Are you a geek? You can tell me. After all, I’m a geek. I love science fiction and the nerdy science of CSI, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy is both my favorite book series ever and my favorite movie series ever. When I first started visiting Las Vegas, back in 2001, I discovered my Geek Mecca, aka The Star Trek Experience, at the (then) Las Vegas Hilton. For a Trekkie like me, there was nothing better than being able to immerse myself in the world of Star Trek for a few hours every year.
For those of you who never got a chance to visit, let me tell you, the attention to detail was enough to rival Disney World. There was a warp core and laser beams in the Space Quest Csino, along with the requisite slot machines. Large scale models of the Enterprise and Voyager hung overhead from a starscape ceiling. The History of the Future Museum had lots of costumes and props from the various Star Trek series and movies, as well as a timeline of the Star Trek universe. There was a fun motion simulator ride involving Klingons and a 4D experience involving a Borg invasion–both featuring actors to help bring the experience to life.
When you were done with the rides, you could wander through the Promenade stores (ala Deep Space Nine) for some shopping (of Trek merchandise, of course) or grab a seat at Quark’s Bar for a frosty Raktajino (or the infamous Warp Core Breach, served in a fishbowl sized glass) and Flaming Ribs of Targ while enjoying conversations with Borg, Ferengi, and Klingons. TVs all over the walls aired old episodes of Star Trek all day, every day. If I had died while visiting the Star Trek Experience, I’d have died a happy person.
The world is a big place. Outside of the Internet, it’s often difficult to find people who share our most passionate interests. At the Star Trek Experience, there was no question that I would meet people who shared my geeky love for scifi. Instead of asking “What do you do for a living?” we would ask “Who was your favorite captain?” And off we’d go on a long, far-ranging discussion of science fiction in popular culture.
But all good things must come to an end, and in 2008, the Hilton kicked the Star Trek Experience to the curb. But not before a whole slew of us fans gathered to say our proper goodbyes at the Decommissioning Ceremony. Snicker if you will, but that was a very emotional evening for all of us who were there. We lost something irreplaceable that night: a place where we could let our geekiness shine without fear of judgment.
There was some lingering hope for a while there that the Experience would be resurrected in a new Vegas location, but those hopes have long since been dashed. Fast forward to the Las Vegas of 2012, with its nightclubs and dayclubs and hip, celebrity chef restaurants and increasingly de-themed hotels. Where do the Vegas geeks go now to feel at home?
To be honest, I haven’t found that place yet. And because of this, I feel something has been lacking from my Vegas experience over the past few years. Perhaps I need to start timing my trips to coincide with the annual Star Trek Convention in Vegas, but I’d rather know there is a place in Vegas where geeks can gather all year long.
The CSI Experience and the Pinball Hall of Fame are certainly good, geeky fun, but it’s not the same as spending an evening at Quark’s Bar. Insert Coins on Fremont East would seem to appeal to gamer geeks, but I haven’t had an opportunity to visit yet to check it out. (It’s on my list for September.) My friend Cory, who writes the blog Geeks in Vegas, likes the Royal House lobby bar as a good alternative to the Strip scene, with its “great live music and killer vibe”, but even he admits he has yet to find a real replacement hangout for geek culture in Vegas.
I would love to see some enterprising soul create a new haven for geeks on or near the Strip. I mean, after all, there are plenty of sports bars around for sports fans; Parrotheads have Margaritaville, bikers have the Harley Davidson Cafe, cowboys have Gilleys, rock fans have the Hard Rock Hotel, and the country-western fans have Toby Keith’s Bar and Grill. Why shouldn’t the scifi geeks have a place, too? Heck, it doesn’t even have to have a ton of theming; I’d pretty much live in any bar that just airs episodes of the X-Files or Battlestar Galactica on their TVs instead of the usual sports or news.
What do you think? Is there money to be had in Las Vegas by creating fun spaces for special interest groups like scifi geeks–or should I pin all my hopes on the new Star Trek theme park that Jordan is building?