Vegas' Winning Hand
Ever since the 1990s when Adventuredome opened at the Circus Circus Hotel & Resort, and both the Stratosphere Tower and New York-New York Hotel & Casino launched new thrill rides, Las Vegas, Nevada, has featured a variety of attractions. Now, one of the city’s biggest entertainment players, Caesars Entertainment, is making a major commitment to spectacular new attractions along Las Vegas’ famed Strip.
“Attractions are an extension of our entertainment, and we’re moving Vegas to expand its entertainment choices,” says Shaun Swanger, senior vice president of retail, leasing, and attractions for Caesars Entertainment.
Recently, the company introduced new marquee attractions, like the $300 million “High Roller” observation wheel and the $20 million “Fly Linq” zipline array. Funworld takes an up-close look at Las Vegas’ fresh attraction offerings.
New Experiences on ‘High Roller’
Standing 550 feet in height, “High Roller” became the tallest observation wheel on Earth when it opened in 2014. With this year marking the attraction’s fifth anniversary, Caesars Entertainment continues to add unique experiences to keep guests coming back.
One of the most popular is the “Happy Half Hour.” In exchange for paying a premium over the standard ticket price, guests board a cabin featuring a tended open bar during the wheel’s 30-minute ride.
“We’ve experimented with enticements to attract guests to ride,” says Eric Eberhart, general manager of “High Roller.”
Another experience gaining attention is “Chocolate Tasting,” where a chocolatier with local confectionery Ethel M Gourmet Chocolates joins guests on board a cabin and provides a sampling of different chocolates. “Occasionally we’ll mix wine with that, getting the right wine to go with the chocolate. It’s something unique and has proven quite popular,” says Eberhart.
For revelers, “High Roller” offers an exclusive experience on New Year’s Eve in which the wheel is stopped, and the top 14 cabins are sold out so celebrators can enjoy fireworks displays of casinos up and down The Strip while drinking champagne. Three other experiences—“Gordon Ramsay’s Fish & Chips,” “Virgil’s BBQ Cabin,” and “Flour & Barley” involve munching on the chow of renowned restaurants while enjoying a spin around the wheel.
“High Roller” offers more than food and beverage experiences. “Yoga – An Elevated Journey” is an instructor-led voyage allowing guests to engage in a yoga class as the cabin soars above the Nevada desert. The session lasts an hour, comprising two complete rotations of the wheel.
With Las Vegas nicknamed the “Wedding Capital of the World,” guests can also get married aboard “High Roller.” Though traditional weddings are certainly welcome, in true Las Vegas style, the wheel also entertains some zany ceremonies as well.
“We had a Star Wars wedding, where the wedding party came in dressed in Star Wars and Star Trek costumes,” recalls Eberhart. “I have to say though, we’ve not hosted any divorces yet!”
New Hands-On Attractions at the Mob Museum
The National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement, popularly known as The Mob Museum, provides visitors an interactive journey through the history of organized crime. In 2018, the museum debuted three new exhibitions—“Organized Crime Today,” “Use of Force Training Experience,” and “Crime Lab Experience,” with the latter two featuring hands-on experiences for guests. The museum also opened “The Underground” in the basement of its building, a 2,814-square-foot recreation of a working distillery and speak-easy.
The “Organized Crime Today” exhibit shows how modern crime networks now cross international borders, both physical and digital, and uses a 17-foot-wide interactive touchscreen on which visitors can discover where organized crime operates today and how law enforcement responds. Two participatory interactive exhibits, “Crime Lab” and “Use of Force,” are elaborate upcharge experiences that test visitors’ judgment and sensibilities.
“Crime Lab” allows visitors to engage in a variety of hands-on and digital forensic activities. “‘Crime Lab’ was created to educate guests on the importance that DNA profiling, death investigation, fingerprint analysis, crime scene investigation, and firearms examination play in the scope of investigations,” says Ashley Miller, the museum’s senior director of marketing and sales.
There are several stations where guests learn about different disciplines involved in crime investigation. At “Death Investigation,” guests learn about forensic pathology while examining a representation of a deceased person to determine cause and manner of death. “DNA Profiling” demonstrates how DNA is extracted from crime scenes and matched with suspects, while visitors engage in the analysis. At “Firearms Examination,” guests use a comparison microscope to assess marks on fired bullets to find matches.
The most intense interactive experience is “Use of Force,” where guests assume the role of an armed police officer. The simulation tosses participants into digital and live role-playing crime scenarios to experience how rapidly life-and-death decisions have to be made.
“The overarching goal is for participants to gain a deeper understanding of the intensity and complexity involved when officers encounter real or perceived threats,” says Miller. In one scenario involving a live actor, the guest must instantly decide how to react to an armed teenage girl, who has a surprising and hostile reaction when told by the guest to drop her firearm.
Brilliantly Infusing Light into Old Neon Signs
The Neon Museum came to life in 1996 after Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) donated several old neon signs stored in its boneyard. Today, the museum’s collection has grown to more than 200 signs, dating as far back as the 1930s. Many are displayed in the museum’s “Neon Boneyard” for visitors to see.
“The signs allow our guests to take a step back in time and revisit what Vegas used to look like while also viewing newer acquisitions or signs from businesses that are still in operation,” says Dawn Merritt, vice president and chief marketing officer of the museum.
Visitors can take guided tours of the “Neon Boneyard” and learn the history of these signs. Though the museum has restored select signs to their original working condition, fixing all the signs would prove too time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, the museum has restored only about a dozen signs to date. Several other signs are again dazzling using modern technology.
The museum recently retained experiential designer Craig Winslow to use photography, drone video, and 3D photogrammetry to recreate each sign, bulb by bulb, in Adobe Illustrator. Then, custom software was created to “relight” 7,000 bulbs across 40 old neon signs. Accompanied by archival footage from the Las Vegas News Bureau and some 14 classic songs, the recreated signs are part of a new 30-minute show called “Brilliant!” that runs at the museum four times each night.
The Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
One thing visitors probably don’t expect to find on the Las Vegas Strip among the enormous casinos, glitzy neon lights, and desert heat is a lush outdoor wildlife oasis. Like a mirage on 15 acres encased between the towering wings of the Flamingo Hotel & Casino awaits a desert paradise. Home to more than 300 fish and numerous birds, including 10 flamingos, is the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat.
A perplexing problem in the early 1990s created by the construction of a new hotel tower spawned the wildlife sanctuary. To the chagrin of sunbathers, the new tower blocked sunlight at the hotel’s swimming pool, so the pool was moved, opening the space. The hotel’s president at the time routinely vacationed at a resort in Hawaii containing a wildlife habitat he particularly liked. So, the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat was born.
Curator Robin Haeffner-Matos has been at the habitat since the beginning and is one of three professionals caring for the animals. Since the habitat is accessible to visitors at no charge, she says, “We get packed, especially during the summer. We get families, party groups, and people who like to have morning coffee here. It’s a hidden oasis.”