At the end of March, IT engineers and architects will descend upon Las Vegas for Interop, the biggest independent IT conference of the year. The show will be packed with the latest technology, including everything from OpenFlow to 802.11ac and SSDs to DIMMs. But even the biggest technophile needs have a little fun at the end of the day, and Las Vegas is certainly the place to find it. If you want to get away from the glitzy shows and casinos, check out these places where nerds can let loose.
If you're a dancing nerd, the place to go is Insert Coin(s), an "interactive videolounge" that features an LED-illuminated Beta Bar from which partygoers can play Xbox 360 or PlayStation games in high resolution on 14 large-screen TVs. For more nostalgic gamers, the club boasts 60 vintage arcade favorites such as Ms. Pac Man and Tetris. There are also special events and music theme nights, often featuring guest DJs from around the world.
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.
A Dam Marvel of Engineering
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Blast From the Past
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.
Peering Into the Paranormal
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 and receive a ticket to Madame Tussaud's haunted wax museum. An FAQ on the tour's website assures prospective customers that the tour is "not hokey."
NOC Sweet NOC
When you've had enough of the weirdness and wildness that makes up Las Vegas, you may feel like heading for some familiar ground. That's when you can take some solace in the comfort of the InteropNet NOC. All the technology that powers the conference network resides there, and the engineers that manage the network are happy to show you around, calming you down after a busy day of learning and seeing the sights, nerdy or not.