Some people use the term “geek” in a derogatory fashion. Not me. That’s because I am one–and I make no apologies for it. I grew up reading comic books and watching Star Trek and Star Wars, and I never stopped loving those things. My favorite hangout in Las Vegas used to be the Star Trek Experience. I’ve been wishing that someone would open a scifi themed bar or resort to fill the gap ever since the Experience closed. Sadly, that hasn’t happened.
But I was able to feed my inner geek on my last trip to Vegas in a handful of spots. If you’re secretly (or not so secretly) into Marvel comics and Star Wars and UFOs and love to indulge your inner geek whenever you go on vacation, here are some places for you to check out in Las Vegas:
Toy Shack at Neonopolis
The minute I walked into this store, my eyes nearly short-circuited from the visual overload of themed merchandise, stacked high on shelves. The Toy Shack has toys and collectibles of all kinds, new and old–and even some that are out of circulation. For sci fi and comic book fans, there are collectibles from series like Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, and DC.
General Manager Devon walked me through the store and showed me a doll that legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne had made to raise money and awareness when their baby son was kidnapped. The store also has old Matchbox cars (the kind my brother and I played with when we were kids) plus trains from the 1950s.
Go here when you have 30-60 minutes to really geek out and relive your lost youth. It’ll take you a while to see everything.
Celestial Comics at Neonopolis
If you’re a comic book fan, you should definitely check this place out. The walls are painted with beautiful starscapes. When you walk through the door, it’s like a sign that you’ve entered that sci fi/fantasy world, so to speak. I liked it.
The #1 reason to visit is that they have a huge collection of great comic books (and other merchandise), and they’re well-organized. There are sofas in the middle of the store where you can sit and either read comics or watch them on TV, or just have a discussion with other fans. The owners go to comic conventions around the country and are constantly picking up items for the store–like the Thor-themed guitar signed by the great Stan Lee that was on display when I was there.
I learned more about comic books in 20 minutes at this store than I have during the entire rest of my life. Michael, who was working the counter the morning I visited, was only too happy to answer my many questions about comic books. First, he showed me how comic books are rated for their value, and how points are docked for things like color breaks around the edges, worn spines, etc. He described how comic books are reviewed for their kid-friendliness (based on content and images) and the resulting rating is listed on the cover next to the UPC code.
He also taught me a peculiarity about “variant covers.” We’ve all seen magazines like TV Guide or Entertainment Weekly feature variant covers for some big pop culture phenomenon like Lord of the Rings or Star Trek. But sometimes, even when a comic is about one character or group of characters, the cover will be for a completely different character/s. (A Spiderman comic, for instance, might have a cover depicting the Agents of SHIELD Level 7 art.) This is usually a test drive to see if there’s interest in future comics for the variant character/s. I found this a bit confusing (why would you have characters on a comic book cover if they’re not featured in the comic at all?), but it was fascinating to learn about. My time here was well-spent.
Ink & Vector at the Miracle Mile Shops, Planet Hollywood
Ink & Vector sells primarily “geek girl” clothing. (The salesgirl told me so many guys had stopped in wondering where the men’s clothes were that they’ve started to include some men’s options as well.) I LOVE the concept of this store and its location in the Miracle Mile Shops.
The store is a bit too small, though, in my opinion, so there’s only so much space for merchandise. They tend to go with whatever is hot at the moment in the geek world (I’m sure they had Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise on hand when that movie came out). When I was there, I saw just a tiny bit of Marvel and Star Wars, but a lot more of things like Doctor Who and Walking Dead clothing.
Because the merchandise is constantly turning over, you never know what you’ll find here. It’s worth making it a regular stop on your Vegas trips. I hope they’re incredibly successful so they can expand to a larger storefront. The possibilities for themed merchandise (DC, Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, X-Files) are endless.
The Atomic Testing Museum, 755 E Flamingo Rd
They have a killer Area 51 Exhibit, and their main exhibit isn’t bad either. If you’re intrigued by the idea of UFOs (were you a fan of the X-Files?), then you’ll want to head over to this museum. I wouldn’t say I’m a “believer,” but there is definitely some compelling evidence here. (Read my full review of The Atomic Testing Museum.)
Madame Tussaud’s Marvel Exhibit at the Venetian
I am only including this because I’m sure someone will mention it if I don’t. But I can’t really recommend it for 2 reasons:
- Madame Tussaud’s is a ridiculously overpriced attraction ($30, unless you can find a discount)–especially if you’re only going to see the Marvel Exhibit and you don’t care about the other exhibits.
- Their Marvel section is pretty skimpy.
The Marvel Exhibit is disappointing. All they have are Spiderman, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the Iron Man Suit, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and a giant Hulk smashing through a wall (which admittedly, is a cool photo opp if you’ve got someone to take your picture). That’s it. No Captain America, no Thor, no Loki, no Black Widow, Hawkeye, Maria Hill or Coulson. Certainly no Agents of SHIELD.
There is an even more disappointing 4D movie here. My prior experience with 4D movies comes from Disney World, Universal Orlando and the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton. This 4D experience is nothing like those. While the 4D effects themselves were okay, the movie is a cartoon (with a lousy plot), not a movie with real actors from the current stable of Marvel movies. Lame.
So yes, you can get your sci fi geek fix, but it will be a brief, expensive fix and you will feel dirty afterwards. Until they beef up this exhibit, I’d suggest you skip it.
The End Bunker Bar and Killer Pizzaria, 4821 Spring Mountain Rd.
I’m not really into zombies, but this place sounds interesting even to me. It’s located about 10 minutes off the Strip, so you would need access to a car or to pony up for cab fare. I love their menu. They have items like “Apocalypse Pizza,” “Zombie Stopper Pizza,” “the Zomboli,” and “Machete Bread.” (I’m so easily amused.) I’m not sure I’d fit in here; it sounds a little hard core. Have any of you visited? Can you describe what it’s really like?
Insert Coins, Fremont East
I keep meaning to check this place out, and for one reason or another, I still haven’t. But it’s totally up my alley. It’s a video arcade bar on Fremont Street featuring games like Street Fighter II, Asteroids, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Space Invaders–you know, the classics. I am going to go on record right now as saying that this is a MUST SEE for me on my next trip, dammit. (So hold me to that!) Unfortunately, they also have a DJ scene which is a real turnoff for me, but maybe I can sneak in early in the day before the DJ crowd shows up.
The Pinball Hall of Fame, 1610 E. Tropicana Ave.
This is one of my favorite places in Vegas. It’s also about 10 minutes off the Strip, easily accessible by car, bus or cab. They have over 150 pinball machines here from the 1950s to present time, including machines themed for Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Star Wars, CSI, and more. This place is a blast. (For a full review, go here.) There is also an annex of the Pinball Hall of Fame at the Riviera Hotel & Casino.
If all else fails, you can always get your geek on by playing some scifi and comic-themed slot machines: Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, Iron Man, Lord of the Rings, and the Walking Dead, among others, are all available in casinos all over town.