power plant that operates there, both of which are packed with science and history.
(Image source: US Bureau of Reclamation)
Game of Thrones IRL
Even non-nerds get a thrill from knights in shining armor on gallant steeds, and there are knights aplenty at the Tournament of Kings dinner show at the Excalibur hotel. See them jousting in real life, while wizards and dragons cavort and fair maidens serve you a three-course dinner you eat with your fingers.
(Image: Erik Kabik/Excalibur)
You'll see your share of glitz and digital signage in Las Vegas, but much of the neon it was famous for has disappeared. Never fear, it is ensconced in the Neon Museum downtown. Here, more than 150 neon signs are on display and illuminated at night in the "Neon Boneyard." You can explore two acres of signs and light displays dating back to the 1930s, either on a self-guided tour any time you like, or from a scheduled expert guide.
(Image source: The Neon Museum)
Geeks tend to avoid the ordinary. So if you're looking for a different way to check out the sites in Vegas other than a tour bus or walking tour, you might want to try a three-wheel scooter. Scoot City offers daily tours with five stops, including the Bellagio, the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign, and the place where the popular "Pawn Stars" TV show is filmed. This tour is a bit of a time and money investment, but the operators promise lots of safe fun that will make you feel like a kid again.
(Image source: Scoot City)
Check out the Penn & Teller Magic Show at the Rio Las Vegas. The quirky duo mixes comedy and sleight of hand, and also performs tricks that explore the intellectual aspects of magic. One of their routines, "Magician vs. Juggler," features the mute Teller performing card tricks while Penn juggles and delivers a monologue on the difference between the two. Jugglers, he explains, start out as social children who go outside and learn juggling with other children. Magicians, on the other hand, are misfits who stay in the house and teach themselves magic tricks out of spite.
(Image source: Rio Las Vegas)
If you're the ghostbusting type of geek, you may want to buy a ticket to the Haunted Vegas Ghost Hunt. This adventure takes you around the city to visit places where the spirits of celebrities such as Liberace, Elvis, Redd Foxx and Bugsy Siegel are reported to frequent. Tour leaders use EMF meters, temperature guns and dowsing rods to identify paranormal activity. Participants get to keep the complimentary "ghost finder" dowsing rods, plus they are treated to a pizza party.
(Image source: Haunted Vegas Ghost Hunt)
Vegas was founded (at least partially) by the mob. The Mob Museum is located in a former federal courthouse where many of them faced the law. In a city that likes to knock things down for new and shiny things, it is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in town. They have mob artifacts from Vegas and around the country, including items from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
(Image: The Mob Museum)
Geeks with guns
When you really want to forget you're a geek, what do you do? You head to a friendly shooting range, of course. One like Machine Guns Vegas that not only offers indoor target practice, but has special packages including bachelorette parties and adventures involving speeding race cars, dune buggies, zombies, and Navy SEALs. In true Vegas style, the outfit even employs "legendary Gun Girls" who will ensure that "you are comfortable and confident with shooting, and that your expectations are exceeded."
(Image source: Machine Guns Vegas)