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Photo TR: Adam's 2023 Las Vegas Adventure

P. 2: Liftoff, Neon Museum and Manhattan Express

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While not on my planned trips for 2023/2024, when my wife found out that Kelly Clarkson was doing a limited residency in Las Vegas, before I knew it, we had tickets booked. This would be my second visit to Las Vegas to date (my first-timer report can be found here) and for this reason, the focus was less on rides and attractions (though I did squeeze in a few) and more on shows, Area 15, experiences and an underlying search for "Lost Vegas" along the way. I have been fascinated with the ebbs and flows of Vegas' attempts to offer family experiences and as such, looking at the legacy resorts on and off of the Strip to see what they tried (and in most cases, ultimately removed) to appeal to travelers with younger guests became a goal to seek out. 

It is worth noting that the weekend of the concert (Friday and Saturday) was also shared with a little-known sporting event...


We might have been the only people in town that came in for the weekend but not to end up here. We left on Saturday afternoon before the Sunday madness set in.


We scored a fantastic rate for a recently refurbished room at the Rio. The hotel itself was fairly standard, as was the casino, but as I was leaving the resort to head to their Uber pick-up, I noticed the peculiar structures in the ceiling that distinctly looked like some kind of track.


And I'd know a covered station anywhere... As it turns out, there was once an attraction called Masquerade in the Sky, a parade/show of sorts that guests and performers could ride along floats overhead the casino and throw beads from above. In ended its run in 2013 and the track is no longer in use.


We arrived late in the evening, but not too late to venture out for a quick stop at The Golden Tiki.


The Golden Tiki is filled with tiki decor throughout and features lots of fun surprises in each room.


Not unlike Trader Sam's on either coast, this bar does feature some effects that are triggered when guests order specific drinks.


Tiki flight for the win!


The space is truly gorgeous!


And yes, they have a real, working animatronic tiki bird perched above one side of the bar.


Fire makes all tiki drinks better!


I spy with my little eye, something Mary Blair!


The next morning we made our way to our next stop with our drive revealing lots of preparations for the Super Bowl under way.


I remember the Eiffel Tower being much larger the last time I saw it up close...


While delicious and refreshing, we didn't have time to visit the Coca-Cola Store during this trip. We really enjoyed it last time!


I went into this trip fairly confident I wouldn't be riding any coasters this time around, but I would end up being wrong.


Unlike our previous visit where the dry heat had us drowning in sweat, this time around we were graced with beautifully cold weather throughout our weekend. A pleasant surprise was the panoramic view of snow-capped mountains not too far off in the distance.


Our main objective for the day...


Liftoff was something I was very excited to try.


I can tell you I was VERY excited to finally get a chance to check out Area 15. We didn't have enough time during our last trip to stop by and especially after the Orlando location was announced, I was doubly eager to visit for myself.


I think people often underestimate just how much there is in the current Area 15 complex, not to mention how much more is coming in the year ahead.


I've seen VR simulators before but never ones where you can actually simulate the experience of bird-style flight first-hand.


The Sanctuary Lounge is a visual focal point inside Area 15 and looks like such a neat venue in which to hang out.


Asylum Bar & Arcade is a great place to get a drink and play some games.


Omega Mart was the biggest draw for us, having loved experiential explore at your own pace offerings like teamLab Borderless in Japan or City Museum in St. Louis. This would also be our first Meow Wolf installation.


Omega Mart starts off feeling very familiar but upon closer inspection, you'll notice little (and sometimes big) details that make everything feel "off."


A majority of the products on the shelves of Omega Mart are purchasable...


No, this image isn't corrupted.


The meat counter is full of fresh options that feel otherworldly and nutritious.


Pjork is the most kosher of meats.


Without spoiling the "how," you are able to escape the confines of the Omega Mart storefront to unlock worlds of technological, supernatural and multi-dimensional intrigue... Each room offers different experiences, many of them are hands on and interactive and others are passive but lengthy in that you can stay to experience a variety of content if you give it time.


Spaces throughout the experience can be as narrow as a tight crawl space (my claustrophobia kicked in at one point) to massive rooms such as this...


And visual effects such as projection mapping transform those spaces as you visit them, so exploration and re-visitation is recommended.


There is just so much to take in at Omega Mart.


And nothing is as it seems here!


There's an underlying story about a family who gets involved in an interdimensional produce business and that family's sinister intentions... 


Some rooms are just ridiculously cool to experience in person.


Paying attention to detail as you move between spaces can...


Yield some interesting visual payoffs.


You can buy Happles from the Omega Mart store if you so wish.


I watched this full video loop and I was absolutely engrossed.


Familiar but different.


Nothing is exactly as it appears in Omega Mart and there's lots to discover. I recommend giving yourself lots of time to take in the stories and explore. You never know what you'll find...


There's a lot of spaces within Area 15 that just look ridiculously cool!


And yes, the rails you see overhead are for a powered hang-gliding experience around the interior of the complex.


Museum Fiasco was an absolute visual overload!


Wink World is described as a "psychedelic art house" developed by Chris Wink, one of the founding members of Blue Man Group. 


I won't ruin the experience other than to say that as you progress from room to room, the effects and visuals (in sync with custom music) as mesmerizing to say the least.


Very Tron-esque.


While there are more scenes to be experienced, this earlier one was one of my favorites...

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Rounding out our time at Area 15, we stopped for a quick drink at the Asylum Bar + Arcade...


AREA15 Signal Lager is an exclusive Mexican lager from Able Baker Brewing in Las Vegas and it is quite good!


John is a friend I've known through TPR for years (he toured us around Las Vegas during our last visit) and it was great to see him at Area 15 this time around!


Liftoff Bar & Ride was something I was eager to try at Area 15...


Again, the view of those snowy peaks was a treat!


Looking to one side of the Area 15 campus expansion we found the future year-round Halloween Horror Nights attraction construction well under way.


Looking back at the Rio from Liftoff... The exterior of this hotel is so cool, regardless of when you look at it!


We wouldn't be visiting Circus Circus or The Strat this time around...


But it was neat to see The Strat and its attractions off in the distance.


Spending time at The Mirage was a priority for us during this trip as it will soon become the new Hard Rock in Las Vegas.


But first, something new! 


The Neon Museum Las Vegas was something we didn't have time to experience during our last visit but was on our must-do list this time around. While the experience is open during the day, I definitely think the appeal of the visit comes from seeing the neon do its thing after dusk.


What time is the Bohemian Rhapsody fireworks spectacular? Just need to make sure I'm off of "Nights in White Satin: The Trip" in time to get a good spot!


The signage graveyard includes pieces that still work, some that don't and some that don't have any neon left on them... But the collection is incredibly impressive.


While the museum grounds aren't huge, there is a lot to see within the space.


One of my favorite pieces in the collection.


After the Neon Museum we moved over to Resorts World Las Vegas for some New York comfort food at Junior's.


Losing Carnegie Deli at The Mirage was a shame but our meal at Junior's took a bit of the sting out. 


Speaking of The Mirage...


Last time we were in Las Vegas we wanted to see The Beatles LOVE but it was dark for two weeks (leading us to see O instead). This time around, it was a major priority for us, especially with rumors at the time that the show would be closing in the near future.


The theater in the round is different from the more traditional seating arrangements of Cirque shows like "O" and La Nouba. 


No photos or video are allowed during the show but I can say that it was a great time, and even if you're not an uber-Beatles fan, you'll still appreciate the combination of visual artistry and the band's most famous tunes. I do believe that the show is a little less "stunt" oriented than O or La Nouba, but we really we were glad to have the chance to see it before the end of the line.


Shortly after our visit it was announced that The Beatles LOVE would close after a final performance on July 6th, 2024. There's still time to see it, whether for your first or final time--if you can, I definitely recommend checking it out.


Don't mind me... I'm just staring at abandoned ride system infrastructure.


The next morning I woke up bright and early to Trek for a bit of Lost Vegas.


The Westgate Las Vegas was once the Las Vegas Hilton and it was home to the world's only "Star Trek: The Experience." This ticketing attraction built upon Las Vegas' desire to offer family attractions including rides and shows, offered an immersive trip to the Star Trek universe with experiences inspired by The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. There was a simulator ride (Klingon Encounter), a 4D show (Borg Encounter), a bar and restaurant (Quark's), a museum of sorts plus shopping and roaming characters. The experience was operated by Paramount Parks (ultimately Cedar Fair) in late 2008 with the place to open in an alternate location but that plan never panned out. 


In the time since the closure of Star Trek: The Experience, the remnants of the old elements at the resort have slowly been removed. There isn't much left to see besides a futuristic gift shop and a preview center for timeshare sales...


Tempting but not tempting enough.


But if you know what you're looking for, you can find traces of what feels like a future era lost to the past.


I couldn't subject myself to a timeshare pitch to take a closer look but this feels like the most "leftover" space remaining.


Another gift shop space carries the same Star Trek-ish design. It is my understanding that all of these remaining spaces were outside of the ticketed portion of Star Trek: The Experience (along with the removed SpaceQuest Casino).


This would be my first time on the Las Vegas Monorail and it may have been my last as it was recently announced that the monorail will likely be retired in the near future.


This was as close as I got to The Sphere during this trip but the scale of it all is way more impressive when you see it up close.


I swore I wouldn't do this during this trip...


But my feet kept moving in this direction.


In the time since my last trip to Vegas, the Manhattan Express/Big Apple Coaster had undergone a refurbishment including replaced track segments, new trains from Premier and a repaint. 


All aboard the Manhattan Express!


The Premier trains and the updated track segments have made the ride a slightly more enjoyable experience... But the "comfort collars" do take a bit away from those gains.


Seconds later my comfort collar injected itself into my neck.


Our train got stuck in the station at the end of my first ride for over 20 minutes and we were offered a free re-ride. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment if the cost is free.


I tried to get some better photos of the trains in motion...


Going down!


I went next to Luxor to see what traces of Lost Vegas I could find...


There wasn't much.


Enjoy this giant Dorito as a consolation prize.


After not finding anything of note at Luxor, I drowned out my sorrows with an excessive number of purchases at Dominique Ansel…

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Great report, this looks like my kind of trip to Vegas. 


I'm pretty excited for the Meowolf installation in Orlando if it ever actually gets built, and also interested to see how it does. I feel like Orlando can be a bit weird at times for attractions like that so I could see it being really successful or struggling a bit after the initial "newness" wears off. 

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