Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton

It Was the Next Generation in Theme Park Attractions

U.S.S. Enterprise Star Trek
••• Wikimedia Commons

Note: Star Trek: The Experience closed in September 2008. You can read about the defunct attraction in the following review.

One of the world's most detailed and engaging theme park attractions wasn't in a theme park. Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton transported guests into the 24th century for a one-of-a-kind interactive adventure. Star Trek meets Las Vegas? You bet! As if the famous gaming capital wasn't otherworldly enough, the ambitious Experience blasted guests to a future alterna-universe that was utterly convincing.

You would have sworn that you were beamed into a real-life Trek episode.

From start to finish, the level of commitment to the storytelling was truly astonishing. More than a motion simulator ride, The Experience was a 25-minute immersion into the Trek oeuvre, complete with live actors, multiple sets, shuttle bays, and Klingons.It was holodeck nirvana.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4
    Typical motion simulator action. Psychological thrills may be intense for young children.
  • Type: Motion-base simulator with highly immersive pre-show.
  • Height restriction (minimum, in inches): 42
  • Location: Las Vegas Hilton, just off the Strip.

The fun began in the massive Hilton's North Tower. At one end of the Space Quest casino (which, with its laser beams, giant video screens, and touch-sensitive slot machines was an attraction in itself), guests entered the History of the Future museum to the fanfare of Star Trek's various theme songs.

A huge scale model of the starship Enterprise hung from the ceiling. Props, costumes, video snippets, and other Trek drek from the television shows and movies filled the museum, which doubled as the queue for the attraction. With the displays, there was no risk of line boredom.

Yes, Participants Were Beamed Up

When it was time for crews to report for their missions, a uniformed guide escorted them to a holding area.

The guide offered some standard simulator ride warnings and directed guests to watch monitors for more of the usual pre-boarding announcements.

Suddenly the monitors went blank, rays of light enveloped the guests, an unmistakable Trek transporter room sound filled the air, and the room became dark for a moment. When the lights came up, the room was transformed and visitors had been beamed aboard the USS Enterprise, circa the 24th century and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It was a startling illusion, and the 21st-century guide helped maintain the fantasy by playing along. A breathless Enterprise officer greeted the group and explained that a gang of rogue villains sent Captain Picard back in time in exchange for the Vegas stowaways. The guests' mission: Get back to the nickel slots where they belonged so that Captain Picard could return and say "Engage!" in his inimitable way. The officer whisked the group off to the bridge.

The actors and sets made the attraction. They had a commanding presence, conveyed a lot of enthusiasm, and never broke character. Looking nifty in their Starfleet uniforms, some of them were busy on the bridge punching buttons and raising shields to avert enemy fire.

For the approximately two-dozen guests that shared each Experience, eight performers interacted with them throughout the course of the attraction. That's a high ratio and helped convey the realism of the attraction.

Where's the "Whoosh?"

With its blinking lights, banks of screens, and other familiar touchstones, the bridge was a faithful reproduction. From the bridge, one of the officers led the group to a turbolift—Trek talk for an elevator—for a ride to the shuttle bays level. One quibble: When the doors to the bridge and the turbolift opened and closed, they didn't make that Trekian "whoosh" sound.

With the ship taking missile hits and frantic communications from the bridge broadcast in the turbolift, the ride to the shuttle bays was fraught with peril. Leaving the turbolift, the officer led the group through one of the Enterprise's corridors.

The Enterprise officer gave shuttlecraft boarding and safety belt instructions and closed the hatch to send the crew back on its journey to the 21st century. Since motion simulators are ideally suited to mimic space travel, it was a great way to experience warp speed. The Star Trek simulator cabins had windows in front, above, and along their sides and used a domed screen to project an encompassing image. The simulator experience culminated with a precarious ride down the Las Vegas Strip and a big bang above the Hilton.

The ride ended with the obligatory shuffle through the gift shop. Pointy ears anyone? With all that excitement, guests surely worked up quite an appetite, so Quark's Bar and Grill offered items like Glop on a Stick and Klingon Kabob. The restaurant was crawling with Trekkies when it showed the latest Star Trek episode on its large-screen televisions.