Timing is everything, isn’t it? I was stoked when I heard that the Tropicana was opening up the Las Vegas Mob Experience–a combination museum/interactive experience with actors and a mob theme. Then I was crushed when I learned it wouldn’t be open in time for my last trip to Las Vegas. So naturally, it was a priority for me to see when I was in the city in September. The day after I went, news broke that the Experience was shutting down the “interactive” part for a few months for “upgrades”. How typical. What does this mean for you, if you want to visit?
For now, a cheaper ticket price and just museum artifacts. Longer term, who knows? It sounds as though they’re just upgrading the technology due to some glitches that have occurred (as opposed to overhauling the whole thing ala the Viva Las Elvis show)–and I hope that’s true, because it would be a shame if they messed too much with this Experience. Not that the museum artifacts aren’t interesting on their own–they are.
There is a lot of detailed information here about the history of the Mob as it pertains to Las Vegas and quite a few artifacts that belonged to various mobsters (including a car, entire living room sets, guns, knives, letters, clothing, etc.). Some of the information I knew already (about Bugsy Siegel, for instance), but much of it, I didn’t. But for my money, it was the interactive element that made this experience so much fun.
When I signed in, I was able to choose one of a handful of well-known actors who have played mobsters in TV and film to be my “guide”. I chose James Caan. I was given the moniker “Legs.” After an initial briefing from a hologram guide, I was told to go to a door, knock on it, and give the password–just like a speakeasy. The interactive part of the Mob Experience has guests pretending to be initiates into “the Family”, trying to make our way up the ranks of the mob.
At first, I felt a little weird doing the experience by myself, but I think in the long run it worked out better for me, since I didn’t have an “audience”, so to speak. I was able to really get into the role I was playing and interact with the actors in a way that felt a lot like improv. It was a blast. At various points, I improvised my way through scenes with mobsters, police, and the FBI. At one point, I held the fate of a casino cheater in my hands when I had to choose whether my goons would kill him or not.
Me: Can we just break his knee caps instead?
Mobster: No. But we can smash up his hands.
Me: Yeah, let’s do that.
See? Being in the mob isn’t so hard.
At the end of the Experience, I entered the final room, where I learned my own fate–either I would rise to the top of the Mob, or get whacked. The Boss himself came out. It was a tense moment.
Boss: There’s two kinds of people I hate. The kind that squeals to the cops and the kind with sticky fingers. [Dramatic pause.] I think we both know which kind you are.
Me: Oh shit.
Two mob goons with machine guns came out and whacked me. I got blasted with air to simulate bullets whizzing by. It was an interesting 4D experience, that’s for sure.
The gift shop here is fun to browse through. They have a great sense of humor, and there’s a lot of humor to milk here. I was thisclose to buying a tee shirt that read
You don’t know me: Federal Witness Protection Program.
What’s worrisome is that this attraction didn’t have a lot of foot traffic when I went. That could be a problem. If they hope to keep the attraction open long-term, my advice would be to beef up marketing and signage to help people find it. It is way, way, way at the back of the Tropicana, and even though I was specifically looking for it, I almost couldn’t find it, because it’s down a set of escalators. So it’s certainly not ever going to get “drop in” customers.
I’d also recommend lowering the $30 price a bit once they reopen with the technology upgrades. Right now, in this economy, people are watching every dollar–and that $30 for this attraction has to compete with food, booze, gambling and cab fare in Las Vegas. I paid $20 for my discount ticket, and I wouldn’t want to pay much more than that–even though I think this is a great attraction. (As a comparison, you can see white tigers and lions and dolphins–and stay as long as you want–at the Mirage for just $17.)
Who knows what the eventually revamped Las Vegas Mob Experience will look like? Maybe it will be similar to what I experienced, or maybe it will look totally different. In the meantime, you can still see the museum artifacts at a reduced price of $10–which is well worth it if you’re interested in learning more about Las Vegas’s mob history. Just remember, no photography or food/drinks allowed inside. . .or you might find yourself swimming with the fishes at the bottom of Lake Mead.